Last weekend was the biggest boxing weekend in a generation. The weekend before, heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko fought on U.S. soil for the first time in seven years, when he beat Bryant Jennings. The weekend before that, Lucas Matthysse got by Ruslan Provodnikov by majority decision in 2015’s likely Fight of the Year.
Boxing is red-hot and it’s not about to slow down this weekend. The most popular young star in the sport, Saul Alvarez, returns to action against all-action gunslinger James Kirkland in Houston, Texas. This is a fight that has the potential to surpass Matthysse and Provodnikov, depending upon which version of Kirkland shows up.
Kirkland is 32-1 with 28 KOs, but his career has been interrupted and slowed down by legal problems, injuries and promotional squabbles. At one point he was viewed as one of the sport’s hottest rising talents but now he’s past 30 and won’t see another opportunity this big.
The undercard for Alvarez and Kirkland features a nice matchup between undefeated junior welterweight talent Frankie Gomez and two-division world champion Humberto Soto. Gomez looks to have the talent to be a major factor at 140 pounds, but Soto will be no easy touch. Also on the card in Houston, former Manny Pacquiao opponent Joshua Clottey faced Jorge Silva and undefeated bantamweight and 2012 Olympian Joseph Diaz looks to stay on track.
The boxing weekend will get off to a nice start on Friday night in Philadephia when heavyweight Amir Mansour faces Joey Dawejko. Mansour is a physical marvel at over 40. He took his first loss ever last year in an exciting war with former cruiserweight champion Steve Cunningham. It’s hard to see him as a true factor at the top of the heavyweight division, but he’s a tough, athletic guy who puts on exciting fights and does the over-40, gym rat crowd proud.
Also on Friday night in Newark, New Jersey, light middleweight Glen Tapia will face Michel Saro. Tapia is a good fighter but took a major setback in 2013, when Kirkland gave him the kind of beating that makes you fear for a fighters long-term health. On the same card, undefeated light heavyweight Sean Monaghan faces Cleiton Conceicao. A Long Island native, “Irish” Monaghan has been building a strong fan base in the New York City area for several years now and should be ready for a big step up this year.
On Saturday afternoon, Al Haymon brings the PBC back to NBC as WBC lightweight champion Omar Figueroa faces former two-division champion Ricky Burns of Scotland. It should be the toughest opponent yet for Figueroa. Japanese bantamweight sensation Tomoki Kameda will battle Jaimie McDonnell in what should be his toughest fight ever, too. Former Canelo opponent and world champion at 154 pounds Austin Trout meets Luis Galarza.