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Showtime at StubHub

Gary Russell
Gary Russell

By Steve Kim


This Saturday night, Showtime gets back into the business of broadcasting boxing from the StubHub Center in Carson, California, a noted fight venue where fistic magic seems to happen consistently. There seems to be a certain mystique to this place and fights break out on a regular basis (in and out of the ring). This structure is really a tennis stadium but the most notable volleys have come from pugilists. This upcoming weekend there is a tripleheader scheduled devoid of anything particularly high-profile but figures to be a fun night of action.
 
The main event is a contest for the vacant WBO featherweight title between Gary Russell Jr. and Vasyl Lomachenko. The question is: Which fighter is actually more battle-tested coming in? While Russell has the glossy record of 24-0 (14), it’s come against a collection of no-hopers and cannon fodder. On the flipside, Lomachenko has perhaps the most deceiving 1-1 record in all of boxing. Back in March, he and his management showed plenty of hubris in challenging the man who last held this title, Orlando Salido, who promptly lost it as he came in a couple of pounds north of 126 at their weigh-in.

This turn at gamesmanship (a kind way of putting it since “Siri” didn’t seem to have any real intention of dropping those last few pesky pounds) and his overall professional savvy were enough for Salido to build an early lead on Lomachenko, who found out that despite his prodigious amateur accolades, professional boxing is a whole ‘nother ballgame. But give the Ukrainian southpaw this: he adapted, adjusted and almost caught up to the Mexican veteran in the late stages.
 
Lomachenko lost but he gained valuable experience, perhaps more in those 36 minutes than Russell has during his five-year run as a pro in which he was the newest poster child for Al Haymon’s school of soft match-making. You always got the sense that Russell - perhaps the most talented boxer from D.C. since the great Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson - was the real thing. He has all the necessary attributes: speed, quickness, power and a solid fundamental grounding but there had always been whispers that while he had all the tangibles, he lacked the intangibles. There had to be reason why, despite having major league talent, he was still being fed double-A pitching the last year or so.
 
Russell-Lomachenko is a fascinating fight because of the unknown. Both are extremely talented fighters yet while one has taken the fast track to get here, the other has been more than willing to bide his time. Was Lomachenko’s approach reckless and foolhardy? Was there a reason Russell’s approach was so cautious? Plenty of questions will be answered when they square up on Saturday night.
 
Robert Guerrero makes his return to the ring versus Yoshihiro Kamegai after disappearing like his moniker (“The Ghost”) after facing Floyd Mayweather in essentially a non-outing that saw him blanked over 12 monotonous rounds last year. And what better way to capitalize on such a tepid performance than by effectively sidelining yourself and trying to get out of your contract with the very company (Golden Boy Promotions) that gave you that career-high payday. Today’s boxers seem to fight harder to get out of their contracts with their promoters than they do inside the ring. It’s a strange phenomenon that has infected the sport. Now Guerrero returns as part of Haymon’s ever-expanding stable and he is matched against Kamegai, a tough and rugged Japanese boxer who won’t go down without a fight.
 
Guerrero is back. The question is: Does anybody give a damn?
 
Rounding out this threesome of bouts is a crossroads match between Devon Alexander and Jesus Soto Karass, the always entertaining Mexican who has gone through a lucrative late-career renaissance. He was last seen getting stopped by the streaking Keith Thurman back in December. After buzzing “One Time” early on, Karass was then systematically picked apart and then halted by the heavy-handed native of Tampa. Karass, one of the truly likeable characters in the sport, has been on a recent gauntlet that has seen him face the likes of Marcos Maidana, Selcuk Aydin, Andre Berto and then Thurman. He looked pretty shopworn by the time Jon Schorle rescued him from Thurman.
 
As for Alexander, was it really that long ago when this lefty from St. Louis was thought of as one of the bright young stars of the sport and paired with Timothy Bradley at the decrepit Silverdome (in what was thought to be a star-making match-up that ended up being a big bust)? He has seemingly never regained the momentum he once had - despite victories over the Argentine duo of Lucas Matthysse and Marcos Maidana - and has become that twice-a-year boxer that has stopped developing as a fighter in his mid-20s. Alexander lost his IBF welterweight belt to upstart Shawn Porter in December. Common sense tells you that Karass has too much wear-and-tear to deal with the skilled Alexander, who finds himself in a bit of a vacuum. While his career is still ongoing and of the stature to land premium cable dates, Alexander doesn’t find himself particularly relevant at this stage either.
 
They call these types of shows “fight fans’ fight cards.” They won’t get any particular attention from the casual observers of the sport and won’t register particularly well with the Nielsens. This tripleheader caters to the hardcore loyalists who want nothing more than an evening of boxing programming on a Saturday night as they head into the thick of summer. For every big pay-per-view (and there have been plenty of those in 2014 with much more to come), broadcasts like this that are the heartbeat of this sport and keep it moving along.
 
And it’s at the StubHub Center. Hey, something notable is bound to happen.
 
HBO
 
After taking two knockdowns in the first round, the prospects of Chris Algieri lifting the WBO junior welterweight title from the heavy-hitting Ruslan Provodnikov didn’t look promising. But to the surprise of just about everyone, Algieri dusted himself off and began to box Provodnikov. Round after round, he utilized a disciplined game plan - one predicated on being active with his jab and continuously turning Provodnikov - to shockingly outpoint the “Siberian Rocky” via split decision.
 
Algieri did most of his work while being a boxing Cyclops as his right eye was swollen shut, thanks to the early left hooks of Provodnikov. It was a solid display of boxing and ring generalship in which the new champion had to use every inch of the canvas at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. He wasn’t just skilled; he also displayed a certain amount of toughness in withstanding the steady assault of Provodnikov.
 
As for Provodnikov, who had shown great improvement under the tutelage of trainer Freddie Roach, on this night, the lack of a jab was very apparent and exploited by Algieri. Too many times, he chased and stalked his foe but without even a token jab thrown out, Provodnikov was easily touched by Algieri, who outworked him. Also, on the inside, Provodnikov wasn’t nearly as diligent in going to the body as he has been in the past and he there were times when his feet were parallel, making him squared up and unable to really put leverage on his punches. Provodnikov will always have problems with movers and this fight was another example of that. Regardless, he will always provide a good night’s entertainment.
 
Demetrius Andrade dominated Brian Rose over seven heats in the first defense of his WBO 154-pound title, sending Rose to the canvas in the first and third innings. We know that Andrade, 26, can handily defeat the likes of Rose. That much is clear; what will be interesting to see is how the lanky and fluid southpaw deals with more potent offensive threats and how he catches on the whiskers. Just how high is his ceiling?
 
FINAL FLURRIES
 
An announced crowd of 6,218 was on hand at the Barclays Center...Blake Caparello was officially announced as the opponent for WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev on August 2nd at the Revel Resort in Atlantic City...Bruce Binkow has resigned as the COO of Golden Boy Promotions. So yeah, that company is going through some changes (with more coming)...Glen Tapia scored a first round stoppage of Keenan Collins this weekend in Atlantic City...How bout dem Kings!...OK, are you already going through “Game of Thrones” withdrawal?...Ican be reached at k9kim@yahoo.com and I tweet at www.twitter.com/stevemaxboxing. We also have a Facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/MaxBoxing, where you can discuss our content with Maxboxing readers as well as chime in via our fully interactive article comments sections.


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