As the calendar turns to August, boxing gets back into full swing as Matchroom Sports and Premier Boxing Champions restart their promotions. Each has plenty of action lined up, and this weekend kicks off a busy stretch of fights to end the summer.
There will be cards around the world on Saturday, and they feature everything from former champions looking to showcase their greatness to title fights featuring late replacements who hope to seize the opportunity of the moment.
Here are four things to look out for this weekend:
1. The return of Sor Rungvisai
When I say there is literally boxing on all day Saturday, I mean it. Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-5-1, 41 KOs) faces Amnat Ruenroeng (20-3, 6 KOs) in the very early hours of Saturday morning (3:45 ET) on the Matchroom Sports YouTube channel. The bout takes place in Thailand.
This will be Sor Rungvisai’s first appearance in well over a year. The last time we saw the former WBC 115-pound champion was April 2019, when he lost a 12-round decision in his rematch to Juan Francisco Estrada. It was a rather mystifying performance from Sor Rungvisai — who has two wins to his credit over future Hall of Famer Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez — as the left-hander spent much of this bout fighting out of the right-handed stance. He gave away the fight in the first eight or nine rounds with a rather uninspired effort.
Did he just have a bad night at the office at the Forum in Inglewood, California, or was that a sign that at 33 years old, Sor Rungvisai was now hitting his fall as a boxer?
Sor Rungvisai should take care of Ruenroeng relatively easily. Ruenroeng, 40, held the IBF flyweight title in 2015, but he hasn’t been able to continue that success on a world-class level. His last two wins came in six-round contests.
2. Welcome to Eddie Hearn’s backyard
Late Saturday afternoon on DAZN, England-based Matchroom Sports holds its first card in several months — in the backyard of the boyhood home of promoter Eddie Hearn at Brentwood, Essex. Looking at the layout, it’s certainly a picturesque setting that stands in stark contrast to the various bubbles and television studio settings that have staged boxing since June. This is boxing’s version of a garden party.
As for the fights themselves, the main event featuring junior middleweights Sam Eggington (28-6, 17 KOs) and Ted Cheeseman (15-2-1, 9 KOs) figures to be a solid scrap between two strong fighters. No, they may not ever be considered elite, but they come to fight and they are generally involved in entertaining bouts. This is a fight where neither guy needs Mapquest to find the other in the ring.
So yeah, come for the scenery, stay for Eggington-Cheeseman.
3. Showtime and PBC are back
Mohegan Sun brings boxing back with Showtime and PBC owning the night slot for fights (9 ET). The main event was originally slated to feature Stephen Fulton against Angelo Leo for the WBO 122-pound title that was vacated recently by Emanuel Navarrete. But with Fulton testing positive for the coronavirus, Tramaine Williams steps in. Williams’ initial opponent, Ra’eese Aleem, remains in the co-main event and will face Marcus Bates (11-1-1, 8 KOs).
While Williams (19-0, 6 KOs) is a late replacement, he’s a talented fighter. I worked a broadcast in the summer of 2017 when Williams fought William Gonzalez at the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California; on that night, he scored a highlight-reel, first-round KO. Williams is not really a power puncher — just look at his knockout percentage — but he’s your classic quicksilver southpaw who is elusive and slick.
“About a year ago, I started a top-five or top-10 fighters I had on notice. I always paid attention to all of the fighters in my weight class,” Williams said. “I’ve been prepared for the chance to face Leo for a while. I’ve had my eye on all of these guys for a year and some change now. It’s not like he’s a random opponent for me.”
Leo (19-0, 9 KOs) now has to make the adjustment to facing a left-hander.
“These things happen in boxing, so you just have to stay focused and prepared for anything. Luckily, Tramaine isn’t too much of a different fighter from Fulton,” Leo said. “He’s got similar styles, the only difference is he’s southpaw. We’ll make some small adjustments, but I’m in shape for whoever. I’m in the best shape of my life, and once I get in that ring, I’ll make the necessary adjustments.”
Leonard Ellerbe of Mayweather Promotions, which promotes Leo, said preparation is key.
“I purposely put him in fights where he boxed guys with all different types of styles,” Ellerbe said. “He’s been in with four straight southpaws. I purposely did that — we know how to make champs. You have to be able to adapt to all types of different styles. You’ve got to be prepared for everything.”
Look for a closely contested fight that will go the distance. I’ll go with Williams getting his hands raised in victory.
4. Fulton waiting in the wings.
The WBO has ruled that Leo-Williams will be for the vacant title, so where does this leave Fulton? Is he guaranteed to get first shot at the winner?
Not necessarily, according to Gustavo Olivieri, the in-house counsel for the WBO. He explained that the winner of this upcoming matchup will then get 180 days to fight the mandatory challenger designated by the championship committee. Currently, the unbeaten Fulton (18-0, 8 KOs) is rated No. 1 at 122 by the WBO.
Ellerbe says that if Leo wins, Fulton is tops on their list.
“One thousand percent, we want all the smoke. We want Fulton,” Ellerbe said. “But first things first, Angelo has to go out and face a very solid guy in Williams. He’s tough. He’s another undefeated fighter. The sole focus is on Tramaine Williams on Saturday night.
“And if Angelo is successful, we want Fulton — that’s the fight we want.”