It took awhile but we’re slowly starting to feel like we’re back on a regular big-time boxing schedule. Fans who have been starved for high-level boxing for months due to the COVID-19 pandemic will be served a triple dose of fight cards on Halloween night. We’ll even have a live audience for one of these events. Is it responsible to even do that? No, but it’s all about the money and maximizing revenue.
Instead of doing one piece per card I’ll just make this an easy breakdown of the main events and why you should watch them. Consider this a viewer’s guide to one of the busiest days of boxing we’ve had in quite some time.
Biggest Fight - Gervonta Davis vs. Leo Santa Cruz (Showtime PPV, 9 PM ET)
The shared criticism for both Gervonta Davis (23-0, 22 KOs) and Leo Santa Cruz (37-1-1, 19 KOs) is that they’ve not faced a lot of top competition in recent years. Well the problem has finally been solved because they’re going to fight each other at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. Yes, there will be physical distancing requirements and seating for about 10,000 inside the building, making it the first major boxing card in the US with a paying in-person audience.
Davis is Floyd Mayweather’s protege and biggest name on the Mayweather Promotions roster. The Maryland native is undoubtedly fast and a powerful puncher. While he didn’t really fight anyone worth a salt in 2019, Davis established himself as a bonafide ticket-seller whether in Los Angeles, his hometown of Baltimore, or Atlanta. His last outing saw him take out former world champion Yuriorkis Gamboa in the final round, with Gamboa bravely fighting on despite an Achilles injury.
Santa Cruz is by no means a power puncher but he usually makes up for that with a lot of volume. If we just compare resumes then Santa Cruz has the edge entirely because of his wins over Abner Mares and Carl Frampton, the latter representing an evening of the score after Frampton handed him his first pro defeat.
“Tank” is a hefty favorite over LSC and I suspect a lot of that is because of his power. Santa Cruz was rocked by Frampton in their first fight and his volume punching is unlikely to dissuade Davis from wading into punches. This is the biggest fight because it’s Davis’ pay-per-view main event debut. Mayweather and PBC certainly see Davis as a potential box office superstar, and beating Santa Cruz would be a genuinely major win for him and could inspire the 25-year-old to look for greater challenges in 2021. It’s certainly wishful thinking on my part, as I’d rather not see Davis take too many more squash matches. I won’t label this as a battle for absolute supremacy at 130 lbs; Miguel Berchelt is clearly the best in that division but if he beats Oscar Valdez and moves up, then that mantle is up for grabs in the not so distant future.
While this one is being contested at 130 lbs for Santa Cruz’s WBA super-featherweight title, Davis’ secondary WBA lightweight (135 lbs) belt is also at stake. Keep an eye on Davis’ discipline as he’s consistently had trouble making weight over the past several fights.
Highlighting the undercard is Regis Prograis’ return to the ring in what is surely a lay-up against Juan Heraldez. No, this isn’t a $75 PPV and especially not when you consider Showtime had a much better Charlo Twins PPV last month at the same price.
Best Fight - Naoya Inoue vs. Jason Moloney (ESPN+, 10 PM ET)
It’s fitting that “The Monster” is fighting on Halloween night. In my opinion there is not a more exciting boxer to watch than unified bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue (19-0, 16 KOs). The Japanese sensation should be every MMA fan’s favorite to watch and hopefully his Top Rank signing gives him more exposure to the masses. Inoue is a whirlwind of violence with unusually heavy hands for someone who started at 108 lbs and now rules the 118 lbs weight class. I mean, just look at his work! There are heavyweights whom I’d rather hit me than this dynamo.
Inoue is consensus one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, especially after his World Boxing Super Series triumph saw him flatten Juan Carlos Payano and Manny Rodriguez before his classic with Nonito Donaire. For the first time in his career, Inoue showed serious vulnerability when Donaire had him cut and rocked multiple times over, but Inoue was able to dig deep and drop Donaire with a devastating body shot and get a clear-cut decision. At just 27 years old and with only 19 pro fights, Inoue has won world titles in three divisions and his power has more than held up as he’s gone up in weight.
Moloney (21-1, 18 KOs) is one tough customer. He lost a close decision to Manny Rodriguez in the WBSS quarterfinals, so we actually could’ve seen this fight happen sooner if the split nod went in his favor. The Australian is on a four-fight winning streak and most recently won his Top Rank debut by stopping Leonardo Baez. Much like Inoue, Moloney loves to combination punch and dig deep to the body. Inoue is certainly a better outfighter than Jason but Jason’s a hell of an infighter and may try to match him. It might end in disaster but it’s worth a try.
Inoue is a hefty favorite over Moloney but that’s much more to do with the justified hype surrounding “The Monster.” Moloney is undoubtedly a top-ten bantamweight if not top-five, and this may be a tougher fight than you may think. I chose this as the best fight over Davis-LSC purely for entertainment value and the fact that there’s no grey area when it comes to calling the A-side the best in his division.
Also on the card is women’s boxing sensation Mikaela Meyer (13-0, 5 KOs), who will get her first ever title fight against WBO junior lightweight champion Ewa Brodnicka (18-0, 2 KOs). When the UFC is over, keep your ESPN+ on because the main event is the best fight of the whole boxing lineup and there are some great prospects on the undercard.
Best Fighter - Oleksandr Usyk vs. Dereck Chisora (DAZN, 2 PM ET)
I have waxed poetic on this site about Oleksandr Usyk (17-0, 13 KOs) too many times to count. He cleaned out the cruiserweight division through the World Boxing Super Series in what is the boxing equivalent of Mauricio Rua’s 2005. Marco Huck, Mairis Briedis, and Murat Gassiev is a truly phenomenal run of victories, and the Briedis win has aged well given he’s now the top fighter at 200 lbs. It’s even more badass that he literally won all three tournament fights in enemy territory.
After knocking out Tony Bellew, Usyk moved up to heavyweight and was supposed to face kickboxing star Tyrone Spong, only for Spong to fail a drug test and get replaced by Chazz Witherspoon. Usyk won by corner stoppage TKO but injuries and the pandemic have prevented him from getting the chance to really establish himself as a legitimate heavyweight contender. Much like his fellow Olympic gold medalist Vasiliy Lomachenko, Usyk works at a high pace and has phenomenal footwork for a big man. For my money, he’s one of the top five pound-for-pound boxers and he could be the one to really give both Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua tough fights... provided he gets them.
Dereck Chisora (32-9, 23 KOs) is objectively not a top-ten heavyweight anymore. If nothing else, he does pack a punch (just ask Artur Szpilka) and he’ll be billed as a capable gatekeeper who can test Usyk’s chin at heavyweight. The former title challenger has lost enough steps up in competition to believe that Usyk should be able to take care of him, but Chisora has been in some amazing scraps with Dillian Whyte and Carlos Takam, so if he gets clowned then it should at least be fun.
Honorable Mention - Jaime Munguia vs. Tureano Johnson (Friday, October 30th on DAZN, 8 PM ET)
Yeah if you want some boxing on Friday then DAZN has you covered with a Golden Boy show in California!
Munguia (35-0, 28 KOs) burst onto the world boxing scene when he upset Sadam Ali on short notice to win the WBO junior middleweight (154 lbs) title. He was actually shortlisted as a potential replacement opponent for Gennadiy Golovkin when GGG-Canelo 2 was postponed, but the Nevada Athletic Commission rejected him on grounds of it being a mismatch. They weren’t wrong, but that’s just a nice footnote in this piece.
The 24-year-old Mexican loves to punish the body and largely disregards defense for offense. His “title reign” was underwhelming in terms of opponent quality, and he’s since moved up to middleweight. At best, he’s a youthful action fighter who’s yet to be seriously challenged by a top-level opponent. I would not be surprised if the Bahamas’ Tureano Johnson (21-2-1), one of my personal favorite spoilers in boxing. He’s coming off an upset stoppage win over another Golden Boy prospect in Jason Quigley. Only Curtis Stevens and Sergiy Derevyanchenko have bested Johnson, and he is more than capable of outboxing Munguia and taking his power.
As an aside, the co-feature between Rashidi Ellis and Alexis Rocha is an outstanding prospect vs. prospect booking at 147 lbs. That’s truly 50-50 and you rarely see this type of matchmaking among major boxing promoters.
Whew! That’s a lot of boxing. And good boxing instead of pointless filler. We’ll cover all of Saturday’s action right here on Bloody Elbow.