The boxing weekend is pretty stacked, with Naoya Inoue, Oleksandr Usyk and Gervonta Davis headlining cards on Halloween.
In Las Vegas, Naoya Inoue (19-0, 16 KOs) will defend his IBF and WBA bantamweight belts against former title challenger Jason Moloney (21-1, 18 KOs). Inoue, a three weight world champion, won the World Boxing Super Series tournament to stake his claim as the best bantamweight in the world. He scored devastating KOs over Juan Carlos Payano and Manny Rodriguez and won a fight of the year contender against Nonito Donaire in the final. Australia’s Moloney had a shot at the IBF belt in the quarter finals of the tournament and gave a very good account of himself, losing a close decision to Rodriguez.
Inoue is one of the biggest punchers in boxing, in addition to being blindingly fast. This combination of speed and power has allowed him to blast anyone that tried to fight him on the backfoot with devastating combos. Donaire found some success by putting some pressure on him and making him fight going backwards. Inoue still has more than competent enough to win rounds fighting backwards but that at least allowed Donaire to make the fight a competitive affair.
Moloney is a pretty good puncher himself and a very good inside fighter with a very good left hook and right uppercut. He’s also very good at taking a half step back from the inside to create space and sneak in a right hand. He’s competent enough to handle himself on the backfoot when he needs a breather but given how dangerous Inoue is when given even an inch of space I doubt that’s something he wants to try unless absolutely necessary.
Moloney’s pressure and power could give Inoue some trouble if he can put him on the backfoot consistently but I doubt he can force Inoue to fight on the inside and Inoue should be able to outbox him if he gets backed up. In short Moloney has tools to make the fight entertaining and competitive but Inoue’s quality and the fact that the slightest mistake and step back against him could lead to a KO means the Japanese prodigy should get his hand raised.
Of note on this undercard is a fight for the women’s WBO super-featherweight belt between Ewa Brodnicka (19-0, 2 KOs) and 2016 Olympian Mikaela Mayer (13-0, 5 KOs). Brodnicka had held the belt since 2018 but she has never fought outside of Poland and has benefited from some controversial decision over there. Then she missed weight and now the title is only up for grabs for Brodnicka. She’s a pretty unexciting jab and grab fighter who looks to rack up points on the outside and to tie up and limit exchanges in close as much as possible. Mayer is a much better athlete, fast, powerful and very offensively potent. Brodnicka’s style might make things a bit frustrating for her but the athletic and technical gap between the fighters should mean that Mayer will pick up her first title this weekend.
In London, former unified cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk (17-0, 13 KOs) takes his second fight at heavyweight against British brawler Dereck Chisora (32-9, 23 KOs). Usyk is one of the top pound for pound fighters in the world and though some are questioning how he will fare at heavyweight, I’m not one of them. I don’t think there is a significant difference in power between Murat Gassiev, who Usyk pitched a near shut out against, and the heavyweight division. If Gassiev couldn’t lay a glove on Usyk, I struggle to imagine how a faded Chisora swinging big hooks could. Usyk should outclass him and pick him apart on his way to a stoppage in the second half of the fight.
And in the Alamodome in Texas, Gervonta Davis (23-0, 22 KOs) takes on Leo Santa Cruz (37-1-1, 19 KOs) in a fight for their respective WBA lightweight and super-featherweight titles.
Davis is a former champion at super-featherweight and won the lightweight title last year with a 12 round TKO over a very old Yuriorkis Gamboa. Santa Cruz has been a champion from bantamweight to featherweight and added a fourth division title in his last fight with a unanimous decision win over Miguel Flores.
Davis is a terrific athlete with a very fast and powerful left hand, however that has made him a bit limited technically as he tends to just look for big left hands whether they are uppercuts or straights. Santa Cruz is a cardio machine drowning his opponents in volume. As he’s moved up in weight and got up there in age his pace has dropped a bit from his heyday at super-bantamweight but if Davis sticks with his knock out hunting approach, Santa Cruz’s volume should win him rounds. Santa Cruz has also never been knocked down and if he can take Davis’ best punch, he’s in with a very good chance to upset the talented but inconsistent Mayweather protégé.
The undercard features two very interesting super-lightweights, albeit in different fights. Mario Barrios (25-0, 16 KOs) defends the WBA title against the tough but very limited Ryan Karl (18-2, 12 KOs). Barrios should make easy work of Karl who honestly doesn’t belong at that level, however former champion Regis Prograis is making his comeback from his loss in a fight of the year contender against Josh Taylor. This fight crowned Taylor as the #1 in the division and should Prograis and Barrios do what is expected of them and dispatch their opponents impressively, a fight between the two would be a very interesting match up for 2021.
Boxing main card start times
Inoue vs. Moloney - ESPN+, 10 PM ET/7 PM PT
Davis vs. Santa Cruz - Showtime PPV, 9 PM ET/6 PM PT
Usyk vs. Chisora - DAZN/Sky Box Office, 2 PM ET/11 AM PT