Stephen Smith and Patrick Hyland look to upset the odds in Murica
IBF and WBC titles go on the line
In rural Connecticut you can find spring lambs, Yale University and the largest casino in the United States. And this weekend you can also find world title fights between Jose Pedraza and Stephen Smith, and Gary Russell and Patrick Hyland, while on the undercard top prospect Errol Spence takes on Chris Algieri. Leeds, England is a more familiar locale for fighting and that’s where top contenders Josh Warrington and Hisashi Amagasa will clash on Saturday night.
Jose Pedraza v Stephen Smith – Bet Now
Headline fight of the weekend pits unbeaten Puerto Rican super featherweight champ Pedraza against British challenger Smith. The second eldest of the famous fighting Smith Bros. from Liverpool finally gets his shot at a world championship aged 30 and after 24 bouts, with only one career loss coming from the fast fists of Lee Selby in the featherweight division.
The Welshman remains the only world-level opponent Smith has met however. ‘Swifty’s’ tactics that night went from imposing himself to kamikaze, and the Scouser was left stricken on the canvas in round eight. Pedraza, like Selby, is big for his weight and his Olympic pedigree may mean that Smith’s omnipresent trainer Joe Gallagher sets up the same game plan again.
Pedraza is to retain his title for a second time and the for the champ to win on points seems about right. Surely Smith will make it an honest scrap, rather than box from the outside, so for more bang for your buck, and more bang in the fight, back the for the Latin ‘Sniper’ to win in rounds 7-12.
Gary Russell Jr. v Patrick Hyland – Bet Now
In the co-feature fight at Foxwoods casino Russell is a huge favourite against his Irish opponent Hyland. The featherweight king won the crown with a stunning four round demolition of Mexico’s former world champ Jhonny Gonzalez in 2015, and the American has only ever lost once, to Olympic legend Vasyl Lomachenko.
For Hyland, this is his first attempt to win boxing hardware at world-level. ‘The Punisher’ has also been defeated once, to current super featherweight boss Javier Fortuna on the judges cards in 2012. There are similarities between Fortuna and Russell in terms of style and stature, and most people think Russell will go on to try to unify the division against Selby.
The southpaw from DC has electric hand speed and he’s happy to mix it with bigger men, which Hyland is by three and a half inches. All of Russell’s KO’s have come before the end of round four and he’s to win in rounds 1-6 this time. But this is Hyland’s big chance and the toughman from Tallaght can take the fight the distance, where Russell is to win.
Josh Warrington v Hisashi Amagasa – Bet Now
Also fighting in the featherweight division, but in the UK, is Warrington and Amagasa. The Leeds lad holds the International belt in the same organisation where Russell is champ and he’s close to a world title shot. Warrington also wouldn’t mind having a go at Selby but first he has to get through his Japanese challenger.
Amagasa’s record is misleading on initial inspection, as the lanky boxer notched up three losses and two draws in his first 12 bouts. The only stoppage defeat for Amagasa came when he moved down to the super bantam division and met pound-for-pound contender Guillermo Rigondeaux.
The man from Japan has power in his long levers but Warrington’s great defence and energy will put him in control. Now in his mid-twenties, Warrington’s man-strength is coming through and he can add to his recent KO wins. The stoppage victory in rounds 7-12 is great value at .
Errol Spence v Chris Algieri – Bet Now
Back to Connecticut for our final major fight of the weekend. Possibly the biggest hype job in boxing at the moment is unbeaten, Olympian welterweight Errol Spence. The American can go a long way to proving he’s the real deal and a ready for the big time by beating former champ Algieri on Saturday.
Algieri is a former title-holder and has only lost to Manny Pacquiao and Amir Khan, both times on points. Neither of those opponents have high KO ratios in the welterweight division and the New Yorker had a significant height and reach advantage over ‘Pac Man’ and ‘King Khan’.
Spence is going to match Algieri’s size and bring an 84% KO ratio to the ring. Pacquiao dropped Algieri six times without stopping him but I think Spence can do it. for the talented southpaw to win in rounds 1-6 is tempting but the for the stoppage win is the sensible choice.