The boxing schedule in October was subject to more delays than the train schedule, but that means we have a bumper November starting this weekend.
Las Vegas is hosting an international show with no less than four world title contests on Saturday night, headlined by Manny Pacquiao’s post-retirement comeback fight against current welterweight champ Jessie Vargas.
We also have experience vs youth as Nonito Donaire takes on Jessie Magdaleno, rising star Oscar Valdez’s first title defence against Hiroshige Osawa and Zou Shiming’s showdown with Prasitsak Phaprom.
Pacquiao left boxing to take up politics earlier this year, but his retirement was over before you could say ‘double jab, straight right’.
It is only seven months since the eight-weight world champion put in a stunning performance against Timothy Bradley, knocking the American down twice and winning by a clear margin. Vargas is going to have a tough time keeping hold of his belt.
Vargas himself is a two-weight world champion, and he’s got ten years along with almost five inches on the Filipino legend. The reason why Paddy makes the Mexican-American an x/1 underdog is that he lost to Bradley in 2015 fairly conclusively on points.
Conclusive until the final round that is, when Vargas landed a huge overhand right and Bradley was saved by the final bell.
The right hand is Vargas’s big hope. He has little chance of out-working or out-landing Pacman, but it was a nuclear right hand from Juan Manuel Marquez that flattened Pacquiao in 2012. There is definitely some value in the hefty for the title-holder to take victory with a KO.
That is still a long shot though and it’s much more likely that Pacquiao wins yet another bauble for his mantlepiece and goes on to have a super fight with Kell Brook, Canelo Alvarez or even Gennady Golovkin next year. The sensible option is to back Pac to win on points at .
With Donaire’s long shorts and long socks combo, and Magdaleno’s shaggy dyed blonde mop these two might look like they’re doing 90s punk fancy dress. However, look past the fashion faux pas and you’ll see two world class boxers battling it out for the super-bantamweight world championship.
Donaire brings the belt to the ring this weekend and he’s been a world champion in four weight divisions, but the 33-year-old sharp-shooter doesn’t have the conditioning of his earlier career. Nine years younger and entering his first title contest is American mini-powerhouse Magdaleno.
The Filipino will be dangerous early on and could be decent to win in rounds 1-6, but if Magdaleno gets past the first few chin-checks then he has a chance to take over and force a late stoppage.
The way I see it playing out is a few punches landed, respect shown, and Donaire making it two decision wins for the Philippines at .
If you don’t know about Valdez yet let me give you the highlights. The Mexican kid first qualified for the Olympics as a 17-year-old and qualified again age 21, no easy feat in Latin American.
Valdez then turned pro in 2012, this year he stopped a tough former world title-holder in four rounds before he picked up the vacant featherweight crown in his next contest.
Osawa is probably much less well known despite starting his career more than 12 years ago. He’s only ranked as the 12th best featherweight in Japan and he must have been dishing out some serious favours to get this title shot.
Osawa is on a hot streak of knocking out eight bums in row, but Valdez’s KO ratio of 90% represents real power. Take the for the Mexican to win again.
It’s a case of saving the littlest guys for last. Zou and Phaprom are both fighting to be crowned world champion for the first time on Saturday, but it’s Zou who is the huge favourite at .
The Chinaman collected more gold than a jeweller in his incredible amateur career, which included two Olympic titles and three world championships – now he’s set to get to the top as a pro.
But the extended amateur career of Zou means that he has only nine professional fights experience despite being 35. At least he has experienced fighting Phaprom, having beaten the Thai boxer by unanimous decision in 2014.
That fight was also the first time Phaprom had been in the ring outside of Thailand, so Las Vegas might be a bit of a shock.
Some of Belfast’s favourite sons are putting on a show in their home city on Saturday night but it will be more cakewalk than fight talk.
Jamie Conlan, Paddy Barnes and Sean Turner are all huge favourites to win their bouts, but back them all to win by KO and you have yourself a tidy little earner.