Warring over crowns, bloodthirsty battles, and as much flesh on show as you can handle – no, I’m not talking about the return of Game Of Thrones, it’s this weekend’s boxing doubleheader.
The pound-for-pound king of the squared-circle Vasiliy Lomachenko faces former champion Anthony Crolla in the Friday night fight from LA. On Saturday, Claressa Shields and Christina Hammer go to the trenches to claim all four middleweight titles and victory in possibly the biggest women’s boxing match in history.
And then, down in Mexico, Irish-Australian Dennis Hogan attempts an ambush on pugilistic royalty when he takes on Jaime Munguia for his super welterweight gold.
Many recognise it as mission impossible, and the twitter trolls have called it a pointless mismatch, but Crolla is up for the scrap this weekend – and why shouldn’t he be? The Mancunian has got himself into mandatory position, he’s got a shot at two belts and he actually believes he can cause one of the greatest upsets in lightweight championship history.
In just 13 contests as a pro-Loma has won titles in three weight classes and he’s beaten two champs at 140 pounds to unify the division. This all comes after winning back-to-back Olympic gold medals.
The Ukrainian wiz has set his sights on winning the remaining belts at lightweight and moving back down to 135lbs – he has the skill to do it but his biggest weakness might be his size.
As a lightweight, Lomachenko was dropped in one fight and failed to get a KO win for the first time in eight bouts in the other.
Even if he doesn’t have anything else, Crolla knows he’s the biggest opponent Loma has faced and he’s probably the best conditioned. The one-time ‘Hi-Tech’ was beaten as a pro back in his second paid contest in 2014 – he was roughed up by a bigger man.
But that does a disservice to ‘Million Dollar’ Crolla – the bloke is widely ranked as a top 5 lightweight in the world, he’s a former titleholder and he’s at the peak of his powers. The Brit is 25/1 to win, 50/1 to win on points and it’s 50/1 to end in a draw – any of those is worth the shrapnel in your back pocket.
Even though Crolla does have a chance, it’s a slim one and it’s more likely that his ‘educated’ pressure, his dedicated body work and bit of rough-housing won’t be enough to stop Loma pinging his head off. Loma didn’t stop his last opponent, and Crolla is bigger and gritty than him – this one should go the distance.
There’s been a face-off show, an ‘all access’ series, and the fight is headlining a Saturday night Showtime event – women’s boxing has hit the big time. Shields-Hammer has it all – two of best pound-for-pound punchers, all four middleweight belts, East versus West, and no love lost.
Shields was a phenomenon as an amateur, becoming a double Olympic champ for the USA by the age of 21. As a pro, she’s unbeaten in eight, and five of her fights have been for world titles. Hammer turned pro one month after her 19th birthday and won a version of the crown in just her seventh scrap.
Paddy makes the German-Kazakh a significant underdog but I am finding it harder to split the pair of unbeaten champions. Hammer is a tall, athletic unit with a thudding jab, while Shields is faster, slicker and more aggressive. It’s almost certainly going the distance, but it could go either way.
It would be a huge upset if Hogan could take the belt from young boxing superstar Munguia on his home patch – 14/1 to be exact. The Mexican super welterweight champ is unbeaten with an 81% KO ratio, and his four title fights include dispatching Liam Smith last July.
The Irish contender has built himself a sold wee record Down Under, with his only loss in 30 contests coming against former title challenger Jack Culcay, but with no big wins at 34 years of age, there are serious question marks over whether Hogan is world class.
Sometimes even huge odds in two-horse race aren’t good enough – and this is one of those cases. Munguia is the much bigger man, and Hogan doesn’t have the power to keep him at bay – I expect the Tijuana banger to score another early finish.