What: Bryant Jennings vs. Oscar Rivas, HeavyweightsWhen: Jan. 18
How to Watch: ESPN+ 9:30 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: To see if Oscar Rivas can make six-foot heavyweights a thing again.
Heavyweight boxing has gotten tall. While sub six-foot fighters like David Tua, Mike Tyson and Joe Frazier once regularly competed and won in the division, these days it seems that anything under 6 foot three is considered a bloated light heavyweight and a highly unlikely title contender.
Oscar Rivas is only a smidge above six feet tall. Though heavily muscled and weighing in at 240 pounds, Rivas’ size and wide punching style has given fans caution regarding his chance at winning a heavyweight title, despite his Olympic background and 25-0 professional record.
Bryant Jennings was almost a unified heavyweight champion, but the 34-year-old from Philadelphia lost a wide decision to Wladimir Klitschko. Still he is a good heavyweight gatekeeper whose beaten guys like Artur Szpilka and Mike Perez, and a win over him would mean you have a legitimate chance at winning a heavyweight belt.
Oscar Rivas will either be too short and not good enough, or he will make the world rethink whether anyone smaller than a power forward can make a run at the heavyweight title. On Friday night, we’ll find out.
What: Shakur Stevenson vs. Jessie Cris Rosales, FeatherweightsWhen: Jan. 18
How to Watch: ESPN+ 9:30 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: Because nobody, including his countrymen, believe in Jessie Cris Rosales, and that should be tremendously motivating.
“Nobody believes in us” is the most overused, misused, and cliché motivational tool in sports. Being a slight underdog does not mean “nobody” believes in you, a few media members picking against you doesn’t mean that “nobody” believes in you and pointing out a slight weakness in your game does not warrant a “nobody” believes in us reaction.
That being said, nobody believes in Jessie Cris Rosales. Despite being 22-1, and despite having beaten young former Olympian Ibrahim Balla in his last fight, Rosales said that fans on Facebook laughed at the idea of him beating Shakur Stevenson, and acknowledged the majority of Fillipino boxing fans are expecting him to lose.
Rosales should lose, Stevenson is an elite prospect and a far better fighter than Rosales will ever be. But plenty of athletes have used the “nobody believes in me” motivation to do things that seemed impossible, and those people had far more believers than Rosales will on Friday night.
What: Demetrius Andrade vs. Artur Akavov, MiddleweightsWhen: Jan. 18
How to Watch: DAZN 9 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: Because Demetrius Andrade wants big names, just not the one big name that’s beaten Artur Akavov.
Demetrius Andrade went to a school in the Bronx recently and asked three kids who their favorite boxers were. The first two kids answered John Cena and Conor Mcgregor, while the student whose father hasn’t failed him in life said “Canelo.” When he heard this name, Andrade said that he was looking to fight Canelo soon, but that he couldn’t get big name fights no matter how willing he was, and as a result was stuck facing Artur Akavov.
The one big name Andrade said he did not want to fight was Billy Joe Saunders, essentially arguing that it wasn’t worth going through training camp and risking another Saunders PED suspension and fight cancellation. Which is why his fight against Artur Akavov could be a disaster.
Andrade and Saunders have been going back and forth on social media, with Andrade talking about Saunder’s PED usage and Saunders mocking Andrade’s arrest on gun charges. Artur Akavov has never faced anybody good outside of one fighter: Billy Joe Saunders, who he gave loads of trouble en route to losing a unanimous 116-112, 116-113, 115-113 decision. Saunders made all sorts of excuses after that fight, ranging from not being in shape to underestimating his opponent, but there is no denying Akavov was good enough to give him significant issues over the course of twelve rounds.
If Demetrius Andrade loses to Artur Akavov after openly speaking about how he wants bigger fights, he will get killed by Billy Joe Saunders on social media, and worse, he will deserve it.
What: Badou Jack vs. Marcus Browne, Light HeavyweightsWhen: Jan. 19
How to Watch: Showtime PPV 9 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: Because Marcus Browne thinks his personality will make him a star in a loaded division, but his personality won’t help him in the ring against someone as good as Badou Jack.
The light heavyweight division in boxing is loaded. With guys like Eleider “Storm” Alvarez, Sergey Kovalev, Artur Beterbiev and Dmitry Bivol fighting, there are a gaggle of really talented fighters and fascinating matchups to be made.
But Marcus Browne looks at that lineup and sees only zzzz’s. This week, he said that “I look at the other fighters and the other champions and they are all very one-dimensional with no charisma. They bore me if I’m being totally truthful with you.”
While those guys may not be the most charismatic athletes in the world, they’ve all fought far better competition than Marcus Browne has. Which brings us to Saturday’s fight.
Badou Jack is by far the best opponent Marcus Browne has ever faced. He’s 22-1, and has beaten guys like Lucian Bute, Anthony Dirrell, and George Groves. While Browne thinks his career may be trending downward, and may be right, he is still lightyears above Browne’s previous opponents.
In sports, you can be the most interesting person in the world, but if you’re not winning nobody cares about you. Marcus Browne thinks all the great fighters at light heavyweight are boring, which may be true, but it won’t matter how interesting he is if he can’t beat Badou Jack.
What: Manny Pacquiao vs. Adrien Broner, WelterweightsWhen: Jan. 19
How to Watch: Showtime PPV 9 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: Because this fight will either be immensely satisfying, or indescribably sad.
Manny Pacquiao is a beloved champion, Adrien Broner is an underachieving jerk.
While Pacquiao’s statements on homosexuality and how we should punish drug users were disturbing, his mix of fun personality and history of winning entertaining bouts have built him a huge following and fandom. Now 40 years old, he will be the fan favorite in every bout he takes, but none more so than his fight on Saturday against Adrien Broner.
Broner has a history of harassing and harming people who mean him no harm. He is banned from Uber for harassing a driver, has been accused of multiple sex crimes, was accused of robbery and assault outside of a bowling alley, filmed himself demeaning CVS employees, and overall has been a terrible human being. Continuing his pattern of awfulness, this week he made horrendously racist comments towards one of Pacquiao’s Asian fans including the line “I got some sauteed German Shepherd for you in the back.” Watching him get beaten by Pacquiao will be immensely satisfying. But that’s not guaranteed.
Pacquiao is 40 years old, and 69 fights into his professional career. While there’s no question in his prime Manny would have dominated Broner, these days that’s far from a certainty. Broner has been a chronic underachiever throughout his career, but he acknowledged this week that beating Pacquiao would be a career-defining moment and one that would make him an instant icon. While an Adrien Broner that is taking his career seriously has become boxing version of MMA’s “motivated B.J. Penn” meme, few have ever questioned Broner’s raw talent. A dialed-in Adrien Broner facing an aging Manny Pacquiao could be bad news for the Filipino legend.
And worse news for his fans. Seeing an aging legend get beaten by a fighter nowhere near his level is always rough to watch, but Broner would undoubtedly make it so much harder. Imagine having paid to watch a faded Pacquiao get embarrassed by a cocky, disrespectful Adrien Broner. Imagine watching a down-on-the-scorecards Pacquiao chase Broner as he mugs to the crowd, yells things to the fans ringside, and makes a bunch of unfunny racist jokes in his postfight interview.
On Saturday night, boxing fans will either say they enjoyed every second of watching Manny Pacquiao teach Adrien Broner a lesson, or they will vow to never speak of this horribly depressing event again. Order the fight at your own risk.