What: Oscar Valdez vs. Andres Gutierrez, Junior Lightweights
When: Nov. 30
How to Watch: ESPN Plus 10 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: Because Valdez’s path to unified champion, legitimate superstar and pound-for-pound great is clear, as long as he looks as good at 130 as he has at 126.
Can a move up to 130 slow the career of Valdez? At only 28, the man that kept Miguel Berchelt out of the Olympics (they never fought, but Valdez was higher ranked) has already defended his WBO featherweight title six times and amassed a professional record of 26-0 with 20 knockouts. Known for his power, aggression and consistently finding himself in ring wars, Valdez switched to Canelo Alvarez’s trainer, Eddy Reynoso, a few fights ago to try and become more defensively sound (his former trainer was Manuel Robles, best known for his work with Andy Ruiz). Whether it’s due to a step up in competition or more of an emphasis on defense, four of his last five fights have ended in a decision. Weirdly, the one guy he successfully stopped over that stretch proposed to his girlfriend after the fight.
Gutierrez has lost only twice as a professional: a stoppage loss to Abner Mares because of a cut (in a fight he was losing by a wide margin) and a decision to Cristian Mijares. At 38-2 with 25 knockouts, his resume is littered with OK, but far from great fighters including Salvador Sanchez’s nephew Salvador Sanchez Castro and Emmanuel Navarrete knockout victim Jhon Gemino. However, the last three he beat are currently on a two-fight losing streak, a four-fight losing streak and 2-7 over the course of his last nine fights.
While there is talk about Valdez-Herring and Frampton-Valdez (interestingly, Gutierrez was going to fight Frampton two years ago, until he slipped in the shower and injured himself), the more likely fight to make happen is Berchelt-Valdez. That’s the fight that would have a built-in backstory because of the Olympics, and one that would sell extremely well on one of the premier Mexican holidays.
Despite his success at 126, Valdez’s path to superstardom is going to come at 130 where a bevy of big names big names are readily available. This weekend we’ll see if he looks as good in the new weight class as he did in the old.
What: Carl Frampton vs. Tyler McCreary, Junior Lightweights
When: Nov. 30
How to Watch: ESPN Plus 10 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: To see if, like Paddy Barnes learned the hard way, Frampton should have retired as soon as he started considering it.
After losing to Josh Warrington nearly a year ago, the 32-year-old Frampton considered retirement. Instead, he opted to continue fighting but was injured when a falling column inside his hotel lobby broke his hand, forcing him to pull out of a bout with Emmanuel Dominguez. This weekend he will return to the ring for the first time since the Warrington loss, when he takes on McCreary.
Supposedly, the plan is for Jamel Herring to fight Frampton, Valdez to fight Miguel Berchelt, and for the winners to face each other in a unification bout. However, in the ring after his last bout, Herring said that while he would love to fight Frampton, he knows McCreary is a good fighter, so he’ll have to see how that fight shakes out first.
McCreary is an undefeated 26-year-old from Toledo, Ohio, who will carry a four-inch height advantage over “The Jackal” into the ring on Saturday. Undefeated at 16-0 with seven knockouts, McCreary is fresh off a decision win over The Philippines’ Jessie Cris Rosales. While not a well-known professional, McCreary won the 2009 and 2010 National Championships and amassed an amateur record of 87-15. He will be an underdog in this bout but is clearly a skilled fighter.
If Frampton needs a sign that once you’re thinking of retirement you should probably do it, he needs only look so far as his fellow Irishman Barnes. Barnes was heavily considering retirement after back to back losses to Cristofer Rosales and Oscar Mojica. Instead, Barnes came back, won a fight over an overmatched opponent, then got embarrassed and sent into retirement by Jay Harris. While Frampton was and is a far better professional fighter than Barnes, it is a cautionary tale about considering retirement that Frampton should be wary of.
Will Frampton dispose of McCreary en route to another title shot, or (like the movie did to Eddie Murphy) will “The Golden Child” end Frampton’s career and force him to acknowledge he should have retired when he was thinking about it a year ago? On Saturday, we’ll find out.
What: Carlos Adames vs. Patrick Teixeira, Junior Middleweights
When: Nov. 30
How to Watch: ESPN Plus 6:30 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: To see if Adames is going to head to Australia with a belt around his waist, or if Teixeira will destroy those plans and bring a rare boxing title back to Brazil.
With Jaime Munguia abandoning the WBO 154-pound belt to finally move up to middleweight, this weekend Adames and Teixeira will fight for the “interim” version of that belt, though it’s expected the winner will be elevated to full champion soon after. If Adames wins, he’s going to go to Australia and fight Kostya’s son, Tim Tsyzu in his first title defense.
Will Adames win? He’s the heavy favorite. An undefeated Dominican who claims to be one of 35 children, Adames can fight in either the southpaw or orthodox stances and has used an aggressive style to stop 14 of his 18 opponents. At just 25, he already has wins over veteran opponents like Carlos Molina, Patrick Day and Juan Ruiz, but this will be his first shot at a world title.
While Adames is undefeated, Teixera has only one loss: a second-round knockout to Curtis Stevens, which seems like a far worse loss now than it did when it happened in 2016. Outside of that fight, Teixeira has beaten 30 opponents and stopped 22 of them. While the vast majority of those knockouts have come over unheralded Brazilians, he did stop Munguia’s last opponent, Patrick Allotey, and beat Nathaniel Gallimore by unanimous decision, one fight after Gallimore earned a draw against Julian “J Rock” Williams on one of the three judge’s scorecards, in what was ultimately a majority decision loss.
This is supposed to be Adames’ night. He’s the better prospect, he’s the undefeated fighter, and he’s the one with a big money fight against a legend’s son all lined up. But, will he deliver, or will Teixera pull off the upset and bring a rare boxing title back to a country known for its MMA success? We’ll see.
What: Zolani Tete vs. Johnriel Casimero, Bantamweights
When: Nov. 30
How to Watch: ESPN Plus 2 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: Because a shoulder injury cost Tete a chance at facing Naoya Inoue, but Luis Nery’s weight problems may give him another shot at “The Monster.” That is, as long as he can get by a tough Filipino backed by Manny Pacquiao.
Could Tete have beaten Inoue? When Nonito Donaire put up a great fight against the Japanese knockout artist in what was ultimately a unanimous decision loss (and an extremely rare non-stoppage win for Inoue), everyone suddenly forgot that the only reason Donaire was in the finals of the World Boxing Super Series was because he didn’t have to face Tete, who had to pull out of the bout with an injured shoulder.
This weekend, the WBO bantamweight champion, who hasn’t lost since 2012, will return to the ring for the first time since the shoulder injury, when he takes on Casimero. A Filipino fighter that is actually promoted by Manny Pacquiao, Casimero will be almost five inches shorter than Tete, and held the IBF title at junior flyweight before losing the title on the scales. But while he is naturally the smaller man, Casimero has stopped 19 of the 28 opponents he’s beaten (including heavily-hyped Brit Charlie Edwards), but he has been beaten four times (including a stoppage loss to South Africa’s Moruti Mthalane, the only man to ever top Tete).
Both of these guys can punch. Casimero has some nice stoppage wins, but Tete owns the fastest knockout in a world title fight in boxing history. So, it will be interesting to see how cautious both men are in the early rounds, and if this plays a big role in the fight’s outcome.
With Luis Nery struggling to make the bantamweight limit, Tete may have a good chance at getting Inoue in his next bout. Therefore, while Tete assumed he could have powered past “The Filipino Flash” and gotten a shot at Inoue until a shoulder injury ruined those plans, this weekend he needs to make sure he gets by another hard hitting Filipino intent on an upset.
What: Radzhab Butaev vs. Alexander Besputin, Welterweights
When: Nov. 30
How to Watch: Dazn 2 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: To see if the “Angry Lomachenko” style is good enough to get past a guy that should have been an Olympian and has already beaten plenty of Olympic medalists.
At some point or another, every amateur boxer of even boxing fan will emulate the style of the most successful fighter of their era, In the 90s, everybody was putting tennis balls in socks taped to their ceilings and trying to learn the peek-a-boo style. In the 2000s, everybody was turning sideways and trying the shoulder roll. And now, everybody is turning Southpaw, hand-trapping and shifting to get almost completely sideways on their opponents, punching bags or little brothers.
But while the Lomachenko style isn’t for everybody, it has found success with a few professional fighters. While you likely known about Oleksandr Usyk and Vasiliy Lomachenko, there’s a Russian welterweight that is adopting the style, with his own unique and aggressive spin.
In a series of Youtube videos analyzing the various professional fighters Anatoly Lomachenko has worked with, analyst Brendan Dorman did a series on Besputin, who he dubbed the “Angry Lomachenko” for his aggressive adoption of the famed Southpaw style. While not as aesthetically pleasing as Loma, Besputin is using some of the same techniques while making the style his own. So far, it has worked extremely well. As a professional, Besputin (who had a lengthy amateur career) is 13-0 with nine knockouts, including a stoppage win over the very little that’s left of Breidis Prescott.
Butaev is also a Russian fighter, though at 25 he is three years younger than Besputin. Over the course of a decorated amateur career, he beat the likes of Roniel Iglesias (2008 Olympic bronze medalist, 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist), Denys Berinchyk (2012 Olympic Silver Medalist) and Andrey Zamkavoy (2012 Olympic Bronze medalist who beat Errol Spence in the games) but claims in Russia you need someone powerful behind you to make it to the Olympics. While he’s 12-0 with nine knockouts as a professional, his professional opponents have not been as prestigious, with his last three wins coming over opponents with 45 combined losses.
Is Besputin the next Lomachenko product to win a world title, or will Butaev prove that he’s beaten better fighters than Besputin in the amateurs, because Besputin doesn’t have the pedigree Usyk and Lomcahenko have?