So continues our marathon coverage of one of the biggest fights of 2013, Manny Pacquiao vs. Brandon Rios on HBO pay-per-view on Nov. 23. Previously: a special edition of TQBR Radio; what's at stake. Next: keys to the fight.
As you read this, I’m on my way to China to cover Manny Pacquiao vs. Brandon Rios (and hopefully do a bit of accidental Chinese hipster spotting). As always, we have a ridiculous amount of content for one of the year’s biggest fights, which I fully recommend you check out as the week progresses. Today I’m taking a look at the undercard (such as it is) as well as the week’s other boxing events (in case too much boxing is never enough).
Manny Pacquiao vs. Brandon Rios Undercard
Evgeny Gradovich vs. Billy Dib. Let’s be honest, this featherweight rematch is really the only good fight on the undercard. Even then, it’s probably more ESPN/NBC Sports level than pay-per-view, but whatever. We’ll take what we can get. Luckily we already had a test run, and it proved to be quite entertaining, with Gradovich (17-0, 8 KO) stalking down Dib (36-2, 21 KO) to take a split decision. It was a close fight and I don’t think the dynamic will change in the second outing. Dib is not fleet enough of foot to avoid “The Mexican Russian,” who wins the boxing nickname prize for the night (and probably the year). It’ll no doubt get messy at times (as Dib fights are wont to do) and neither man has the power for a clean finish, but I think it’ll be enjoyable. I’ll have to pick against my countryman Dib, though, Gradovich just has too big an engine.
Andy Ruiz vs. Tor Hamer. Mexican heavyweight Ruiz (20-0, 14 KO) doesn’t look like much (well, apart from a big fat lump) but he’s actually pretty skilled for a heavyweight. His size belies his speed of hand and foot and he seems to have a head on his shoulders (and one in his corner, in the form of Freddie Roach). I doubt Hamer (21-2, 14 KO) will last the distance with him, but he should give him some rounds with a middling-to-goodish heavyweight, which is about all you can expect these days.
Zou Shiming vs. Juan Toscano. This one’s for China, in the sense that it’s on the card to attract the massive Chinese broadcast audience. Flyweight Shiming (2-0, 0 KO), a two time Olympic gold medallist, is a huge hero in the world’s most populous country. At 32, he’s kind of old to go professional in the lighter weight classes and he has no pop at all, but it might be a bit early to judge his potential. He’s facing Juan Tozcano (4-0, 1 KO) whose undefeated record conceals the fact that his opponents had a combined record of 2-21-3.
Promotional stuff. As always in a big fight week, there’s going to be heaps of promotional programming. The final episode of 24/7 debuts on HBO on Thursday, while ESPN will have a veritable orgy of coverage. There’ll be fighter interviews, daily SportsCenter packages, live broadcast of the weigh-in and press conference on ESPN3, classic fights airing throughout the week and much more. The website will have even more content, including Mike Tyson breaking down the fight and all the usual accoutrements. It’s pretty ridiculously good, actually.
The Rest Of The Week’s Boxing Schedule
Carl Froch vs. George Groves, Saturday, Manchester, AWE. For those of you in America, the time difference should make this a nice little appetiser for Pac vs. Rios. Super middleweight Froch (31-2, 22 KO) is just about the toughest bloke in the sport (not that he lets us forget it) and he keeps up his ridiculous run of competition by facing young, hungry domestic rival Groves (19-0, 15 KO). Groves is similar to Froch in many ways; his low left hand, flicking jab, underrated skills and ability to get the job done in difficult circumstances echo the qualities of the more experienced Nottinghamian. He’s a bit faster than Froch, but since he hasn’t fought the same level of competition it’s difficult to tell how big of a puncher he is. In the end though, it’s difficult to pick Groves. Froch’s experience and track record are hard to go past and I think he’ll find a way to out-grit Groves, as he tends to do, and get the decision. Junior featherweight Scott Quigg (26-0-2, 19 KO) fights on the undercard against Diego Oscar Silva (29-2-4, 15 KO), as do many top British fighters, including Anthony Crolla, Martin Murray and Anthony Joshua.
Antonio Tarver vs. Mike Sheppard, Monday, Sunrise Fla., Fox Sports 1. If you have a thing for old, undersized heavyweights coming of performance enhancing drug related layoffs, then this is the fight for you! Antonio Tarver (29-6, 20 KO) fights journeyman Mike Sheppard (21-15-1, 9 KO) in a fight that is guaranteed not to be competitive. The undercard doesn’t figure to be much better, with bantamweight prospect Randy Caballero (19-0, 11 KO) fighting Jessy Cruz (10-5-1, 4 KO), a sidewise step at best, in terms of Caballero’s development. US heavyweight Olympian Dominic Breazeale (7-0, 7 KO) at least takes a step up against journeyman Nagy Aguilera, in a fight that might be good as long as it lasts.
The Rest. Cruiserweight Yoan Pablo Hernandez (27-1, 13 KO) fights Alexander Alekseev (24-2-1, 20 KO) in Germany on Saturday. Not a bad fight, Hernandez should have it handily… And that’s about it.