October has the potential to be one of the most important months for boxing in recent memory. There are four huge title fights, starting with Emanuel Navarrete facing Ruben Villa for the vacant WBO featherweight title (Oct. 9 on ESPN) and the much anticipated lightweight title unification bout between Vasiliy Lomachenko and Teofimo Lopez Jr. (Oct. 17 on ESPN). Add in a pair of title fights on Halloween — Naoya Inoue putting his pair of bantamweight belts on the line against Jason Maloney (Oct. 31 on ESPN+), and Gervonta Davis taking on Leo Santa Cruz for belts in two different divisions in San Antonio, Texas — and you have the framework for a special stretch. And don’t forget the return of two of the best junior bantamweights, Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez and Juan Francisco Estrada, defending his world titles in separate bouts, and the return of former undisputed cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk in a heavyweight showdown against Dereck Chisora.
That’s a lot.
It all kicks off Saturday with a Top Rank card headlined by a clash of ranked junior welterweights, Jose Zepeda and Ivan Baranchyk. There’s also Premier Boxing Champions action Saturday night from Los Angeles and a Sunday card featuring Joshua Buatsi in the U.K.
Baranchyk faces Zepeda with title shot in sight.
It was disappointing when the fight between junior welterweights Zepeda (32-2, 25 KOs) and Baranchyk (20-1, 13 KOs) was postponed in late June due to a training-related rib injury for Baranchyk. Instead of that bout, Zepeda faced Kendo Castaneda on July 7 inside the Top Rank bubble at the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas and scored a 10-round unanimous decision.
Baranchyk is now healthy again and this Saturday’s fight in Las Vegas should be one of the best we’ve seen at the venue since boxing’s restart. Baranchyk’s manager, David McWater, said rescheduling this fight, a WBC title eliminator, was a priority.
“We had other offers for him, one of which we definitely would’ve taken, but then it disappeared,” McWater said, referring to a fight with former junior welterweight titlist Maurice Hooker, who no longer campaigns at 140.
“There’s a strong possibility all those [junior welterweight] belts will be open in six months to a year,” said McWater, noting the possibility that unified titleholders Josh Taylor and Jose Ramirez could move up in weight after they fight each other later this year or early in 2021. “The winner is going to have all four [belts] and we’re told that it’s likely [the winner] will fight [Terence] Crawford [at welterweight].”
Baranchyk is just two fights removed from losing the IBF title in a 12-round unanimous decision against Taylor in the World Boxing Super Series semifinals in March 2019.
“We’re anticipating a pretty good shot at being a world champion again, but we’ve got to beat Zepeda, who’s a pretty formidable guy,” McWater said.
This fight is a very good matchup of styles. Baranchyk is an aggressive, hard-hitting fighter, and Zepeda is a multiskilled southpaw. Baranchyk has never been shy to impose his will on his opponents, but in Zepeda he’ll face a different challenge as Zepeda is so talented technically, that sometimes he coasts in his fights.
It’s rare when you get two top-10 boxers in any division to face each other before a title shot. Here, they are fighting for one.
By the numbers
The full card
Jose Zepeda vs. Ivan Baranchyk, 10 rounds, junior welterweights
Gabriel Flores Jr. vs. Ryan Kielczweski, 10 rounds, lightweights
Kingsley Ibeh vs. Guido Vianello, 6 rounds, heavyweights
Duke Ragan vs. TBA, 4 rounds, featherweights
Haven Brady Jr. vs. Gorwar Karyah, 4 rounds, featherweights
Frevian Gonzalez vs. Carlos Marrero, 6 rounds, junior lightweights
James Barnes vs. Mitchell Sipe, 4 rounds, heavyweights
Matthew Reed vs. Wilfred Mariano, 4 rounds, welterweights
Magsayo closes in on title opportunity … with a win
Featherweight Mark Magsayo (20-0, 14 KOs) headlines a PBC card on Saturday against Rigoberto Hermosillo (11-2-1, 8 KOs) in a scheduled 10-rounder at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles (FS1, 8 p.m. ET).
Magsayo, of the Philippines, is fighting in the U.S. for only the second time. His first appearance came in 2016 when he sent Ramiro Robles to the canvas twice en route to a 12-round unanimous decision victory in Carson, California.
“Mark has traveled the long, long road to get here to the United States to fight again,” said Sean Gibbons, president of MP Promotions.
This will be his first fight under the guidance of trainer Freddie Roach.
“Magsayo is really strong, a good puncher, he has knockout power,” Roach said. “He punches with both hands really, really well.”
Roach is no stranger to working with Filipino fighters, and in many ways his career will be defined by his work with the legendary Manny Pacquiao. However, despite his current pupil’s success, Roach made it clear there would never be another Pacquiao.
“I think people have realized Manny is one of a kind, and anyone that compares themselves to Manny is crazy. There’s no ‘next Manny Pacquiao’, but there’s definitely some more champions from the Philippines, I think,” Roach said.
There is, however, a new generation of Filipino prizefighters who are making waves, such as John Riel Casimero, who impressively took care of Duke Micah in three rounds last Saturday. There’s also young bantamweight contender Reymart Gaballo, and this week’s headliner, Magsayo, who is rated fourth by both the WBC and IBF.
“He’s right there on the cusp [of a title opportunity],” Gibbons said. “He needs a tremendous performance on Saturday night and the doors will come flying off the hinges.”
The full card
Mark Magsayo vs. Rigoberto Hermosillo, 10 rounds, featherweights
Paul Kroll vs. Lucas Santamaria, 10 rounds, welterweights
Chavez Barrientes vs. Ivan Varela, 6 rounds, junior featherweights
Angel Barrientes vs. Fernando Ibarra De Anda, 6 rounds, Junior featherweights
The Return of Buatsi
Light heavyweight contender Joshua Buatsi (12-0, 10 KOs) returns to the ring for the first time in more than a year to face Marko Calic (11-0, 6 KOs) in a 12-round battle on Sunday at the Marshall Arena in Buckinghamshire, England (DAZN, 2 p.m. ET).
Buatsi, who won a bronze medal for Great Britain at the 2016 Rio Olympics, defeated Ryan Ford by seventh-round KO on the Lomachenko-Luke Campbell undercard last August. He is rated by all four major sanctioning bodies and is considered one of the best pure technicians in the division.
But before he can get the big names at 175, Buatsi has to take care of business this weekend.
“This is a well-established amateur. As a pro he is undefeated with a record of 11-0,” Buatsi said of Calic in a news release. “That’s all I need to know about him. He had loads of World Series of Boxing fights so he knows what he is doing. He knows how to handle himself. It’s my job to go in there and to come out on top, which I’m very confident of doing.”
The full card
Joshua Buatsi vs. Marko Calic, 12 rounds, light heavyweights
Chantelle Cameron vs. Adriana Dos Santos Araujo, 10 rounds, for the vacant WBC junior welterweight title
Linus Udofia vs. John Harding, 10 rounds, middleweights
Alen Babic vs. Niall Kennedy, 8 rounds, heavyweights
Aqib Fiaz vs. Kane Baker, 8 rounds, lightweights
John Hedges vs. Julio Cesar, 4 rounds, super middleweights