It's been an excellent first few months of nationally televised Boxing in 2018. That said, one network stands head and shoulders above the others, regarding meaningful, desired match-ups; Showtime. HBO and ESPN have certainly put forth quality programming (as recent as last weekend) but Showtime reigns supreme for now and the foreseeable future.
This Saturday, May 19th, Showtime Championship Boxing presents a double-header from two different countries, headlined by Adonis "Superman" Stevenson vs. Badou Jack "The Ripper". In the co-feature, "Mr." Gary Russell squares off with fellow U.S. Olympian, Joseph "JoJo" Diaz. The main event will take place in Toronto, Canada, with the lead-in occurring in Oxon Hill, Maryland.
Adonis Stevenson (29-1, 24 KO's) vs. Badou Jack (22-1-2, 13 KO's)
Born in Haiti, Stevenson moved to Canada at the age of 7 and fell in with the wrong crowd by his teens. By his 20’s, he was incarcerated for various assaults and pimping out prostitutes (literally), but got on the straight and narrow upon his release. Adonis made his professional debut at the extremely late age of 29, but aside from a loss to Darnell Boone (which was avenged) and some strange matchmaking choices, it’s been nothing but positive since. It took all of 1:16 to destroy “Bad” Chad Dawson, taking his lineal and WBC Light heavyweight titles, officially placing Stevenson on the world wide fistic map, in 2013.
Stevenson’s made 8 defenses of that title, but upon signing a managerial deal with Al Haymon, he found himself on the outside looking in, as the movers and shakers at 175 pounds faced each other. Sergey Kovalev, in particular, was making his presence felt on Canadian soil, fighting on Stevenson undercards, longing for unification, to no avail. In the interim, Kovalev faced another Canadian, Jean Pascal, twice and Andre Ward twice. At the same time, fresh faces the likes of Dmitry Bivol, Artur Beterbiev and Sullivan Barrera placed themselves on the radar as Stevenson settled for a diet of Sakio Bika, Tommy Karpency and Andrzej Fonfara (2x). It was disappointing to say the least and before long Adonis was the forgotten Light heavyweight champion.
Badou Johannes Gabriel Jack, from Sweden, has fought professional in America since his sixth bout, but formally introduced himself to the masses with an upset decision over Anthony Dirrell, for a title at 168 pounds. Jack defended 3 times with wins over Lucian Bute and George Groves and a draw with James DeGale in an entertaining scrap. Jack “the Ripper” made the move to 175 in his last outing, a pummeling of Nathan Cleverly. Jack’s a pretty good body puncher, has a respectable 1-2, but there’s literally nothing special about him on a world class level. No, he’s not bad, he’s just not special in any particular way. That said, for all of the frustration Stevenson’s given boxing fans over the years, he’s one of the absolute hardest punchers in the sport, pound for pound. His left hand packs fire and brimstone, and Adonis isn’t shy about winging it with reckless abandon, particularly early.
Hard to fathom this going pass 3 rounds and if it does, Jack will have went to hell and back in the process.
Gary Russell (28-1, 17 KO's) vs. Joseph Diaz (26-0, 14KO's)
The televised co-feature pits 2008 U.S. Olympian, Russell, against 2012 U.S. Olympian, Diaz. With Vasyl Lomachenko on to bigger and better things and opponents, the preeminent Pugilist at 126 pounds and below is Gary Russell. A serious, business minded sort, Russell enjoys hurting people and he possesses quite possibly the best hand-speed in the entire sport.
Russell has to be a huge favorite, to the point Diaz is arguably being rushed. We’ve seen what can happen when young upstarts reach too high too soon; “Ferocious” Fernando Vargas and Davey Moore come to mind. But credit to Diaz for being ballsy enough to not only jump at the chance to face Russell, he’s doing so in Russell’s backyard of Oxon Hill, Maryland.
Come fight night, Russell will have been out of the ring for 364 days; this coming on the heels of throwing hands once each in 2017, 2016 and 2015. Nonetheless, he stays in the gym, inactivity shouldn’t be a factor and Russell should be victorious by mid to late rounds TKO or wide, unanimous decision.