As the summer ramps up in the northern hemisphere, Boxing has slowed down a bit but things pick up again tonight with three world title belts on offer.
At Getech Arena in Magdeburg, Germany, WBA heavyweight champ Ruslan Chagaev, 33-2-1 (20), defends against Francesco Pianeta, 31-1-1 (17) in an all southpaw clash.
Chagaev previously held the belt from 2007-2009 and has lost both times that he’s gone up to world class level, against Wladimir Klitschko and Alexander Povetkin.
The 36 year old Hamburg resident recaptured the WBA crown with a majority decision victory against Fres Oquendo a year ago and hasn’t fought since then.
Tonight’s bout gives the Uzbek born Chagaev a good opportunity to retain his title as Italian born, Germany based Pianeta’s only loss was against Wladimir Klitschko two years ago but hasn’t really been tested since.
At 6’5, Pianeta holds a significant height advantage over the 5’11 Chagaev and has been more active but the WBA champion has faced the better competition and that will probably carry Chagaev to victory here.
To upset the apple cart, Pianeta will have to stay on the outside and outwork Chagaev, but to do that he’ll have to have good fitness in order to keep moving and avoid standing and trading.
Chagaev will probably have to shake off some ringrust and could lose the early rounds until he finds his rhythm.
At the Velodrome in Manchester, England, former British and current WBO European lightweight king Terry Flanagan, 27-0 (10), gets the opportunity to contend for the vacant WBO lightweight strap against California’s Jose Zepeda, 23-0 (20).
Lefty Flanagan will have to keep things tidy once the bell rings as Zepeda has spent most of his career at welterweight and has knocked out the majority of his opponents.
But the Manchester man has spent the last three years boxing mostly as a light welter and has faced stiffer competition than the American.
Flanagan also has the home advantage but that could produce a very dangerous Zepeda, who is likely aware that he’ll need a KO to win the WBO belt at the Velodrome.
With Terence Crawford moving up to light welter, the lightweight division is pretty wide open and either Flanagan or Zepeda could keep the WBO strap for some time without having to face a tough title defense and that could give both men extra motivation to win tonight and make for a real thriller.
Jumping over the Atlantic, WBA welterweight champ Keith Thurman, 25-0 (21), is back in the ring, fighting in his native Florida for the first time since 2009 as the big puncher headlines a show at the USF Sundome in Tampa.
Facing Thurman is cagey New York southpaw veteran Luis Collazo, 36-6 (19), who held the WBA welter strap in 2005. Collazo has gone up to bat once since then for world honors but was turned back by Andre Berto in 2009 for the WBC belt.
Thurman made three defenses of the WBA Interim bauble before defending the full title for the first time in March, outlasting Robert Guerrero in a rough fight.
The Floridian can genuinely punch but he’s also a good boxer with sharp reflexes, which is bad news for Collazo, who was on the deck twice during a one-sided drubbing at the hands of Amir Khan a year ago.
Perhaps because he’s produced so many stoppages, Thurman’s only real weakness has been his stamina. Both Leonard Bundu and Guerrero were chasing a tired Thurman around the ring during the latter stages of their contests so expect Collazo to try and tire out the champion by running and potshotting to the body for the first half of the fight.
But the challenger can only capitalize on that strategy during the later rounds if he proves able to take Thurman’s punch, which had the iron chinned Guerrero hurt on more than one occasion.
At 34, Collazo might have too many miles on the odometer to be the guy who puts the first loss on Thurman’s record but it should be a good fight for as long as it lasts.