There’s two big fight cards on tap tonight, one in London and one in Las Vegas and we’ll take a look first at the UK’s premier boxing venue, the O2 Arena.
That’s where three world title contests take place, anchored by a hotly anticipated clash at heavyweight between celebrated 2012 Olympic gold medallist Anthony Joshua and newly minted IBF champion Charles Martin.
Although Martin, 23-0-1 (21), won the NABO strap in 2014, the California resident leapt from relative obscurity in January to capture the vacant IBF crown when opponent Vyacheslav Glazkov injured a knee in the third round and could not continue to fight.
The 29 year old southpaw makes his maiden defense in hostile territory as he will be stepping into the arena where his challenger Joshua, 15-0 (15), has fought on five occasions, including his last three appearances.
It could be a significant factor that Martin has never fought professionally outside of the US but also, has never been in the kind of media spotlight that he has been dealing with in the lead-up to this contest.
In contrast, Joshua has been a major sports star in the UK since winning gold at the 2012 London Olympics and will have a fiercely partisan audience cheering him on.
Joshua has arguably also faced better competition than has Martin but neither man has ever squared off with a world class opponent and it’s difficult to predict the outcome tonight in this one.
What could be a very big issue for the 26 year old Joshua is that he’s never faced a southpaw in his professional career; a first world title opportunity isn’t the best way to learn how to beat a hard punching lefty!
Stamina could become important if this bout makes it into the later stages as neither combatant has much experience past three rounds due to most of their fights have ended in early KO’s.
The undercard sees IBF feather king Lee Selby, 22-1 (8), of Wales put his belt on offer for the second time as he meets the challenge posed by America’s Eric Hunter, 21-3 (11).
Hunter has a win over a previously unbeaten Jerry Belmontes but two of his three losses have been by disqualification and it could be interesting how he reacts to the inevitable frustration that should arise when he tangles with master boxer Selby.
Unless Selby decides to throw away his height, reach and skill advantages by brawling with Hunter, expect “Lightning” to keep his title, probably on points.
WBA bantam boss Jamie McDonnell, 27-2-1 (12), will look to keep his 19 bout win streak going as he puts his world title at risk for the third time by squaring off with late replacement challenger Fernando Vargas, 29-9-3 (20).
Vargas has a lot of experience against domestic competition in his native Mexico and could be a tougher test than expected for McDonnell.
Over at the MGM Grand in America’s boxing capital of Las Vegas, welterweights Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley go at it for a third time with each fighter holding one victory apiece.
Pacquiao, 57-6 (2), is back in action for the first time since losing his WBO title to Floyd Mayweather Jr a year ago after reportedly healing from shoulder surgery.
Bradley, 33-1 (13), has gone 4-1-1 since beating Pacquaio in 2012, defeating Juan Manuel Marquez, Ruslan Provodnikov, Jessie Vargas and Brandon Rios while losing to Pacquiao and drawing with Diego Chaves.
With Pacquiao healthy and Bradley having had a string of withering bouts prior to battering Rios last November, “Pac-Man” could have the advantage here once the bell rings but Bradley has seemed to improved under new trainer Teddy Atlas.
Chief support in Las Vegas sees Arthur Abraham, 44-4 (29), seeking to defend his WBO super middle strap for a sixth time when he meets towering Mexican southpaw Gilberto Ramirez, 33-0 (24).
Ramirez will be in his first world title clash while Abraham will be engaging in his 23rd world title contest and that gulf in experience could be a problem for Ramirez, who has been expertly steered to this point in his career.
If the 24 year old from Mazaltan is a world class operator, this opportunity against 36 year old Abraham could be a perfect setup but if Ramirez is just a good fighter, the champion will apply harsh discipline in Ramirez’s first bout against truly top notch competition.