There’s a smattering of world title contests this evening in the UK and US and we kick things off in merry old England at the vast Manchester Arena, where WBO lightweight kingpin Terry Flanagan will hold court.
Lanky lefty Flanagan, 32-0 (13), looks to retain his belt for the fifth time as he will meet former light welter world title challenger Petr Petrov, a Russian residing in Spain.
Petrov, 38-4-2 (19), is coming off six consecutive wins, all in America, capturing the regional NABF/NABO/NABA belts along the way. Since 2011, the 34 year old has only come up short to Marcos Maidana in a WBA light welter title scrap and future lightweight world champ Dejan Zlaticanin.
The 27 year old Flanagan is arguably at the height of his career, but to date has never faced world class competition with Petrov representing the Manchester man’s toughest test to date. This should be a good action fight, but look for the taller, longer armed Flanagan to prevail via a hard-fought unanimous decision.
There’s a good support bout on the bill in Manchester as ex-WBO super welter champ Liam Smith, 24-1-1 (13), clashes with top domestic rival Liam Williams, 16-0-1 (11), in a grudge match that should be a barnburner as the Interim WBO belt is on offer to the winner.
Smith and Williams don’t like each other and this contest is crucial, particularly to Smith, as a loss to Williams will end the ambitions of “Beefy” to prove that he is indeed a world class operator.
We’ll head on over to a new venue on the American boxing scene, MGM National Harbor, just outside of Washington DC, where the man many consider to be the top pound-for-pound boxer on the planet, Vasyl Lomachenko, puts his WBO super feather strap at risk against gritty challenger Jason Sosa.
Sosa, 20-1-4 (15), gave up his WBA title in order to challenge Lomachenko, 7-1 (5), the former two-time Olympic gold medallist who has collected the WBO featherweight and super feather trophies in one of the more successful accelerated career programs in the sport’s history.
The 29 year old New Jersey native Sosa rose from obscurity in 2015 when he drew with undefeated former world champion Nicholas Walters and then unseated highly touted WBA super feather titlist Javier Fortuna in 2016.
Ukraine native Lomachenko, incidentally, is coming off a seventh round one-sided stoppage of Walters in November and has previously defeated Rocky Martinez and Gary Russell Jr, while losing only to Orlando Salido by a narrow margin in Lomachenko’s second pro bout.
This is a tough assignment for Sosa as Lomachenko is a fundamentally pin-perfect southpaw with exceptional footwork and all-around skills. Sosa’s best hope is that he can force Lomachenko onto the back foot and produce an energy-draining slugfest in which he stops an exhausted champion in the later rounds. Lomachenko, however, is heavily favored to outbox Sosa and win every round against the challenger.
The undercard featured another sharp-boxing southpaw Ukrainian Olympic gold medallist, WBO cruiserweight ruler Oleksandr Usyk, 11-0 (10), who squares off with unbeaten American prospect Michael Hunter, 12-0 (8).
Usyk blazed his way to the WBO crown in record fashion, unseating rugged Pole Krzysztof Glowacki last year before retaining against Thabisco Mchunu in December. The 30 year old will have a big experience advantage against Hunter, who to date has only met record-building type opposition during his pro career but the 28 year old Las Vegas resident is no pushover and could give Usyk some problems.