The Return of HBO's Boxing After Dark
Published: July 14, 2017
2017 has been a banner year for the sport of boxing. There have been great fights on a consistent basis to go along with huge events like Anthony Joshua-Wladimir Klitschko where 90,000 fans filled up Wembley Stadium in London, England. The biggest fight in boxing was signed in Canelo Alvarez-Gennady Golovkin, which will be consummated on September 16th at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
In the background, one of boxing's strongest foundations will be making its way back to the forefront with a newfound sense of relevancy. HBO’s Boxing after Dark series was once one of the fondest programs in all of boxing. It provided fans with great fights and put a spotlight on fighters in the lower weight classes below welterweight. This summer two tripleheaders will help bring back the Boxing after Dark series featuring an assortment of what could be some of the best fights to take place this year.
Starting off on July 15th at The Forum in Inglewood, CA, WBC 130-pound champion Miguel Berchelt (31-1, 28 KOs) will defend his title against Japanese slugger Takashi Miura (31-3-2, 24 KOs). This past January both men were on the same card where they both participated in high action fights stopping their opponents. Berchelt in an upset stopped Francisco Vargas (23-1-2, 17 KOs) in the 11th round to win the WBC championship. It looked like at 32 years of age the wars that Vargas has participated in have finally caught up with him including the 2015 fight of the year with Miura on the Canelo-Cotto undercard in November 2015.
Miura that night faced Miguel Roman (57-12, 44 KOs) stopping him in the 12th round to help set up the fight with Berchelt. Berchelt and Miura are two of the biggest punchers at 130-pounds leading many to believe that their fight in July could be one of the best of the year. The winner could be next in line to face current WBO 130-pound champion and pound-for-pound darling, Vasyl Lomachenko (8-1, 6 KOs).
On the undercard, fans will be able to see possibly for the first time WBA 130-pound champion Jezreel Corrales (21-1, 8 KOs). Corrales is best known for traveling to Japan twice to dethrone longtime Japanese 130-pound champion Takashi Uchiyama (24-2-1, 20 KOs). On that night, Corrales will defend his title against Robinson Castellanos (24-12, 14 KOs). This past May, Castellanos in an upset stopped Yuriorkis Gamboa (26-2, 17 KOs) in the seventh round. Corrales-Castellanos has the potential to provide fireworks making the card that much more exciting.
The light heavyweight division will also be on notice on the card with Joe Smith Jr. (23-1, 19 KOs) taking on Cuban Sullivan Barrera (19-1, 14 KOs). Smith is best known for stopping Andrzej Fonfara (29-5, 17 KOs) in the first round and sending Bernard Hopkins (55-8-2, 32 KOs) into retirement with an emphatic eighth-round knockout that sent Hopkins out of the ring. His opponent Barrera is coming off of two stoppage victories including a knockout over the then undefeated Vyacheslav Shabranskyy (18-1, 15 KOs). Smith-Barrera will be similar to Berchelt-Miura with two of the biggest punchers in their respective divisions battling.
While the card on July 15th is certainly fantastic, the tripleheader known as “SuperFly” on September 9th may be the best card of 2017. The 'SuperFly' show will take place at the famed StubHub Center in Carson, California. The card will highlight the super flyweight division featuring the best fighters in the division.
Headlining that night will be the rematch between Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez (46-1, 38 KOs) and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (43-4-1, 39 KOs). Last March on the undercard of Gennady Golovkin’s (37-0, 33 KOs) middleweight title defense against Daniel Jacobs (32-2, 29 KOs), Rungvisai won a controversial majority decision over Gonzalez. The bout was a high action back and forth fight that featured a knockdown in the first round and a point deduction for head butts in the sixth. At the time of the loss, Gonzalez was considered by many pundits to be the number one fighter in the world pound-for-pound. The first fight at this point may have been the best fight of 2017, and the rematch should be no different. If Gonzalez wins the rematch against Rungvisai, he will have regained his WBC championship, but waiting will be a plethora of tough fights at super flyweight. From this point on there will be no easy fights for the Nicaraguan puncher.
On the card, the highly anticipated United States debut of the fighter known as the “Monster” Naoya Inoue (13-0, 11 KOs) will take place. At 24 years of age, the Japanese fighter is a two-division champion having scored multiple highlight reel knockouts. Including a second round knockout with a body shot over Omar Narvaez (46-2-2, 24 KOs) in 2014. Narvaez’ only defeat at the time was to Nonito Donaire (37-4, 24 KOs) at 118 pounds in 2011.
Inoue that night will defend his WBO super flyweight title against Antonio Nieves (17-1-2, 9 KOs) out of Cleveland, Ohio. Nieves is coming off a split decision loss to Nikolai Potapov (17-0-1, 8 KOs) this past March. This match is more of a showcase for Inoue to show the American audience what he can offer, but Nieves should provide a tough outing for the Japanese star.
Opening the card that night will be a WBC super flyweight title eliminator between two of the best fighters from Mexico in Juan Francisco Estrada (35-2, 25 KOs) and Carlos Cuadras (36-1-1, 27 KOs). These two men are best known for providing the toughest tests in the career of Roman Gonzalez. Estrada and Cuadras have been pushing for rematches with the Nicaraguan. Estrada faced Gonzalez in 2012 at 108 pounds while Cuadras met Gonzalez last September at super flyweight (115). Both fights were fight of the year contenders. The winner of this bout will not only be in position to rematch Gonzalez but can lay claim as the second best fighter in Mexico only behind Canelo Alvarez (49-1-1, 34 KOs).
From top to bottom both cards on July 15th and September 9th have the potential to provide fans with multiple fight of the year candidates. Both cards give boxing fans déjà vu to the days of Hall of Famers Marco Antonio Barrera and Arturo Gatti headlining Boxing after Dark shows. Fights like Barrera against Kennedy McKinney and Erik Morales or Arturo Gatti against Wilson Rodriguez and Mickey Ward gave boxing fans memorable nights that fans will never forget. These fights also gave boxing fans the ammunition to recruit new fans with great fights. At the end of the day, boxing is just as much sport as it is entertainment. As entertaining as Boxing after Dark has been in the past, it is good to have it back as a major part of the sport.
This article can also be found on boxingnewstoday.net and on the next issue of the Boxing News Today Magazine as a featured column
(Feature Photo: HBO Sports)