Matchroom have put together a terrific card loaded with talent, writes Declan Taylor
THE WHEELS may have fallen off Matchroom USA’s ‘takeover’ somewhat but that has not prevented them from producing arguably the card of the year in San Antonio this weekend. There was a time when promoter Eddie Hearn had promised to stage more than one show a month in America as part of his broadcast deal with DAZN but they are far more sporadic than that these days.
But the one at the Tech Port Arena on Saturday will take some beating with no fewer than four mouth-watering showdowns containing legitimate elite belt-holders against worthy contenders.
In the pick of the bunch, the fast-rising star Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez will look to continue his surge up the super-flyweight top 10 when he takes on the southpaw stalwart Srisaket Sor Rungvisai.
Still only 22, Rodriguez made a huge statement in his last outing when he boxed beautifully en route to a unanimous decision victory over another of the division’s big names Carlos Cuadras, who was dropped in the third, in Phoenix in February.
That was Rodriguez’s debut at super-flyweight and he had stepped in at short notice when Sor Rungvisai was taken ill just days before his proposed fight with Cuadras. Rodriguez, who had just signed a deal with Matchroom, did not hesitate to jump in for the ultimate acid test.
And he passed it with flying colours, becoming the youngest belt-holder in the sport. And, with clearly no intention of slowing down his progress, the Texan is set to face the well-again veteran Sor Rungvisai just four months later.
Sor Rungvisai has not boxed in America since 2019 when he lost on points to Juan Francisco Estrada but got back to winning ways with a trio of victories at the Workpoint Studio in Bang Phun, Thailand since then. However, after his withdrawal back in February, he has now not boxed since 2021 so it is clear where the momentum lies in this one.
Sor Rungvisai, now 50-5-1, is still considered one of the biggest names in the division and is currently ranked No.2 in the world at super-flyweight, while 15-0 Bam is ninth. However the youngster will have the support of his fellow San Antonio residents in his first hometown fight for more than four years.
Whatever the result this promises action but Rodriguez looks to be improving with every fight and will feel confident at the new weight after his last outing. A hard-fought Bam decision looks to be a solid pick.
More fireworks look likely down at flyweight as Julio Cesar Martinez takes on McWilliams Arroyo – as long as they can avoid any accidental head clashes this time.
The pair collided – quite literally – in November and it was shaping up to be a genuine firecracker when 12/1 favourite Martinez touched down halfway through the first round but then rallied to drop Arroyo just before the bell.
However, a clash of heads opened up a nasty double gash over Arroyo’s right eye in the second and the fight was waved off before the third could start, rendering the whole affair a no contest.
Now seven months down the line the pair are set to go again but Arroyo is not such a wide outsider this time. Anyone with his kind of one-punch power will always have a chance in what could turn into a Mexico v Puerto Rico shootout but he also has a tendency to lean back with his chin up, which could leave him open to a big Martinez left hook. The Mexican to end an action fight in the middle rounds is the pick here.
Meanwhile, up at super-bantamweight, No.2-ranked Murodjon Akhmadaliev is back for the first time this year as he takes on the experienced Ronny Rios.
California-based Uzbek Akhmadaliev has only boxed 10 times as a professional but is already considered the best in the division by many. With that in mind, this should be a straightforward night’s work and, with only three of his fights going the distance, he looks well placed to end this one early against a man who has been stopped in two of his three defeats.
In the only women’s fight on the card, world welterweight champion Jessica McCaskill takes on Alma Ibarra. “Saskilla”, now 37, has emerged as one of the most exciting punchers in women’s boxing and added to that reputation by stopping Kandi Wyatt inside seven last time out.
Single mother Ibarra, can also punch and will look to land an overhand right all night against the favourite McCaskill but it would be a huge shock if she manages to pull it off. A McCaskill UD seems most likely against the tough Mexican.
Further down the card, there are outings for three of DAZN’s unbeaten prospects. Firstly, 11-0-1 Raymond Ford, the southpaw from New Jersey, takes on San Antonio local Richard Medina, who himself is currently 13-0, over 10 threes.
There are high hopes for Ford but his last two fights have ended in a draw and then a split decision victory so his rapid progress has been checked slightly. Medina, just 21, will have a big home support and knows victory here will change his life forever. This could be one to watch.
Before then, Fresno man Marc Castro is vying to continue his serene progress to life as a professional against 7-4 Texan Omar Castillo in an eight-rounder which is unlikely to go the distance.
Another man who will be hoping to win early is Nikita ‘White Chocolate’ Ababiy, who faces Noe Larios Jnr over eight. The 23-year-old has three points wins on the spin after a slew of early knockouts and takes on a man in Larios who has not been seen since he was stopped by Caoimhin Agyarko in December.
THE VERDICT: Some real quality on display here