What to Watch: February 22-25

By Caryn A. Tate on February 22, 2018
What to Watch: February 22-25
Twenty-seven-year-old "El Gallo" Estrada's best quality is his ring IQ, which is exceptional.

WBC super flyweight champ Rungvisai, who defeated Roman Gonzalez twice, packs a huge punch for his size…

Join me as I break down which of the week’s televised fights are most interesting and why. Here’s this week’s rundown:

Thursday, February 22
11:30pm ET/8:30pm PT - ESPN2
Joseph Diaz Jr. vs. Victor Terrazas

Joseph “JoJo” Diaz (25-0, 13 KOs) is a 2012 U.S. Olympian who has shown good skills since turning pro in late 2012. He’s now fighting Terrazas (38-4-2, 21 KOs) for the minor NABO title. While Terrazas is experienced, this is a relatively low-risk fight for Diaz as Golden Boy continues to groom him for a future world title shot. All four of Terrazas’ losses have come by knockout, and he was stopped just two fights ago in October 2016 by the undefeated Eduardo Hernandez. Terrazas is also 35 years old to Diaz’s 25. Obviously promoters should groom their young fighters, and protection is part of that as they build their experience and skillsets; but there should also be the appropriate level of challenges to help the boxer grow and improve, and overall we haven’t seen enough of that for Diaz. He was pushed when he faced Jayson Velez in March 2016—Diaz was cut and had to dig a bit to win that bout. But since then, it seems like Golden Boy has dialed back the level of opposition and it’s not helping the young fighter prepare himself for the lion’s den that is the top of the featherweight division. 

Friday, February 23
11:30pm ET/8:30pm PT - Telemundo
Jonathan Gonzalez vs. Ricardo Rodriguez

Gonzalez (19-2-1, 12 KOs) faces Rodriguez (16-5, 5 KOs) in a 10-round flyweight bout.

Saturday, February 24
Box Nation/BT Sport (U.K.)
Anthony Yarde vs. Tony Averlant

Yarde (14-0, 13 KOs) defends his WBO European and Inter-Continental light heavyweight belts versus Averlant (26-9-2, 5 KOs) in a 10-rounder.

2:00pm ET/11:00am PT - WBSS YouTube/Facebook (U.S.) & ITV (U.K.)
Callum Smith vs. Nieky Holzken

In the last super middleweight semi-final, Smith (23-0, 17 KOs) fights late replacement Holzken (13-0, 10 KOs). Whoever wins this bout will face George Groves in the World Boxing Super Series final.

Smith’s original opponent, Juergen Brahmer, bowed out of the fight on Tuesday due to illness. The British Smith is a good boxer with decent footwork—add to that his greater experience, level of opposition, and activity, and it looks like a safe bet that Smith wins on Saturday. The only real wildcard (on paper, anyway—it’s boxing, so anything can happen no matter what things look like on paper!) is that Smith’s last opponent, Erik Skoglund, went twelve rounds with him last September and in December endured a brain bleed during sparring that put him in an induced coma. He’s since been brought out of the coma and Skoglund is doing much better, and while the injury didn’t happen during his fight with Smith, one does wonder if Smith will have the accident on his mind.

9:30pm ET/6:30pm PT - HBO
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai vs. Juan Francisco Estrada; Carlos Cuadras vs. McWilliams Arroyo; Donnie Nietes vs. Juan Carlos Reveco

Here’s the big one for me this week: “Superfly 2.” The super flyweight division is just on fire with superb talent. The fighters involved in this tournament, and the first one, are now in a fascinating sort of round robin of style match-ups: WBC super flyweight world champ Rungvisai (44-4-1, 40 KOs), who defeated HBO darling Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez twice (first by decision, then by knockout last September in the first “Superfly” event), packs a huge punch for his size but has limitations to his style that make this bout versus Estrada (36-2, 25 KOs) really interesting.

When facing a fighter with great feet, who knows how to box and use the ring, Rungvisai can be beaten—as demonstrated in 2014 by Saturday’s co-headliner Carlos Cuadras, who was cleanly out-boxing Rungvisai before the fight was stopped on a technical decision due to a cut from a headbutt. Yet when he fights someone like Gonzalez, who is indeed an excellent fighter but barrels in and has limited defensive abilities (particularly as he aged), Rungvisai had great results.

Estrada is somewhere between Cuadras and Gonzalez as far as style. The 27-year-old looked good but not great when he faced Cuadras back in September and won a very close decision (it was such a close fight that it could have gone either way—I had Cuadras ahead by a slim margin). Estrada doesn’t have the footwork Cuadras does, but he employs a little of the pressure used so well by Gonzalez. Probably Estrada’s best quality is his ring IQ, which is exceptional and is often what helps him pull ahead in difficult matches.

This fight really could go either way and that’s what makes it so exciting.

In the co-feature, former world champion Cuadras (36-2-1, 27 KOs) faces Arroyo (16-3, 14 KOs) in a 10-rounder. Cuadras is obviously the favorite and that’s with good reason—he has more experience, more activity, and the better resume. But Arroyo, who last fought when he faced Gonzalez almost two years ago, showed tremendous heart and had his moments in a bout that went the distance—against a fighter most believed would knock him out without much trouble. Because of Cuadras’ excellent footwork and ring generalship, I expect him to win, but if he has stamina issues (which he seemed to have in his last two fights), Arroyo may cause some trouble.

Sunday, February 25
Sky Sports (U.K.)
Lewis Ritson vs. Joe Murray; Jordan Gill vs. Jason Cunningham

Ritson (13-0, 7 KOs) faces Murray (23-2, 10 KOs) in a 12-rounder for the British lightweight title. Featherweights Gill (18-0, 4 KOs) and Cunningham (23-4, 6 KOs) fight in a 10-round contest.

Follow Caryn A. Tate on Twitter@carynatate

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Superfly 2 Preview: Sor Rungvisai vs. Estrada

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