The recent boxing weekends have been somewhat sparse but this weekend serves a heaping helping of fistic action from three networks and one fight in which the stakes cannot be any higher.
DAZN will carry the biggest bout of the weekend from Saudi Arabia as three of the four heavyweight titles are up for dispute as Oleksandr Usyk attempts to duplicate his upset of Anthony Joshua to win those titles in a rematch.
Usyk outboxed a surprisingly tentative Joshua and surprisingly was able to hurt him as well, badly shaking Joshua in the final round with the Englishman fortunate to hear the final bell.
In the rematch, Usyk still possesses those same skills against the larger Joshia and his boxing IQ may be second to none, so Joshua's best chance may be to return to his early days as a walk them down and stalking bomber and try to back Usyk up in order to land his power punches.
Joshua's safety style since his classic war with Wladimir Klitschko has been successful, but his best chance to grab a victory over Oleksandr Usyk might be to go back to the future, fire away, and hope for the best.
The co-feature will determine the next mandatory for the Usyk-Joshua victor in the IBF as Filip Hrgrovic tackles Zhang Zhilei.
Both Olympic medalists (Hrgovic 2016 Bronze, Zhilei 2008 Bronze) have faced weaker opponents.
Zhang's best opponent was journeyman Jerry Forrest and he was fortunate to receive a draw against Forrest, while Hrgovic has looked strong in mowing down a few names well past their prime such as Eric Molina, Rydell Booker, and Amir Mansour as well as a few European level foes.
Zhang didn't show a great chin against Forrest and I think Hrgrovic will take advantage of that and roll to an impressive win.
Former super middleweight champion Callum Smith continues his comeback at light heavyweight in a WBC eliminator against Mathieu Bauderlique of France.
Smith hasn't fought in almost a year since his initial fight since losing to Canelo Alvarez but he knocked out Lenin Castillo in only two rounds and looked much stronger with the move up in weight.
Bauderlique won a bronze medal in the 2016 Olympics and won his biggest fight in his most recent outing in a seventh-round TKO over Igor Milhalkin but was knocked out in one round in his only defeat in 2017.
Former super middleweight champion Badou Jack continues his comeback at light heavyweight since two 2019 losses to Marcus Browne and Jean Pascal against undefeated Richard Rivera.
Jack has won four straight against limited competition and Rivera is an unknown quantity with a 21-0 record and 16 knockouts but six of his last eight opponents had losing records, so this fight could be difficult to know how good Rivera is and at 38, how much does Badou Jack have remaining in his career.
The other title fight on the day is in San Diego from ESPN and Top Rank as WBO featherweight champion Emanuel Navarrete defends against Eduardo Baez.
Navarrete, who once was the most active champion in the game, hasn't fought in close to ten months since a strong win over Joet Gonzalez and while he might be the best featherweight in the world, he isn't close to a fight against the top fighters in the division due to promotional issues.
The light-hitting Baez is entering the bout off a majority decision win over Enrique Vivas and a close majority decision loss to top contender Ra'eese Aleem, so he is not an easy mark, but I'm not sure that he has the pop to keep Navarrete at distance
Showtime and PBC will contribute three bouts to the challenge with the main event at junior welterweight between Omar Figueroa and Sergey Lipinets as the main event.
The former IBF champion Lipinets is a late replacement for Adrien Broner and while Lipinets lacks the name value of Broner, his style should mesh with Figueroa for a better fight.
Figueroa has lost his last two fights and looked well past his prime in losing via sixth-round KO to Abel Ramos, while Lipinets was also stopped in six by budding superstar Jaron "Boots" Ennis in his last outing.
I think this could be interesting for a while but Lipinets has more firepower and is the naturally bigger fighter, so I like his chances in this one.
The undercard will have two world title fights with a vacant title filled and another championship that more or less eliminates one of those superfluous WBA titles.
One of the two (soon to be three) junior welterweight titles that were vacated by Josh Taylor will be awarded to the winner of this bout between Alberto Puello and Batyr Akhmedov.
Taylor gave the WBA belt back to the organization rather than battle their mandatory contender the unbeaten and relatively unknown Puello for pennies on the dollar in a fight that next to no one was interested in seeing in a division filled with talented contenders.
Akhmedov is known best for his only loss more than he is for any of his wins, as he seemed to win a decision over Mario Barrios but lost a unanimous decision.
The winner will have a world title but I'm not sure that even with a win that the new champion would rank in the top echelon at 140 pounds.
Based on the Barrios fight, I'd have to give Akhmedov the edge but with so little really known about Puello, who really knows what to expect?
The WBA junior lightweight title is at stake as veteran Roger Gutierrez defends against Hector Garcia in a fight in which Garcia was originally not supposed to be involved.
The first time that Gutierrez was scheduled for this mandated fight, he was slated to face a WBA minor champion in highly pushed Chris Colbert in February as the WBA continues to whittle away its meaningless lesser titles.
Gutierrez was forced to pull out of the fight after testing positive for Covid-19 and Showtime recruited Garcia, who had fought outside of the United States only once, as a late replacement and was expected to make the flashy Colbert look good until the Gutierrez championship shot could be rescheduled.
Instead, Garcia dominated Colbert, knocked him down in the seventh, and made the more heralded fighter literally run for his life in the second half of the bout on his way to an easy and shocking unanimous decision.
The WBA installed Garcia in Colbert's place for the mandatory fight against Gutierrez in a rare occasion for doing the right thing and the big question is this- Did Chris Colbert simply look past Hector Garcia and make Garcia appear better than he is?
or was that the first salvo of Hector Garcia as a coming star?
The veteran Gutierrez will tell that tale and the winner will have different options with the WBA title.
Should Garcia win, he will be the only PBC champion at the weight (Shakur Stevenson holds the WBC and WBO titles and Joe Cordina is the IBF champion) and would be in a position to fight many of the PBC stars at featherweight that would be moving up (Gary Russell?).
Gutierrez is promoted by Golden Boy and is fighting this mandated fight on a rival network only due to the WBA mandate and could unify with fellow DAZN boxer Cordina in the United Kingdom with the winner moving for a big payday against Shakur Stevenson, who has stated his wish to hold all four junior lightweight titles before an eventual move to lightweight.
WBA/IBF/WBO Heavyweight Titles. 12 Rds
Oleksandr Usyk vs Anthony Joshua
Ramon Malpica and TRS: Usyk Unanimous Decision
Vince Samano: Joshua Unanimous Decision
Heavyweights. 12 Rds
Filip Hrgovic vs Zhang Zhilei
R.L: Hrgovic KO 7
TRS: Hrgovic KO 4
V.S: Zhilei Unanimous Decision
Light Heavyweights. 12 Rds
Callum Smith vs Mathieu Bauderlique
R.L: Smith KO 9
TRS: Smith KO 3
V.S: Bauderlique Unanimous Decision
Light Heavyweights.10 Rds
Badou Jack vs Richard Rivera
R.L and TRS: Jack Unanimous Decision
V.S: Rivera Unanimous Decision
WBO Featherweight Title. 12 Rds
Emanuel Navarrete vs Eduardo Baez
R.L: Navarrete KO 10
TRS: Navarrete Unanimous Decision
V.S: Navarrete KO 8
Junior Welterweights. 12 Rds
Omar Figueroa vs Sergey Lipinets
R.L and V.S: Lipinets Unanimous Decision
TRS: Lipinets KO 9
Vacant WBA Junior Welterweight Title 12 Rds
Alberto Puello vs Batyr Akhmedov
R.L and TRS: Akhmedov Unanimous Decision
V.S: Puello Unanimous Decision
WBC Junior Lightweight Title. 12 Rds
Roger Gutierrez vs Hector Garcia
R.L: Garcia Unanimous Decision
TRS: Garcia KO 10
V.S: Gutierrez Unanimous Decision