So, as said, boxing is a sport living by a thread. And there is a legitimate cause for concern after Showtime closed their almost 36-year run Saturday of being a leader as subscribed streaming networks continued their strength at the forefront.
But Saturday evening in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia at the Kingdom Arena, where a Prince and his court are becoming the Mecca, a heavyweight division will be viewed at ringside. Eight significant fights will unfold, streamed live on DAZN and pay-per-view, a subscription network that has propelled to be the leader. And prominent heavyweights will highlight a division that has always been the face of boxing.
This is the new Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Who would envision the Mecca of Madison Square Garden and New York City not hosting six heavyweights that will have a say in the division, exception of WBC champion Tyson Fury who returns to Riyadh (February 17) and attempts to unify the alphabet titles (WBC/WBO/IBF/WBA) against Oleksandr Usyk.
The combined effort of six promoters all agreed that the 2023 boxing year should conclude with an all-star lineup. Yes when in agreement they can all be on the same page as they delivered with mega fights for fans the past 12 months on Showtime, ESPN, DAZN, YouTube and pay-per-view streams.
They call this one “Day of Reckoning” and when this was announced a month ago, as a longtime observer of the sport, I was blown away. You don’t put some of the top heavyweights vying for position on the same card, a devastating light heavyweight champion defending his title, and much more.
It couldn’t be done in the states but promoters are also vying for position, however a Prince with resources of millions behind him has become that reputed host and where the promoters want to be. It happens Saturday, the consequence not viewing as a part of your cable subscription and either subscribing to DAZN or ordering the PPV at $39.00. Start time is 11 am ET, which becomes another obstacle for fight fans during the height of the holiday season.
But boxing fans are loyal. They will watch as I will. The novice fan has better things to do, then again they abandoned the sport a long time ago because boxing has become the last of the Mohicans among the major sports here in the United States. Exception of a mega fight that appeals beyond the mainstream audience and they will watch.
“It couldn’t be done but we are now here,” said England based Eddie Hearn, the promoter of Matchroom Boxing and looking for his former heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua (26-3, 23 KO’s) to defeat Otto Wallin (26-1, 14 KO’s). “It shows we can deliver the fights to boxing fans and work together to get it done.”
Matchroom and DAZN are a leader with a record number of championship fights in 2023 and that’s exactly what has been delivered. Last week in Glendale Arizona a barnburner that witnessed Jesse Rodriguez defeating Sunny Edwards and unifying the flyweight titles, a division that deserves more attention.
The week before, 25-year old Devin Haney continued his dominance easily dethroning 140-pound champion Regis Prograis and became a two two-division champion. Haney and DAZN, with Hearn are on a path to major fights in what is considered the premiere division of the sport.
Though, Saturday no titles are up for grabs with the heavyweights. Here is the rundown and possible implications, a boxing paradise of sorts with a heavyweight division in the spotlight, might I say, and long overdue. Though not at the Mecca in New York where Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier made history with an epic championship fight many decades ago.
Joshua vs Wallin: Joshua needs this win and can finally oppose Deontay Wilder, a fight that is overdue. Wallin and Joshua are familiar as both opposed each other as amateurs. Joshua, has to quiet the skeptics and is -450 Wallin +310 in the latest odds.
Deontay Wilder (43-2-1, 42 KO’s) vs. Joseph Parker (33-3, 23 KO’s): Wilder the former WBC heavyweight champion and returning after a year hiatus, possibly with the most devastating right in the division and had those three epic fights with Fury. A win is needed to catapult him into a fight with Joshua and position to challenge again for the titles. Parker, though also is seeking the same and needs a win to get there.
Daniel Dubois (19-2, 18 KO’s) vs. Jerrell Miller (26-0, 1, 22 KO’s): 10-rounds. A must win for Miller who has been hindered with suspensions due to failing drug tests that he says is in the past. Regardless, a significant fight for Dubois who is the heavy favorite in betting odds.
Dmitril Bivol ( 21-0, 11 KO’s) vs. Lyndon Arthur (23-1, 16 KO’s) 12-rounds. Bivol who handed Canelo Alvarez a defeat (Alvarez jumped up in weight) will defend his WBA lightweight title. Bivol is the technical and hard puncher and Arthur has won his last four. Bivol is making history in a division and is difficult to dethrone. Could be the fight of the night. A Bivol win sets up that long awaited clash with fellow Russian and undefeated knockout artist Artur Beterbiev.
Plus unrecognized Jai Opetaia vs. Ellis Zorro for Opetaia’s cruiserweight title, like Bivol undefeated (17-0, 7K0’s) and with the tenacity of a hard punch and power. Miami based Frank Sanchez (23-0, 16 KO’s) will be showcased on the big stage and make an impact in the heavyweight division.
As former Mets broadcaster the late Bob Murphy used to say, Fasten your seatbelts. It will be quite a ride Saturday for boxing fans. The intrigue of a heavyweight division and clearer picture where it goes in the new year,
Keep It In The Ring
Rich Mancuso: X (formerly Twitter) @Ring 786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso