The supporting cast to the circus create a compelling undercard, writes George Gigney
The Las Vegas undercard thankfully features some top, competitive fights
FEAR not, boxing fans. The Mayw eat hermc greg or show is not completely devoid of decent fights. In fact, the undercard is packed with several. Wales’ EX-WBO lightheavyweight king Nathan Cleverly serves as chief support against former WBC super-middle champion Badou Jack, who is moving up to light-heavy.
Cleverly only fought once last year, and this will be his first outing since that vital win over Juergen Braehmer in Germany. Having lost to Andrzej Fonfara in an enthralling clash in 2015, Cleverly aimed to launch himself back onto the world stage by taking on veteran Braehmer.
In another shoot-out, the 30-year-old had his hand raised when Juergen did not answer the bell for the seventh round, citing an injury as his reason for retiring. Braehmer was ahead on the cards, but Cleverly’s workrate and grit had dragged them both into a gruelling battle, which seemed to have been tipping Nathan’s way.
Initially, it looked as though Cleverly and Braehmer would meet in a rematch, but as time wore on, the Welshman’s attention turned to Jack. The Las Vegas-based Swede warred with IBF super-middleweight champion James Degale in January, battling to a draw. Soon after, Jack vacated his WBC belt and announced his move to 175lbs – almost in a direct trade with Braehmer, who dropped to super-middleweight and entered the World Boxing Super Series.
Given their incredible fight, Degale wanted a rematch with Jack, but the 33-year-old insisted his time at 168lbs is done, as he has outgrown the division. A bout with Cefn Fforest’s Cleverly was first mooted months ago, and talks got underway fairly quickly, but they were stretched out and the fight was only announced recently. However, both men have been deep in camp and Cleverly says he will be more than ready come fight night: “I’ve trained long and hard for this fight and I’m ready to be let off the leash. This is the biggest fight of my career.” Jack, promoted by Mayweather, was always a big supermiddle, and claims he can now focus more on the technical side of his game, rather than cutting weight. “The biggest difference between past training camps and preparing for this fight is the fact that I was training to get the weight down, but now I’m training to build muscle and perfect my boxing strategy.”
‘I USED TO TRAIN TO GET THE WEIGHT DOWN. NOW I TRAIN TO BUILD MUSCLE’
Jack’s boxing ability has regularly been underestimated, and he has proven himself a world-level operator against the likes of Degale and George Groves, whom he outpointed in 2015. That’s largely down to the fact that there is no one thing he is exceptionally good at, but he does do everything well.
Conversely, Cleverly is best known for his fitness and conditioning, as well as his aforementioned workrate.
Jack can be hurt – Degale decked him early, and he was stunningly halted inside a round by Derek Edwards in 2014 – and he sometimes starts a little slowly, but certainly comes on strong as a fight progresses. His move up in weight is the intrigue here and on their current form, it’s safe to assume these two will put on a show, but the pick is for Jack to win on points over 12.
Another Mayweather protégé – the 18-0 (17) IBF super-feather title-holder
Gervonta Davis – features on the bill. The unbeaten 22-year-old, America’s youngest current world champion, defends his title against Costa Rica’s
Francisco Fonseca, 19-0-1 (13). Baltimore’s Davis is one of the most exciting young talents in the sport, and while it might be a little early to dub him our next superstar, he is certainly on the right track. He burst onto the scene in January when he halted Jose Pedraza in seven for the IBF title. “Tank” followed that with an even more emphatic victory over Liam Walsh, who was stopped in three.
Prior to those wins, he had not faced anyone of real note, but he does have an extensive and successful amateur career behind him.
Fonseca, though unbeaten and carrying a respectable 64 per cent knockout ratio, does have a rather thin record. Having boxed predominantly in his home country, the 23-year-old earned an IBF ranking last year when he knocked out Luis Gonzalez in three. Five of his 16 wins have come against opponents with no successes to their name, and only five of his previous foes had winning records when he fought them (one of them, Eliecer Lanzas, he met twice).
Fonseca’s power gives him a slight chance, but Davis is a special talent and should triumph inside schedule.
A fascinating cruiserweight tussle pits undefeated Las Vegas resident Andrew
Tabiti, 14-0 (12), against Philadelphia’s former world champ Steve Cunningham, 29-8-1 (13), over 10 rounds.
Another 10-rounder worth your time is 19-3 (9) Cuban Yordenis
Ugas’ welterweight bout with Puerto Rico’s Thomas Dulorme, 24-2 (16). Hartlepool’s ex-amateur standout Savannah Marshall, who is signed to Mayweather Promotions, makes her pro debut at super-middleweight against Louisiana southpaw Sydney Leblanc, 4-3-1.
THE VERDICT Regardless of your opinions on the main event, be sure to catch the undercard.
READY TO KICK ON: Cleverly wants to build on his impressive win over Braehmer
‘TANK’ WARFARE: Davis is building quite the reputation for himself
POUNDING THE PADS: Jack [above] and Tabiti practise their combinations