The Friday Faceup

The weekly feature looking at the fight weekend ahead

Wow ! What a fight weekend we’ve got lined up.

First up in Liverpool, England on Saturday (23rd) is the Matchroom Boxing promotion for the WBA super-middleweight (168lb/12st) championship of the world between hometown boy Callum Smith 26-0-0 (19 KO’s) and fellow Englishman John Ryder 28-4-0 (16 KO’s). Also at stake is the lesser known WBC Diamond title.

Smith shows Ryder what’s on the line. Photo courtesy of Matchroom Boxing.

The tall and rangy Liverpudlian Smith, having captured the World Boxing Super Series Muhammad Ali Trophy and prestigious Ring Magazine 168lb title in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia last year, risks his elite standing and future stadium ‘superfights’ against Mexican legend Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, Gennadiy Golovkin or Billy Joe Saunders. His dream being to fight at his beloved Anfield, home of Liverpool Football Club. This looks a good prospect should he be victorious and impress.

Logic and undoubted pedigree would say Smith is in for an easier night but #1 contender Ryder comes into the contest on the back of several recent big wins as he’s gradually moved up in championship class. Smith will have to guard against complacency and not look too far ahead. Many a fighter has fallen foul of this in the past, particularly in a British ring (e.g. Errol Christie, Frank Bruno, Nigel Benn).

Ryder is coming to fight, saying “He hasn’t put a foot wrong, looked good in beating George Groves and Hassan N’Dam, but I just believe I can exploit him. I’m a different kettle of fish to what he’s faced before.” A shared opponent and indicator of how the fight might progress is Liverpool’s Rocky Fielding who Smith dispatched within three minutes in November 2015, whereas Ryder lost a close split decision to Fielding in mid 2017. This being Ryder’s sole loss.

In a fight televised by Sky Sports look for Smith to start fast, take early control and stop a game Ryder in the middle to late rounds.

There is a strong supporting card with several hometown fighters including Craig Glover at cruiserweight (200lb/14st 4lb) meeting Cyclone Promotions’ Chris Billiam-Smith for the vacant Commonwealth belt and 2016 Olympian Anthony Fowler facing Harry Scarff at super-welterweight (154lb/11st).

Then; in the early hours of Sunday it’s off to the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas, Nevada for the rematch between WBC Champion Deontay Wilder 41-0-1 (40 KO’s) and big Cuban exile Luis Ortiz 31-1-0 (26 KO’s).

Wilder (left) sizes up Ortiz. Photo courtesy of 2019 Flipboard

After several difficult moments Wilder stopped Ortiz in March last year and starts as a 6-1 on favourite. ‘King Kong’ Ortiz would appear to be hand picked by Wilder by virtue of offering him an early rematch and the failure of other fights to materialise. The Cuban does though bring into the contest good amateur pedigree and a powerful professional knockout resume. Knowing it will likely be his last chance at capturing the heavyweight crown he will undoubtedly give it his all.

Superior one punch power is however on the side of Wilder, only failing to KO Tyson Fury, and age could also be a factor with the 34 year old Alabaman champion being 6 years Ortiz’ junior. The Cuban monolith will be dangerous in the early exchanges and has illustrated one punch power good enough to take the champion out, but the bookies odds will not be far wrong and expect a devastating stoppage in the middle rounds.

There’s an excellent undercard with former bantamweight world champions Luis Nery and Emmanuel Rodriguez facing off, a classic Mexico v Puerto Rican contest. Added to this is former Carl Frampton combatant, and two-times featherweight world champ – Leo Santa Cruz attempting to add the vacant WBA super-featherweight (130lb/9st 4lb) title. He meets Miguel Flores.

The Vegas bill will again be broadcast live on Sky Sports and streaming site DAZN in the US.

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