Last weekend featured a full slate of fights that included the return of Srisaket Sor Rungvisai in Thailand in the early-morning hours, a solid scrap between Ted Cheeseman and Sam Eggington in England, and the sport’s newest world titlist being crowned in Angelo Leo.
It was a strong start for Matchroom — which offers up another “Garden Party” effort on Friday — and perhaps a bigger statement by Showtime, which started off its strong fall schedule with a night filled with highlights.
This weekend the summer schedule rolls on and this time it’s Fox and PBC returning to action with their first card since March. As we continue to wait for the superstars of the sport to return, the fights ahead offer some outstanding showcases of young talent and a trio of title fights that are poised to entertain.
Here’s what you need to know ahead of this weekend:
A yearly tradition for ‘Fight Camp’?
The second edition of Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Fight Camp series, which is hosted in the expansive backyard of the boyhood home of Hearn, takes place on Friday (DAZN, 2 p.m. ET). The main event is a bout for the WBC junior lightweight title between Terri Harper and Natasha Jonas. In the co-main, Chris Billam-Smith defends his Commonwealth cruiserweight title against Nathan Thorley.
The Fight Camp series was well-received and there already are plans on expanding this franchise.
“I’m already in talks with the broadcasters about sort of spinning off the series into a reality show, like ‘The Contender,’ leading into ‘Fight Camp,”’ Hearn said. “At the moment, we’re thinking, is there a way to keep ‘Fight Camp’ going throughout the whole summer? We’re already scheduled to have three more events there.
“But really it went down so well, we don’t want to have to find another venue. We’d rather do it there, obviously there is the [risk of inclement] weather. But the brand itself, and the concept, will definitely live on in some way behind the next three weeks.”
Hearn said that eager boxers looking for experience, and just as importantly, exposure, are jumping at the chance to participate. Last Saturday, Cheeseman and Eggington waged an entertaining back-and-forth 12 rounder that Hearn says was ”one of the best fights I’ve seen live, and one of the most dramatic fights I’ve seen live.”
Across the ocean, Matchroom Sports’ first event back in the U.S. is scheduled to take place on in an outdoor venue on the streets of downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Aug, 15.
“I’m not prepared to do a show in a studio, or an empty arena,” Hearn said. “I think it looks dreadful, I really do. I think one of the big problems these events have got at the moment — and the viewing figures are showing it — it’s just soulless. And I just feel it’s actually tainting the sport.”
Hearn believes that just putting on fights for the sake of putting on fights in stale atmospheres isn’t enough.
“It’s not a game show, and I just feel that it’s affecting the sport, it’s affecting the momentum. I just hope that people can be a little more creative, as we will be in September and October. To at least put on an event where people tune in and go, ‘Wow, what is this? Where is this?’ Boxing in a studio, or in an empty room, is only appealing to the absolute hard-core fans.
“And there’s not enough of them.”
Two interim title fights in Los Angeles
A 12-round contest for the WBA interim welterweight title between Jamal James and Thomas Dulorme from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles will kick off Fox’s return Saturday (8 p.m. ET). This fight originally was scheduled for April 11 before the coronavirus pandemic caused the previous bout to be postponed.
In the co-main event, David Morrell takes on Lennox Allen in a 12-round battle for the vacant WBA interim super middleweight title.
James (26-1, 12 KOs) is ranked ninth in the division by ESPN. He’s currently on a six-fight winning streak after losing to Yordenis Ugas in 2016. He’s 6-foot-2 and he uses his height and reach well.
Dulorme (25-3-1, 16 KOs) is a solid fighter as well, quite experienced and in his last three outings dropped a close 10-round decision to Ugas, held former WBO welterweight belt holder Jessie Vargas to a majority draw, then handed Terrell Williams his first professional loss this past September.
This is a real fight, one that could go either way.
“Dulorme is in the best shape of his life,” said Joel Diaz, Dulorme’s trainer. “Thomas, is more than 100 percent. Why? Because he closed camp [sparring against] Israil Madrimov, and I know the height difference of Jamal James compared to Madrimov, but Madrimov is a lot stronger, a lot faster.
Diaz said that Dulorme basically is on weight and eating regularly. He believes the (almost 11-month) layoff won’t impact his boxer negatively.
“Thomas Dulorme is looking like a million bucks right now,” Diaz said. “I guarantee you: this fight shouldn’t go the distance.”
Boxing announcers Goossen, Lewis will be ringside
With Fox airing fights again, that means trainer Joe Goossen will be serving as color commentator, alongside former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis. Both will be inside the venue, while Brian Kenny will be off-site serving as the blow-by-blow announcer.
For Goossen, his preference was to be as close to the action as allowed.
“We were given the option, they asked Lennox and myself, and we chose to be in the arena,” he explained. “I don’t think there’s any substitute for that, to tell you the truth — even if you’re further back.”
The last time Goossen called a fight was March 7 when Robert Helenius stopped Adam Kownacki in the fourth round at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
“It seems like it’s been years, but I don’t feel rusty because I’ve been in the gym for quite a while,” he said. “So I’ve never lost my chop, if you know what I mean. I’ve been training and interacting with the game at the level I always do. So I don’t feel I’ve been out of it completely.”
Vito Mielnicki Jr. (5-0, 3 KOs) is the featured performer as FS1 goes on the air after the Fox broadcast. The 18-year-old is paired with Chris Rollins (3-1, 2 KOs), making his first appearance since Feb. 22 when he scored a decision win over Corey Champion on the Deontay Wilder-Tyson Fury II undercard in Las Vegas.
He has since received his diploma, graduating from West Essex High School in New Jersey, but like many others, he didn’t get to truly enjoy his senior year of high school.
“We had a [graduation] ceremony — just no parents allowed,” Mielnicki said. “We had to sit like 6 feet apart on the field, they did it on July 9. It was cool seeing them get something done like that late in the year.
“I was just happy they gave us the ceremony to see everyone for the last time, and just say goodbye to everyone.”
But Mielnicki, one of ESPN’s 25 fighters under the age of 25, was more concerned about his burgeoning career. A bright, young prospect who was signed to a deal by the PBC in 2019, Mielnicki trained diligently during this lockdown to stay prepared for when he got the call.
“I can’t wait, I mean, it’s been like six months since my last fight. So I’m excited to get back into the ring and show everyone what I’ve been working on,” Mielnicki said.