It’s official. The race is on.
To see which boxer will step up this summer to claim whatever oxygen is left in the room by the time the retired Hall of Famers and social media toe-dippers have retreated to the background.
Floyd Mayweather and Logan Paul reportedly bagged more than a million buys for their eight-round spectacle earlier this month in Miami, meaning the bar is set pretty high for those coming next.
Shakur Stevenson took his turn on an ESPN show last weekend in Las Vegas and did what he supposed to do in shutting out an anonymous Namibian over 12, but it didn’t exactly scream must-see TV.
Still, given that he’s just 23 and hasn’t sniffed legit world-class opposition, we’ll give him a pass for now.
There’s no such allowance made for this weekend’s principals, however.
Lightweight Teofimo Lopez and middleweight Jermall Charlo will take center stage on dueling fight cards from adjacent time zones on Saturday night, with the former headlining a Triller Fight Club pay-per-view show from Miami while the latter hosts a Showtime broadcast from his hometown of Houston.
Neither is expected to lose.
And given the middling nature of their opposition, neither should come close.
Lopez will face Australian export George Kambosos Jr., who’ll arrive in South Florida with a pristine 19-0 record but not much recognizable meat beyond decision wins over Lee Selby and Mickey Bey.
Selby hadn’t fought in a year before a split loss to Kambosos in London, while Bey’s lone win since 2015 – in the fight that preceded his loss to the Aussie – came in Tijuana against a foe with a 3-5-1 slate.
Not exactly the stuff that should be keeping “The Takeover” up nights.
Meanwhile, Charlo is on course to spend more time with worthwhile social justice concerns – the fight with Juan Macias Montiel coincides with Juneteenth commemorations in Texas – than with a Mexican who was stopped in two rounds by Charlo’s No. 1 contender (Jaime Munguia) and only managed a draw against a fighter (Hugo Centeno Jr.) that Charlo had stopped in two just 20 months earlier.
So unless he walks into a bomb from a guy with 22 KOs, it should be an early victory party.
Problem is easy fights won’t get either guy to the million-buy threshold anytime soon.
Lopez has already proven his mettle with a stirring 12th round that put him over against Vasyl Lomachenko, but given the plethora of options out there at 135, 140 and even 147, it’s imperative upon him to make a Saturday impact and immediately commence with the callouts of higher-profile quarry.
Charlo doesn’t have that same early career-definer just yet, but he can make himself more viable to the likes of Golovkin and Canelo with a dominant outing as well. And even if it doesn’t lure in Triple-G or Alvarez just yet, setting up a steppingstone showdown with Munguia would be a mission accomplished.
Bottom line, the next fights for both guys need to be on a far higher plane than the walkovers predicted for them this weekend.
Assuming, of course, that they want to stay ahead of the social media curve.
* * * * * * * * * *
This week’s title-fight schedule:
Vacant IBO super bantamweight title – Kempton Park, South Africa
Jose Martin Estrada Garcia (No. 12 IBO/Unranked IWBR) vs. Ludumo Lamati (No. 37 IBO/No. 22 IWBR)
Garcia (12-1-1, 6 KO): First title fight; Unbeaten since March 2010 (10-0-1, 4 KO)
Lamati (17-0-1, 10 KO): First title fight; Unbeaten in four scheduled 12-round fights (4-0, 1 KO)
Fitzbitz says: Garcia has the loftier ranking and his pro debut came well before Lamati’s. But beyond that there’s not much to separate them. Take the young guy at home. Lamati by decision (75/25)
IBF/WBA/WBO lightweight titles – Miami, Florida
Teofimo Lopez (champion/No. 1 IWBR) vs. George Kambosos Jr. (No. 1 IBF/No. 8 IWBR)
Lopez (16-0, 12 KO): Second IBF title defense; Fifth fight in Florida (4-0, 3 KO)
Kambosos (19-0, 10 KO): First title fight; Fourth fight in the United States (3-0, 1 KO)
Fitzbitz says: I may not be quite as sold on Lopez as a lot of my colleagues, but there’s no doubt he’s legit at this level and should prove it definitively in a Miami showcase fight. Lopez in 9 (95/5)
IBF/WBA bantamweight titles – Las Vegas, Nevada
Naoya Inoue (champion/No. 1 IWBR) vs. Michael Dasmarinas (No. 1 IBF/No. 17 IWBR)
Inoue (20-0, 17 KO): Third IBF title defense; Held titles at 108 and 115 pounds (eight title defenses)
Dasmarinas (30-2-1, 20 KO): Third title fight; Held IBO title at 118 pounds (2018, zero title defenses)
Fitzbitz says: Contrary to the vibe about Lopez, I’m all in and then some on the Japanese “Monster” movie as it makes its way across the U.S. Dasmarinas is a veteran, but no threat. Inoue in 5 (100/0)
WBC middleweight title – Houston, Texas
Jermall Charlo (champion/No. 2 IWBR) vs. Juan Macias Montiel (No. 4 WBC/No. 18 IWBR)
Charlo (31-0, 22 KO): Fourth title defense; Ten KO/TKO wins over 14 fights as a middleweight
Montiel (22-4-2, 22 KO): First title fight; Unbeaten in four fights (3-0-1) since two-fight skid in 2016-17
Fitzbitz says: Could it happen that Charlo gets careless and walks into a home run ball from Montiel? Sure? But don’t count on it. The Mexican is in way over his head, and it’ll show. Charlo in 7 (99/1)
Last week’s picks: None
2021 picks record: 22-7 (75.8 percent)
Overall picks record: 1,178-382 (75.5 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body’s full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA “world championships” are only included if no “super champion” exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.