By Robert Aaron Contreras
On Saturday, Demetrius Andrade is up for his second title defense as he heads to his backyard of Providence, Rhode Island, where he won two pairs of National Golden Gloves, before reaching the quarterfinals of the 2008 Olympics, and eventually enjoyed an undefeated career in the pro ranks.
Also featured on the DAZN broadcast, in separate bouts, is light flyweight champion Khalid Yafai and one of the sport’s leading heavyweights in Joseph Parker.
The premium action kicks off at 9 p.m. ET and the undercard is set for 7 p.m. ET.
Demetrius Andrade (27-0, 17 KO) vs. Maciej Sulecki (28-1, 11 KO)
DAZN is sticking behind their man. The streaming service has aired Andrade’s last two fights—neither of which particularly moved the needle. Though Sulecki should actually give the American a run for his money.
Andrade, 31, is still the betting favorite—opening at -278 before the line was pushed to -600 approaching the weekend. Sulecki, as much as a two-to-one underdog, is fighting for his first world championship despite being a perennial contender between two divisions.
The defending champion rose to prominence amid a group of supremely talented junior middleweights, alongside Julian Williams and the Charlo brothers—all of whom won world titles. Andrade picked up his first championship belt in 2013 in a decision victory over Vanes Martirosyan. Then spells of inactivity killed most his momentum—in all he competed three times over the next three years. He defended the belt just once before being stripped by the WBO.
After some network freelancing, albeit getting by reasonably skilled fighters like Willie Nelson and Jack Culcay, Andrade agreed to terms with Matchroom Promotions that put him exclusively on DAZN. His title tilt with Sulecki represents the final leg of a three-fight deal.
Andrade’s first two showcases were nothing to write home about. He was given the right platform, headlining one show, where he stunk up the joint in a 12-round decision over the completely unheralded Walter Kautondokwa. His highlights: celebrating a knockdown too soon, nearly hitting the deck himself, and punching a downed opponent.
Of course Kautondokwa was no match for the American champ. Few are when Andrade is on his game. But another soft touch, Artur Akavov, was what fight fans had to settle for in his first middleweight title defense. The Russian challenger was severely outsized and couldn’t initiate an offense against the southpaw circling and buzzing around.
In Sulecki’s previous action, he nearly lost the opportunity to face Andrade. In the penultimate round against Gabriel Rosado, Sulecki ate a two-punch combo that sent him headlong overboard. The Polish banger touched the canvas once more but his early work and two knockdowns the other way were enough for a decision win.
Sulecki is still rated Top 10 in the world by the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. In 2018, he extended Daniel Jacobs but was forced to settle for a unanimous decision loss. Before that he met the aforementioned Culcay and beat the bruiser, surviving serious scares in the seventh and tenth periods. Andrade was also rocked badly in the 12th round of his meeting with Culcay, ultimately squeezing out a split-decision verdict.
Joseph Parker (25-2, 19 KO) vs. Alex Leapai (32-7-4, 26 KO)
Parker must’ve had mixed emotions when he was in attendance to see Andy Ruiz Jr. upend Anthony Joshua. On his way to facing Joshua himself, the Kiwi boxer-puncher defeated Ruiz on points in 2016.
At the beginning of the month when Joshua refused to continue, Parker was then set to face journeyman Eric Molina. But now Leapai, who stepped in on late-notice, is standing between Parker an a possible rematch with Ruiz or Joshua.
Parker wasn’t as lucky as Ruiz was against Joshua. Nor was he as prepared or aggressive. The heavyweight clash between Parker and the superstar Englishman quickly dissolved into a jab fest: Parker’s hands quick as ever but no match for Joshua’s battering rams.
To Parker’s credit, after the loss he was still recognized as the second-best fighter in the class, and didn’t waste any time against third-tier competition. He was immediately paired up with Dillian Whyte, a dangerous contender. Whyte employed any tactic the referee would let him get away with, putting Parker through a mauling affair, gaining an early lead. With the fight slipping away, Parker turned it up in the championship rounds which in flashes evoked images of the classic slugfests of yesteryear. But in the end Parked walked away with a decision loss.
He finally broke the losing skid in December 2018 against Alexander Flores, a heavyweight out of California who scraped together decent record against the domestic field. Parker turned it on earlier than ever, driving his man to the ropes in the first round. And by the third stanza, a two-handed attack slumped Flores through the ropes for an easy knockout.
Leapai, who trains out of Parker’s neighboring Australia, has a punch too. But not much else. Pushing 40 years old, Leapai has only beaten two separate men since 2013. He has been living off a shocking upset over rising heavyweight standout Denis Boystov, dropping the upstart twice. The win earned Leapai a crack at Wladimir Klitschko.
Klitschko at the time was unbeatable. His jab didn’t take long to set up a couple right hands that sat Leapai down for good in the fifth frame to close the book on the Samoan-Aussie’s cinderella story.
Leapai still had a reputation for a decent punch, smashing 24 of his first 30 victims. So after Klitschko turned him away, both Malik Scott and Manuel Charr sharpened their teeth by winning decisions over the fading heavyweight. Leapai has since remained in his adoptive home, going 2-0-1 over the last two years.
Khalid Yafai (25-0, 15 KO) vs. Norbelto Jimenez (29-8-4, 16 KO)
Now 30 years old, Kal Yafai has a long way to live up to his amateur pedigree or the Eddie Hearn promotional machine. The 2008 Olympian takes on Jimenez, an unknown Dominican, marking his fifth defense. Yet the most recognizable name during Yafai’s reign is likely Israel Gonzalez, who may be a hardened lad but basically Jerwin Ancajas’ leftovers.
It was a disappointing outing with Gonzalez. Especially considering how his IBF counterpart, Ancajas brutally dispatched the Mexican. Yafai never looked lethal, or as finely tuned as he did in his title-winning performance over a legendary warmonger in Luis Concepcion. The Englishman was even on the receiving end of vicious volleys from Gonzalez. He nonetheless won by 12-round decision but was left nursing a hand injury into 2019.
Previously, Yafai’s third title defense was a seventh-round knockout of David Carmona—his first KO in two years. But the champion didn’t act the part at all, fouling on numerous occasions, hitting his challenger low and on the way down. A cleaner performance will do him wonders this weekend.
Jimenez, 28, only has a couple notable names on his ledger. But he is undefeated since 2011, despite his many losses. He raked in all eight of them, remarkably enough, in his first nine fights, starting his pro career on a 1-8 mark. At least one of those fights came against decent opposition—for example, future bantamweight beltholder Juan Carlos Payano, who sparked him in two rounds.
The surging light flyweight has since leveled off at 115 pounds. He even earned his first world title opportunity in 2015, when he pulled out a split-decision draw against the blistering Kohei Kono. Kono, per usual, was the aggressor while Jimenez danced along the outside, occasionally showing off a rangy jab. But mostly opting for slashing hooks to the midsection in-between taunting the Japanese champion.
Recently, Jimenez hasn’t been too active. Saturday will be his first ring appearance in over a full calendar year.