By: William Holmes
On Saturday night HBO will present a split site Boxing After Dark Card double header from the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, Nevada and the Revel Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Two bouts will be broadcast from Las Vegas and one bout will be broadcast from Atlantic City.
Even though this is a Boxing After Dark Card; two world championships will be on the line on Saturday. Jessie Vargas will be defending his newly won WBA Junior Welterweight Title and Sergey Kovalev will look to make another defense of his WBO Light Heavyweight Title. Brandon Rios will also be on Saturday’s card and he looks to avoid a career high three straight losses.
The following is a preview of all three televised bouts for Saturday night.
Jessie Vargas (24-0) vs. Anton Novikov (29-0); WBO Junior Welterweight Title
Jessie Vargas is a young champion with high potential. He’s a former two time Mexican National Champion as an amateur and a two time U.S. Junior National Champion. He competed for the 2008 Mexican Olympic team and won his first real professional title before he turned twenty five.
He’s facing off against another undefeated boxer in the Russian Anton Novikov. Not much is known about Novikov’s amateur career. He has the same reach as Vargas and will only be one inch smaller than Vargas. He’s also only one year older than Vargas and both are in their athletic primes.
Neither fighter is known for their power. Vargas only has nine stoppage victories to his record and hasn’t had a stoppage since July of 2011, over eight fights ago. Novikov only has ten stoppages to his record and hasn’t had one since April of 2012, about seven fights ago.
This bout is almost definitely going all twelve rounds. At this point in their careers Vargas has faced the tougher competition. He defeated then undefeated Khabib Allakhverdiev for his WBA belt on April 12th of this year. He has also defeated the likes of Ray Narh, Wale Omotoso, Aaron Martinez, Steve Forebs, Lanardo Tyner, Josesito Lopez, and Vivian Harris. Novikov has spent a majority of his career fighting in Europe and his biggest victories to date include Javier Castro and Robert Frankel.
Vargas should win this bout against the lesser known opponent, but if he has a lackluster decision victory he might find it hard to find television time in the near future.
Brandon Rios (31-2) vs. Diego Chaves (23-1); Welterweights
Many fight fans were worried that this bout might be cancelled due to the fact that Diego Chaves was having difficulty obtaining his Visa, but that issue has been resolved and the bout will go on.
Luckily for fight fans this bout will go on because on paper it’s the most competitive fight of the night and has the potential for some action packed rounds.
Brandon is coming off of a difficult loss to Manny Pacquiao and a recent suspension for failing a post-fight drug test. He’s the same age as Chaves, but he has been in so many wars that his ring age is significantly older. Rios will have a slight height and reach advantage on his opponent.
Both boxers have decent amateur backgrounds, but Rio is a former US National Amateur Featherweight Champion and an Olympic Alternate.
Rios has twenty three stoppages to his record, and four of his past five victories were by way of KO or TKO. Chaves has nineteen stoppages to his record, and five of his past five vicotries have come by way of KO or TKO.
Rios has almost always delivered non-stop exciting action in the ring, but he is coming off of two tough and brutal losses. He was demolished by Manny Pacquiao in his last bout and he suffered a close decision loss to Mike Alvarado in the bout before. He defeated Mike Alvarado in what some consider a questionable stoppage and he barely escaped with a decision victory over Richard Abril in April of 2012. He has also defeated the likes of John Murray, Urbano Antillon, Miguel Acosta, and Anthony Peterson.
Chaves has spent nearly his entire career fighting in Argentina. He is best known for giving Keith Thurman a very tough fight in July of 2013, but other than that bout his opponents are not well known. He has defeated the likes of Ismael El Massoudi, Jorge Miranda, and Omar Weis. But all of these victories have come in his home country of Argentina.
This should be an exciting bout and Rios has the chin to sustain any punishment given to him by Chaves. However, a boxer’s performance in the ring tends to decline significantly after returning from a positive drug test and Rios will likely be no different.
This writer won’t be surprised if Chaves beats Rios, but it is unlikely he will stop him.
Sergey Kovalev (24-0) vs. Blake Caparello (19-0-1); WBO Light Heavyweight Title
Very few boxers have been as feared as Sergey Kovalev and his power is incredible. He has stopped twenty two of his opponents. His past eight fights resulted in a KO or a TKO. Only two of his fights did not result in a stoppage, a technical draw in 2011 due to his opponent being unable to continue from an accidental foul and a split decision against the always tougher than expected Darnell Boone.
His opponent, Australian Blake Caparello, only has six stoppage victories and his last one occurred in 2012, seven fights ago.
Kovalev has the edge in amateur experience and dominated the Russian amateur circuit, but he never competed in the Olympics. Kovalev is four years older than Caparello, who is twenty seven, and will be giving up about one and a half inches in reach and an inch and a half in height.
Even though Kovalev is greatly feared and is an offensive juggernaut he can be hit. His defense is suspect and a boxer like Caparello might be able to take advantage of it. Caparello has faced some decent competition and has defeated the likes of Elvir Muriqi, Allan Green, Aaron Pryor Jr., and Robert Berridge.
Caparello will have to box almost perfectly to pull out a victory and he doesn’t have the power the stop Kovalev.
Kovalev has made it look easy in the ring while beating opponents such as Cedric Agnew, Ismayl Sillah, Nathan Cleverly, Cornelius White, Gabriel Campillo, Lionell Thompson, and Darnell Boone. He has also been very active for a champion by fighting four times in 2013 and this will be his second fight this year.
The first person to beat Kovalev will be someone who has the power to match his; Caparello is not that man. Kovalev will win easily, but the most intriguing questions is who will he fight next.