By: B.A. Cass
On Saturday, February 17, Premier Boxing Champions brings us a tripleheader that includes an IBF eliminator fight and the title shot for WBC Super Middleweight belt. The SHOWTIME coverage is set to begin at 10 PM EST.
The main event will be between the matched Danny Garcia and Brian Rios. The co-main event will the rematch between David Benavidez and Ronald Gavril. And the first televised fight will be between Yordenis Ugas and Ray Robinson.
Photo Credit: Stephanie Trapp/Showtime
Yordenis Ugas (20-3) vs. Ray Robinson (24-2); Welterweight
After losing to Shawn Porter in 2010, Robinson has stacked up 13 consecutive wins. The talent he has faced has not been exceptional. Nevertheless, he will step into the ring on Saturday night feeling supremely confident. “I’m an old-school fighter,” he said on Wednesday at the House of Blues at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. “I love fighting guys that look good on paper and nobody knows who’s going to win and it’s up to his camp and my camp. I haven’t been this excited for a fight in a long time.” Robinson expects Ugas to give him hell, and he expects to give him hell back.
The Cuban-born Ugas, who fights out of Miami, rose to some prominence after winning bronze at the 2008 Olympics. As a professional, he has suffered three losses. “I know what’s at stake,” he said on Wednesday. “It is the biggest fight of my career.”
This is about as even as boxing fights get. Robinson is 32; Ugas is 31. And neither fighter can claim a significant height or reach advantage.
However, the prize for winning is essentially an opportunity to meet defeat: this is an IBF 147-pound eliminator, and the victor will face Errol Spence Jr.
David Benavidez (19-0) vs. Ronald Gavril (18-2); Super Middleweight
When Benavidez defeated Gavril last September by split decision, he won the WBC Super Middleweight title and became the youngest ever world champion in the super middleweight division. “Winning the title changed my confidence but it changed my work too,” he said on Wednesday at the press conference for the fight. “Now I know everybody is gunning for my title and I don’t want to let it go. All the work and sacrifice it took for me to get this – I’m not going to let it go.”
One of only two men who has gone the distance with Benavidez, the older Gavril (he’s got ten years on Benavidez) surprised a lot of fight fans last time around. It was a close fight. Gavril got rocked in the eleventh round but came back the twelfth round with a blow that knocked Benavidez on his ass. As a late replacement, Gavril had only four weeks to prepare for his first fight with Benavidez. He had a full ten-week training camp this time around. If he wins, he’ll be able to bring WBC belt back to his home country of Romania. “I’m not looking for a knockout,” he said on Wednesday. “I’m looking to win every round.”
Benavidez doesn’t intend to give up his championship belt. “I don’t think Gavril can do any better than he did in the last fight. He’s a one trick pony and he doesn’t have many tricks left. He’s getting old.”
The WBC did not mandate this fight, which means Benavidez took it willingly. There can be only one reason for that: he wants to put all doubts about his supremacy to rest. “I’m thinking it will be a knockout around Round 5,” he said. “It’s going to be a combination of the body and chin.”
Danny Garcia (33-1) vs. Brandon Rios (34-3-1); Welterweight
Garcia is still talking about Keith Thurman, who delivered Garcia his only professional loss. “I don’t blame Keith Thurman for not wanting to fight me again,” he said at the press conference Wednesday. “I wouldn’t want to fight me two times in a row.” Garcia hasn’t fought since losing to Garcia, which means when he steps into the ring he’ll be coming off an 11-month hiatus. He has an opportunity to impress, and he doesn’t intend to lose.
After being by dominated by Timothy Bradley Jr. in 2015, Rios retired from the sport. However, he came back 19 months later to defeat Aaron Herrera. Rios took a lot of shots before he finally KO’d Herrera. If he’s smart, Garcia will look to exploit this vulnerability.
Although Garcia is the clear favorite, Rios isn’t coming for just a paycheck. He a pressure fighter and knows how to make necessary adjustments. He’s ready to fight, and he’s excited to face Garcia. “One thing I like is he doesn’t move or run,” Rios said of Garcia. “He likes to bang it out, and that suits my style better. But if he does run, we’ll be ready for that too.”
Follow B.A. Cass on Twitter @WiththePunch