In a playing field that is increasingly rife with new boxing platforms, Showtime is offering what they hope will prove to be a splashy three for one deal come this Saturday, March 28, 2015. Starting with a live showing from England of Kell Brook (33-0, 22KOs) versus Romanian Ionut Dan Ion (34-2,18KOs) for Brook’s first defense of the IBF Welterweight World Championship title, Showtime hopes to successfully launch the first installment of their brand spanking new series aptly named Showtime Boxing International, set to air at 6:15p.m. ET/ 3:15p.m. PT. As a bonus to keep things going while also staying faithful to their normal Saturday night fight formula, that same night after a short intermission, Showtime will return to their usual Saturday boxing programming live from The Pearl at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas at 10p.m. ET/7p.m. PT with a double bill featuring undefeated prospect and former Bronze medal Olympian Jermell Charlo (25 -0, 11KOs) vs. fellow Olympian Vanes Martirosyan (35 -1-1, 21KOs) followed by a main event featuring veteran Jhonny Gonzalez (57-8, 48KOs) battling vaunted prospect Gary Russell Jr. (25-1, 14KOs) for the WBC World Featherweight Title.
Fresh off of capturing the title from former titleholder Shawn Porter (25-1-1, 16KOs), it would seem that British champion Kell Brook is taking no chances in his first title defense. Utilizing the leverage he has as champion, Brook is fighting in his hometown of Sheffield, Yorkshire England at the Motorpoint Arena. In addition to this advantage, Brook’s opposition, while in possession of a solid record nevertheless has a record marked by an absence of any real names. Ion, having fought mostly in Quebec with some recent fights in New York against less than notable opposition would seem to be a relatively unknown quantity for the fans if not matchmakers. However, speculative advantages and disadvantages aside, Brook and his team might be forgiven this time for their dip versus dive into the competition pool given certain alarmingly circumstances outside the ring. While on vacation at a golf resort in Tenerife mere weeks after capturing the belt, Brook was the victim of a brutal attack by a man with a machete. In the senseless assault, Brook suffered a twelve-inch stab wound to his left thigh that lacerated two muscles. The cut itself required 32 staples to repair with Brook losing consciousness in the process of fleeing his assailant. “ I don’t know how much blood I lost but I was told it was a lot,” said Brook, recounting a nightmare that included waking up in a hospital where no one spoke English. “ It was so scary. I was panicking, ‘Will I fight again? Will I walk again?’ They couldn’t say,” remembered Brook. “ They wheeled me out of the hospital in Tenerife… I was just thanking my lucky stars,” said Brook of the ordeal. As such, on an extremely positive note, yes – it would appear that Brook is not only lucky to be alive, but blessed to be able to continue to fight and defend his title. However, given the understandable opacity of the mental and physical toll of such an injury as well as the sight unseen quality of Ion, the verdict is still out with regard to what sort of fireworks or clash this match up can deliver as a new offering from Showtime.
With regard to Charlo, Martirosyan, Gonzalez and Russell Jr., here the stage would seem to be reliably set for some fireworks. Charlo, as an undefeated hungry fighter who is familiar with Martirosyan from their shared years on the amateur circuit should prove fertile ground for a real contest and battle of wills for supremacy as professionals. While Martirosyan seemed to evince a more narrowly concentrated focus cracked just wide enough to discuss himself and his own abilities, Charlo seemed more willing to reminisce about past camaraderie that he and Martirosyan had enjoyed as amateur fighters. “Vanes is a great fighter… I grew up with him…his family, his people,” said Charlo. “Here, we face each other because we're both at the top, and that's what happens when you're in the same division… this fight is a fight for manhood, it's a fight to show who the real tycoon of the sport is in the 154 pound weight division. There's a lot at stake, so it's more than a title fight to me,” related Charlo.
On his side, Martirosyan’s reticence in discussing matters outside of the present is likely a good thing. While Charlo as the unbeaten contender has had less time in the public eye to reveal weaknesses, Martirosyan, while having had the veteran’s advantage of having faced tougher competition also has had the disadvantage of revealing flaws that could prove detrimental to world title ambitions - namely that of the occasional lapse of mental focus. More than once, such lapses have cost Martirosyan precious time and advantage with regard to scaling the path towards a title shot. While Martirosyan has never had any issues with physical talent or dominance, he certainly has a lot to lose if he does another mental disappearing act with Charlo. Whoever wins in this Saturday’s contest will be next in line for the title – a huge opportunity for both men as Charlo’s first and Martirosyan’s second bid. Martirosyan squandered his last opportunity of this type against current WBO World Super Welterweight Champion Demetrius Andrade (21-0, 14KOs) in November of 2013. In his most recent contest, Martirosyan more than showed up and showed up well against the durable Willie Nelson (23-2-1, 13KOs). This was done in spite of the difficult news of the death of his promoter Dan Goossen reaching Martirosyan less than 48 hours before entering the ring against Nelson. In the here and now, Martirosyan would seem more than eager to wipe the bad taste out of his mouth with regards to losing the title in such a lackluster fashion previously to Demetrius Andrade. “This fight (against Charlo) to me is big. When I lost to Andrade, I didn't step into the ring 100 percent, and when I came home -- when you come home a loser, it's a bad feeling. I can't look at my wife, my kids. I feel like I let them down… I'd rather die than see that again,” said Martirosyan, concluding, “ (Charlo and his family) They've been good people to me. But Saturday night, he's going to be my enemy in the ring.” Win or lose, hopefully Martirosyan can deliver on that promise to the benefit of himself and the fans.
As for Jhonny Gonzalez vs. Gary Russell Jr., the stakes are equally high. Gonzalez is on a mission to regain and maintain the respect that he believes he is still due as a champion with mileage but still well within his “boxing prime.” For those who might doubt him, he wants to use Russell as an exclamation point to go along with recent wins against notable younger guns like Abner Mares (29-1-1, 15KOs). “Since beating Mares, I feel like I am finally getting the respect and support from the fans and media that I deserve…I am still at the top of my game and capable of fighting with the best,” Gonzalez said, adding specifically with regard to Russell: “Gary Russell Jr. has fast and powerful hands… he’s an excellent boxer… Once he feels my power in the ring, he’s not going to be able to think in there,” stated Gonzalez with relish.
After garnering his first professional loss after losing his first bid for the world title to the current WBO World Featherweight titleholder Vasly Lomachenko (3-1, 1KO), Russell is hell bent on proving that loss as an aberration outside of the rule regarding his abilities against top-notch competition in Saturday’s battle against Gonzalez for the WBC World Featherweight Title. “In that particular fight with Lomachenko, we did a lot of things completely different in that fight that we normally wouldn't do,” said Russell as a way of explanation, citing an ill-advised change of conditioning regimen and coach that proved damaging: “Leading up to the fight, we were in a sauna for the past two, maybe three days leading all the way up into the fight… I was completely tired and fatigued in the first round,” recounted Russell. “Anyone that's seen that fight, whether it was Lomachenko or anyone else, they've seen the difference in my punching ability, my endurance, my speed, just me as a person…that wasn't the Gary Russell, Jr. that they'd seen the previous 24 fights,” stated Russell. With things now back to where they were previously, Russell believes that he will more than prove Gonzalez’s power as a deficit in the face of his own superior gifts of speed and quickness. “Even though he's (Gonzalez) been a puncher, a lot of punchers have to really sit to actually apply these punches efficiently. I think he lacks the ring generalship as far as the footwork goes that he would need…. I think we'll be able to do it with my speed,” said Russell adding confidently, “You're going to see the typical Gary Russell, Jr. that you've seen the previous 24 fights.”
In any event, it should be interesting and entertaining to see exactly who and what shows up in all three battles come Saturday, March 28.
Written by Kylie Krabbe
Photo by Esther Lin/SHOWTIME
March 27th 2015