bet365's resident boxing expert looks ahead to Josh Warrington v Luis Alberto Lopez, Terence Crawford v David Avanesyan and Teofimo Lopez v Sandor Martin.
Another action-packed weekend of boxing on both sides of the Atlantic!
Breaking a trend of overmatched underdogs against elite champions, this Saturday’s three main events all throw up interesting challenges for the left side of the card.
Starting in Yorkshire, two-time IBF featherweight champion Josh Warrington (31-1-1, 8 KOs) makes the first defence of his second reign against awkward, heavy-handed mandatory challenger Luis Alberto Lopez (26-2, 15 KOs) on his home patch at the First Direct Arena, Leeds.
While in recent years the term “mandatory challenger” has meant little when discerning the quality of opponent, Lopez (1/1) comes into the biggest fight of his career on a tear and is a genuine threat to Warrington (8/11).
After an upset win over Andy Vences in July 2020, Lopez went on to derail heavily-hyped prospect Gabe Flores Jr. in July 2021 before rounding off the year with a stoppage win over previously-unbeaten Isaac Lowe at York Hall. In short, ‘El Venado’ is no mug.
However, despite his crushing knockout loss to Mauricio Lara in February of last year Warrington has rebounded well. A stoppage win over old foe Kiko Martinez in September 2021 saw him become a two-time champion, and I feel his body of work is being a little overlooked heading into this weekend.
Lopez is a capable operator. His wins over the above names, coupled with images of Warrington sprawled out on the canvas against Lara, certainly give grounds for anyone picking the upset. However, in truth, Lopez has never beaten an opponent of Warrington’s calibre, and I expect the champion to weather some hairy moments en-route to reclaiming his title in-front of a packed home crowd.
Across the pond, former undisputed lightweight king Teofimo Lopez (17-1, 13 KOs) continues his rebuild after his catastrophic loss to George Kambosos a little over 12 months ago. He takes on tricky, southpaw speedster Sandor Martin (40-2, 13 KOs) in New York.
Lopez (1/6) has shown flashes of brilliance in his relatively short professional career so far. His performance against Ukrainian maestro Vasiliy Lomachenko in October 2020 remains on of the great breakout performances in recent memory and it seemed the precocious talent had the world at his feet.
However, a turbulent personal life and a shock loss to Kambosos have seen his stock drop in recent months. Now belt-less and up at super-lightweight, Lopez can secure another shot at world title glory by defeating Martin (4/1) and becoming mandatory challenger for the WBC 140lbs title.
29-year-old Martin will have aspirations of his own and has already proved he is more than capable of upsetting the proverbial apple cart.
Just one month after Lopez was stunned by Kambosos, Martin would produce an even bigger shock when he outpointed former pound-for-pound star Mikey Garcia over 10 rounds in Fresno, California.
His back-foot style, quick hands and feet make the ice-cool Catalonian a tough night’s work for anyone. Should Lopez show any ill-effects of the last 12 months and struggle to pin Martin down, Saturday night could be another upset in the offing. It’s imperative that Lopez starts well and doesn’t let Martin settle into a rhythm on the back-foot. Failure to do that, could see ‘The Takeover’ taken down for the second time in three fights.
Lastly, the return of pound-for-pound star Terence Crawford (38-0, 29 KOs).
The brilliant three-weight world champion makes the sixth defence of his WBO welterweight crown against Russian-born-Armenian David Avanesyan (29-3-1, 17 KOs) in Crawford’s hometown of Omaha, Nebraska.
With boxing fans around the world clamouring for an undisputed bout between Crawford (1/14) and unified champion Errol Spence, this bout with Avanesyan (12/1) has, understandably, not been particularly well-received.
That, however, doesn’t make Crawford-Avanesyan a bad fight. Not by any stretch.
Avanesyan has rebuilt strongly since a sixth-round TKO loss to Egidijus Kavaliauskas in February 2018; rattling off six stoppage wins over the likes of Kerman Lejarraga (x2) and Josh Kelly to put himself in line for a crack at one of the sport’s premier combatants.
While Crawford rightfully enters the bout as a large favourite, the marauding style of Avanesyan will force ‘Bud’ to be on red alert on Saturday night. The American can be hit and Avanesyan has shown he can punch - therefore no liberties can be taken when the two square off in the ring.
After becoming the first man to stop the now-retired Shawn Porter, Crawford now faces another tough test against an opponent many expect him to simply blow away. Should Crawford overlook Avanesyan (which I don’t expect him to) then talk of Errol Spence or a potential move to 154lbs may need to take a back seat.
Three top tier fights, all with upset potential?
What a weekend of boxing…