The Dunkin’ Donuts Centre in Providence, Rhode Island hosts a solid card this Saturday night.
Hometown hero, Demetrius Andrade (27-0, KO17) makes a second defence of the WBO Middleweight Title at the head of the bill, where tough Pole, Macej Sulecki (28-1, KO11) will be his latest challenger.
It’s impressive work from Andrade’s handlers, Matchroom/DAZN, as they book Andrade a fight for the third time in eight months, when we have been used to seeing the American only sporadically previously.
Former WBO and WBA Super Welterweight Champion, Andrade, stepped up to Middleweight in 2017, and was slated to challenge Billy Joe Saunders for the WBO Title in October 2018, before the fight infamously fell by the wayside due to an adverse drug test being returned by the Hertfordshire man.
Andrade carried on regardless, and, after Saunders vacated the belt, Andrade captured the vacant Title, dropping late notice sub, Walter Kautondokwa, four times en route to an extremely wide points victory. He defended in January with a last round stoppage of Artur Akavov at Madison Square Garden.
Sulecki’s sole career defeat remains his April 2018 points defeat to Daniel Jacobs, and since he has stepped up to World level, he has shown vulnerability. None more so than his last contest, where he knocked the tough Gabriel Rosado down twice, before being knocked down twice himself in a torrid ninth round. He grimly survived to clinch a unanimous win, and the WBO International Title that has enabled him a shot at Andrade.
Prediction: Andrade is a slick boxer, and regularly racks up the points while stylishly scoring knockdowns along the way. Sulecki makes mistakes, and is open to counter attack, which plays into Andrade’s hands. I envisage the Pole being knocked down early, but Andrade may have to settle for the long route in a routine points win.
The undercard sees the return of former WBO Heavyweight Champion, Joseph Parker (25-2, KO19), who fights under the DAZN banner for the first time.
He is eased back in following the loss of his belt to Anthony Joshua in Cardiff in March 2018, and a gruelling points loss against Dillian Whyte in July 2018. He did return in his native New Zealand in December, with a third round knockout of Alexander Flores.
His opponent in Rhode Island will be fellow Oceanic Heavyweight, Alex Leapai (32-7-4, KO26). The Samoan born, Australian resident is a former World Title challenger, but was walloped to defeat in five rounds in 2014 against Wladimir Klitschko.
He is 2-3-1 in his last six fights, and has lost to Malik Scott and Manuel Charr since the Klitschko reverse. He was scheduled to fight domestic hope, Nathan Gorman in November last year, but pulled out due to injury. His last outing was in August last year, knocking out Roger Izonritel inside a round.
Prediction: This should be a simple assignment for Parker, as he gears towards the big guns of the division in 2019/20. I expect him to feel Leapai out in the opener, before opening up, and getting Alex out within three to four rounds.
A second World Title fight sees Birmingham’s Kal Yafai (25-0, KO15) defend his WBA Super Flyweight Title for a fifth time.
He will hope that a convincing win over Dominican, Norbelto Jimenez (29-8-4, KO16) will finally unlock the doors to unification fights in 2019.
Since impressively outscoring Luis Conception for the belt in December 2016, Yafai has defended against disappointing opponents. Japanese pair, Sugar Murunaka and Sho Ishida were both outpointed, before David Carmona was dropped four times before being pulled out in seven in May last year. His last defence saw him below par, in a hard fought points win against Israel Gonzalez in Monte Carlo at the back end of 2018.
Jimenez has been stopped four times in his eight defeats, but is unbeaten in his last thirty fights, having made a 2-8-1 start to his career. He hasn’t lost since 2011, and held Kohei Kono to a draw in a challenge for the same belt Yafai holds in 2014.
He has won nine straight fights since, but has only ventured outside Dominican Republic once, traveling to Japan against Kono.
Prediction: I expect Yafai to perform nearer to his best this weekend, as he aims to secure fights against the likes of Juan Francisco Estrada and Jerwin Ancajas in the near future. I think he will have to settle for another points win, utilising his speed and accuracy in the process.