THE reports of DAZN’s death in America have been greatly exaggerated. Although the former chairman of the streaming service recently admitted the US venture had been a ‘failure’, there are signs that their boxing business is still live and punching. On Friday night (November 19), in Manchester, New Hampshire, Demetrius Andrade, ranked No. 3 at middleweight, takes on Jason Quigley at the top of a stacked card at the SNHU Arena.
Although not many are giving the likeable Donegal underdog much of a chance against Andrade, the likes of Kiko Martínez and Sandor Martin have shown that DAZN has turned into the home of the upset over the past few months.
Andrade has labelled himself the ‘Boogeyman’ in recent years due to his inability to persuade any of the other big names from the division to face him. Although it might be fanciful to suggest any of them are genuinely scared of him, it is true that he represents a stylistically miserable fight for most of his peers. Saúl “Canelo” Álvarez famously labelled him a ‘horrible fighter’ at a press conference run-in this year when Andrade had called him out to his face. Harsh, perhaps, but there is no denying he can be a little uneasy on the eye at times.
This is his first outing since he widely outpointed Liam Williams in April. That was his first fight back after a 15-month absence, and victory over Quigley will provide some much-needed momentum.
The 19-1 Quigley, for his part, is a 7/1 shot with most bookmakers and victory here would put him right up there in the running for upset of the year. He is on a four-fight winning streak since the first defeat of his career, a ninth-round retirement against Tureano Johnson in July 2019, but he will need by far and away the best performance of his career to beat Andrade, the WBO belt-holder.
What is more likely is a fast start from the American, perhaps with a knockdown, before he takes his foot off the gas and coasts to a unanimous decision.
Elsewhere, Murodjon Akhmadaliev will face late stand-in Jose Velasquez after his original opponent Ronny Rios was forced to withdraw when he caught Covid-19. Incidentally, the fight had already been postponed once when Akhmadaliev contracted the virus too.
But Rios is out and in comes Chilean Velasquez, who went 8-6-2 in the first 16 fights of his career but has been on a roll ever since then. On a week’s notice, however, this is some step up. After just nine professional fights, World amateur championships and Olympic medalist ‘MJ’ is ranked No.1 at super-bantamweight and currently holds two sanctioning body titles. What’s more, presumably the reason why Velasquez is able to step in at such short notice and be expected to make weight is because he is used to operating in the division below. Indeed, in his last outing, the 32-year-old from Quellon boxed for the vacant NABF bantamweight belt, outpointing Ariel Lopez over 10 rounds back in May.
“I hope that Ronny is feeling well,” Akhmadaliev said. “It’s a shame that he cannot face me, but it is a great chance for Jose and I am sure he will put everything into this fight.
“Everything has been good in camp, it’s been a long camp with a couple of fights getting cancelled, but we’ve stayed in the gym and I’m ready to defend what is mine.”
Stranger things have happened, this year alone, but an upset in this one looks highly unlikely. Akhmadaliev finished off Ryosuke Iwasa inside five rounds back in April and the smart money would be on this one to finish even earlier.
There is also a mouth-watering Mexico-Puerto Rico derby as Julio Cesar Martinez faces the mandatory challenger to his WBC flyweight strap McWilliams Arroyo in a long-awaited encounter. Better than the belt on offer, this pits the No.1 in the division versus No.8.
The pair were supposed to meet on the undercard of Álvarez’s fight with Avni Yildirim back in February but Martinez was forced to withdraw with a hand injury just days before the clash. Arroyo still boxed that week, stopping last-minute stand-in Abraham Rodriguez in the fifth round and he has been waiting for Martinez ever since.
That first date was so long ago that Canelo has boxed twice since then but Martinez and Arroyo will finally meet on Friday in what is likely to emerge as the fight of the night. Mexican Martinez, 18-1 after winning all of his fights since dropping a four-round decision on his professional debut, returned from the hand injury in June with a sixth-round stoppage of Joel Cordova in Guadalajara.
He always brings the heat and such a style could gel well with the taller, rangier Arroyo, who holds wins over the likes of Carlos Cuadras up at super fly. He has lost four times but has never been stopped even up at the higher weight, so it would be some statement if Martinez can end this early. A points win for the man from Mexico City looks like the most likely outcome here.
There is also the second semi-final in Matchroom’s so-called ‘Road to Undisputed’ in the women’s super-lightweight division. Chantelle Cameron outpointed Mary McGee in London last month and now Kali Reis will take on Jessica Camara for the chance to take on ‘Il Capo’ next year.
Camara earned this fight by climbing off the canvas to beat Heather Hardy in May but she may have bitten off more than she can chew in Reis. Like Andrade, Reis is a resident of Providence Rhode Island and is very much the home fighter here. She is 18-7-1 but has not tasted defeat since her fight with the great Cecilia Brækhus back in 2018. A Reis UD seems inevitable.
Earlier, Australian heavyweight Demsey McKean, who has had all 19 of his professional fights to date on home soil and sparred Anthony Joshua recently, will make his American and Matchroom debut as part of the undercard. There is also a huge opportunity for Galway southpaw Thomas O’Toole who will face Mark Malone in the second fight of his professional career.
The Verdict Huge ask for Quigley but the stage is set for the Irishman to make his mark at middleweight.