Boxing fans should be ready for a busy night on Saturday, with a pair of big events on the docket. On DAZN (8 p.m. ET), Teofimo Lopez finally steps into the ring with George Kambosos Jr., while a Showtime card (10 p.m. ET) returns to Las Vegas for a super bantamweight unification bout between Stephen Fulton Jr. and Brandon Figueroa.
Lopez will be defending his WBA, IBF and WBO lightweight titles against Kambosos in a fight that has been rescheduled over and over since the initial purse bid in February. Meanwhile, Figueroa will put his WBC world super bantamweight belt on the line against Fulton, who is risking his WBO world title, in a unification bout that anchors the action on Showtime.
As we close in on fight night, let's take a look at the biggest storylines heading into a huge Saturday night.
1. It's finally time to move on for Lopez
Triller's attempt to make a splash in the boxing world by turning in a massive purse bid to win promotional rights to Lopez vs. Kambosos turned into one of the most frustrating journeys in sports in 2021. Unfortunately, it also resulted in nearly a year of Lopez's career being wasted, and just one year after Lopez shared many Fighter of the Year awards with Tyson Fury. Instead of quickly taking care of his IBF mandatory duties against Kambosos and ending 2021 with a second fight, possibly against one of the many big names in the lightweight division, Lopez was stuck in neutral as the date was pushed over and over again. Things came to a head with the most ridiculous postponement of all, as Triller canceled an Oct. 4 date when CEO Ryan Kavanaugh "realized" that a Monday date during NFL season would conflict with Monday Night Football, an American sports staple since 1970. While Lopez eventually agreed to the date change -- one of no less than four changes in "official" date, with many other dates floated -- Kambosos refused and Triller was ruled in default of their purse bid, turning duties over to Matchroom Boxing who handled booking the new date with little drama.
At the risk of overlooking Kambosos, who is a credible and skilled fighter, the biggest story coming into Saturday is that, hopefully, Lopez can finally move on to more fights the fans truly want to see. That may start with a rematch with Vasiliy Lomachenko, the longtime pound-for-pound elite whom Lopez upset to become unified lightweight champion in October 2020. But options for big fights abound in the lightweight division. Devin Haney, Gervonta "Tank" Davis and even Ryan Garcia are all big money fights in the division. Kambosos is going to get his shot because boxing is structured in a way where mandatory opponents are often only mandatory for the sanctioning bodies and no one else. Now, it's time for Lopez to take care of business as expected before moving on to bigger and better things.
2. Fulton vs. Figueroa is a sneaky good fight
Unification bouts are almost never a bad thing for boxing. Fulton and Figueroa are fighting in not only a bout to unify the WBC and WBO titles at 122 pounds, but the winner has a legitimate chance to establish themself as the world's top junior featherweight, with only two-belt champion Murodjon Akhmadaliev having a claim otherwise. Already ticking the boxes of being a unification bout and between two of the three elite fighters in the division, Fulton vs. Figueroa is also just a good fight. Neither man is a superstar in terms of public perception, but these are the kind of fights, balancing big risk with big reward, that can take either to the next level.
Figueroa is an action fighter, happy to press the pace and let his hands go. That could be a great stylistic challenge for Fulton, who is more of a direct, technical boxer with an entire game built off a fantastic jab. That stylistic clash is interesting and could make for a fight worthy of the fight's divisional importance. In a night featuring two solid cards of boxing action, Figueroa and Fulton may be the ones who deliver a fight that leaves everyone talking.
3. Both cards have surprising depth
It's easy with boxing to fall into the expectation that boxing cards will feature one relevant fight on top, if they even manage that much. Instead, both the DAZN and Showtime cards have multiple compelling fights. Setting aside the main events, here are some fights to keep an eye on:
- Azinga Fuzile vs Kenichi Ogawa: The DAZN co-feature sees Fuzile and Ogawa clash over the vacant IBF junior lightweight title. Similar to Fulton vs. Figueiroa, this is a fight featuring a slicker boxer (Fuzile) against a more direct attacker (Ogawa). This should be a good fight for a world championship.
- Ra'eese Aleem vs. Eduardo Baez: The Showtime co-feature at super bantamweight may not have a world title but is an intriguing clash of a hot prospect in Aleem and a tough opponent in Baez who is on a two-fight run of handing fighters their first career defeats. Baez will look to set back another career when he faces Aleem, who was supposed to fight former unified champion Danny Roman when Roman pulled out of the fight seemingly to protect his No. 1 IBF ranking.
- Gary Antonio Russell vs. Alexandro Santiago: Russell is an undefeated prospect who suffered an unfortunate result in his most recent outing, a no-contest coming after a clash of heads just 16 seconds into his fight with Emmanuel Rodriguez. Santiago is anything but a light touch, coming in on an eight-fight winning streak and arguably deserved the win in his 2018 bout with Jerwin Ancajas for the IBF super flyweight title.