Thu. Sep 21st, 2023

Boxing fans in search of action this weekend won’t have to look for long because Saturday is absolutely packed with intriguing fights. It’s a multi-screen kind of night with a heavy focus on rising stars across a trio of fight cards.

The night’s action kicks off with a card headlined by Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez, CBS Sports’ runner-up for 2022 Fighter of the Year. Rodriguez will battle Cristian Gonzalez for the vacant WBO flyweight championship (8 p.m. ET, DAZN). Rodriguez is coming off a massive breakout year that started when he took a big chance on himself to face Carlos Cuadras on less than seven day’s notice and at super flyweight, a weight class in which he’d never fought. Rodriguez won the fight and became boxing’s youngest active champion at 22 years old. He followed that up with wins over Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Israel Gonzalez before vacating his super flyweight title to return to flyweight.

Gonzalez is riding a nine-fight winning streak since suffering his lone career defeat. Gonzalez’s resume is not loaded with big names, but he’s getting an opportunity to make his name and he’s shown plenty of skill against lower-tier opposition.

Also on the Rodriguez vs. Gonzalez card, Murodjon Akhmadaliev will defend his IBF and WBA super bantamweight titles against Marlon Tapales.

The action continues later in the evening with Shakur Stevenson taking on Shuichiro Yoshino (10 p.m. ET, ESPN). The fight is Stevenson’s first at lightweight, where he joins a host of talented fighters in a deep division with undisputed champion Devin Haney on top.

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Stevenson won the WBO and WBC titles at super featherweight. He was forced to vacate those titles in his most recent outing after missing weight ahead of his bout with Robson Conceicao. Stevenson took care of business against Conceicao, winning a unanimous decision, but the struggles on the scales were the final step toward a long-planned move to 135 pounds.

Stevenson has impressed throughout his young career and already holds the No. 8 spot on the CBS Sports pound-for-pound rankings as he heads into his 20th pro bout.

Yoshino is a tough fighter who tends to approach fights with a constant forward pressure style. That could be trouble for Yoshino as it plays into the strengths of Stevenson’s sharp and technical game.

The final card on Saturday is headlined by Sebastian Fundora vs. Brian Mendoza (10 p.m. ET, Showtime).

At 6-foot-6, Fundora is a towering fighter for a super welterweight. Despite his physical advantages, Fundora often prefers to mix things up on the inside. That style can lead to explosive fights, such as his Fight of the Year contender against Erickson Lubin in April 2022.

Fundora will be defending his interim WBC title against Mendoza. Retaining that belt keeps Fundora in position to face the winner of the upcoming fight between undisputed champion Jermell Charlo and Tim Tszyu. For a fighter many felt was more novelty than the “real deal,” Fundora simply keeps on winning.

“We’re just ready to put on a good show. It feels great to be fighting tough guys like Mendoza and that’s what I want to do again and again. I love fighting in front of these fans in Southern California,” Fundora said at the final press conference. “I think this is a great fight for these fans. The fans here are very demanding and a fight like this will give them their money’s worth.

“I’m becoming more comfortable in this role as a headliner. It’s given me a good kind of overwhelming feeling for some past fights, but I’ve been very relaxed this whole camp and I’m just ready to go.”

Mendoza has stumbled in some other step-up fights in his career but will enter the fight after coming off the biggest win of his career, a fight in which he absolutely flattened Jeison Rosario with an uppercut to score the fifth-round knockout.

The undercard also sees the return of undefeated super lightweight prospect Brandun Lee when he takes on his toughest test to date in Pedro Campa. Lee has 23 knockouts in his 27-fight professional career as he looks to add another name to his growing list. Campa, meanwhile, is 34-2-1 in his career, but his two losses have both been by stoppage. That includes his most recent fight where he was stopped by Teofimo Lopez Jr. 

Let’s take a look at our predictions for each main event with the latest odds from Caesars Sportsbook. 


Jesse Rodriguez (-2200) vs. Cristian Gonzalez (+1100): The move back down to flyweight is a good idea for Rodriguez. Yes, he thrived up a division, but he’s young and has time to fight at a more natural weight for where he is in his career. Gonzalez is the unfortunate soul welcoming Rodriguez back to the division. He’s a tough enough fighter, but Rodriguez is likely to be able to wear him down and get the stoppage. Pick: Jesse Rodriguez via TKO9 -170 (Rodriguez in Rounds 7-12 +140)

Shakur Stevenson (-2000) vs. Shuichiro Yoshino (+1000): As mentioned, this is a bad style matchup for Yoshino. Yoshino needs to be inside to do any quality work and Stevenson is not a fighter who allows guys to close distance and keep fights in close range. Yoshino deserves the fight and is a quality welcome to lightweight for Stevenson, but the only real question here is whether Stevenson turns up the heat to the point where he can get the stoppage or if he settles for a wide decision. Pick: Shakur Stevenson via UD -240

Sebastian Fundora (-1000) vs. Brian Mendoza (+650): This is the type of fight where Fundora’s biggest opponent is himself. As always, he could use his incredible length to make a fight easier on himself. That goes against his instincts, however, and it’s likely long stretches of the fight will happen at close range. Fundora is the better boxer and a heavy favorite for a reason, but he will be putting himself at risk against a guy who does have the power to finish a fight if he starts to connect cleanly. Still, Fundora’s quality should win out. Pick: Sebastian Fundora via UD -120 (Fight over 10.5 rounds -160)

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