by Kieran Mulvaney
March 9's HBO boxing broadcasts will be dominated by the question of whether the seemingly ageless Bernard Hopkins can add yet another entry to the record books by defeating Tavoris Cloud and winning a world title at the age of 48.
But two other televised bouts that evening also provide intrigue and promise plenty of action.
Keith Thurman vs Jan Zaveck
Welterweight prospect Thurman has emerged from seemingly nowhere in the last several months to become something of a fan favorite. The reasons for his burgeoning popularity are clear: what he lacks in technical finesse, he makes up for in pure aggression and personality. Nor is he short of confidence: after beating Orlando Lora in Cincinnati last July, he called out no less of an opponent than Floyd Mayweather.
In his last outing, Thurman made a major statement with a dominant fourth-round stoppage of former Paul Williams conqueror Carlos Quintana; but Quintana looked a shell of the man who had faced Williams and Miguel Cotto and announced his retirement immediately afterward. There should be no such qualifications if Thurman maintains his undefeated record against Zaveck, who is an extremely tough test, and arguably the favorite entering this bout. Although Zaveck's last HBO appearance was a losing one, it was a loss that elevated his stock, as he gave Andre Berto a tough contest before being stopped on cuts.
Juan Carlos Salgado vs Argenis Mendez
Mexico's Salgado and the Dominican Mendez tangle for Salgado's junior lightweight title 18 months after they first clashed, in September 2011. In that bout, for the vacant title that Salgado now holds, the Mexican fighter eased away over the first half but had to withstand a furious rally from Mendez down the stretch, punctuated by a twelfth-round knockdown. The storming finish wasn't enough for Mendez to overcome his early points deficit, however, and Salgado took the unanimous decision.
After a no-contest in his first defense, when a clash of heads with challenger Miguel Beltran Jr. led to a cut over Salgado's left eye, the champion scraped home with a majority decision win over Martin Honorio in which two early knockdowns made the difference. Honorio then faced Mendez, who scored a comprehensive decision victory for the right to take on Salgado again.
Note: Salgado-Mendez will be broadcast from Costa Mesa, California on HBO Latino at 8:30 PM ET/PT; Thurman-Zaveck and Bernard Hopkins-Tavoris Cloud will follow from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, on HBO World Championship Boxing, beginning at 9.30 PM ET/PT.