by Kieran Mulvaney
Next week HBO returns with its second boxing broadcast of the year, a card that kicks off a series of bouts between now and the end of March. Here’s what’s on tap to take us through the first quarter of 2013:
February 16: Adrien Broner vs Gavin Rees
Atlantic City, New Jersey
Adrien Broner has come so far, so fast, and has established himself with such authority as one of the stars of the sport, that it is sometimes surprising to realize how young he is. Still only 23, he is already a two-weight world champion. Fresh off seizing a lightweight crown with the destruction of Antonio DeMarco, he takes on once-beaten British and European champ Gavin Rees in his first defense.
March 9: Bernard Hopkins vs Tavoris Cloud
Brooklyn, New York
Bernard Hopkins began his professional boxing career before Broner was born, and yet he continues to operate at the championship level. He already holds the record for the oldest boxer to win a world title, a record he secured when outpointing Jean Pascal in Montreal in 2011. He was a youngster of 46 then; now a fully mature 48, he takes on the challenge of undefeated light heavyweight titleholder Tavoris Cloud.
The undercard sees the return of always popular heavyweight Cris Arreola, and exciting young welterweight prospect Keith Thurman.
March 16: Timothy Bradley vs Ruslan Provodnikov
After securing a hugely controversial win against Manny Pacquiao last May, Bradley found himself with his nose pressed against the window as Pacquiao eschewed a rematch in favor of furthering his rivalry with Juan Manuel Marquez. And so, 10 months after his last ring appearance, Bradley is taking on little-known but dangerous Provodnikov, a hard-punching pressure fighter. The Desert Storm will need to be blowing at full strength to avoid the upset.
March 30: Brandon Rios vs Mike Alvarado
Las Vegas, Nevada
The first fight between these two junior welterweights was the consensus fight of the year in 2012 until Marquez flattened Pacquiao in December. It was a bruising, brutal, back-and-forth slobberknocker that ended in the seventh round when Rios unleashed a flurry that had Alvarado in trouble on the ropes and prompted a referee stoppage. There’s no reason to think the rematch will be any less compelling. Honestly, there’s nothing to be said about it except, in the words of Mills Lane: “Let’s get it on.”