By Eric Raskin
Stop us if this sounds familiar, but this Saturday night on HBO Latino (10 p.m. ET/PT), each bout in the televised tripleheader features an undefeated fighter trying to prove his worth against a gatekeeper attempting to elevate his own relevance at the expense of another man’s perfection.
Nobody’s “O” must go. But in every fight, somebody’s “O” might go.
Here’s a quick breakdown of each of the three matchups, live from the Civic Auditorium in Glendale, California:
Pedro Campa (18-0, 14 KOs) vs. Aaron Herrera (29-3-1, 18 KOs), 10 rounds, Welterweights
If swagger was all it took to make someone a champion, Campa would be wearing several belts already. The undefeated prospect from Sonora, Mexico, carries himself with extreme confidence, and now he’s bringing that attitude to an American ring for the first time. He’s also bringing an action-oriented style and a powerful left hook that had helped him to six consecutive knockouts before that streak ended in his most recent fight, a close-six round decision against tough Noe Nunez in Sinaloa.
Campa shouldn’t expect a walkover in his U.S. debut, as countryman Herrera is far more experienced than he is, has faced much tougher opposition, and has seemingly righted the ship after a shaky stretch in 2012-'13 that saw him drop three of four. Since losing to familiar HBO face Selcuk Aydin, Herrera has gone 4-0-1 against opponents with a combined record of 104-17-3. He, too, is making his U.S. debut on Saturday night. If he can take away Campa’s confidence, perhaps he can take away his zero.
Sullivan Barrera (16-0, 11 KOs) vs. Karo Murat (27-2-1, 17 KOs), 10 Rounds, Light Heavyweights
Though not the nominal main event, Barrera vs. Murat is the most significant fight on this card, as the winner will become a sanctioning body mandatory challenger to the baddest man in the light heavyweight division, Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev. It’s the sort of reward that can make losing this Saturday look like an appealing option.
The fighter you’re probably more familiar with is Murat, the Germany-based Armenian who gave Bernard Hopkins a decent tussle two years ago. Murat took a year off after that, then bounced back with two stoppage wins over middling opposition. Whether Barrera qualifies as additional middling opposition remains to be seen. The Miami-based Cuban defector has rolled through everyone put in front of him since turning pro at the advanced age of 27, and he comes into the Murat fight riding a five-bout knockout streak. But when the only notable name on your record is the 2015 version of Jeff Lacy, it’s safe to say questions remain. Murat represents an enormous step up and a good bet to force answers to some of those questions. And whoever wins will soon have the “honor” of dealing with Krushing punches that come accompanied by pelvic feints.
Arif Magomedov (16-0, 9 KOs) vs. Jonatan Tavira (12-3, 9 KOs), 8 Rounds, Middleweights
If there’s a fight on the card in which the zero doesn’t appear to be in much danger, it’s the eight-round show-opener. Magomedov, a high-ceiling 23-year-old prospect from Russia, has already prevailed four times over unbeaten opposition, most notably in near-shutouts against Michael Zerafa and Derrick Webster. Magomedov also starched dangerous journeyman Darnell Boone—the only fighter to beat Adonis Stevenson as a pro—in one round earlier this year. He comes in as a clear favorite over Mexican clubfighter Tavira, who is really a junior middleweight, has lost his last two, and has never beaten an opponent with a winning record.
So why is Tavira getting this opportunity? Probably because of which shoulder points forward when the bell sounds. He’s a southpaw, and every promising prospect ought to face a few lefties on the way up. Magomedov’s team seems determined to have him ready to beat a top southpaw if the situation calls for it in the future, as Tavira will be the fifth lefthander on his ledger. If an “O” does go at the Civic Auditorium on Saturday, it’s unlikely to be Magomedov’s.