An interesting four fight card takes place on Saturday as UK promotional outfit Matchroom Boxing take their show on the road to the glamorous tourist resort of Monte Carlo, Monaco. The promotion titled “Monte Carlo Boxing Bonanza” features two world title fights and the first European appearance (as a professional) of the Heavyweight wrecking machine Luis Ortiz. Portions of the show will be televised by Sky Sports (UK) and HBO (USA).
Along with Ortiz, other fighters taking part on the bill who should be known to fans on both sides of the pond include Martin Murray, Jamie McDonnell, Jason Sosa and Stephen Smith. The fights at Salle des Etoiles kick off early so make sure the beers are chilled in advance. I expect the card will unfold in the following order….
Englishman Martin Murray (34-4-1, 16Kos) takes on Nuhu Lawal (23-0-0, 13Kos) of Nigeria. This was originally scheduled to be a rematch with Arthur Abraham for Murray but Lawal was drafted in today to replace the original replacement Dmitrii Chudinov. Abraham was ruled out with injury on October 26 and a virus will prevent Chudinov gloving up this weekend.
Perhaps rather harshly Murray, now 34 years old, is best known for losing efforts in world title bids. The former British Middleweight title holder came up short against Sergio Martinez in Argentina, and Gennady Golovkin at Saturday's venue (at 160lbs) then lost out on the cards via split decision when challenging the previously mentioned Arthur Abraham (at 168) in Germany last year. Many observers believe Murray was unlucky with the scores in both the Martinez and Abraham contests and he performed gamely against “GGG”, extending the Kazakh knock-out king to the 11th round before being stopped.
Lawal, a 34 year old Nigerian based in Germany, is the current holder of the WBA inter-continental Middleweight title but has no stellar names on his record.
The bout against Chudinov would've offered an honest measurement for Murray in terms of where he stands moving forward. Lawal on a couple of days notice should not pose much threat to the experienced English boxer but in this sport you just never know for sure.
The first of the card's two world title fights should come next as WBA Bantamweight champion Jamie McDonnell (28-2-1, 13Kos) faces Liborio Solis (25-4-1, 11Kos) of Venezuela. McDonnell will be making the fifth defence of the title he won in May 2014.
Fans in the United States may remember Englishman McDonnell from his two encounters with Tomoki Kameda in Texas last year. Both fights went the way of the champion via unanimous decision but the first contest in particular was razor close.
Solis is not expected to win this fight and comes in conceding six inches in height and three in reach to his opponent. The standout performance on the Venezuelan's record occurred in March this year when he managed to hear the final bell in his wide points defeat to the awesome Shinsuke Yamanaka in Japan.
Anything other than a McDonnell win here would be regarded as a huge upset. Solis is durable so expect the win to come by way of the scorecards.
Following on from the Bantamweight clash should be two slightly larger fighters. Time for the Heavyweights! Recent Matchroom signing Luis Ortiz (25-0-0, 22Kos) makes his first appearance under his new backers. The Cuban southpaw faces off against American veteran Malik Scott (38-2-1, 13Kos). Ortiz is rated by most in the know as a current top three fighter in his division – some pundits even rate him as the best Heavyweight in the world right now. Getting to watch him on Saturday is something to feel enthusiastic about.
As you can see from his record Ortiz is a knock-out specialist and is widely expected to stop Scott inside the distance here. Without being disrespectful to the boxer from Philadelphia this is an ideal opportunity for Ortiz to showcase his considerable talents and then score a highlight reel finish as he looks to maneuver himself into the big Heavyweight showdowns which will hopefully be taking place next year.
From the anticipated Ortiz fireworks to the main event of the evening. Jason Sosa (19-1-4, 15Kos) of the USA will be putting his WBA Super-Featherweight title on the line, defending against Stephen Smith (24-2-0, 14Kos) from Liverpool, England.
Sosa is making the first defence of the title he won in June. The man from New Jersey travelled to Beijing, China and scored the upset win over Javier Fortuna by way of 11th round stoppage. Before this, Sosa was awarded a controversial draw with Nicholas Walters in December 2015. He certainly has made the most of the outcome of the Walters bout and he will not want to let his title go easily on Saturday.
Stephen Smith, one of the famous four fighting Smith brothers, is getting his second crack at winning a world title this year. Back in April Smith faced IBF 130lb title holder Jose Pedraza in Connecticut – going down to defeat via unanimous decision. Smith bounced back seven weeks after the Pedraza clash by beating Daniel Brizuela by 7th round stoppage and now finds himself fighting for a world title again.
This fight looks to be the closest of the night – certainly the most difficult one to try and attempt to pick a winner in. I expect a hard battle with both boxers giving maximum effort for the duration; we will however be relying on the judges to deliver our winner.
Overall this is a card to look forward to. The alluring setting of Europe's favourite gambling location should provide a fitting backdrop to some back and forth ring action. Tune in on Saturday to find out which boxers will be leaving Monte Carlo with the house money safely tucked away in their hand luggage.