There's a little bit of everything available to fight fans this month-- From heavy-handed bangers to fleet-footed stylists and from top shelf prospects to grizzled veterans. The boxing action promises to be solid enough to keep the interest of an action-starved fan base looking forward to the blockbusters scheduled in the coming months.
Here's a look at February's seven "must see" fights:
Johnathon Banks (29-1-1, 19 KOs) vs. Seth Mitchell (25-1-1, 19 KOs)
Banks ruined everyone's plans by stopping "The Next Great American Heavyweight," Mitchell in two rounds. So upsetting was the upset that Banks will be forced to try and do it again. The contractually-mandated rematch was quickly snatched up by HBO and Golden Boy's Mitchell will get his shot at fixing the mess his brittle chin made for him the first time. Mitchell can punch and he is a tough guy, so it's very conceivable that he could take the win this time. However, his chin is still vulnerable and another knockout loss could bring the entire parade of hype to a halt, this time for good.
Adrien Broner (25-0, 21 KOs) vs. Gavin Rees (37-1-1, 18 KOs)
If you're not excited by what Adrien Broner can do in the ring, then you're probably not much of a boxing fan. The 23-year-old will be putting his WBC lightweight title on the line against the tough, but definitely over-matched Welshman, Gavin Rees. Don't expect much of a competitive battle in this one. Rather, expect a virtuoso performance as Broner batters Rees' head about like a pinball. For what it's worth, Rees is a former world champion at junior welterweight, but a former paper title will mean little against a guy like Broner.
Lamont Peterson (30-1-1, 15 KOs) vs. Kendall Holt (28-5, 16 KOs)
This will be Peterson's first fight since testing positive for synthetic testosterone last year, prior to a scheduled rematch with Amir Khan. Former junior welterweight titlist, Holt, runs hot and cold. When hot, he's a heavy-handed sharp-shooter with better than average skills. When cold, he's a lazy, disinterested underachiever. If the best version of Holt comes to fight, Peterson might need that extra testosterone boost in order to win. Barring any ring rust, though, Peterson is a better all-around fighter with a much more consistent level of performance.
The 29-year-old David Price just may be the next big thing in the heavyweight division. At 6' 8" and with legitimate one-punch knockout power in both hands, the UK native has walked right through the national and regional opposition placed in front of him. Two-time world title challenger, Thompson is being billed as Price's best opponent to date. The 6' 5" American is 41 years of age and definitely showing signs of slowing down. Still, two of Thompson's three career losses have come to Wladimir Klitschko-- hardly a damning fact-- and the third came in just his fifth fight as a pro. This will be a legitimate step up in class for Price and, should he win, consider it a main stage coming out party for the heavyweight prospect.
Devon Alexander (24-1, 13 KOs) vs. Kell Brook (29-0, 19 KOs)
Alexander's first defense as IBF welterweight champ will be a tough one. The UK's Brook has long been regarded as one of boxing's best prospects. Strong, athletic, and supremely confident, Brook has graduated from regional-level opposition to legitimate international-level challengers. Against Alexander, however, the Brit will be climbing one full level up in class. The defending champ from St. Louis can be inconsistent in his performances, but is truly stellar on the rare occasions when everything clicks. He will need a top notch effort against Brook or he could very well find himself a one-and-done champ.
Cornelius Bundrage (32-4, 19 KOs) vs. Ishe Smith (24-5, 11 KOs)
The sentimental favorite here, in this battle of Contender reality show alumni, has to be Smith who, at age 34, will be challenging for his first world title after a long and frustrating stint as a conveniently overlooked fringe contender. IBF junior middleweight champ, Bundrage, is looking to walk through Smith en route to bigger and better things with new promoter, Golden Boy, but he could very well find himself upset by the well-traveled, nicely-skilled boxer. Bundrage is strong and awkward (and will be fighting in his hometown of Detroit), but he'll need a little bit of finesse to beat Smith.
J'Leon Love (14-0, 8 KOs) vs. Bronco McKart (54-10-1, 32 KOs)
To put this one into perspective, the 41-year-old McKart was already well into his second retirement when Love was making his pro debut. The 25-year-old middleweight prospect will be fighting within spitting distance of his Dearborn Heights, Michigan hometown and facing the first opponent of his career who can register even a blip on the "who's that" radar. Consider this Love's coming out party on the Detroit Bundrage-Smith, Alexander-Brook undercard. Also consider this a one-sided loss for McKart, who, even in his prime, likely would've lost convincingly to Love.
(Feb. 16: Broner-Rees, Banks-Mitchell will be on HBO)
(Feb. 22: Peterson-Holt will be on ESPN2 Friday Night Fights)
(Feb. 23: Price-Thompson will be on Wealth TV in the U.S.)
(Feb. 23: Alexander-Brook, Bundrage-Smith, Love-McKart will be on Showtime)
*Check local listings for times
Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and a close follower of the sport for more than thirty years. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and as Editor-in-Chief of The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing. For breaking news, additional analysis, and assorted crazy commentary, follow him on Facebook, @TheBoxingTribune or on Twitter, @BoxingBTBC.
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