What (else) to watch during KSI-Logan Paul weekend

The fight receiving most of attention this weekend is the battle between YouTubers KSI and Logan Paul at Staples Center in Los Angeles. In August 2018, the two social media mavens met at Manchester Arena in England and fought to a six-round majority draw. The broadcast produced a huge online audience and procured significant pay-per-view numbers.

Hence the rematch Saturday, under professional rules. Ali-Frazier it is not, but you can’t knock the hustle.

While it’s an event that makes many die-hard fans and traditionalists cringe, it’s also an opportunity to showcase some promising fighters on a big stage in the lead-up to the madness. Between the KSI-Logan Paul undercard and a Top Rank card with a junior lightweight world title main event, there is a lot of boxing to enjoy this weekend.

The fighting marine in Fresno



Mark Kriegel details the upbringing of Jamel Herring, and how the death of childhood friend Stephen Brown steered him into an unexpected career and championship success. For more Top Rank Boxing action, sign up for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/

WBO junior lightweight world titlist Jamel “Semper Fi” Herring (20-2, 10 KOs), who won his belt by outboxing Masayuki Ito on May 25, makes his first defense of that title against the undefeated Lamont Roach Jr. (19-0-1, 7 KOs).

It headlines a Top Rank card on ESPN+, and takes place at Chukchansi Park — a minor league baseball stadium that typically serves as the home of the Fresno Grizzlies, the Triple-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals.

In addition to his recent run of success in the ring, Herring has dealt with extraordinary challenges in his life. He served two tours in Iraq as part of the Marine Corps, and suffered the loss of an infant daughter, Ariyana, in 2009 from sudden infant death syndrome.

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He didn’t come by recent successes easily. The 2012 U.S. Olympian hit a rough patch in his career in 2016 and 2017, when he lost two out of three fights (to Denis Shafikov, and later Ladarius Miller), and he reached a professional crossroads.

Since then he has won four fights in a row and found himself as a boxer after joining the camp of WBO welterweight titlist Terence Crawford.

A lot is on the line this weekend for Herring. With a victory, he could land on a major card being planned for China in early February, and Carl Frampton has been mentioned as a possible opponent for 2020, among others.

First he has to get by Roach, for whom this is a major step up in competition. Roach most recently was featured on the Canelo Alvarez-Daniel Jacobs undercard in May, scoring a decision victory over Jonathan Oquendo.

Herring’s service in the military will be highlighted in a major way Saturday night. Local fight promoter Rick Mirigian said there will be a flyby from naval air jets and fireworks. Marines from Camp Pendleton also will line up during Herring’s entrance as he’s led into the ring by a military convoy.

Devin Haney makes his first title defense

WBC lightweight titleholder Devin Haney defends his lightweight world title as part of the KSI-Logan Paul undercard in Los Angeles. Jack Thomas/Getty Images

Haney (23-0, 15 KOs) will defend his lightweight world title for the first time against an unknown and untested Alfredo Santiago (12-0, 4 KOs) as part of the KSI-Paul card.

Some would dismiss the talented young Haney as a “paper champion,” given the fact that he didn’t actually capture his WBC world lightweight title in the ring. Haney was promoted from interim to full titleholder by the WBC after the sanctioning body elevated Vasiliy Lomachenko as a “franchise champion.”

Haney made it clear that he has no such reservations.

“I feel like a world champion — I worked my way up,” Haney said. “I knew that, possibly, winning the interim title would lead to Lomachenko vacating, or being franchise. I worked my way up. I knew exactly what I was doing and it happened the way it happened and can’t nobody take that away from me.”

There is no denying the talent of the 20-year-old Haney, who, unlike other potential challengers, is serious about facing Lomachenko in the near future. He is a fast, technically sound boxer whose punching power is coming along as he develops physically.

What’s more, he absolutely believes that if it were up to Lomachenko, they would face one another inside the ring.

“I think, honestly, if it were up to him, he’d face me — but his team doesn’t feel like it,” Haney said. “There are easier fights out there.”

Regardless of how he “won” his first major world title, his talent — and just as importantly, his focus and work ethic — are undeniable, and it looks like he will be a pillar of the sport for the next decade.

Saunders makes his stateside debut

WBO super middleweight world titlist Billy Joe Saunders makes his U.S. debut on Saturday. Leigh Dawney/Getty Images

Billy Joe Saunders (23-0, 15 KOs), who is now the defending WBO super middleweight titlist, will face Marcelo Coceres (28-0, 13 KOs) in his first bout on American soil as the co-feature to Saturday night’s spectacle in Los Angeles. The outspoken Saunders recently told ESPN that he wouldn’t have been part of the undercard in an event like this if it was in England, but he believed this was an opportunity to further his brand in a large media market.

That decision comes with some pressure, and expectations of actually opening a few eyes. While he’s bombastic outside the ring, he has often been a bit boring inside of it once the bell rings. That’s why, despite having won titles at 160 and 168, he’s been left out of the mix in terms of the marquee fights available in either division.

For his part, Saunders says he’s ready to shake that reputation, starting with Saturday’s fight. Given the chance, Saunders wants to “introduce my name and my star with my fists, and show them the level I should be at.”

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