You know boxing is in full-swing when Las Vegas is playing host to a majority of the top bouts.
This includes a monumental matchup between Sergey Kovalev and Andre Ward, a fight that could establish a new pound-for-pound kingpin — depending on how you feel about Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez. And that’s only the beginning of Vegas’ slate of fights this month. Superstar Manny Pacquiao himself is stepping back into the ring after a brief retirement, and so too is the fistic maestro Vasyl Lomachenko.
The international fight docket is nothing to scoff at either, including scintillating matchups in the most exciting weight class in boxing, the cruiserweight ranks.
So here they are, the five boxing matches you can’t afford to miss in November:
5. Marco Huck vs. Dmytro Kucher
When: Nov. 19
Where: Tui Arena; Hannover, Niedersachsen
The fifth spot here was a tossup between two fantastic cruiserweight battles.
Krzysztof Wlodarczyk and Olanrewaju Durodola come to blows on Nov. 5 and someone’s head is bound to come off. But there’s just so much more at stake in Marco Huck’s (39-3-1, 27 KO) IBO title defense against Dmytro Kucher (24-1-1, 18 KO).
These two are no less the violence-promising bangers.
Huck is near the top of the 200-pound rankings after a 20-fight undefeated streak at cruiserweight. He was upset by Krzysztof Glowacki in a real slugfest in 2015 but returned to action to stop bloodrival Ola Afolabi in 10 rounds eight months ago.
The German-based champion has no easy task ahead of him in Kucher. The Ukrainian is as durable as they come and can really crack. He stopped fan favorite Enzo Maccarinelli in one round last time out and went 12 brutal rounds with ranked cruiser IIunga Makabu in 2013, narrowly losing a majority decision.
The 31-year-old Huck is the clear favorite going in and a year younger to boot. But be assured, Huck has been put away before, and becoming the first man to knock out Kucher makes him arguably the most dangerous 200-pound pugilist on the planet.
4. Tommy Coyle vs. John Wayne Hibbert
When: Nov. 26
Where: Wembley Arena; Wembley, London
The United Kingdom boasts the best domestic scene on the planet. A prime example of why is the guaranteed shootout scheduled between Tommy Coyle (22-4, 10 KO) and John Wayne Hibbert (17-4, 11 KO) in London.
Coyle, of Yorkshire, is 1-1 on the year. He earned a points win over the unheralded Reynaldo Mora in May and battled Tyrone Nurse to a 12-round decision loss. Nurse is a sizable junior welterweight, but Coyle, a lifetime 135-pounder, still floored him.
The dust-up was yet another slobberknocker from Coyle. In 2013, the Englishman locked horns with Derry Mathews for a particularly wild 10 rounds and outdid himself a year later by combining with Daniel Eduardo Brizuela for eight knockdowns in a leading Fight of the Year contender.
Hibbert, out of Essex, has had an up-and-down year too. In January, he knocked out the undefeated Tommy Martin for the Commonwealth belt but succumbed to a bloody beatdown five months later to Andrea Scarpa. He was there to scrap until the very end, though. It was the ringside physician who technically ended his night early.
It marked just the second stoppage loss of Hibbert’s career. He lasted nine rounds with Dave Ryan in 2015, but Hibbert decked him twice and soon later avenged the loss with a TKO of his own after once again trading knockdowns.
Needless to say, someone is bound to touch the canvas when Coyle and Hibbert meet up. In all likelihood, they both will.
3. Manny Pacquiao vs. Jessie Vargas
When: Nov. 5
Where: Thomas & Mack Center; Las Vegas, Nevada
Manny Pacquiao (58-6-2, 38 KO) may be one of the most esteemed athletes of all time, but its Jessie Vargas’ (27-1, 10 KO) WBO welterweight strap up for grabs this weekend in Las Vegas.
Vargas, 27, became a two-time champion (in as many weight classes) when he overwhelmed Sadam Ali en route to a Round 9 TKO. The Nevada resident lacks a gaudy KO total but also managed to flash some timely power in his match before against Timothy Bradley, flooring the pound-for-pound claimant in the final seconds of their bout. But Vargas ultimately came up short via a decision loss — the only one of his career.
Pacquiao, 37, has quite the saga with Bradley too. The eight-division world champ was handed a tragic points loss to the American in 2012 but avenged the blatant robbery twice, including earlier this year for the lineal welterweight title. Flirting with 40 years old and all, Pacquiao was all over Bradley—hardly the buzzsaw he once was but as sharp as ever.
Vargas is ever improving, especially after settling down with a new trainer in Dewey Cooper this year, his sixth trainer in eight years as a professional.
With ten years dividing Pacquiao and Vargas, generations collide. And that promises drama.
2. Vasyl Lomachenko vs. Nicholas Walters
When: Nov. 26
Where: Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas; Las Vegas, Nevada
After Nicholas Walters (26-0-1, 21 KO) turned down over half a million dollars to face Vasyl Lomachenko (6-1, 4 KO) earlier this year, the two are finally throwing down at the end of the month.
The matchup pits a fascinating clash of styles between two men who’ve found the utmost success at the championship level.
Lomachenko, 29, is putting his WBO super featherweight strap on the line. He earned it back in June with a resounding knockout of Roman Martinez. The two-time Olympic gold medalist continues to adapt to the pro game better with each passing bout and is riding a three-fight KO streak across two divisions — becoming the first man to stop Romulo Koasicha and Gamalier Rodriguez.
Walters, 30, is no longer the WBA featherweight titleholder after failing to make weight in opposition of Jason Sosa last fall. So this isn’t technically his first foray at 130 pounds. Walters is also the biggest puncher Lomachenko has ever met.
Anticipation is high to see if Lomachenko can paint another masterpiece while dodging the “Axe Man’s” tomahawks.
1. Sergey Kovalev vs. Andre Ward
When: Nov. 19
Where: T-Mobile Arena; Las Vegas, Nevada
If there ever was a superfight, it’s this one right here. Three world titles are on the line when Sergey Kovalev (30-0-1, 26 KO) defends his WBA, WBO and IBF light heavyweight belts against Andre Ward (30-0, 15 KO) on HBO pay-per-view.
Ward has made a strong claim to the pound-for-pound throne over the past decade. The former Olympic gold medalist cleaned out the super middleweight division before undressing the excellent light heavyweight Sullivan Barrera this year to a wide points win, his second victory at the class.
The 175-pound division has been Kovalev’s feeding ground. His fists have tormented quality foes the world over. In July, he banged up the standout Isaac Chilemba in his first return to his Mother Russia in half a decade. Kovalev, who picked up his first belt from Nathan Cleverly in Wales, has successfully defended his threefold crowns a combined eight times, most notably against Bernard Hopkins in New Jersey and Jean Pascal (twice) in Canada.
While arguably the most ferocious puncher on the planet, Kovalev exhibited the patience and generalship he will need opposite a switch-hitting virtuoso like Ward.