By Gary Purfield
After packing the Sands Casino Arena on June 1 of this year, Main Events will return for their next Fight Night installment on September 21. Headlining the show is a light heavyweight bout between Gabriel Campillo (21-4-1, 8 KO) and Sergey Kovalev (18-0-1, 16 KO). In the co-feature, popular welterweight and Bethlehem native Ronald Cruz (17-0, 12 KO) takes on Antwone Smith (21-4-1, 12 KO) in a crossroads bout.
The Fight Night series that is broadcast on NBC Sports was designed to put together competitive matches instead of appearance fights. Thus far, Main Events and matchmaker Russell Peltz have done well putting together fan-friendly fights that are competitive and produce action. In addition, the series has striven to have fights in locations that will draw a strong crowd to the arena with a vocal rooting interest.
For Campillo, this will be an opportunity to get back into the title picture after several very controversial losses in the last few years. Campillo is widely considered one of the best in the division, but has had no luck when the scorecards are read. Most recently, he dropped a decision to IBF title holder Tavoris Cloud in February of this year. After being dropped twice in round one Campillo took control of the fight and most observers believed he won the decision. Prior to that, Campillo lost his WBA title to Beibut Shumenov in a rematch. Campillo had defeated Shumenov in their first fight to retain the WBA title he had previously won against Hugo Garay.
The TV fight will give Campillo an opportunity to show he belongs in the conversation among the top light heavyweights and should be given another title opportunity despite the controversial losses. In his way is emerging Russian Sergey Kovalev. Kovalev last fought on the previous Bethlehem Fight Night card when he stopped Darnell Boone in the second round on the off-TV undercard. Kovalev is a well-regarded prospect with knockout power demonstrated by his sixteen KO’s in eighteen wins, but will face his first top notch opponent in Campillo.
In the televised co-feature, rising prospect Ronald Cruz will serve the role of placing fans in the stands when he puts his newly won WBC Continental America’s title on the line against probably his toughest test to date. Cruz began making a name for himself two years ago when he stopped prospect Jeremy Bryan as part of a streak of eight straight knockouts over increasingly better opposition. Cruz won the minor WBC title in his last fight when he defeated Prenice Brewer by unanimous decision in the co-feature of the previous Bethlehem Fight Night. The building was packed to standing room only with the majority of the crowd present to root for the hometown hero. It will be the same atmosphere this time around as Cruz has become a major attraction in his home area.
Antwone Smith will be fighting to maintain an outside chance of being a contender and getting more TV appearances. The talented boxer caught the boxing world’s attention when he scored three straight wins over prospects Norberto Gonzalez, Richard Gutierrez, and Henry Crawford in 2009. Smith was considered the opponent in those fights, especially against Gonzalez and Crawford, who were undefeated at the time. His momentum took a big hit when he was stopped by Lanardo Tyner on Sho Box in July of 2010 in the ninth round. Since then, he is 3-2 with the wins coming over lesser opposition and the two defeats to Kermit Cintron and Roberto Garcia.
Still, Smith presents a dangerous test for the young Cruz with his height and boxing skills. Cruz will look to add another good name to his record and continue his climb up the rankings while Smith wants to notch one more upset to remain relevant in the big picture.
The Fight Night series was recently extended with NBC Sports into 2013, including an afternoon date on NBC in December. The televised portion of the card is scheduled to begin at 9pm.
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