Top Rank and ESPN are going head-to-head with Canelo-Jacobs.
IBF light heavyweight titleholder Artur Beterbiev has officially signed his deal with Top Rank, and his May 4 defense against Radivoje Kalajdzic is set, with IBF super flyweight titleholder Jerwin Ancajas defending against Ryuichi Funai in the co-feature.
Before we talk about the fights, let’s talk about this: yes, this means that ESPN and Top Rank have decided to counter-program the Canelo-Jacobs fight that night on DAZN. And in case you were hoping this show would have an early start time, meaning that you could watch this instead of what’s looking to be a forgettable DAZN undercard, and then catch Canelo-Jacobs, that’s probably not going to be the case. The ESPN main card starts at 10 pm ET, with ESPN+ streaming prelims starting at 6:30 pm ET.
Fight fans are in desperate need of promoters and their outlets expanding beyond Saturday nights. This card would have been great to have on Friday or Sunday on Cinco de Mayo weekend, but instead it’s going smack up against one of the biggest shows of the year. It’s nice that with all these new TV and streaming deals we have so much content now, but a lot of it is running together, limiting the audience for everything, making loyal, paying boxing fans miss fights live.
This is not a shot at any particular promoter or outlet, mind you, because it’s happening with everyone. I mean, for heaven’s sake, April 13 will have cards running at the same time on Showtime, DAZN, and FS1. April 20 has the Crawford-Khan ESPN PPV running against a PBC show on FOX. April 27 will have Showtime and DAZN head-to-head. May 11 will have ESPN and FOX head-to-head. And there are several other dates tentatively set to result in the same scenario. It was bad enough when HBO and Showtime would do this to one another a few times a year and then have various weekends where nobody had anything airing, but this is starting to really suck, fast.
Anyway, that aside, let’s talk about the fights.
Beterbiev (13-0, 13 KO) will be looking to make the second defense of the belt he won in Nov. 2017 over Enrico Koelling, and hopefully his signing with Top Rank means that he’ll be more active. He only fought once in 2017 and once in 2018, knocking out Callum Johnson in a short slugfest in October.
Kalajdzic (24-1, 17 KO) is best-known for his loss, coming against Marcus Browne in April 2016, a fight that many if not most observers felt Browne was gifted on split decision scores over eight, featuring an all-time awful refereeing performance that significantly favored Browne. Browne has gone on to look like the real deal. Kalajdzic has won three fights since that controversial outing, two in 2018 after sitting out all of 2017.
Ancajas (30-1-2, 20 KO) has seen the bloom come off the rose a bit in his last couple of fights, a boring win over Jonas Sultan and a draw with Alejandro Santiago Barrios. He’ll look to get his buzz back on track.
Funai (31-7, 22 KO) is a 33-year-old veteran who has won seven straight since a majority decision loss to Sho Ishida in 2016. He’s the clear underdog here.