On Saturday, March 30th, Top Rank Promotions will be live from the 2300 Arena in Philadelphia, PA, for an exciting night of boxing action featuring Oleksandr Gvozdyk defending his WBC light heavyweight lineal title against Doudou Ngumbu in the main event. The co-featured bout will be a welterweight clash between Philly’s Ray Robinson and the undefeated top welterweight contender Egidijus Kavaliauskas.
The main card for the night will begin at 10 PM ET and be televised on ESPN. The preliminary fights are scheduled to begin at 7 PM ET and stream on ESPN+.
Currently, the majority of boxing betting sites have massive favorites listed for the main card. Let’s take a look at these boxing odds to see if there’s any potential value and KO our picks. All betting odds are courtesy of 5Dimes.
Keita Obara (20-3-1, 18 KOs) vs Kudratillo Abdukakhorov (15-0, 9 KOs)
- Keita Obara (+1400)
- Kudratillo Abdukakhorov (-3050)
This fight could be the main event of the ESPN+ portion of the event or it could end up being moved to the main card portion on ESPN. Either way, it’s going to be an entertaining fight according to fans and pundits. Just not the boxing oddsmakers as they feel Abdukakhorov is a huge betting favorite. Ironically, he’s not even the biggest favorite of the night despite these large odds. Obara isn’t a slouch and he earned this title eliminator shot for a reason. So, for the extreme betting daredevils out there, Obara might be the risky flyer of the night.
Obara vs Abdukakhorov Preview
|Boxer||Keita Obara||Kudratillo Abdukakhorov|
Keita Obara is one of the division’s heaviest hitters as 18 of his 20 career wins have come via KO. The Japanese fighter is ranked 6th in the IBF and was given this title eliminator opportunity after Jesse Vargas decided not to take the fight against Abdukakhorov.
Obara is coming off a TKO victory over Lagumbay last August. Keita avenged the loss he suffered to Lagumbay in their first fight last April. The victory in August allowed Obara to reclaim the WBO Asia-Pacific regional welterweight belt.
After his first pro loss, Obara went on a 17 fight unbeaten streak. Unfortunately, he’s dropped two of his last 6 fights and both were KO/TKO losses. That’s largely due to Obara being so willing to exchange punches with his foes.
Obara has only ever fought twice outside of Japan. The first time was in 2015 when he fought to an MD against Castillo in Miami, Florida. The second time was in September 2016, against Troyanovsky for the IBF and IBO world super lightweight titles. The bout took place in Moscow and Obara lost via TKO.
For Abdukakhorov, he’s ranked 4th in the IBF and is the clear-cut favorite for the fight. It’s been 10 months since he last fought, but he won via UD. From Uzbek, Abdukakhorov has been the WBC silver champ since 2017 when he defeated Manyuchi. Abdukakhorov has also held other regional titles as well.
This will be Abdukakhorov’s first pro fight in the United States, but he has fought around Eastern Europe and Asia. As an amateur, Abdukakhorov reportedly went 170-10 in his career. Kudratillo is a rising fighter in the welterweight division and was a no-brainer to be in this title eliminator.
Who Will Become #1 Contender?
Obara and Abdukakhorov have a great opportunity here. Whoever wins will most likely get a bigtime fight against IBF champ Errol Spence Jr. who just dominated Mikey Garcia this month. Spence looks like one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world and he will definitely be a huge favorite over either fighter. Nevertheless, it’s a big opportunity afforded to the winner.
Obara is capable of winning this fight and I think his odds are a bit too high. With that said, I am going with Abdukakhorov to win this welterweight bout. Kudratillo looks like a solid fighter and has a higher ceiling than the power punching Obara. I expect this fight to go the distance, but wouldn’t be surprised if it was stopped since both fighters will be looking for action.
Ray Robinson (24-3, 12 KOs) vs Egidijus Kavaliauskas (21-0, 17 KOs)
- Ray Robinson (+2200)
- Egidijus Kavaliauskas (-5500)
Despite being the hometown hero, Philly’s Ray Robinson is a large underdog with boxing betting sites. He is talented, but he’s going up against a one of the top contenders in the welterweight division. Kavaliauskas is one of the biggest betting favorites of the night, but not the biggest. I believe Robinson has a very small window of opportunity here and that could make for a potential risky bet for the daredevils out there.
|Boxer||Ray Robinson||Egidijus Kavaliauskas|
After losing to Shawn Porter in 2016, the second loss of his career, Robinson went on a tear and won 13 fights in a row. However, his last bout snapped that winning streak as he lost to Yordenis Ugas via TKO. Ironically, Ugas just lost earlier this month to Porter in a title fight. Porter could end up facing Spence on PPV, which means the title eliminator mentioned above might mean that the winner has to wait longer for a fight against the winner of Spence vs Porter if it actually happens.
Back to Robinson, it’s been 13 months since he last fought, but that doesn’t mean he’s not ready for this big challenge especially in his hometown:
“I am always excited to come home and put on for my city. Every fight is a risk, but the higher the risk, the bigger the reward.”
Kavaliauskas is also well aware of fighting in a hostile territory and he’s ready to send everyone home disappointed:
“I know a lot of Robinson’s fans will be in Philadelphia to cheer him on, but they will leave the 2300 Arena disappointed. This is the year that I fight for, and win, a welterweight world title. I am ready for anybody, including the Crawford-Khan winner. I will show everyone in Philadelphia and watching on ESPN what the ‘Mean Machine’ is all about.”
Egidijus Kavaliauskas is the top contender for Terence Crawford’s WBO title and will probably move up the ranks in the other organizations if he wins this weekend as expected. The former 2-time Olympian has scored 17 of his 21 wins via KO. He’s nicknamed “the Mean Machine” for a reason. When inside that ring, Egidijus Kavaliauskas is a nasty fighter. Just tough, rugged and looking to put his opponents to sleep.
Kavaliauskas fought 3 times last year, with his last bout taking place in November against Arriaza who was undefeated. Kavaliauskas KO’d him and continues to impress those who watch him.
Will the Philly Fans Go Home Happy?
In short, No. Kavaliauskas is ready to step up to the big time competition, which means fighters the caliber of Crawford. That also means world title fights and main events. However, this weekend’s fight against Robinson is going to be a tough test. A win for Kavaliauskas will be a solid victory and another step up the ladder of stardom. It will further cement his status as a top contender and put him square in the middle of conversations for title fights.
The Philly fans will be treated to a solid night of action, but their hometown hero will come up short against Kavaliauskas.
Doudou Ngumbu (38-8, 14 KOs) vs Oleksandr Gvozdyk (16-0, 13 KOs)
- Doudou Ngumbu (+2800)
- Oleksandr Gvozdyk (-7000)
In the main event of the night, Oleksandr Gvozdyk comes in as the betting favorite. In fact, he’s the biggest boxing betting favorite for the entire card. That also makes Ngumbu the biggest underdog of the night. Unlike the two previous fighters where the underdogs have a small puncher’s chance, I don’t feel that Doudou has any chance. Neither fighter offers any betting value.
Ngumbu vs Gvozdyk Preview
|Boxer||Doudou Ngumbu||Oleksandr Gvozdyk|
Ngumbu has been a pro since 2007 and has racked up quite the career. He’s 6 years older than his opponent this weekend, but he’s fought 30 more professional bouts than Oleksandr Gvozdyk. The majority of Doudou’s career has been in France where he resides. Ngumbu is originally from Congo and will get his first chance at a world title in his lengthy career:
“It is a great opportunity to face arguably the best light heavyweight fighter in the world. After 12 years and 46 fights in my career with serious opposition, I get my first shot at a major world title. I have the utmost respect for Oleksandr Gvozdyk, a great champion who took the WBC title in a war against Adonis Stevenson. It is not going to be easy, but I believe I am much more experienced as a pro and I intend to use that to my advantage.”
Ngumbu has gone 3-1 over his last four fights, but he only fought one time last year after fighting 3 times in 2017. Doudou got one of the biggest wins of his career last year when he defeated Kongolo via MD. With that said, Gvozdyk is a big step up in competition.
For Oleksandr Gvozdyk, he has his sights set on unifying titles this year, but isn’t overlooking Ngumbu:
“It was a long journey for me to become a world champion, and I plan on showing everyone why I am the best light heavyweight in the world. Ngumbu is a tough fighter who I cannot afford to overlook. My goal in 2019 is to unify with the other champions, but before I can do that, I have to take care of business on March 30.”
Gvozdyk is a former Olympic bronze medalist at the 2012 Olympics. He was a three time national champ and turned pro in 2014. Prior to becoming the WBC lineal champ, he had earned several regional titles along the way. But, it’s his performance against Adonis Stevenson last December that has really made Gvozdyk a hot commodity.
Oleksandr Gvozdyk went to war with Stevenson and ended up winning via KO in the 11th round. Stevenson had 9 straight title defenses before losing to Gvozdyk. Sadly, Stevenson ended up having to go to the hospital where he would be placed in an induced coma. Although Adonis is doing better now, the emotional result of his injury could still affect Oleksandr Gvozdyk. We will see if that’s the case this weekend. Will Oleksandr Gvozdyk have put behind the injury to Stevenson?
Will Gvozdyk Take Another Step Toward Unification?
Ngumbu should just be a stepping stone for Oleksandr Gvozdyk and his plans which are to unify the major titles in the light heavyweight division. Although Doudou will have the experience advantage, Oleksandr Gvozdyk is simply the better overall fighter.
I expect this bout to go deep into the scheduled 12 rounds. The most likely outcome I see happening is that Oleksandr Gvozdyk will win via Unanimous Decision. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if the champ scores a late stoppage just like in the Stevenson fight. Either way, Oleksandr Gvozdyk is coming away from Philly as the winner and on to bigger fights.
Top Rank on ESPN Prelims
The following bouts are currently scheduled for the preliminary portion of the evening:
Juan Ruiz (21-4, 13 KOs) Fredrick Lawson (27-1, 21 KOs)
- Juan Ruiz (+1350)
- Fredrick Lawson (-2775)
The Venezuelan Juan Ruiz last fought roughly 2 months ago and lost. It was his 4th loss in his last 5 fights. Ruiz is hoping to come into this welterweight bout and pull off the upset. Juan is a sizeable underdog and offers little value or hope for winning. At this stage, the 32 year old fighter is nothing more than a stepping stone in the division, a gatekeeper for the rising prospects like his opponent this Saturday.
Frederick Lawson has won three straight fights after dropping the only bout in his pro career, which was November 2015. With that said, Lawson believes that a win this weekend will jump-start his success in the division:
“I am looking forward to a convincing victory over Ruiz on my debut fight on Top Rank. It is not going to be easy but I am confident of an emphatic victory. With the preparation I’m having, I believe I will be in the best of shape to defeat my opponent. This is a fight which will kick start my quest to conquer the world in my division.”
Fighting out of Chicago, the native-born Ghanaian is the better fighter of these two boxers. In fact, if it weren’t for the loss to Bizier in 2015 when Lawson broke his jaw, Frederick could’ve been a title contender by now. With that said, he’s hoping to get a bigger fight the next time he steps into the ring.
Lawson will win this fight most likely via TKO in the latter rounds. Unfortunately, he doesn’t offer any betting value and Ruiz isn’t worth a flyer. I don’t believe a victory will earn him a more notable fight, but it will give him more confidence moving forward.
Christopher Pearson (16-2, 12 KOs) vs Christian Mbilli (13-0, 13 KOs)
- Christopher Pearson (+1400)
- Christian Mbilli (-3050)
At 13-0, most boxing fans in the U.S. might not be familiar with Christian Mbilli. However, as of this weekend, it’s time to start getting acquainted with this middleweight prospect. The former 2016 Olympian has fared well in his pro career and has many pundits pegging him for a rise up the ranks. And, it’s easy to see why. Mbilli has 13 wins all via KO/TKO, which means he will bring the excitement each time he steps into the ring.
Christian fought 6 time last year, which is a remarkable number of fights. His last bout was in December and he won via TKO. Mbilli has fought all of his matches in France or Canada. This will be his first fight in the United States and he currently holds the WBC youth world middleweight title, which really isn’t anything worth bragging about.
Christopher Pearson has won two straight fights after losing via KO two years ago. He’s gone 3-2 in his last 5 fights and does have punching power with 12 KOs in 16 wins. However, Pearson is more of a litmus test for Mbilli than an actual challenge or threat to win. Basically, it’s whether or not Christian can stop Pearson in this contest.
I actually think Mbilli can and will stop his opponent on Saturday night. Pearson does have 1 KO loss on his record and I believe he’s going to get a TKO this weekend. Christian looks like a legitimate prospect that can grow into a title contender. At just age 23, Mbilli has a much higher ceiling than Pearson and we will see the disparity between these two fighters this weekend.
Askhat Ualikhanov (4-1, 2 KOs) vs Jose Lopez (11-1, 9 KOs)
- Askhat Ualikhanov (-150)
- Jose Lopez (+120)
According to boxing betting sites, this is the closest fight of the night. It features two prospects with a lot still to prove. First, the underdog Jose Lopez was rising up the ranks at 11-0 before being dropped in his last fight via KO to a boxer with a terrible record of 25-33-2. What that tells me is that Lopez wasn’t truly focused or completely prepared for this fight. There’s no reason for a professional punching bag to win a fight like that.
For Ualikhanov, he should be 5-0 but a DQ loss in his first pro fight has stained his record. Nevertheless, the man who claims to have had 250 to 300 amateur fights has bounced back from that loss to win 4 straight bouts. All of his fights have been in the United States so he won’t have any issues this weekend. Furthermore, Ualikhanov is a stable mate of other fighters on this card like Gvozdyk and Kavaliauskas. He’s also a teammate of Vasiliy Lomachenko.
Ualikhanov appears to have the higher ceiling between these two fighters. Like I said, he should still be undefeated and he comes from a strong team of fighters. I believe he’s going to steamroll Lopez this weekend. I don’t like what I’ve heard about Lopez’s last fight and I can’t see him bouncing back this weekend at the expense of Ualikhanov.
Because the odds are so close, Ualikhanov offers solid betting value. I’m taking Askhat to win via TKO.
Final Thoughts on Top Rank’s Boxing Card
It’s a good thing that this fight card is free on ESPN this weekend because most of these fighters aren’t really familiar to the American audience. With that said, there’s a lot of rising talent on this card and all of that is international talent.
Oleksandr Gvozdyk has brought his posse of fighters with him as both Egidijus Kavaliauskas and Askhat Ualikhanov are on the card. I think all three of these fighters have bright futures and will win this weekend. Furthermore, other rising prospects on the card like Mbilli will also be exciting to watch and can really make a name for himself this weekend.
With a championship fight, title eliminators and rising prospects, it’s hard not to get excited over Top Rank’s boxing event on ESPN this Saturday night.