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The New Normal in Boxing: DAZN and ESPN+ Square Off Tonight

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While most of the attention of the boxing world this weekend will be on tomorrow night’s fight between former eight division world champion Manny Pacquiao and three division world champion Adrien Broner, tonight will be a definable sign of the new normal in boxing as streaming platforms DAZN and ESPN+ present boxing cards that will run virtually head to head.

Given the capabilities that streaming provides to go live on any night without time constraints, you would think other times would be considered, but as often is the case in boxing, the more things changed, the more things stay the same.

DAZN has the bigger names tonight as former US Olympian Demetrious Andrade defends his WBO middleweight championship for the first time against unknown and unheralded Russian Artur Akahov. The co-main event will feature former three division world champion Jorge Linares, fighting for the second time since his loss an excellent fight to Vasyl Lomachenko last year, faces longtime trialhorse Pablo Cesar Cano. The card, co-promoted by Star Boxing and Golden Boy Promotions will come from Madison Square Garden in New York.

Meanwhile ESPN+ offers a Top Rank card that looks much more competitive card on paper as former heavyweight world title challenger Bryant Jennings of Philadelphia faces undefeated heavyweight prospect Oscar Rivas, a Columbian based out of the boxing hub of Montreal. The co-feature will feature 2016 Olympic Silver Medalist Shakur Stevenson (9-0, 5 KO) taking a significant step up in class against Filipino Jessie Cris Rosales (22-1-1, 10 KOs).

Andrade (26-0, 16 KOs) won a title vacated by talented Brit Billie Joe Saunders in October due to a positive steroid test. Andrade cruised to a 12 round drubbing against an unknown fighter and despite being a hard punching, quick handed dude with real skills and pedigree, just doesn’t seem interested in being a transformative knockout fighter. Akahov (19-2, 8 KOs) is just another unknown, hapless opponent, which has too often been the case in Andrade’s career.

Linares (45-4, 28 KOs) will be fighting the second time at 140 pounds, where there are still plenty of opportunities for big fights. Cano (31-7-1, 21 KOs) is a very seasoned opponent who has fought a lot of quality fighters but has nowhere near the physical talent or power of Linares, whose loss to Lomachenko was his only defeat in the past six years.

Jennings (24-2, 14 KOs), who went twelve round unsuccessfully against Wladimir Klitschko in April 2015 is coming a war with Alexander Dimentrenko last August and has notched five wins in a row. A bit undersized for modern heavyweights at 225 pounds, Jennings a good boxer with great technique, good footwork, and fast hands. He could have hands full with Rivas (25-0, 17 KOs), a 2008 Olympian who like Jennings is undersized at 6’, 235 pounds, but has fast hands and is an excellent body puncher. He has been very slowly climbed the pro ranks in Montreal, but a win over Jennings could be a real coming out party for him.

Stevenson was an excellent amateur but is starting to figure out how to plant his feet and throw knockout punches as he showed when he blew out Romanian Viorel Simon in the first round of his last fight, which was supposed to be his first ten round fight. He is scheduled for ten rounds again as Rosales, an experienced Filipino who represents the toughest test of Stevenson’s career. He was knocked out in the second round a few fights ago by former world champion Jhnonny Gonzales, but he still represents a good test for young Stevenson.

The truth is that both of these cards are deep, with a lot of good potential fights, even beyond the ones broken down here. But the frustration is that the main card on ESPN+ starts at 7:30 PM Eastern and DAZN starts at 8pm Eastern. Head to head. The boxing fan either has to make choice and choose to watch one card live and save the other for later or has to find some way to watch both cards at the same time, and I can tell you from experience that this is very difficult!

Promoters and networks have to stop doing to boxing fans. With the ability to go live whenever you want, give us the ability to watch all the fights available. Have fights on Thursday or Sunday, like last Sunday’s successful FS1 card, or hell, let’s go old school and have some Tuesday Night Fights! Yet instead boxing fans make the sacrifice.

My recommendation is to watch the ESPN+ card live, as not as is it only more competitive, you will able to stream the DAZN fights later, something that ESPN+ sadly doesn’t have at this time. The good thing is that whatever streaming service you choose, you are probably getting some good fights tonight. What else could we want.

"Frank has been a wrestling fan since he was two years old. (Don't worry, he's got proof.) He's also a huge boxing and UFC fan and has a long standing love affair with Popeyes Chicken. He still owns a VHS copy of the first Ring of Honor show ever and was watching NXT before it was cool (or good). Bret Hart > Shawn Michaels. You can follow him on Twitter at @FightFanaticPod and on Tumblr at FrankTheFightFanatic." He's also starting his own podcast soon!

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