On a Saturday night where there’s no football or UFC to watch, just what is a combat sports fan to do? Aside from watching an NBA tripleheader on ABC as part of the season premiere of NBA Saturday Primetime, you’ve got some slim pickings as far as sporting events go.
Unless, of course, you have a subscription to DAZN. A subpar Saturday gets saved thanks to the sweet science of boxing. Oscar de la Hoya‘s Golden Boy Boxing holds its second card of the year on the premium streamer, this week setting up shop at the Footprint Center in Phoenix in an event co-promoted by Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing and Zanfer Boxing.
The onetime home of the Indoor Football League’s Arizona Rattlers and current home court of basketball’s Phoenix Suns plays host to a full night of pugilism this weekend. Live coverage begins at 5:30 pm ET/ 2:30 pm PT on DAZN with the undercard, followed at 8 pm ET/ 5 pm PT with main card action.
Championship Quadrupleheader Begins with IBF Women’s Flyweight Title Bout
All told, absent of any late cancellations between now and Saturday evening, nine matches will be held in the ring. There are four marquee fights at the top of the bill this weekend, including this one at 112 lbs.
The IBF World Women’s Flyweight Championship will be won first at Footprint Center in a contest between two fighters with a combined record of 18-0 going into the card. Incumbent titleholder Gabriela Fundora (12-0, 5 KOs) will put her belt on the line against challenger Christina Cruz (6-0, 0 KOs).
As is the case in most women’s championship fights, this flyweight contest is an advertised maximum of 10 rounds at two minutes per round.
— Golden Boy (@GoldenBoyBoxing) January 22, 2024
Fighter Comparison and Betting Odds
Heading into the first title fight of four on Saturday night, champion Gabriela Fundora stands as the taller contender at 5-foot-9, compared to Christina Cruz’ 5-foot-5 frame. Fundora owns a 69-inch reach, with no such information available for Cruz at press time.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the oddsmakers have Gabriela Fundora installed as a -2000 favorite, while Christina Cruz counters as a +1000 underdog. If you plan on betting on this or any other fight happening this weekend, please wager responsibly.
Fundora Enters New Contract with Title Fight
Gabriela Fundora has yet to lose thus far in her professional boxing career. Last time out, she scored a TKO in the fifth round against Arely Mucino (32-4-2, 11 KOs) on Oct. 21 in Inglewood, CA at KIA Forum after Mucino’s corner threw in the towel.
The champion was reportedly linked to a Jan. 6 fight vs. Marlen Esparza (14-1, 1 KO) on the Vergil Ortiz vs. Fredrick Lawson card, yet that contest was never formally booked for the event. Had that fight occurred, it would have been a unification bout at flyweight.
In lieu of that fizzled match, Fundora gets booked here, and she does so having just landed a new deal last week. While she remains under the Sampson Boxing promotional banner, Saturday’s title fight will be her first with Golden Boy, which will co-promote her upcoming bouts.
Oscar de la Hoya explained that the reasoning behind the Fundora signing was simple.
“We were blown away by Gabriela’s performance last October, and are proud to have yet another champion fighting under the Golden Boy banner,” de la Hoya began. “At just 21 years old, the sky is the limit for her and I fully expect her to deliver a knockout performance in Phoenix.”
Will Fundora make her first defence of the belt a successful one? Watch on Saturday and find out.
Christina Cruz Ready to Prove Age is Only a Number
In the other corner, challenger Christina Cruz also has yet to taste defeat inside the squared circle. Most recently, she battled to a unanimous decision victory over Josefina Vega (9-8, 4 KOs) after six rounds.
Perhaps the bigger storyline going into this championship confrontation is the discrepancy in age between Cruz and Fundora. The challenger is 41 years of age, 20 years the champion’s senior.
In spite of this difference, she’s on a mission to become the new champion at 112 lbs.
“Thank you. guys, for supporting me,” Cruz said in an interview with DStyleBoxing. “I hope you all tune in Jan. 27. I’m ready to put on a show and I’m ready to take it. I know that I am being underestimated, but, man, put your money where it should go.”
It’s game on for the Cruz camp on Saturday night for certain.
Analysis, Film Study, and Prediction
It’s a southpaw vs. orthodox battle here in the first title fight on Saturday in Phoenix. Who will win the day?
Look for Fundora to Wear Down Cruz
With this fight having only two-minute rounds, Fundora is going to have to work expediently to try and defend the title. If the situation calls for it, she can wear down any opponent. like she did against Nataly Delgado two years ago
Throughout the fight, Fundora was the crisper fighter, moving in on Delgado regularly and forcing her off her game plan, including scoring a knockdown against her on a two-punch combination during the fifth round of a scheduled eight.
Upon knocking Delgado down on the canvas, Fundora smelled blood in the water, throwing punches with greater frequency in an effort to try and knock her out. Although the big punch never arrived, the knockdown of Delgado was enough to give her the victory by decision on the scorecards after 16 minutes.
If she can disrupt Christina Cruz’s game plan and make her uncomfortable, Gabriela Fundora will leave Arizona with the belt.
Cruz Can Land Punches in Bunches
In the other corner, Christina Cruz won’t skimp on throwing strikes. She’s been known to throw the punches with regularity as she did against Marygueen Vellinga in November of 2021 right after the Thanksgiving holiday.
Immediately after the opening bell, Cruz moved in on Vellinga and pieced her up with shots, including a decent two-punch combination midway through round one, followed by another such combo a short time later.
All the while, Cruz used her movement and counter-punches effectively to assume control of the fight. If she goes to the power punches frequently, she’s got a great chance to become the new champion.
This looks to be an awesome scrap on paper. Don’t forget to set aside the time on Saturday night to watch it.
Prediction: Christina Cruz by Unanimous Decision.