Showtime & ESPN+ Preview & Predictions

This weekend’s schedule in boxing is low-key better than it looks on paper with cards being broadcasted on Showtime and ESPN+. On Showtime, we have Jamal James vs. Radzhab Butaev as part of the WBA 4-man tourney at welterweight in the main event.

The co-feature has rising 147-contender Jaron “Boots” Ennis taking on the normally solid Thomas Dulorme. The headliner bout for the ESPN+ card will be Jose Zepeda vs. Josue Vargas and will likely be the best two-way fight of them all. These matchups aren’t for undisputed like Canelo vs. Plant next week, but that doesn’t mean we boxing fans won’t get an interesting slate of scraps.

Let’s begin with the Showtime tripleheader; yes, I’m biased because of the hometown fighter Jamal James being from Minnesota. James has a nice stretch of quality opponents faced in Yordenis Ugas, Abel Ramos, Thomas Dulorme, among a few others.

James has also built a loyal fanbase in his home city of Minneapolis at The Armory. Out of the ring, Jamal is a standup guy helping the youth around his city in the work he does at his gym called the Circle of Discipline. Which, by the way, has a new location, and if you’re interested in pitching in some much-need funds that will go directly to improving the lives of the young and impressionable, donate here. Circle Of Discipline | 801 9th St. SE Minneapolis, MN 55414 | Home.

Back in the ring, Jamal is coming off his most complete performance with a win over Thomas Dulorme. Usually, we see James not fully taking advantage of his outside skills and length. Don’t get me wrong, James is a blast to watch fight with his love of getting into a scrap, but there’s a time and place for different styles of fighting. In the Dulorme fight from over a year ago, James had a few difficult moments, but once he took control of the range and fight in general, it was clear sailing.

Not many folks know much about Radzhab Butaev other than he was the guy who originally had lost to Alexander Besputin. Only to be later changed to a no-contest because Besputin test positive for a banned substance. Late in 2020, Butaev got a decent win over prospect Terry Chatwood but other than names like over the hill Lanardo Tyner, he really has faced anyone of note. Although James is taller, Butaev actually has a 2-inch reach which may or may not come into play. Will Butaev stay at range and use his skills that he employed in the amateurs? If not, he’s very capable of pushing forward and landing hard shots as he did in his win over Chatwood.

He didn’t win an Olympic medal. However, Butaev did win six fights in the World Series of Boxing. Also, Butaev has a ballpark number of around 400 amateur bouts (392 Wins), which gives him far more seasoning than an average 13-0 pro fighter. Butaev has a tight guard and does a good job of blocking punches with his gloves. He likes to throw a lead left hook and lands crisp with his right hand to the body or head. My guess is he will blend styles and stick to the one that’s working the best or is needed if he gets down early.

The odds are really close in this Showtime main event, with James being the slight favorite at -115 the last time I checked. A key for James will be to catch Butaev with right hands when he jets inside, leaving an opening when he tries to load up with big shots. I fully admit I’m torn in this spot, especially with James being out of the ring for well over a year. I will lean ever so slightly to Jamal but defiantly taking a flyer out of Butaev as a live dog.

My Official Prediction is Jamal James via Split-Decision.

In the co-feature spot, one of the hottest if not the hottest rising contender in the sport Jaron “Boots” Ennis will face an always tough test in Thomas Dulorme. At 27-0 with 25 stoppages, the sky seems to be the limit for Boots, who has been calling out the top dogs in the welterweight division. Ennis has 18 fights in a row that didn’t reach the scorecards and is looking to put on a show that sends a message.

A win here will only help his standings in the alphabet sanctioning bodies currently ranked #3 in the IBF, #5 in the WBA/WBO, and #6 in the WBC. Ennis trashed a durable boxer in Sergey Lipinets back in April. It appears Ennis not only has the high-level skill and ring IQ he also loves to throw in combination even if he’s on the ropes. Jaron’s hand speed, accuracy, and punching power puts him in a class of newcomers that only Vergil Ortiz belongs in at 147.

Thomas Dulorme’s win/loss record isn’t all that impressive, but a deeper dive shows you his worth based on a few items, one being who he fought. How much can you take away from him or even be that critical of Thomas’s losses to Terence Crawford, Yordenis Ugas, Jessie Vargas (DRAW), Jamal James, and rounding out that bunch an unbeaten prospect Eimantas Stanionis. He had Ugas down on the canvas in what was a tough outing for both men, as well as beating two unbeaten prospects in Karim Mayfield and Terrel Williams. Let’s not forget to mention the fact that in Dulorme’s recent loss to Stanionis, he gave him all he could handle to the point is has some media members are talking about Stanionis’s ceiling.

My Official Prediction is Jaron Ennis by late TKO.

Wrapping up this preview and prediction article is what should be the best TV scrap of the weekend when top-tier junior welterweight Jose Zepeda and Josue Vargas meet in the main event on ESPN+. Zepeda’s rise in the 140-pound division was sudden and admirable, considering he lost all the way back in 2015 to Terry Flanagan. That was fought for a vacant WBO title, but the most important note was Zepeda dislocating his left shoulder early in the fight. After a non-contest in his very next outing from a cut caused by a clash of heads, Zepeda mounted a comeback stringing seven victories together in route to his 2nd title shot.

If someone claimed they had Jose Zepeda beaten Jose Ramirez, I wouldn’t put up much of an argument. (And I love to argue) In a bout that could’ve went his way if he wasn’t an opponent to the better known “A” side. What this boxing podcaster won’t shout is robbery, something that gets thrown around on boxing twitter far too much. 4 more wins later, one coming in a Fight of the Year war between Zepeda and Ivan Baranchyk hopefully with a win on Saturday, Jose can get another much-deserved title opportunity. The key here, not only in this matchup but in general, will be how much did that FOTY take out of the fighting spirit and punch resistance of Zepeda. In his last fight, Zepeda was very poor versus Hank Lundy, so I will find out if that was just him overlooking Lundy.

Josue Vargas is still a somewhat raw prospect after taking a loss a while ago from disqualification. Wins over Willie Shaw and Kendo Castaneda are nice and all, but it’s put up or shut time for the 19-1 Vargas. The odds for this bout are basically a pick’em, mainly having to do with Zepeda’s last outing. I’m going to go with Jose thinking he’s not as shot as many assume; instead, it could’ve been a mix of slight slippage and not taking the fight seriously enough.

My Official Prediction is Jose Zepeda by Majority-Decision.

Side Note: Also, don’t forget all-action fighter Michel Rivera takes on Matias Romero in the opening bout of the Showtime Tripleheader.

Written by Chris Carlson Host/Producer of The Rope A Dope Radio Podcast Available at www.blogtalkradio.com/ropeadoperadio & Follow on Twitter @RopeADopeRadio