On Saturday night Demetrius Andrade, the middleweight from Rhode Island, will face the unheralded Namibian, Walter Kautondokwa for the World Boxing Organisation’s vacant middleweight title.
It wasn’t meant to be this way; Andrade was scheduled to fight Billy Joe Saunders in a contest designed, unofficially at least, to serve as a qualifier for a match with the winner of Saul Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin’s rematch.
Unfortunately, the British fighter was found to have a banned substance in his system. Despite the change, the leading bookmakers are still offering a range of odds on the contest.
Andrade is a talented, world-class fighter with championship wins at Light-Middleweight – he won the WBA version last year – but has a record lacking in defining fights.
It is an unbeaten ledger but illustrative of the risks inherent in his inactivity. He has fought just six times in the past five years, and Saturday’s fight will be exactly 10 years since his first.
Now aged 30, Andrade is seeking to capture some momentum and grasp the leverage winning this fight would afford him.
With the news Alvarez will fight on the DAZN streaming service for the next five years, twice a year and on lucrative terms, his status as the division’s ‘cash-cow’ has been confirmed.
All routes now lead to the Mexican as both the consensus champion in the weight class and as the richest prize.
The holder of the WBO belt, irrespective of the hollowness of the claim, possesses a portion of the middleweight landscape Alvarez presides over and will be a natural candidate to face him in 2019.
For many fight fans Andrade remains an enigmatic and frustrating figure. A southpaw with good power, a varied arsenal of punches and the ability to box on the inside and outside, he has good conditioning and is a capable contender.
His punches are solid if not destructive and he tends to build pressure over distance fights, darting in to counter punch and punish predictable opponents.
Andrade’s Namibian opponent arrives in Boston from much greater obscurity and the profile of the bout; the event and its gathered audience, will all be new experiences for Kautondokwa.
Like Andrade he is unbeaten, and has fought all of his 17 bouts since the American beat Vanes Martirosyan for the vacant WBO Light Middleweight title in 2013. He has been busier, but at a level far removed from his more illustrious opponent.
This will also be only his second fight outside his native Namibia, where he has won regional IBF and WBO belts thus far.
He has only been extended in to the later rounds once, taking 10 rounds to finish veteran Muhamad Sebyala, so it is hard to be certain of his ability to last the pace at this championship level. And he is certainly facing a world-class opponent on Saturday.
Kautondokwa is a taller middleweight like Andrade and fights behind the jab with high held hands. He cuts an imposing figure in the ring but has technical flaws that a fighter as accomplished as Andrade should be able to exploit.
When he unloads the right hand his feet don’t shift with him and he leaves himself exposed to counters, which Obodai Sai, the best opponent Kautondokwa has faced, enjoyed some success in their 2017 clash.
There is respectable power in his left hook, which is the punch that finished Sai in the fifth round, but there are holes in his defence when he retreats and in his offence too. In short, he remains raw and novice-like despite being 33 years old.
BetVictor are the most dismissive of the Namibian’s prospects, but for those willing to believe his power, activity and presumed desire could prove a surprise for an inactive Andrade, they are offering 9/1 on a Kautondokwa upset.
It might be a fun pick for the frivolous.
A more evidenced-based opinion would surmise that the American’s speed, craft and greater pedigree, not to mention the problems his Southpaw stance will pose an inexperienced Kautondokwa, will prove decisive.
Paddy Power is currently offering market-leading odds on this conclusion.
Andrade may need a few rounds to find his timing, following his year-long lay-off, but once he hurts Kautondokwa he is unlikely to let him off the hook. Kautondokwa lacks the skill, on the evidence of the Sai fight, to elude the onslaught.