Championship Boxing in Houston

Charlo set for homecoming title defense Saturday

Photo courtesy of Esther Lin/Showtime Sports

Showtime Championship Boxing is live from Houston on Saturday night as WBC middleweight champion Jermall Charlo puts his belt on the line against challenger Brandon Adams live from NRG Arena. Charlo (28-0, 21 KO,) an Alief native, will look to defend his title for the first time, having been elevated to full-time WBC champion this week. It will be a chance for Charlo to get back on track following a lackluster performance his last time in the ring. Charlo won a unanimous decision victory over Matt Korobov in December, but wasn't particularly impressive in doing so.

The Showtime showcase is a chance for Charlo to build his brand both locally and nationally. Jermall, along with his twin brother Jermell, a former super welterweight titlist, have embraced the "wrestling heel" personna in boxing. But Jermall has also gotten the job done in the ring, scoring knockouts in five of his last seven bouts. Saturday's bout is Charlo's first fight in Houston in over seven years.

Adams (21-2, 13 KO) has won his last four fights, but the matchup against Charlo marks a big step up in competition for the relative unknown fighter hailing for Norwalk, CA. It's Adams' first 12-round fight of his career. Adams has previously fought for two secondary titles and has lost each time. Charlo has shown more power as his career has progressed and I have to imagine he sees Saturday night as an excellent chance to put on a show for his hometown fans and viewers on Showtime. I expect to see Charlo attempt to overwhelm Adams early in the fight and make him feel overmatched in his biggest test to date.

While Charlo is one of the best fighters in the 160 pound division, the politics of boxing have made it difficult for him to land a big-money fight. Of the four best middleweight fighters in the world the other three, Canelo Alvarez, Gennady Golovkin and Demetrius Andrade, all fight on DAZN. If Charlo wants to cross the street and make a big fight with a DAZN fighter, he'll need to continue to build his image to the point where such a fight makes financial sense for all involved. A highlight reel-knockout on Saturday night would be a nice first step.

TIM'S PREDICTION

Charlo by knockout, round four.

UNDERCARD REPORT

The televised undercard features a pair of world title eliminators. In the co-feature junior middleweight Erickson Lubin (20-1, 15 KO) takes on Zakaria Attou (29-6-2, 7 KO) for a chance to be the mandatory challenger for WBC champion Tony Harrison. Lubin has lost only once in his career; a first round knockout defeat to Jermall Charlo's twin brother Jermell. Attou is an unknown, having never previously fought in the United States.

In the opening bout of the televised card Eduardo Ramirez (22-1-3, 9 KO) faces Claudio Marrero 23-3, 17KO) for a shot at WBA featherweight champion Xu Can.

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Altuve's homer starting the scoring for Houston on Friday night. Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
After a solid showing to take the three of the four-game series in Arlington against the Rangers to start the week, the Astros returned home for three against the Diamondbacks in a weekend series. They would have a slow start to the opener but would ultimately come away victorious.

Final Score (10 innings): Astros 4, Diamondbacks 3

Astros' Record: 87-60, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Ryne Stanek (3-4)

Losing Pitcher: Tyler Clippard (1-1)

Bielak makes the impromptu start

With Luis Garcia having to move his start ahead by a day on Thursday instead of Friday with Framber Valdez's finger cut, Brandon Bielak made a start for Houston in the opener against Arizona. He didn't go as deep as he probably would have wanted and certainly ventured out of his comfort zone with traffic on the bases.

He loaded the bases in the top of the first, allowing a single and two walks, but was able to strand all three to keep it a scoreless game. He rebounded with a 1-2-3 second, but he dealt with a threat again in the third as back-to-back singles pressured him to start the inning. He would get back-to-back strikeouts, but that's as far as he would go as Houston moved on to Blake Taylor. Taylor got the final out of the third on one pitch, then erased a two-out double in the top of the fourth.

Altuve breaks up the no-no with a go-ahead homer

Brooks Raley took over in the top of the fifth, but in his three batters, he faced allowed a single while getting two outs before Cristian Javier took over to end the frame. Javier allowed the first run of the game in the top of the sixth, a leadoff solo homer to Kole Calhoun to put the Diamondbacks in front 1-0 before he finished the inning.

Madison Bumgarner didn't allow a single hit to the Astros through the first five and two-thirds innings. He allowed a one-out walk in the bottom of the sixth, which proved costly as Jose Altuve would get the first knock of the game for Houston, a two-run go-ahead homer. Phil Maton was the next reliever for the Astros in the top of the seventh, maintaining the new one-run lead by erasing a leadoff single.

Astros get the win in extras

The Diamondbacks tied it up in the top of the eighth against Kendall Graveman, getting a leadoff single followed by a walk, then later an RBI single to knot things up 2-2. Houston stranded a runner in the bottom of the eighth, then brought in Ryan Pressly, who tossed a 1-2-3 top of the ninth to keep the game tied.

Despite getting the winning run in scoring position with a leadoff ground-rule double by Jason Castro to start the bottom of the ninth, they would strand it as the game went to extras. Arizona scored their free runner in the top of the tenth, getting a sac fly to move it to third then going in front on an RBI single.

The Astros matched that and more in the bottom of the inning, moving their runner to third on a lineout to start the frame, followed by an intentional walk to Yordan Alvarez. Jake Meyers tied the game with an RBI single, then after another walk to load the bases, Chas McCormick was hit by a pitch to bring in the winning run, moving the Astros closer to clinching their playoff berth.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game set will have a start time of 6:10 PM Central on Saturday. Tyler Gilbert (2-2, 3.15 ERA) is expected to make a start for Arizona, while Lance McCullers Jr. (12-4, 3.12 ERA) will be on the mound for Houston.

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