After an 11-day trip to Japan, I've returned from the East, where I saw no sign of Takashi Uchiyama or Hozumi Hasegawa but got an eyeful of sumo. First off, it was way cool. But witnessing a combat sport about which I knew very little got me to comparing it to boxing.
In sumo wrestling, the referees make dramatic sweeping gestures as a matter of course — they're kind of drama queens — and aren't looked down upon for shouting at the combatants. In sumo, the judges can order an immediate rematch if the results aren't clear; how much would boxing fans love that??? In sumo wrestling, bigger is often but not always better, as in boxing, where technique trumps girth most of the time (and I witnessed some actually skinny [by any standard], repeat, skinny, sumo wrestlers fare well). The wrestlers spend all their time gaining weight, not losing it, and nobody makes fun of the fat guys the way we do jiggly heavyweights. The importance of leverage is a commonality — in clinches, sure, but also in determining the force of impact. And in the audience, there's always that one drunk guy shouting funny things at the battlers, same as in boxing. It was hard to feel anything like being at home about Japan, a startlingly different country I'll never forget visiting, but drunk guy shouting funny things got me as close as I got.
Let's play catch-up on a few things going on while I was away. We'll discuss fights in the works (or not) for the men in the headline, as well as Guillermo Rigondeaux, Miguel Cotto, Garry Russell, Jr. and yet others. We'll hit the highlights rather than going through every single fight in the works, so it's a shorter edition than usual.
Round And Round
Cotto is heading back to HBO and Top Rank, and he's joining forces with trainer Freddie Roach for an October junior middleweight clash with Delvin Rodriguez. It's the right fight for Cotto at this point in his waning career, because Rodriguez is a tough guy with some ability but not too much. Although I'm not convinced that yet another trainer switch is what Cotto needs. Interestingly, the fight might be heading to Florida. That brings us to the next man on the list (and, eventually, to the last).
Junior featherweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux might or might not be exiled from HBO. Depends on what you read and when; HBO hasn't said he is, anyway. Rigo is just the latest example of how nobody is quite sure what to do with Cuban fighters. I've advocated for putting them in Florida and seeing what happens. It's true the state isn't a hot boxing market, but what's the harm in trying to see if it can be tapped, since all other routes for Cuban fighter promoting have failed? Lots of places that used to be shitty boxing markets have ignited under the right circumstances.
Also depending on where you read, Lucas Matthysse-Danny Garcia is a go for the Showtime pay-per-view undercard of Floyd Mayweather-Canelo Alvarez in September. FightHype reports that the fight has been agreed to, which would be for the undisputed junior welterweight championship of the world, although not entirely finalized. Others report that is premature. If it does happen, watch the fuck out — the Mayweather-Alvarez PPV could end up being well worth the extra $5 being tacked on to the usual expense. Those are two of the best fights in boxing right now, period, largely on the strength in my view of both pitting the best of the best in each weight class (Mayweather and Alvarez are the top two junior middleweights) against each other. It feels too good to be true.
For pure action, it would be hard to top Ruslan Provodnikov-Mike Alvarado, and that fight is, apparently, being actively discussed for October on HBO. The two junior welterweights have already been in the two leading Fight of the Year candidates so far. Want.
Adonis Stevenson-Tavoris Cloud, though, could end up giving Provodnikov-Alvarado a bit of a run for its money if Cloud can regain the violent form that abandoned him against Bernard Hopkins. But then, Stevenson, the light heavyweight champion of the world, is as far from B-Hop stylistically as one gets. Stevenson is still saying he'd rather have B-Hop, but B-Hop's attention is elsewhere. The bout would go on HBO in September or October, reportedly.
Abner Mares is booked for Jhonny Gonzalez in August, on a Showtime double bill with Leo Santa Cruz. Golden Boy and Showtime are clearly steering the featherweight and junior featherweight toward an eventual match-up, and it's a pretty happy-making thought. As much of a lull as we're having in July, boxing is going to start heating up as summer turns to fall.
OK, but it's not all good. Shane Mosley-Anthony Mundine in October doesn't get me excited, but if the two over the hill junior middleweights want to beat on each other in Australia, I don't suppose I have to pay that much attention.
And it's a bummer we apparently won't be getting Gary Russell, Jr. vs. Daniel Ponce De Leon. It would be the stiffest test of Russell's stalled career, by far. De Leon's side is calling Russell's side chicken, saying he turned down the fight that was offered by Showtime, but as much as I rag on Russell, I kind of get it if it's about the 130-pound limit as De Leon's side is saying they wanted and Russell didn't. Russell might have fought a little over 126 here and there, but if he thinks he's a featherweight, then I don't think he should have to move up a weight class for the fight. And De Leon shouldn't have to move down, either, if he doens't want to. Sometimes, there's nothing wrong with two guys wanting to stay in their respective weight classes, even if it's a bummer that they do.
Nor do I need a trilogy bout featuring cruiserweights Krzystof Wlodarczyk and Giacobbe Fragomeni, as might be in the works. They last fought in 2010 and Fragomeni hasn't done anything of consequence since.
Vanes Martirosyan-Demetrius Andrade on the November Manny Pacquiao-Brandon Rios HBO PPV would be a welcome undercard supplement. though, if it comes through. Martirosyan annoys the piss out of me but he can fight a little — he's an authentic junior middleweight contender. And Andrade could stand to step up the competition, something he tried to do in his canceled Zaurbek Baysangurov clash.
Our former friend Yuriorkis Gamboa is talking about fights he wants and is being talked about for fights he doesn't — the lightweight is apparently being offered a Terence Crawford bout that doesn't thrill him, because he'd rather face featherweight Mikey Garcia at 130. I think I'd prefer Gamboa-Garcia myself. Gamboa isn't the same fighter at 135 that he was at 126 and he's a little better at 130, plus Gamboa-Crawford is a less compelling style match-up. Gamboa-Crawford would be on the Cotto undercard in, yes, Florida. Let the experiment begin!
(Round And Round sources: BoxingScene; FightHype; Maxboxing; ESPN)