(Dec. 12, Seattle — Jay-Z speaks with an acquaintance before a press conference to introduce new Seattle Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano [not pictured] at Safeco Field. Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports)
That’s not just a picture of Jay-Z for no reason(able doubt). The Jigga Man’s Roc Nation has rather quickly started making a splash upon entering the boxing game, going from getting a license in D.C. and New York to throwing out a massive purse bid for one bout we’ll discuss in this edition of Round And Round, and eyeing another fighter who’s also in the column.
We’ll discuss his approach in each of those cases, as well as talk about the people in the headline, and we’ll also examine fights in the works for the likes of Bernard Hopkins, Miguel Cotto, Danny Garcia and Terence Crawford. Because we haven’t done this in a while, we’ll group everybody by weight class this time, rather than rough order of importance/newsworthiness.
If aging heavyweight Antonio Tarver must fight on, it might as well be against someone like Jonathon Banks — a reasonable opponent, that is — and it might as well be on Fox Sports 1. That’s the plan for the end of September. It’s solid fare for that network.
A much better big man fight at the end of September: Krzystof Wlodarczyk vs. Grigory Drozd, at cruiserweight, just a couple days before. Yoan Pablo Hernandez’s constant struggles have made him vulnerable to losing his #2 spot in the division, and #3 Wlodarczyk can make his case against Drozd. He’ll have to do it on the Russian’s home soil. The undercard is also expected to feature a decent cruiserweight clash, with the unintentionally sidelined Denis Lebedev (Guillermo Jones, you drug test-failer, you) against Pawel Kolodziej.
Light Heavyweight/Super Middleweight
Bernard Hopkins vs. Sergey Kovalev is inching toward November on HBO, but there’s still no location for the light heavyweight showdown. East Coast, please? (Which also makes since, given Hopkins’ Philly base.) This, of course, has left champion Adonis Stevenson hilariously out of the mix, given how he switched networks to go after Hopkins rather than face Kovalev, and he’s not even going to get a Jean Pascal fight as a high-paying consolation, since Pascal, the bigger attraction, wants an even split and Stevenson is turning his nose up to it. This guy has been managing his career poorly, man. He might fight Gabriel Campillo or Humberto Savigne in September instead, presumably on Showtime.
Super middleweight Carl Froch really wants to face Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. in January in Las Vegas on HBO pay-per-view, and has said he might retire if he doesn’t get it. Sounds like an idle threat, and one that probably won’t do much good, as Chavez and his promoter Top Rank are still at odds. Froch flirted with his fans on Facebook by putting up an image of a Froch-Gennady Golovkin poster, but he probably doesn’t mean that, either. At this point, James DeGale is probably the best option that’s also available.
168-pound champion Andre Ward is amid yet another series of court maneuverings, this time with his promoter Dan Goossen hitting him with a defamation lawsuit, Ward filing suit in federal court and Ward asking for a criminal investigation of Goossen. Ward, at this rate, will never fight in a boxing match again. It’s all courtrooms for him. This came, by the way, amid various rumors that he would somehow be facing Mikkel Kessler, or that he was willing to face Golovkin, but no, don’t count on him getting a fight via his promoter while they’re suing the pants off each other.
Here’s where it starts to get fairly cluttered.
Middleweight champ Miguel Cotto was looking at maybe Marco Antonio Rubio for his next fight, but seems to have settled on Andy Lee? Golovkin appears to have taken on the Rubio mission, instead, which is another fight somewhere well below the kind we want to see Golovkin in (and it’s mostly not his fault — it’s just a by-product of his risk/reward balance being very inequitable), but a stay-busy fight while he waits for a big one. Golovkin wants Cotto, but Cotto’s trainer has no interest in Golovkin, saying he’s unproven and not a big attraction. He’s not really wrong, but Golovkin is also the top contender at middleweight and Cotto is a middleweight champion who appears determined to face non-middleweights (Lee has moved down, and he wants Canelo Alvarez, which is probably why he’s taking Lee — he’s got a name, he’ll bring some action, but he’s not so dangerous as to derail a Canelo meeting). If he’s never going to face another middleweight, maybe he should drop the belt.
Sergio Martinez might face Felix Sturm if he makes a comeback, and the two long-time top middleweights would make for a potentially intriguing battle if Martinez is more than a shell of himself. Sturm is faded too, of course, but still viable.
Back to Jay-Z: He put in an enormous purse bid for Peter Quillin-Matt Korobov and beat out both Golden Boy and Top Rank, which only makes sense to do if you’re trying to jump in and establish any kind of foothold at all with a big splashy gesture. The fight isn’t worth what Jay-Z offered — although it’s not an outright terrible match-up — unless there’s a secondary motive.
That leaves Danny Jacobs without the Quillin fight he wants, probably, and instead with Dmitry Chudinov in November. It’s an even match-up, and a chance for Jacobs to avenge a loss to someone named Dmitry (Pirog).
A bout no fans want, Jermain Taylor vs. Sam Soliman, is set for October on ESPN. As Corey Erdman said here, Taylor might have had his health cleared, but that fight is rolling the dice. The weird thing is, it wouldn’t even be a good fight without the specter of injury hovering over it. Taylor hasn’t notched an even halfway decent win since 2012, and he got dropped in that fight by Caleb Truax. Soliman is coming off a win over Sturm.
Moving to junior middleweight briefly: Erislandy Lara wants Ishe Smith or James Kirkland. Lara-Smith isn’t interesting to anyone, and Kirkland might be earmarked for Canelo Alvarez. If he isn’t, sure, why not? Alfredo Angulo made a good fight with Lara with his maniacal pressure, something Kirkland could do, too.
Your undercards for the upcoming Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao pay-per-views are not expected to be worthwhile, so it looks like the waxing and waning of good undercards is back on the waning end. For Mayweather-Marcos Maidana II on Showtime: Miguel Vazquez (lightweight) is facing Mickey Bey, a decent to sub-decent match-up competition-wise, but Vazquez rarely spices up any event; the aforementioned Angulo (junior middleweight) faces James De La Rosa, which is just kind of so-so across the board, but at least Angulo brings action; Leo Santa Cruz (junior featherweight) is meeting Manuel Roman, an opponent so far beneath him it makes no sense other than via the “Al Haymon running out the clock on Golden Boy-signed fighters” theory; and in the best fight on the undercard, John Molina (junior welterweight) is due against Humberto Soto, a bout that will actually air for free before the PPV starts. Go figure.
On Pacquiao’s undercard for the Chris Algieiri HBO PPV: Flyweight Zou Shiming vs. somebody, and welterweight Luis Carlos Abregu vs. somebody. That “somebody” part doesn’t suggest a likely high-level opponent for either man.
The rest of the welterweight merry-go-round: Juan Manuel Marquez was thinking about the winner of Shawn Porter-Kell Brook, but now that it’s Brook, is he going to want that, still? He said he does. He also keeps saying he still doesn’t want Pacquiao again; meanwhile, Jessie Vargas would like some Marquez. Amir Khan has said he’d like a bit of Devon Alexander or Robert Guerrero, both of which would be solid fights, but Brook would make him more money; we’ll see if he changes his position on that bout. Keith Thurman wants either Khan or Brook, but it’s doubtful either of them want him.
The Showtime tripleheader next month featuring welter and junior welters Adrien Broner/Lucas Matthysse/Andre Berto is finalized, and none of them are fighting anyone all that interesting: Broner-Emmanuel Taylor, Matthysse-Roberto Ortiz and Berto-Steve Upsher Chambers. What’s the point of a grouping a trio of stay-busy fights together like this, again?
Junior welterweight champ Danny Garcia is balking at the notion of a bout with Lamont Peterson. Just a thought, which I shared on Reddit: He’s saying this to get Showtime to throw even more money at him. It’s clear the network wants the fight or it wouldn’t have just gone through that horrible doubleheader. Contrary to what Garcia says, it WOULD do something for his career, because Lamont is one of the best at 140, regardless of whether you have him top three or top five. And, most importantly, both are draws in their hometowns, Philly and D.C., which aren’t too far from one another. About the only more appealing fight for him — what it could do for his career and his pocketbook — that is available later in the year is Broner. Broner is a Showtime darling and ratings draw, so he might get more money out of a Broner fight (although with Broner being unproven at 140, I don’t think it’s a better win).
Lightweight/junior welterweight Hank Lundy has been calling out Ruslan Provodnikov. Unless Provodnikov fights Brandon Rios next, here’s hoping he listens.
Terence Crawford and Raymundo Beltran are booked for November on HBO, which is just perfect for some of the best few lightweights in the world. The other best lightweight behind/beside Crawford, Vazquez, might have to fight Denis Shafikov again because of sanctioning organization politics. Remember this one (and all the other turds), kids, when you argue that the alphabet gang makes good fights happen.
Junior lightweight contender Rances Barthelemy will return in October against Fernando Saucedo, best known for losing to Chris John but the winner of 14 in a row since. Coming off a pair wins over Argenis Mendez, it’s an acceptable comedown kind of fight.
Orlando Salido is set for a junior lightweight meeting with Terdsak Kokietgym in September, which is just OK at best.
Jorge Arce, as Erdman mentioned in the link above, isn’t on the same “risking his life scale” as Taylor-Soliman by facing featherweight Jhonny Gonzalez, but he sure does seem to be pining to get knocked out by a much larger man with a big punch. Look for that in September, or don’t.
Junior featherweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux is willing to face basically anyone, and everyone is ignoring him (Santa Cruz keeps saying “sure” but it shows no signs of happening). Rigo also has an alphabet strap, which supposedly enriches fighters, according to its defenders. It doesn’t enrich them all, that’s for sure. The alphabet organization in question has ordered him to face Chris Avalos, a more credible bout than the first time anyone brought it up. You know what COULD help Rigo? If Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Sports wants to sign Rigo, which it might, according to The Sweet Science. Again, this might not be a situation where Jay-Z signing Rigo would lead to a windfall of cash, but it would give him a marquee name, and elite fighter and a legit champ as one of his building blocks. It makes sense, at the right price. And if Jay-Z is willing to shell out some bucks to lure big opponents, maybe Rigo could finally get on the right side of the risk/reward equation.
There was some minor talk of Scott Quigg-Cesar Seda in another junior featherweight bout, but Paulus Ambunda is going to get the Quigg call for September instead. It’s a solid bout if not the best for Quigg. Can we get some combination of Rigo, Santa Cruz, Carl Frampton and Quigg in the ring together, already? Thanks.
It’s Alejandro Hernandez next for bantamweight Tomoki Kameda in November, paired in Chicago with Polish light heavyweight Andrzej Fonfara vs. somebody. Kameda-Hernandez is nothing special.
(Round And Round sources: BoxingScene; ESPN; The Sweet Science; RingTV; Fight Network)