Fights for 2016
OK, so we are now into the New Year and I have to be honest: Thus far, as I fill in my “Peanuts” and Miami Hurricanes football calendars with the boxing schedule, I can’t say I’m all that excited by what’s on the docket (Carl Frampton-Scott Quigg on Feb. 27 excluded) for the early part of 2016.
Quite frankly, after a rather non-descript 2015 (to put it mildly), things aren’t looking much better as we move forward.
This column will be dedicated to fights this scribe would like to see in the upcoming 12 months. Now, some of these will be very obvious choices and I’ll do my best to stay away from proposing bouts that simply aren’t realistic (such as Premier Boxing Champions boxers facing anyone on HBO or Top Rank Promotions clients getting within 50 feet of Ruslan Provodnikov).
My criteria is very simple: Is it an entertaining match-up (so yeah, don’t expect Guillermo Rigondeaux to be mentioned) and do I want to see it? It’s that easy. My list, my fights. And I also will refrain from listing any fights that have already been scheduled like the aforementioned Frampton-Quigg battle.
So here we go…
– Saul Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin: Yeah, this was a no-brainer and, while technically mandated by the WBC for later in 2016 – whatever that means – it still hasn’t been signed, sealed and delivered. But I don’t think this one needs much explaining. Canelo-Golovkin is quite simply one of the best and biggest fights that can be made and it would be for middleweight supremacy. It says here that if it were staged at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, you could draw well over 50,000 fans.
– Kell Brook vs. Amir Khan: These guys have been circling around each other for a few years and we’re at the stage on which they need one another. Khan has lost much of his momentum (since April of 2013, he’s fought all of three times as he has fruitlessly pursued Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao) and “Special K” is a guy with a major belt (the IBF welterweight title) and is in need of a high-profile scalp. The question is: Can this bout actually be negotiated for this summer? Both also need to ask themselves if there is another more realistic and makeable fight out there for them at the moment.
– Sergey Kovalev vs. Adonis Stevenson: OK, we’re gonna give this one more try. Word is Kathy Duva of Main Events (who reps the “Krusher”) and Yvon Michel (who promotes Stevenson) are trying their best to finally bring the two together. Network and promotional alliances have bogged down the process but it’s now or never for this fight. Kovalev could be embarking on a huge 2016 (which could include Andre Ward), while Stevenson’s career has become more and more irrelevant as he takes on one no-hoper after another on various networks.
– Jorge Linares vs. Yuriorkis Gamboa: What’s not to like? You have two offensively gifted fighters who are also flawed defensively and chinny. This is usually the recipe for fun fights. Sign me up and let’s get this on HBO’s “Boxing After Dark.”
– Leo Santa Cruz vs. Gary Russell Jr.: This one is a very interesting contrast of styles, the grinding pressure of Santa Cruz (who’s coming off a watershed victory over Abner Mares) against the quicksilver southpaw, Russell (who had a bit of lost 2015). Both Santa Cruz and Russell hold major belts at 126 and are under the PBC umbrella, so, in theory, it shouldn’t be a difficult fight to consummate.
– Roman Gonzalez vs. Juan Francisco Estrada II: I was there for their first battle in 2012 and it was a good one, in which “Chocolatito” did enough to hold off Estrada, who came into the bout as a relative unknown. Fast forward to 2016, Chocolatito is one of the game’s most respected figures and an HBO staple. Estrada is a unified beltholder at 112. This is the type of fights that “Boxing After Dark” was created for long ago and belongs at a venue like the StubHub Center.
– Adrien Broner vs. Ruslan Provodnikov: Alright, alright, I admit, this is a bit of a non-starter, given that Provodnikov is not affiliated with Haymon or the PBC. But technically Provodnikov isn’t a full-fledged HBO fighter either. But I like this mix of styles; the hard-hitting “Siberian Rocky” taking on the brash, slick “Problem.” After the beating he took from Marcos Maidana a little over two years ago, how would he deal with the punishing attack of Provodnikov?
– Julian Williams vs. Willie Nelson: It’s clear that “J Rock” is a boogeyman to his PBC colleagues and fellow Haymon brethren, so, in the meantime, he needs to find willing dance partners who may not have many options of their own. Well, how ’bout Nelson, who is coming off a big win over Tony Harrison in July? For whatever flaws he may have, Nelson is a boxer who usually empties the bucket and his size and reach could trouble the talented Williams.
– Francisco Vargas vs. Takashi Miura II: Sometimes you just gotta keep it simple. Their first encounter was perhaps the best fight of 2015 and a rematch seems to be a natural.
– Felix Verdejo vs. Ray Beltran: 2016 is a pivotal one for Verdejo, who Top Rank is counting on to be one of its clean-up hitters going into the future. He is now at the stage of his career in which he transitions from being a highly-touted prospect to a contender. So the time is now for “Diamante” to start facing some live pitching and Beltran might fit the bill, given his seasoning and pedigree. Beltran failing a post-fight drug test last year for PEDs is problematic and it’s not clear if he can make 135 pounds at this point.
– Frankie Gomez vs. Adrian Granados: This is another rematch. In summer of 2011, a 10-0 Gomez barely escaped with his unblemished record by beating Granados via majority decision over eight rounds in Chicago. Gomez, who’s career has been stuck in neutral, due to his own disinterest in training, has to start making some moves. You might get the sense that Golden Boy Promotions wants to get this thing going one way or the other. Granados has always been a good TV fighter, who is coming off a big upset win over the highly regarded Amir Imam in November.
– Jesus Soto Karass vs. Yoshihiro Kamegai: I don’t care how much I have to badger and cajole Golden Boy matchmaker Robert Diaz; I will not stop till this fight is made. No, it wont be a fight that will headline any major shows but it’s the kind of pairing that will accentuate any fight card it lands on and keep the live audience entertained. Neither guy knows how to take a backward step and they share an uncommon toughness and willingness to mix it up.
– Andrzej Fonfara vs. Artur Beterbiev: Both light heavyweights are advised by Haymon and with the PBC, so this one certainly isn’t an impossibility. Fonfara has really developed as a prizefighter and, any time he gets out there, he consistently gives you a good show. Beterbiev has been moved up quickly in the rankings, even though he really hasn’t been tested thus far in his career. It says here that Fonfara, who had a big 2015 with victories over Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Nathan Cleverly, will ask Beterbiev a few questions that haven’t been posed to him yet.
– Patrick Teixeira vs. Charles Hatley: Yeah, this might be a bit obscure but this could be a firefight. Teixeira is a southpaw windmill, who brings a high punch output. Hatley is coming off a big win Down Under versus Anthony Mundine. The winner of a match-up like this moves forward in his career. Yeah, these aren’t the most well-known names but, as I’ve stated before, boxing needs to start ushering in the next generation of boxers.
– Jarrell Miller vs. Andy Ruiz: The heavyweight class is suddenly wide open and, in Miller and Ruiz, you have two of the better American prospects, each looking to make a move in 2016. Let’s see who has the right stuff and moves up the ladder. Gimme some of the “Big Baby” and the “Big Mexican.”
– Sullivan Barrera vs. Vyacheslav Shabranskyy: Barrera could be in line to face Andre Ward in late March; regardless, Barrera-Shabranskyy is a battle of two young, hard-nosed, crowd-pleasing 175-pounders. Under the guidance of Abel Sanchez, Barrera has steadily improved and is now the top ranked contender in the IBF. Shabranskyy, who’s coming of a solid 10-round victory over Yunieski Gonzalez a few weeks ago is one of those guys who couldn’t be in a bad fight if he tried.
Yeah, it’s clear that Manny Pacquiao isn’t retiring anytime soon…Lightweight prospect Jose Ramirez is slated to be on the non-televised portion of the Pacquiao-Tim Bradley card on April 9…”The Next Round” and “The 3 Knockdown Rule” are back this week…Can’t wait for the NFL playoffs; the NFC looks it will be an absolute gauntlet…I really like the staff Mark Richt is putting together at Miami, has a real SEC feel to it…I can be reached at email@example.com and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.