Gimme these fights in 2015
2014 is now in the past and, quite frankly, it was an underwhelming one for boxing in terms of what actually took place inside the ring. This column is dedicated to fights this scribe would like to see in the upcoming 12 months.
And the criteria is very simple: Will it be an entertaining affair? That’s it. There’s no need to overcomplicate this process. There is no real thought to the importance of any particular fight, what it means for those fictional pound-for-pound rankings or anything else, for that matter.
Is it a good fight? Will you get your money’s worth for your HBO/Showtime subscription or pay-per-view cost?
It boils down to that and nothing else.
Yes, perhaps there are more impactful match-ups within a given division based on where they are rated but just having two highly accomplished fighters or undefeated boxers does not a fight make. It’s about which dance partners truly belong with one another.
My only restriction that I’ve put in compiling this list is to leave out bouts that are unrealistically doable (in that vein, that’s why Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao was left off). In other words, you wont see any pairings that have Al Haymon-advised boxers versus fighters who are represented by Top Rank Promotions. And another rule is I have listed each fighter just once for variety’s sake and I excluded any fights that are already being seriously negotiated such as Miguel Cotto-Saul Alvarez. Lastly, I’d like to think the following fights can actually come to fruition.
So without further ado…
Adonis Stevenson vs. Sergey Kovalev: OK, as Yogi Berra would say, this is deja vu all over again but seriously, if Kovalev beats Jean Pascal in March and Stevenson doesn’t get tripped up in his next bout in the spring, this is still a highly appealing fight. Both are big punchers and this would be for all the marbles at 175 pounds. For the “Krusher,” it’s a chance to become a full-fledged star. For “Superman,” after a lost 2014, a chance at redemption.
Orlando Salido vs. Edner Cherry: Now this isn’t the most high-profile fight to be had but tell me this isn’t the type of bout that belongs on HBO’s “Boxing After Dark.” Cherry has always been a hard-nosed operator (who is undefeated at 130 pounds) and “Siri” is consistently in good scraps and his battle with Terdsak Kokietgym is perhaps the best of 2014.
Lucas Matthysse vs. Adrien Broner: Two Haymon guys, so, theoretically, this can come together. Say whatever you want about “The Problem” but he is an entertaining fighter (in and out of the ring, admittedly) and you have to wonder how he deals with the Argentine “Machine” after last year’s loss to Marcos Maidana.
Marcos Maidana vs. Keith Thurman: Two punchers in the ring is never a bad thing, right? We know how rugged and seasoned “Chino” is; let’s see how Thurman deals with an opponent who is slower and more plodding but hits every bit as hard as he does.
Danny Garcia vs. Lamont Peterson: Yeah, another all-Haymon match-up and this is a fight I’m a bit higher on than everyone else. Yeah, Garcia would be favored based on his track record and big left hook but again, styles make fights and I wonder what happens if/when Peterson gets inside Garcia’s reach and starts letting his hands go to Garcia’s body.
Gennady Golovkin vs. Andy Lee: Now I can hear all of you out there saying, “Uh, hold on, what about Miguel Cotto or Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez for ‘GGG’?!” Again, I’m trying to do fights I think are the most realistic to make in 2015 and I still have my doubts that either one of those guys will face Golovkin in the upcoming year. That said, Lee now must commit to his WBO mandatory but if he gets past Billy Joe Saunders and Golovkin keeps up his winning ways, this would be a natural fit for Madison Square Garden in what a middleweight unification tilt.
Ruslan Provodnikov vs. Jessie Vargas: Yeah, again, Provodnikov versus Matthysse would be great but, again, the rule here is you can only mention a fighter once. But for as limited as he might be, Provodnikov is the type of guy you want to see because of his crowd-pleasing style. Vargas isn’t great but he’s a tough competitor who finds ways to win fights. If he can topple “The Siberian Rocky,” it would legitimize him in many ways as a 140-pound titleholder.
Brian Viloria/Juan Francisco Estrada vs. Roman Gonzalez: There is a lot of talk of Viloria and Estrada squaring off again in March (perhaps on HBO Latino), so it says here this rematch should serve as a de facto eliminator for “Chocolatito” Gonzalez, one of the sport’s premier fighters and a particular favorite of the hardcore sect. If this scenario should become reality, this is something that should be on “Boxing After Dark” (and yes, I will keep beating this drum).
Terence Crawford vs. Mauricio Herrera: Crawford is moving up to junior welterweight and being groomed as a possible foe for the “Pac-Man” down the line. Well, if they want to pair him against a legitimate 140-pounder but not necessarily a huge puncher, well, Herrera – who many believe got the shaft this past year against Danny Garcia and Jose Benavidez Jr. – fits the bill perfectly. Defeat Herrera handily and “Bud” stamps himself as a real contender in that division.
Vasyl Lomachenko vs. Nicholas Walters: Some match-ups are no-brainers and this is one of them. This is a pairing of two of the best 126-pounders on the planet and an interesting contrast of styles with Lomachenko’s overall boxing ability and the size, strength and power of the “Axe Man.” Nothing much needs to be added here.
Wladimir Klitschko vs. Bermane Stiverne/Deontay Wilder: HBO is now making a firm commitment to Klitschko and he’ll face Bryant Jennings most likely in late April. OK, fine, but after that, it says here the winner of the Jan. 17 battle between Stiverne and Wilder for the WBC belt should be lined up for some point in the next 12 months. Both bring some interesting facets to the table versus Klitschko. Stiverne is a sneaky, well-schooled technician and Wilder is a bona fide banger.
Leo Santa Cruz vs. Scott Quigg: This could be a bit of wishful thinking (but maybe this whole list is) and I know there is talk of Santa Cruz facing Abner Mares in the first half of 2015 but I think these guys’ styles are built for one another. In many ways, they are mirror images of one another and Quigg has expressed a willingness to travel overseas to make this bout happen.
David Lemieux vs. Curtis Stevens: This one here was suggested from a caller on “The Next Round,” John from Denver (not John Denver, to be clear) and I’m all in. Both guys can be described as flawed, one-dimensional punchers and guess what? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, especially if they are in the ring together. Here, two “wrongs” can make a right. Stevens can certainly be outboxed but how many guys are willing to stand right in front of him and trade leather? Well, that could be Lemieux.
Julian Williams vs. Austin Trout: “J Rock” is a promising young fighter (and that rare Haymon client who is still liked by the general fan-base) and 2015 looks to be a breakout year for him. Williams is a sound, all-around boxer who looks like he’s built for the long haul and Trout is experienced and needs a notable victory. Williams-Trout would be that classic crossroads bout.
Omar Figueroa vs. Jorge Linares: This one was suggested by Matt Swider and it would be match-up of one of the rawest punchers in the game against one of its smoothest stylists. But both are horribly flawed; Figueroa is technically all over the place and Linares is fragile, which makes this potential pairing so compelling.
Evgeny Gradovich vs. Jhonny Gonzalez: Love this contrast of styles, the rugged, grinding plugger in Gradovich facing Gonzalez, who can still kick with his long left hook. Both are good offensive fighters but in different ways. “The Russian Mexican” chips away steadily at his foes while Gonzalez saws through his opponents with his favorite punch (as Abner Mares found out). Who will successfully impose his style first?
Here’s our year-end review where Dave Duenez joins Gabe Montoya and Yours Truly as we discuss 2014 in boxing:
NEW YEAR’S EVE FLURRIES
On the Stiverne-Wilder undercard on Showtime will be Amir Imam-Fidel Maldonado Jr. and Leo Santa Cruz-Jesus Ruiz from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. I like the Imam-Maldonado fight much more than Santa Cruz-Ruiz…Bob Arum says he hopes to have an announcement on Cotto-Alvarez by early next week. Let’s cross our fingers…Dmitry Chudinov versus Chris Eubank Jr. is a pretty good match-up…I think Michigan is back to being a football school with the hiring of Jim Harbaugh. He is well worth the investment…I know it’s still kinda early but the Cleveland Cavaliers look like a bit of a bust, right?…It’s downright frigid in Southern California right now. I mean, it’s into the 30s! BRRRRR…I got Oregon and Alabama winning on New Years Day…I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and I tweet (a lot) at http://twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at http://instagram.com/steveucnlive.
“Gloves Off” on 2015 Fights We Want