After a fairly unremarkable winter, spring 2017 could be expensive for boxing fans, whether through pay-per-view or premium cable channels. Most recently announced was the superfight rematch between Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev. Their first, highly anticipated contest did not disappoint us, except possibly those hoping for the cards to go Kovalev’s way. I can see giving that fight to Ward, though I had it going to Kovalev. The level of competition makes the second fight tantalizing, especially because they’re getting right back in the ring rather than waiting years handling other challengers, during which time factors like age and total number of fights can diminish the potential of a rematch.
Though not everyone is looking forward to it, the May 6th bout between the sport’s best junior middleweight and a never-relevant light heavyweight will be big for boxing. I’ve been disappointed in Canelo’s choice of opponents for years now. I can’t help but reiterate how unfortunate it was to waste the opportunities earned by this massive talent, previously managed so impeccably. Most importantly, the timing of his fight with Mayweather was incredibly ill-advised. It’s possible he could have made more money, and certain that he would’ve fought a less youthful Mayweather, had he waited until after the Pacquiao showdown. Even the warm-up fight against Austin Trout was unnecessarily risky. Then, less than a year later after a tune-up against Angulo, he’s fighting Erislandy Lara, ostensibly to silence some group of critics. Most boxing fans will tell you that that group mainly consisted of Lara himself. He knew his place in the division was so dubious (due to his boring style) that regardless of his unbeaten record and his obvious talent, only a Tony-Bellew-level campaign of harassment would get him a lucrative fight. He was right, and he got it.
Finally, a little over a year after the Lara fight, fans got to see Alvarez in the ring with the venerated Puerto Rican star Miguel Cotto. The fight lived up to all expectations and further illustrated the skill of both fighters. For some reason, this prompted the junior middleweight Alvarez to take a fight with a popular junior welterweight, Khan, who had recently moved up to 147. After the inevitable knockout, Alvarez felt inspired to decree his notorious “we don’t fuck around” challenge, implying (if not saying explicitly) that he would fight middleweight star Gennady Golovkin any time. Turns out, he was smart enough not to do so right away. His reasoning? Golovkin is too big at 160. Fair enough.
He took a tune-up with another junior middleweight next. We’re all thinking, “Golovkin now…?” Nope. Instead of fighting the middleweight who was too big last time, he signed a fight with a light heavyweight, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., a man with no legitimate wins over any significant fighters. I guess Canelo’s rationale is, “If I can beat a huge, sloppy son-of-a-legend, maybe I can beat the smaller, competent fighter.” Aside from giving up millions of dollars and a shot at making history, that sounds reasonable. Reasonable, that is until you consider the alternative. If he doesn’t win, Canelo’s record will be irrevocably stained in a way that no number of losses to the likes of Floyd Mayweather ever could cause. In that case, he’ll double the number of losses on his record, and in doing so show the world that a lazy never-was could beat a once-great smaller man. That’s not to mention the physical damage he could sustain that might cause a severe setback, either long-term or in his immediate future.
Okay—frustration vented, moving on…
Just a few weeks from now, at the end of this month, we’ll be treated to one of the top two potential matches in the heavyweight division. Not only will we see the most dominant heavyweight of the last decade back in the ring, but he’s fighting one of the two boxers who could take his place in the next ten years. Anthony Joshua has proven himself to be more than just a sturdy slugger with wins over Dominic Breazeale and Eric Molina, and 100% of his wins coming by knockout. His size, power, youth and skill make him a formidable opponent, even for the likes of Wladimir Klitschko. So far, there hasn’t been lot of evidence to measure Joshua by, but we can expect to see him exposed one way or the other. He’ll be seen as the legitimate successor to the division, or as a flawed behemoth who was unable to cope with the meticulous technique of his opponent.
And in mid-May we’ll see Terence Crawford back in the ring against Felix Diaz. I saw Diaz take on Lamont Peterson at the DC Armory; the decision was taken away from Diaz by the hometown judges. Everyone around me in the crowd was not only disappointed in Lamont’s performance, but also thought he was losing the fight overall. Some even left before the end of the match, catching me in the parking lot to find out, to their dismay, that Peterson got the decision (even though we were initially rooting for him). Diaz is a legitimate opponent, though I don’t know if wins over Adrian Granados and Gabriel Bracero necessarily warrant a match against Crawford. It’s likely this will be another padding-the-record fight for Crawford, who is biding time until the demand is high enough for the big fight against Errol Spence Jr. That fight would’ve been the highlight of a great series this year, but given what we’ve had to work with so far, we’ll take what we can get.