Big Story of the Month #1: Mayweather-Alvarez
Just weeks after dominating Robert Guerrero, Floyd Mayweather surprised many in the boxing world by selecting Saul "Canelo" Alvarez for his next opponent in September. Agreeing to fight at a catchweight of 152, Mayweather seemingly takes on one of the biggest challenges of his career. Although I'm not thrilled with the catchweight, this fight is great for the sport and an excellent opportunity to move boxing beyond its hardcore fanbase. The hope is for this event to approach the boxing pay-per-view record set in 2007 by de la Hoya-Mayweather. That will be a tall task (but not impossible) and it will require Alvarez to really deliver the American Latino audience. The fight should feature a great buildup and may have the makings for a truly memorable night.
Big Story of the Month #2: The Other Dominoes Start to Fall
With Mayweather-Alvarez scheduled for Mexican Independence Day Weekend in Las Vegas, Juan Manuel Marquez-Tim Bradley shifts to October. This is an outstanding matchup, featuring an aging boxer-puncher against a youthful boxer coming off of a bruising battle. Both fighters will take their shots and will also think their way through the bout. To my eyes, the winner of this fight will be decided by who can better impose his style. If it's a boxing match, Bradley will win. If they slug it out, Marquez has the advantage.
In November, Manny Pacquiao will make his long-awaited 2013 debut, taking on Brandon Rios in Macau. Rios is an interesting choice in that he lost his previous fight to Mike Alvarado, but he has an aggressive mentality that should provide excellent action. Expect a fan-friendly match and for at least one of the fighters to hit the canvas.
TO THE FIGHTS
A Damn Good Month:
Devon Alexander: Alexander fought aggressively against overmatched, late-replacement Lee Purdy. Hurting his left hand in the first round, Alexander proceeded to paste Purdy with right hooks and right uppercuts. It was the type of offensive outburst that boxing fans had been waiting to see from Alexander. He'll be out for a few months after hand surgery but look for him to come back before the end of the year, possibly against Amir Khan.
Carl Froch: Froch didn't waste his opportunity to settle the score against rival Mikkel Kessler. Fighting in London in a rematch of the excellent 2010 fight, Froch bested Kessler by activity and working behind his jab. As usual, he showed his excellent set of whiskers. He won a unanimous but competitive decision. Froch has all sorts of options for his next fight including a rematch with Andre Ward, a third fight with Kessler or, perhaps the most compelling opportunity, a clash against Bernard Hopkins. Stay tuned.
Guillermo Jones: The oft-inactive Jones decided to grace boxing fans with his presence in May (his first fight in 18 months) and waged a savage contest with Denis Lebedev, in his opponent's home country of Russia. Jones opened up a cut over Lebedev's right eye in the first round and like a seasoned veteran, he targeted it mercilessly – even switching southpaw for a few rounds to get better angles to further damage the eye. Although it was a competitive fight, he really worked over Lebedev as the fight progressed. He scored a knockdown with an uppercut in the 11th round and the fight was waved off shortly thereafter.
Denis Lebedev: Lebedev certainly put forth the type of performance where his reputation won't suffer because of a loss. In fact, his status in boxing will be enhanced after his gutsy display against Jones. Lebedev actually won a number of rounds in the fight, perhaps the majority of them, and he didn't let his closed eye hamper his aggressiveness or fighting spirit. In the end, he took too many hard blows, but healthy, he would be a threat against any cruiserweight in the world.
Abner Mares: In his first fight at featherweight, Mares didn't take a soft touch, immediately going for a title against crafty Daniel Ponce De Leon. The fight was essentially even except for Mares' pulverizing knockdown at the end of the second (beautiful left hook/right hook combination) and his final knockout blow in the ninth. Mares countered well all night and his chin looked good at 126. Golden Boy doesn't have too many viable opponents at featherweight, so it will be interesting to see where Mares goes from here.
Lucas Matthysse: Finally getting another chance at a top junior welterweight, Matthysse went right at Lamont Peterson and knocked him down three times to score a third-round TKO. Showing a devastating left hook and some subtle boxing ability, Matthysse instantly catapulted himself to a higher echelon in the boxing world; it was a star-making performance. His next fight could be against Danny Garcia, (he is Garcia's mandatory), but I wouldn't be surprised if both fighters wind up facing other opponents next.
Floyd Mayweather Sr.: Returning to head training duties to prepare his son for Robert Guerrero, the elder Mayweather's influence was obvious as Floyd showed more defensive responsibility than he did in his last fight against Miguel Cotto. Additionally, Floyd spun out of trouble along the ropes and really limited Guerrero's offensive output after the first two rounds. It was one of Mayweather Jr.'s most satisfying performances in the ring and his father deserves a lot of credit for the ease of his victory.
Floyd Mayweather Jr.: Perhaps the best part of Mayweather's convincing win over Robert Guerrero was the demonstration of his preternatural ability to make stuff up on the fly. Noticing a pattern where Guerrero ducked down and to his left, Mayweather crushed Guerrero in the 7th and 8th rounds with a series of lead right hooks from distance. Most likely a shot not practiced in the gym, Floyd exhibited his improvisatory gifts. Just as important, his legs looked great and he seemed to be much fresher in the ring than he had been in recent performances.
Robert McCracken: Carl Froch's trainer again showed why he is one of the best in the business. Devising a game plan that focused on activity and the jab, McCracken capitalized on Kessler's judicious punch output and his fighter earned a hard-fought victory. McCracken might make the best game plans in the sport.
Not The Best Month, Not The Worst Month:
Tony Bellew: After escaping with a draw against Isaac Chilemba earlier in the year, Bellew went for the immediate rematch and earned a unanimous decision. He still demonstrated the same limitations that he did in the first fight: lack of offensive creativity, inability to cut off the ring and a paltry arsenal. He deserves credit for the victory but it wasn't an inspiring performance in the least. He's in line for a mandatory shot at the light heavyweight title, but if I held a belt, I wouldn't worry about Bellew too much at all.
Isaac Chilemba: Perhaps with a different set of judges, Chilemba could have won both fights. He's cute in the ring and many of his shots are hard to see land without the benefit of HD television, but nevertheless, he lost in the rematch. True, his defense wasn't rewarded as it should have been, but his trainer, Buddy McGirt, had the right idea: on enemy turf, you have to be more aggressive. Chilemba didn't fully heed his trainer's advice. Thus, he lost a truly winnable fight.
Robert Guerrero: No, he didn't pull off the major upset against Floyd Mayweather, but he wasn't embarrassed either, just outclassed. Guerrero had success early in the match by landing several hard combinations and counters, but once Floyd made some defensive adjustments, the fight was effectively over. Guerrero still has several viable options for a good payday later in the year. Ultimately, if he regroups from the loss, he'll come back as a real factor in the welterweight division.
Gabriel Rosado: He put forward a spirited effort against J'Leon Love on the Mayweather-Guerrero undercard. Despite knocking Love down in the sixth and coming on strong at the end of the fight, Rosado lost by a split decision. After the fight, Love tested positive for a banned substance (see below for more), so it's very possible that the loss will become a "no-contest." I do hope that Rosado returns to junior middleweight.
Is This Month Over Yet?
Ruben Guerrero: In the buildup to his son's fight against Mayweather, Ruben took it upon himself to anoint himself as some type of training master. He spewed invective and acted tough, but on fight night, I can't think of one successful adjustment that he made in the corner. Ultimately, walks must be walked, and Guerrero remained in the crib against the Mayweathers.
Mikkel Kessler: Kessler lost the rematch against Carl Froch for one reason: he didn't move his hands enough. Either because of conditioning or an unwillingness to take risks, Kessler was the far less active fighter. When he did throw punches, good things happened, but there weren't enough of them to have a convincing argument for victory.
Jim Lampley: It's sad when a broadcasting favorite has a bad day at the office, but there's no other accurate characterization of Lampley's work during Froch-Kessler II. Teamed with Andre Ward, a potential opponent for the winner, Lampley incessantly praised his broadcast partner and made the spirited fight in front of him seem something far less than it was. There was too much stroking of Ward and not enough objectivity about the fight at hand. Nothing in his performance from that fight will make his career-ending highlight tape.
J'Leon Love: J'Leon, cheaters never prosper. (I'm sorry. That was a cliché; sometimes they do.) Here's some better advice: Floyd doesn't take shortcuts out of the ring, perhaps you shouldn't either. Enjoy your upcoming suspension.
Lamont Peterson: Perhaps his initial title-winning performance against Amir Khan should be completely expunged because of out-of-the-ring PED issues. Nevertheless, he did beat Khan, served a suspension and made a rousing defense earlier in the year against Kendall Holt. Facing a risky fight against hard-hitting Lucas Matthysse, Peterson wasn't up to the task. He couldn't handle Matthysse's power and that was essentially the fight. Because of some silly catchweight shenanigans, he still has a title belt, but he took a mighty step back in the boxing world after that loss.
Daniel Ponce de Leon: De Leon has always been able to beat the "B" fighters, but when he has faced better talents, bad things have happened. Fighting on fairly even terms against Abner Mares throughout much of the match, De Leon couldn't take the power of a boxer who hadn't even competed before at 126. At 32 and with 49 professional fights, perhaps the end for de Leon is coming sooner rather than later.
Bad Judging Award: Herb Santos
Herb Santos! Come on down! You are the winner of the Saturday Night Boxing Bad Judging Award for May 2013. Your 97-92 score in favor of J'Leon Love over Gabriel Rosado was absolute garbage and showed that you had no interest in actually watching the fight. I hope you get suspended for a long time.
Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of saturdaynightboxing.com.
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
Contact Adam at firstname.lastname@example.org
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