Boxing: Previewing the 10 Best Fights of the Spring
The temperature is getting warmer, the days are lasting longer and the spring feeling is finally in the air. And if you're a boxing fan you have even more to look forward to than just the nice weather.
The spring is traditionally a hot period for boxing, featuring the sports' biggest names in compelling matches, and this year is no different.
In just the coming weeks we will see Canelo Alvarez step up to his most dangerous challenge to date, pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather return and Nonito Donaire attempt to take the next step toward recognition as one of the sports' best.
And all of that will take place before the second week of May. But that's where the action starts, not stops.
It's a good time to be a boxing fan as we preview the 10 best fights of this spring.
April 13: Nonito Donaire vs. Guillermo Rigondeaux
When Nonito Donaire steps into the ring to face undefeated Cuban Guillermo Rigondeaux at New York's Radio City Music Hall he might be fighting for more than just a world title.
He could well be seeking to emerge as the Philippines' biggest star when he attempts to unify the WBA and WBO super bantamweight titles.
Donaire (31-1, 20 KO) is coming off a stellar 2012 in which he won Fighter of the Year honors, where he defeated four world-class fighters including Jorge Arce and Jeffrey Mathebula.
But he will be facing perhaps his toughest challenge yet in the form of trash-talking former amateur standout Guillermo Rigondeaux (11-0, 8 KO) who has from the get-go made his disdain for the Filipino Flash well known.
With Abner Mares not an option due to the Golden Boy Promotions-Top Rank feud, this provides the best match between two super bantamweights in the world.
It's sure to provide fireworks.
April 20: Canelo Alvarez vs. Austin Trout
If you talk to the people at Golden Boy Promotions you get the sense this was a fight that they really never expected to happen and probably never wanted.
That's because it was supposed to be Miguel Cotto, not Austin Trout, standing across the ring from undefeated super-prospect Saul "Canelo" Alvarez when he steps into the ring in San Antonio to unify the junior middleweight division.
Alvarez (41-0-1, 30 KO) is widely considered one of the best prospects, if not the best prospect, in all of boxing. But one knock on him is that he hasn't yet faced a legitimate junior middleweight or a young fighter in his prime.
Austin Trout (26-0, 14 KO) will answer both of those questions as he is both a legitimate 154-pounder, holds a world title and is an extremely difficult stylistic fight for Alvarez.
He earned his spot in this fight by shocking the boxing world with a dominant decision win over Miguel Cotto in his backyard last December.
That derailed any legitimate talk of Canelo vs. Cotto and placed "No Doubt" into his second big fight in as many contests.
Whether he will be able to pull it out remains to be seen, but he will definitely serve as Canelo's most dangerous fight to date.
April 27: Danny Garcia vs. Zab Judah
Danny Garcia more or less ended the career of Mexican legend Erik Morales last October at the Barclays Center, and he will hope to do the same thing against Brooklyn native and former champion Zab Judah in April.
Garcia (25-0, 16 KO) is light years away from the fighter who was just picked as an opponent with a belt for Amir Khan last summer, and has quickly emerged as one of the sport's fastest rising young stars.
He isn't known as an overly big puncher, though his last two knockout victories were extremely impressive.
Zab Judah (42-7, 29 KO) clearly is no longer the fighter he was when he held the undisputed welterweight championship, but he is highly motivated, still dangerous and will be fighting in front of of a hometown crowd.
It would also seem that he has a serious dislike for Garcia, who had to pullout of their originally scheduled date in February due to a rib injury, going as far as to accuse him of being scared and faking the injury.
April 27: Sergio Martinez vs. Martin Murray
It was long rumored that Sergio Martinez wanted to stage a championship fight in his native Argentina, and that dream will come true at the end of April when he defends against the undefeated Brit Martin Murray.
Martinez (50-2-2, 28 KO) staked his claim as one of the best fighters in the world with his thoroughly one-sided, except for the final 30 seconds, decision win over Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in September. He was so dominant for the first 11-and-a-half rounds that the fight looked like one of the greatest big-fight mismatches in boxing history.
Despite being knocked down and badly hurt, "Maravilla" never stopped fighting and didn't hold even with the fight on the verge of a shocking conclusion. With the win he reclaimed his crown as the top middleweight in the world.
Martin Murray (25-0-1, 11 KO) is undefeated but relatively untested as a pro. His biggest fight to date was a controversial split-decision draw against then WBA middleweight champion Felix Sturm in late 2011.
He will hope to repeat the performance of fellow Brit Darren Barker, who gave Martinez all he could handle for 11 rounds before getting stopped in a close fight.
May 4: Daniel Ponce De Leon vs. Abner Mares
The undercard of the fight in May featuring Floyd Mayweather Jr. includes one of the best fights you'll see all year. In fact, it might even be the one that steals the show from the bigger names.
When Abner Mares (25-0-1, 13 KO) decided to move up to the featherweight division and pursue tougher, bigger fights, he sure didn't cheat the fans.
By immediately challenging Daniel Ponce De Leon (44-4, 35 KO) he is showing that he's serious about facing and beating the best fighters in the world.
De Leon spent much of his early career as a one-dimensional puncher who would get himself into trouble by being over aggressive. But he's refined himself as of late and become a much more complete and dangerous fighter.
Mares on the other hand is a former super bantamweight champion who vacated his title when a fight could not be made with Nonito Donaire. He was a dominant force at that weight with big wins over Joseph Agbeko and Vic Darchinyan among others.
It remains to be seen if he'll be able to continue his success at a higher weight and against a puncher like De Leon.
It'll be fun to watch.
May 4: Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Robert Guerrero
There's a growing consensus that Floyd Mayweather might be getting more than expected in taking on the challenge of the rugged Robert Guerrero in his return to the ring from a nearly year-long layoff.
Mayweather (43-0, 26 KO) is obviously the sport's biggest attraction and enters the ring as the sport's consensus best fighter. But he hasn't been inside the ring for nearly a year and has spent time in jail since, which leaves many to believe he's more vulnerable than in past fights.
He will also enter the ring at 36 years old, a tricky age for any fighter, and has a style that relies on his defensive abilities and speed.
Guerrero (31-1-1, 18 KO) comes into the fight off two impressive wins at welterweight, including his most recent, a dominating performance over former champion Andre Berto.
The victory made him the mandatory challenger for Mayweather who will seek to defend his WBC welterweight title and remain undefeated.
Guerrero likes to make the fight rough and tumble on the inside and could pose some stylistic troubles we haven't seen for Mayweather in many years.
May 18: Lamont Peterson vs. Lucas Matthysse
Lamont Peterson is another one of those fighters who never really got to cash-in on the biggest win of his career. That victory, over Amir Khan, was shrouded in all sorts of controversy including shoddy point deductions and positive tests for testosterone.
Peterson (31-1-1, 16 KO) still holds the IBF junior welterweight title but was out of the ring for more than a year before defeating Kendall Holt by knockout in February.
He's still an extremely slick and hard to fight boxer and can be a force in the 140-pound division.
But first he must get by the lethal Argentine power-puncher who nobody wants to fight—Lucas Matthysse.
Matthysse (33-2, 31 KO) does not like allowing his opponents to hear the final bell and hits like a truck. He has been the mandatory contender for Danny Garcia for some time now, but that fight doesn't seem to be happening in a hurry.
His two losses, to Zab Judah and Devon Alexander, were very controversial. Each was by decision, in his opponent's backyard, in a fight where he knocked his opponent down.
Given his style and power nobody is lining up to take on the challenge, and for that Peterson deserves credit.
May 18: Devon Alexander vs. Kell Brook
Another fight that was scheduled for earlier in the year but was postponed due to injury sees Devon Alexander defending his newly won IBF welterweight title against Kell Brook.
Alexander (24-1, 13 KO) won his second world title at the Barclays Center in October, winning a boring decision over Randall Bailey. He is a slick, defense-oriented boxer who is more than capable of winning fights but gains few fans in the process.
He originally pulled out of a scheduled fight with Brook earlier this year and was floated as a possible opponent for Floyd Mayweather Jr. before going ahead with this fight.
Brook (29-0, 19 KO) is extremely talented and young but thus far relatively untested. There are some decent names on his ledger, but most of those wins came past-their-prime boxers.
It'll be a real stepup in competition for the Brit as he challenges for his first world championship.
May 25: Jean Pascal vs. Lucian Bute
After beating Chad Dawson in 2010 it seemed that Jean Pascal was about to emerge as one of boxing's rising stars.
But his two fight series with Bernard Hopkins, one a controversial draw and the other a clear defeat, left the 30-year-old light heavyweight on the literal ropes.
Add that to injuries and Pascal (27-2-1, 16 KO) has only fought twice in the last two years. He will be taking a huge step back into the deep waters when he faces Lucien Bute this May in Montreal.
Bute (31-1, 24 KO) rebounded nicely from the first loss of his career, a knockout at the hands of Carl Froch, to defeat Denis Grachev last November.
He is a powerful puncher with something to prove.
This is the definition of a crossroads fight for both guys. The winner will clearly reenter the conversation amongst the top 175-pound fighters in the world, while the loser will have a lot to ponder.
May 25: Carl Froch vs. Mikkel Kessler
This will be the second go-around for the top two 168-pounders in the world not named Andre Ward, with Kessler having won the first bout by close but clear unanimous decision.
Since then Carl Froch (30-2, 22 KO) has rebounded nicely, capturing two world championships and defeated both Arthur Abraham and Lucien Bute. His lone loss since came at the hands of Andre Ward in the finals of the Super Six tournament.
Kessler (46-2, 35 KO) hasn't lost a fight since he beat Froch, but his level of competition hasn't been as stringent. His most notable wins since have come over Brian Magee and Allan Green, two solid but not spectacular fighters.
With Ward on the shelf this fight has significant implications. The winner will clearly emerge as his top contender, though he beat both, and have a legitimate claim to the throne until he returns; but just until he returns.