Whom Every Boxing Star Would Fight If Fans Were Choosing the Matchups
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Imagine how boxing would be different if the fans called the shots—if the people, and not shady promoters and television networks, were empowered to make sure that the best fights happened between the best fighters.
It may seem like a fantasy world, mostly because it is, but it provides food for thought.
If it were up to you, whom would you like to see Floyd Mayweather face? Or Canelo Alvarez? Or Adrien Broner?
We try to answer that question here, as we nail down who each boxing superstar would face if the fans were making the call and not the promoters.
A slight caveat: If a fight has already been made (such as Mayweather vs. Alvarez), it cannot be included on this list.
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Andre Ward has decisively beaten virtually all possible challengers in the super middleweight division, and that puts him in something of a bind. He could look to rematches with Carl Froch and Mikkel Kessler, but we've already seen those shows.
If Ward is going to take the next step toward superstardom in the sport, he's going to need fresh and compelling challengers. Right now, only one man provides both of those two needs, fights near Ward's weight class and is also in need of a star-making win.
That man is Gennady Golovkin.
GGG has been mentioned as a possible foe for Ward in the past, but he'd need to jump up to 168 pounds for the fight to happen. That shouldn't be a big issue, and if he keeps winning, the public demand for the fight is sure to increase.
Golovkin would be the biggest, strongest and most dangerous foe of Ward's career. The matchup would be compelling and high profile enough to launch the winner toward the top of the sport.
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Presiding over the heavyweight division in boxing used to be a tremendous accomplishment. The big men once represented the glamour weight class of the sport, but that hasn't been the case for some time now. The lack of depth and new challenges has left us with a division of retreads, nobodies and no-hopers to face the dominant tandem of Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko.
The only compelling matchup for either brother is one that both have said will never happen. You see where I'm going here?
Wladimir vs. Vitali would be a box-office smash for any number of reasons. The storylines—brother vs. brother, best vs. the best, fighting an opponent with a pulse—would sell themselves. It would decisively settle who the superior brother is, and it would give the fans a reason to watch a heavyweight fight.
It may never happen, but if the fans were making the match, it would.
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Saul "Canelo" Alvarez has a big enough fish to fry in the form of Floyd Mayweather on Sept. 14, but plenty of other challengers are also available for the rising Mexican star. If he manages to defeat Mayweather later this year, then he will instantly become the biggest star in the sport.
But if he loses, as many expect, it's not the end of the world. He could easily make the jump to middleweight, where his foes would be larger but where he might be more comfortable. He could take on the likes of Gennady Golovkin or reigning champion Sergio Martinez.
Martinez would be possibly the best stylistic matchup for Canelo, and that fight provides its share of engaging storylines. Middleweight is still one of the glamour division in the sport, and for a young man like Alvarez, ruling that roost would have its benefits.
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Abner Mares was impressive in his featherweight title victory over Daniel Ponce de Leon on the Mayweather vs. Guerrero undercard. He battered, beat up and stopped a rugged champion known for his heart and determination.
That's some way to announce an arrival in a new weight division. Mares made the jump from super bantamweight largely because he was unable to secure a marquee matchup with fellow champion Nonito Donaire.
Unfortunately, with the Golden Boy vs. Top Rank war no closer to being settled, this fight is still little more than fantasy. But that doesn't change its standing as the best possible fight in the lower weight divisions.
The fans have asked for Mares vs. Donaire for years, and with "The Filipino Flash" desperate to erase his last fight from the public's memory, why not now?
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Adrien Broner has spent his entire career following in the footsteps of boxing's pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather. Everything from his fighting style, to the way he carries himself to his villainous persona screams of a desire to be just like Floyd.
Broner has thus far backed up his intense trash talking and hype in the boxing ring. At just 23 years old, he's already captured three world championships in three weight divisions. Most recently, he went into a hostile Barclays Center and wrested a share of the welterweight crown from Paulie Malignaggi.
Is he anywhere near the level of Mayweather? You'd have to be crazy at this stage to think that. But the comparisons are there, and if he keeps winning, the public will crave a matchup with his idol.
Whether or not the bout will take place might be answered in time, but that won't change the public's desire to see it happen.
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Is it unfair to Sergio Martinez to declare him to be on the decline? Maybe, but the writing is on the wall. He's 38 years old, narrowly defeated Martin Murray in his last bout and will once again miss the remainder of the year with injuries.
In September against Murray, "Maravilla" looked nothing like the fighter who made Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. seem like a fool for 11-and-a-half rounds. It was a narrow victory that saw him get knocked down, and many felt the scores could have been closer than the official cards.
Unfortunately for Martinez, there's a monster in his yard: Kazakh punching machine Gennady Golovkin.
GGG easily dispatched of rugged, veteran contender Matthew Macklin in June, and he's already been labeled as the next big thing at 160 pounds. A match with Martinez has been discussed for some time now and would be an easy sell to the public.
Would it be the end of an era? Or would Martinez make one last heroic stand? Let's find out.
Rigo needs a foe who will force the action.
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Guillermo Rigondeaux put on a boxing clinic when he dispatched of Nonito Donaire earlier this year. It was a stunningly one-sided and decisive victory for the 32-year-old Cuban former amateur standout. But it likely didn't win him a ton of new fans.
Rigo's safety-first style was enough to throw Donaire off his game and win him the fight, but it didn't leave people clamoring to see him again. And that's a shame, because Rigo has the capabilities to be so much more when matched well.
The perfect opponent for him would be former WBO featherweight champion Mikey Garcia. The 25-year-old Mexican fighter would press him in a way that Donaire couldn't, or wouldn't, and will force him to engage. Both guys' underrated knockout power could lead to an explosive conclusion.
Juan Manuel Marquez
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In many ways, Juan Manuel Marquez validated his career with his Dec. 9 knockout victory over Manny Pacquiao. It was the first decisive outcome in the series and proved that Marquez is still elite at age 40.
Marquez will face Timothy Bradley in a matchup of recent Pacquiao conquerors on pay-per-view this October. The WBO welterweight title will be on the line, but the fight could be a tough sell on PPV since neither man has proved to be a marquee attraction on his own.
With a victory, the public demand for a fifth bout with Pacquiao will be overwhelming. Fans of both fighters are passionate and have become involved in the rivalry.
For Marquez fans, it's all about proving the knockout wasn't a fluke, and for Pacquiao supporters, it's about evening the score. There's no downside here. Let's get it on!
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It's been a rough stretch for Timothy "Desert Storm" Bradley, and it all started going wrong when he received a generous split-decision verdict over Manny Pacquiao last summer. After the bout, he spent nine months outside the ring before defeating Ruslan Provodnikov earlier this year, and he was the subject of harsh criticism for his victory.
Bradley, who was initially unsure of the verdict after the bout, sought out a rematch with Pacquiao but was denied. Instead he had to settle for a consolation prize, and he will face Juan Manuel Marquez in October.
But the fight Bradley needs, and the fans want, is a rematch with Manny Pacquiao. It would help to set the record straight, and it's a winnable fight for Desert Storm. It seems odd to say that he has to avenge a victory, but that's the reality of this situation, and he could pull it off.
Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao
Mayweather vs. Pacquiao will always remain the "what-if" fight.
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Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao will always be linked in the annals of boxing history. There was a time when a fight between the two would have blasted away boxing records and made lots of people lots of money.
But for thousands of reasons—with varying degrees of blame depending on whom you believe—the fight never took place and now probably never will. And that's a shame for boxing fans and for the sport.
It's become obvious in the past year that Mayweather's superior speed, defense and counterpunching would have given Pacquiao fits. Today there is very little question about who would win.
But that's all hindsight. It doesn't take into account how devastating and dangerous Pacquiao was three or four years ago when he was lining up and knocking down elite opposition. That's not to say he would have won—personally I don't think he would have—but there remains that question of, what if?