The Hottest Boxing Storylines to Watch in Week of November 25

Kevin McRae@@McRaeWritesFeatured ColumnistNovember 24, 2013

The Hottest Boxing Storylines to Watch in Week of November 25

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    Manny Pacquiao is back in a big way, but has he answered all the questions after his loss to Juan Manuel Marquez?
    Manny Pacquiao is back in a big way, but has he answered all the questions after his loss to Juan Manuel Marquez?Nicky Loh/Getty Images

    What a weekend in boxing!

    We saw the return of one of the sport's biggest stars, fighting for the first time in a major pay-per-view event in one of the world's most populous nations and he put on one hell of a show.

    In this week's edition, we break down all the remaining questions and storylines from Pacquiao vs. Rios, discuss the unreal Tor Hamer situation and get you set up right for all the action coming on HBO this weekend from Canada.

    These are the top storylines in boxing for the week of November 25.

Is Manny Pacquiao All the Way Back?

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    Manny Pacquiao had enough to dominate Brandon Rios, but is he all the way back?
    Manny Pacquiao had enough to dominate Brandon Rios, but is he all the way back?Nicky Loh/Getty Images

    Manny Pacquiao answered a lot of questions with a dominant unanimous decision victory over Brandon Rios on Saturday night in Macau, China, but the big one remains: Is he all the way back?

    That's a difficult question to answer, but let's give it a shot.

    Many of the questions heading into this fight revolved around two central themes. Would Pacquiao be forever changed by the devastating knockout against Juan Manuel Marquez, and would he be able to channel the spirit of the mystical "old Pacquiao" and blitz through an opponent whose style seemed built for him. 

    The answer to the first question was a resounding no. 

    Pacquiao showed no reluctance to let his hands go and put together combinations against an opponent who was rugged, but he clearly couldn't handle his speed. The few times that "Bam Bam" was able to land clean, the Filipino icon seemed to take the punches well. So on that score, at least, thumbs up.

    On the far more difficult question of channeling the "old Pacquiao," the results are more of a mixed bag.

    Pacquiao made a name for himself as he rose through the ranks by being a buzzsaw. He'd shock his foe with fast, powerful and accurate punches from all sorts of angles. But as he's risen in weight, and gotten older, his punching power doesn't seem quite what it used to be.

    He tagged Rios quite a few times with very hard shots but never appeared to have him in significant trouble.

    The good news, however, is that he fought for three minutes of every round. He didn't fight in spurts, and he kept up a constant stream of punches to his opponent's head and body.

    So to cobble it all together, if you were expecting the destroyer version of Pacquiao—circa 2006-2009—you're bound to be disappointed. Those days are gone.

    What we have instead is a more patient, more systematic fighter who, while not what he was, is still extremely dangerous.

What Next for Manny Pacquiao?

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    Forget the meaningless belt, Pacquiao has potential big fights, for real belts on the horizon.
    Forget the meaningless belt, Pacquiao has potential big fights, for real belts on the horizon.Nicky Loh/Getty Images

    Now that Rios has been dispensed with, the inevitable question becomes: Who does Pacquiao fight next?

    Let's get the longest of the long shots out of the way immediately.

    For as long as the two men lace up the gloves, boxing fans and media will continue to talk about the possibility of Pacquiao meeting pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather. The fight has withered on the vine over the past few years, and the blame for that—in varying degrees—belongs at the feet of both guys.

    But people still want it, and it'll still be talked about, however unlikely. 

    More realistic, is a pair of "home" fighters within the Top Rank stable: WBO junior welterweight champion Ruslan Provodnikov and WBO welterweight champion Timothy Bradley.

    Provodnikov, like Pacquiao, is trained by Freddie Roach—and the two fighters are good friends—but stylistically, you can't help but salivate at the possibility of this fight taking place. The Russian is a machine—almost literally—and he will come at you all night long like something out of The Terminator movies. 

    Bradley—who scored a highly disputed split-decision over Pacquiao last year—wasn't in very high demand for a rematch until his victories over Provodnikov and Marquez earlier this year. 

    Suddenly, that fight has real legs to it. 

    Bradley's star has certainly risen, and he's considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the sport, and Pacquiao would love nothing more than to avenge a wrong.

    It makes dollars and sense for both guys and, suddenly, has all the makings of a great fight.

What's the Verdict on Macau?

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    Will big-time boxing continue to grow in China after Pacquiao's victory?
    Will big-time boxing continue to grow in China after Pacquiao's victory?Nicky Loh/Getty Images

    By all accounts, the Cotai Arena, the Venetian Resort, and Macau in general, are all beautiful places, and they did a tremendous job of putting on a major pay-per-view event at an odd hour on Saturday night/Sunday morning.

    With a rising national hero in Zou Shiming, and an icon from just around the corner in The Philippines in Manny Pacquiao, does China have the chance to become boxing's new breakout market? 

    Let's not get ahead of ourselves.

    One impressive night does not the next boxing mecca make. 

    It's a nice place to fight, and it's definitely a market that boxing would love to attract—what with over a billion people—but it remains to be seen if China will be able to continue attracting big-name fights and fighters.

    Pacquiao largely made the trip for tax purposes. As a foreign fighter working in the United States, the Filipino icon is taxed at a very high rate, and due to Macau's favorable tax code, he walked away with more money than he would have fighting in Las Vegas. 

    It remains to be seen whether other major fighters will follow his lead. After all, to capitalize on the American pay-per-view market, the show went live at 10 a.m. local time, and Pacquiao and Rios stepped through the ropes around noon.

    Can you see many fighters wanting to make that type of adjustment? 

You Heard Correctly, a Fighter Got Fired on Twitter After Quitting on a Fight

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    It was a real bad night for Tor Hamer.
    It was a real bad night for Tor Hamer.Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    Saturday night was one of those times when everything seemed to snowball out of control for heavyweight Tor Hamer.

    The New York City-based heavyweight had great success in the first two rounds of his challenge against undefeated Mexican prospect Andy Ruiz Jr., who seemed to be doing his best approximation of King Hippo of Mike Tyson's Punch-Out fame.

    Hamer couldn't miss Ruiz for most of the first six minutes, but then he had a disastrous third round in which his opponent finally found the range to land some heavy shots.

    The bell rang for the start of the fourth, but only one man made an attempt to rise from his stool. It soon became clear that Hamer—who quit in a fight earlier this year against Vyacheslav Glazkov—had once again committed the cardinal sin of boxing and consciously decided to remove himself from a fight.

    The crowd was none too pleased by the decision, but that paled in comparison to what would come next:

    By the way, Tor, you are released. WTF!!!

    — Lou DiBella (@loudibella) November 24, 2013

    Yep, that is Hamer's promoter Lou Dibella, and yes, he did actually fire him via Twitter, pretty much before he even got back to his dressing room.

    But the hits weren't done coming for the now unemployed fighter.

    For his miserable, non-effort, quit job in Macau, Tor Hamer's purse was withheld. Good. He shouldn't get paid. #boxing #PacRios

    — Dan Rafael (@danrafaelespn) November 24, 2013

    Just a terrible night all around for the "Hammer of Thor."

Can Andy Ruiz Factor in the Heavyweight Mix?

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    Andy Ruiz is a big guy who can box and punch, but does he have what it takes to contend?
    Andy Ruiz is a big guy who can box and punch, but does he have what it takes to contend?Harry How/Getty Images

    Ruiz is undefeated, he's Mexican and he strongly resembles King Hippo for all you past/present Nintendo fans. That's a nice way of saying that he looks more like former novelty heavyweight king Butterbean than one of the Klitschko brothers.

    There are more than a few knowledgable boxing observers who seem more than sold on Ruiz's future as a heavyweight contender, despite his short and stocky frame. He's an excellent boxer and counterpuncher who is usually defensively solid

    Ruiz wasn't completely on his game for the first two rounds against Hamer on the undercard of Pacquiao vs. Rios on Saturday night. He appeared slow and very easy to hit. That wasn't a big problem against a fighter who isn't a strong puncher and wasn't mentally tough enough to sustain the effort.

    But against one of the bigger punchers in the division, that could be an issue.

    None of this should be read as dismissing Ruiz's chances to contend, but as he steps up his competition further, he'll need to make a few improvements. Otherwise, a big puncher who can handle his power could put him in some trouble.

Can Adonis Stevenson Continue His Rise?

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    Stevenson has blown through his last two high-level foes, is there any reason to think Tony Bellew has a chance?
    Stevenson has blown through his last two high-level foes, is there any reason to think Tony Bellew has a chance?Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

    Adonis Stevenson has made quite the name for himself in his past two fights. In June, he knocked out the light heavyweight champion in one round to claim the title, and then he followed that up by demolishing Tavoris Cloud in September.

    The 36-year-old champion will be making a quick turnaround when he fights in Quebec this coming Saturday night against WBC mandatory challenger Tony Bellew.

    You're going to have a hard time finding many people who give the British challenger much of a chance of escaping Canada as the new light heavyweight champion, and the real story resolves around how impressive Stevenson will look in defending his title. 

    Assuming he wins, the sky could be the limit with potential big fights on the horizon. And he'll have to look no further then the man fighting in the main support bout for his title defense on Saturday night. 

    Sergey Kovalev—who we'll discuss later—is the one possible opponent who could certainly match, if not exceed Stevenson's punching power.

    Should both win on Saturday night, which is expected, they could meet to unify belts early next year.

Does Anyone Have What It Takes to Stop Sergey Kovalev?

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    Sergey Kovalev is a scary dude.
    Sergey Kovalev is a scary dude.Scott Heavey/Getty Images

    Gennady Golovkin might be considered the most dangerous fighter in boxing, but Russian WBO light heavyweight champion Kovalev isn't far behind him. 

    With 20 knockouts in 22 professional fights, Kovalev's 87 percent knockout percentage isn't far behind GGG's 89 percent, and he hits with the same type of sickening, thudding force. 

    Kovalev will defend the WBO title he won by bludgeoning Nathan Cleverly over the summer on Saturday night against the lightly regarded Ismayl Sillakh. 

    This seems to be a stay-busy type of fight, against a little known and unthreatening foe, in order to continue building Kovalev's brand with the American fight audience and on HBO. 

    A win here, and we could end up with a matchup of the two biggest punchers in the division in Kovalev and Stevenson. That would be a dynamite matchup—possibly quite literally given their combined power—and could be a Fight of the Year candidate for however long it lasts.