The Hottest Boxing Storylines to Watch in the Week of December 2
Knockouts were the order of the weekend, and HBO's telecast on Saturday night produced two of the spectacular variety.
We assess Adonis Stevenson and Sergey Kovalev's performances and the implications for a possible showdown between the two champions.
It seemed, in the ring post-fight, that one fighter was very interested and one not so much.
This coming weekend, both HBO and Showtime will put on cards, but with very different levels of quality. We'll break down whether HBO has closed the gap and what more it needs to do to regain the top spot.
All that and more, in this week's edition of the top storylines in boxing.
Is Adonis Stevenson Ducking Sergey Kovalev?
Adonis Stevenson and Sergey Kovalev were showcased on the same HBO card for a reason. The expectation was that, should each guy take care of business in Quebec on Saturday night, they would find their way into the ring together sometime next year.
"Take care of business" is putting it lightly.
Kovalev absolutely destroyed Ismayl Sillakh, scoring a scary second-round knockout, to retain his WBO Light Heavyweight Championship in the co-main event.
That was an impossibly high bar to set, but Stevenson did his job as well, taking out the rugged and game Tony Bellew in the sixth round.
Check and check. Now, on to Stevenson vs. Kovalev? Not so fast.
Asked in the ring after his victory, Kovalev was emphatic about wanting Adonis next, but Stevenson was a little more circumspect.
He chose instead to call out Carl Froch and Bernard Hopkins, relegating Kovalev to the "if the money is right" category. That one sentence has derailed many a fight in the past, and it will derail many more in the future.
In fairness to Adonis, nothing is set in stone, and nobody is saying the fight won't happen.
But you'd be hard-pressed, based on his post-fight statements, to say it's the fight he wants.
Who Wins the Battle of Brooklyn?
Even with both fighters past their best days in the ring, the main event of Showtime's big boxing telecast on Saturday night has more than a few compelling storylines.
It's being dubbed the "Battle of Brooklyn" and with good reason.
Both Zab Judah—Brownsville—and Paulie Malignaggi—Bensonhurst—are natives of the borough, and if you ran into them on the street, you'd know it.
Each man wears his Brooklyn style and attitude as a badge of honor. Both have been known in their careers for engaging in entertaining and often colorful trash talk. Though, in their defense, the promotion for this fight has been pretty respectful and tame.
Both played an integral role in helping the Barclays Center get off the ground as a boxing venue, with Malignaggi defeating Pablo Cesar Cano as the co-feature of the arena's inaugural card in October 2012, and Judah putting in a spirited effort in defeat to Danny Garcia in April of this year.
If the desire to lay claim to the title of Brooklyn's best fighter weren't enough, both men are badly in need of a win to keep their career moving forward. Both are former multi-time, multi-weight world champions who have struggled in recent fights.
Malignaggi lost his last bout and his welterweight title—by close split decision to Adrien Broner at Barclays in June—and Judah dropped the aforementioned decision to Garcia.
With the fighters 33 and 36 years old, Father Time is right around the corner, and the loser of this fight will struggle to get another high-profile assignment.
So to the victor goes not only the title of King of Brooklyn but also a chance to continue on fighting another day.
Will Erislany Trout or Austin Trout Emerge from the Crossroads at 154 Pounds?
You'd be hard-pressed to find two junior middleweight fighters who have been more avoided than Erislandy Lara and Austin Trout. Both are excellent boxers, with tricky styles, and have a propensity to not just beat their opponent but make them look bad in the process.
No, for Lara and Trout, significant fights have been difficult to come by. And with good reason. They're the definition of high-risk, low-reward, so why not fight each other?
Lara, an extremely tricky and not always aesthetically pleasing southpaw, has only been defeated once as a professional. And that came under highly dubious circumstances to Paul Williams in 2011.
In the fight, a slick and hard-to-hit Lara appeared to do more than enough to beat a listless and unsteady Williams by a wide margin on the scorecards. But the judges inexplicably robbed him in a majority decision that reminded us that there are times when the three people tasked with officially scoring a prize fight see something completely different from virtually everyone else.
Trout, on the other hand, had to become a world traveler in seeking out big fights. He captured the WBA Junior Middleweight Championship in Mexico by defeating Saul Alvarez's brother Rigoberto by wipeout unanimous decision.
He burst on the scene about a year ago at this time by defeating Miguel Cotto by wide unanimous decision in hostile territory at Madison Square Garden in New York City to retain his WBA title. It would lead him into a huge fight with Canelo Alvarez in April, which he would drop by unanimous decision.
Both guys understand the stakes for this bout are extremely high. It's a crossroads fight in every sense of the word, and both guys should fight like they won't get another shot.
Because they might not.
Is Devon Alexander in the Floyd Mayweather Lottery?
Devon Alexander was originally scheduled to meet Amir Khan this month, but that fight ultimately fell through—with Khan instead being rumored to be interested in facing Floyd Mayweather—and left the IBF welterweight champion with a much-lower-profile fight.
Instead of Khan, he'll face the undefeated but underwhelming Shawn Porter on the undercard of Judah vs. Malignaggi. Talk about a letdown. But unfortunately, missing out on high-profile fights is not a new experience for him.
However, Alexander could potentially be fighting for something more significant down the line. And that something more significant could well be Mayweather.
The pound-for-pound king is still without a foe for his scheduled fight in May, and the options are relatively limited. He created a mini-firestorm earlier this year when he announced via Twitter that he was close to a deal to face Alexander in a welterweight unification bout.
That bout might not be sexy, and it might not spark anything close to the anticipation of his bout with Canelo Alvarez, but it could well happen.
But first, Alexander needs to get by Porter on Saturday night. He should, but he can't afford to be looking too far ahead. Or more disappointment could come his way.
HBO Has Closed the Gap, but Showtime Remains the Better Product
HBO and Showtime will go head-to-head on cable Saturday night, but in reality, there really isn't much of a contest.
On HBO, undefeated Guillermo Rigondeaux returns from network exile to face former bantamweight champion Joseph Agbeko. Nothing about that matchup is particularly exciting, and it's made all the more odd by the fact that Agbeko has only fought once since 2011.
In the co-main event, former blue-chip junior middleweight prospect James Kirkland returns to the ring after another lengthy prison term—for assault—against undefeated prospect Glen Tapia.
Showtime, on the other hand, will give its fans not one, two or even three interesting matchups, but four fights worth watching.
In the opening contest, Sakio Bika defends the WBC Super Middleweight Championship against Anthony Dirrell. Then Devon Alexander faces Shawn Porter with the IBF Welterweight Championship on the line.
In the co-main event, Erislandy Lara and Austin Trout meet in a crossroads junior middleweight bout, and then Zab Judah and Paulie Malignaggi square off for a chance to continue their careers and crown a king of Brooklyn boxing.
None of Showtime's bouts are even close to the super-fight level, but there's a quality and depth to that card that HBO just doesn't match. And that, more than just about anything, is why the balance of power in the cable wars has shifted.
Showtime simply offers more.