The Hottest Boxing Storylines for the Week of December 9
There's a lot to cover as we wind down the boxing calendar for 2013.
This past weekend, we saw a slew of high-profile and important fights along the East Coast—from Brooklyn and Atlantic City—with big-time implications for both the fighters and the overall title picture in their weight classes.
Here we assess the impacts of Guillermo Rigondeaux's latest dud, the "Battle of Brooklyn," Paulie Malignaggi's chances of competing for welterweight gold again and the upcoming end of the boxing year with Adrien Broner vs. Marcos Maidana this Saturday night.
Consider yourself armed for the week. All the boxing storylines you need and want are contained within. These are the hottest boxing storylines for the week of December 9.
Has Guillermo Rigondeaux Blown His Last Shot?
There are few fighters in the sport who elicit the kind of mixed reactions that Guillermo Rigondeaux is capable of bringing out in fans. Some appreciate and defend his tactical, chess-like approach in the ring. He hits, doesn't get hit and has possibly the most impenetrable defense in boxing.
But he's also risk-averse and has a style that is not only completely unmarketable but, in many eyes, totally unwatchable.
Rigondeaux followed up on his domination of Nonito Donaire earlier this year with an even more one-sided exhibition against former world champion Joseph Agbeko on Saturday night in Atlantic City. It was another brilliant tactical performance, with Rigo jabbing and countering at will, but without any of the sort of flair for the dramatic HBO was looking for to continue showcasing him on the network.
Now in fairness, a lot of that had to do with an opponent who came into the fight advertised as one of the most aggressive offensive fighters in the game, but walked into the ring without a willingness to try and make the fight.
But the onus for a great performance wasn't on Agbeko. It was firmly on Rigo, and he did absolutely nothing on Saturday night to win him any additional fans. The fight—being generous—was boring, slow and completely unappealing. Being completely honest, it was awful.
Bob Arum—who owns and operates Top Rank and promotes Rigondeaux—is going to have one hell of a time convincing the suits at HBO, who were already skeptical, to put him back on the air again.
The only potentially appealing fight in the near future is a rematch with Donaire. But Nonito looked much less than spectacular in dispatching Vic Darchinyan in November. Given the trajectories of the two fighters' careers since, there's little reason to believe a second fight would turn out much different.
And that just won't sell.
Nobody is doubting Rigo's boxing ability. Just his ability to make money off it.
Can Paulie Malignaggi Put It Together for One Last Run?
It's a testament to how slick a boxer and how tough a customer Paulie Malignaggi is that he's been able to compete at this high a level of boxing, for as long as he has, with such little punching power.
The "Magic Man" has only scored seven stoppage victories in a career of 33—and counting—wins. On Saturday night, he captured one of the most satisfying verdicts of his career, over Zab Judah, in the "Battle of Brooklyn" at the Barclays Center.
The win came on the heels of a better-than-expected split-decision loss to Adrien Broner in June, and it once again placed Malignaggi in the conversation at 147 pounds with a shot at a third world championship a definite possibility.
And he's earned it.
Malignaggi looked quick, sharp and determined in dispatching Judah. Some will start their assessment of the fight by declaring Judah a shot fighter, but that's Monday-morning quarterbacking by many of the same people who felt his power would be the determining factor in the fight.
But we never really got to find out. Judah seldom was able to let his hands go, with Malignaggi constantly feinting and pressuring him with quick jabs and power punches. Zab's only moment in the fight came in the second round, when he dropped Paulie with a left hand that was aided by the two men's legs being tangled.
It was a one-sided fight before and then after the knockdown, and Malignaggi deserves credit for imposing his style and will on the fight.
With Shawn Porter winning the IBF Welterweight Championship with an upset unanimous decision win over Devon Alexander on the undercard, it's possible that he and Malignaggi could meet with that belt on the line early next year. Or maybe he'll get the rematch with Broner he's lobbied for since the minute the scorecards were read in June.
It's debatable whether or not Paulie will ever be a factor at the very top of the 147-pound division again—amongst the Floyd Mayweathers and Tim Bradleys of the world—but he's definitely not an easy out for anyone.
Will Marcos Maidana Be the Problem for Adrien Broner?
Adrien Broner is one of boxing's best young stars. He is immensely talented, has captured world titles in three weight divisions before his 25th birthday and has a personality that is equal parts marketable and abrasive.
"The Problem" has the talent to become a major star in boxing, that much is certain, but it can be argued that his talk has outpaced his accomplishments in the ring, and he has yet to be truly tested. His closer-than-expected decision win over Paulie Malignaggi earlier this year only fed into that narrative.
Now nothing will stop Broner from talking, but he should be able to shed the untested label this coming Saturday night in Texas.
Marcos Maidana may never rate on any pound-for-pound lists. He may be a little crude at times. And he might only know one way to fight. But he's as tough a customer as anyone you'll ever find in the sport, and he seems to do his best when the odds are stacked against him.
The 30-year-old Argentine is a straight-up pressure fighter who enters the ring with one goal and one goal only. That's to attack his opponent and land big shots. And he has absolutely no problem swallowing incoming punches in order to land his own.
This has all the makings of an explosive fight, and as if you needed another reason be intrigued, the two fighters have expressed what appears to be a genuine dislike of each other.
Broner, who does everything possible to irk his foe before, during and after a fight, has found an opponent who's tired of his act. He just wants to fight.
And fight they will. Broner's WBA Welterweight Championship will be on the line, and Maidana is definitely the underdog, but you dismiss him at your own peril.
Can Keith Thurman Take the Next Step?
If you don't know the name Keith Thurman by this point, then you either haven't been paying attention or you're listening to the wrong people.
The 25-year-old Florida native is undefeated in 21 professional bouts, and he has stopped 19 of his foes inside the distance. Need another reason to be impressed? Of those 19 knockouts, 16 have been within the first three rounds, and 10 have come in the first round alone.
It takes a special kind of fighter to handle the type of power and consistent pressure that Thurman brings at you in each and every round, but it's possible that the powers that be have found the man who can do it in the form of Jesus Soto-Karass.
Soto-Karass is one of those fighters who, if you just look at his record without delving deeper, you could easily dismiss. With eight losses and three draws on his ledger, he's the perfect test case for why you need to watch a fighter before judging him.
He's a hardscrabble contender who has lost a lot of bouts against quality opposition but has rarely gone done without a fight. And usually it's one hell of a fight too.
Soto-Karass has been on quite a streak of late. He was stopped in the eighth round of a war with Marcos Maidana late last year—in which both guys were teeing off, so no shame in that—and rebounded well to score upsets over Selcuk Aydin and Andre Berto this year.
He won't lie down. Not for Thurman. Not for anybody.
This fight might well steal the show on Saturday night, and you can pretty much bank on someone getting knocked out. Spectacularly.
Who Was the Most Impressive Junior Middleweight on Saturday Night?
Saturday night was a good showcase for the junior middleweights, with two men taking huge steps towards stardom at the top of the division.
In a bout for the Interim WBA Junior Middleweight Championship, Erislandy Lara—who by rights should be undefeated—absolutely walked over former champion Austin Trout. Like his fellow Cuban Guillermo Rigondeaux, Lara is a supreme tactical fighter, but unlike his compatriot, he's willing to open up more offensively.
For the vast majority of the 12 rounds, he rendered Trout—an extremely difficult and avoided fighter himself—completely inept offensively. He simply couldn't get into range to reach the target, and when he did, he got nailed with flush counters.
It was a wipeout win for Lara, who dominated Trout in a way that Saul "Canelo" Alvarez could not.
Meanwhile on HBO, James Kirkland returned from another extended absence (due to jail time) to engage in a Fight of the Year candidate, stopping Glen Tapia in the sixth round of a vicious war that would have even the most desensitized amongst us cringing.
The first three or so rounds were highly competitive, and both guys took turns teeing off on their opponent. By the fourth and fifth, Tapia was clearly in serious danger, and his corner absolutely disgraced themselves by not pulling the plug on their guy sooner.
He was taking a horrific amount of punches from a huge puncher, and it's unconscionable that the referee had to halt the action and not the corner. Their job is to protect their fighter first and win the fight second. And they failed miserably at both tasks.
Both Lara and Kirkland's wins were extremely impressive and established themselves as forces to be reckoned with amongst a crowded 154-pound class.
But who was more impressive?