Miguel Cotto

Boxers Who Will Get Opportunities They Don't Deserve in 2014

Kevin McRaeFeatured ColumnistJanuary 4, 2014

Boxers Who Will Get Opportunities They Don't Deserve in 2014

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    Apparently getting dropped by Julio Diaz and escaping with a narrow decision are all it takes to earn a shot at Floyd Mayweather these days.
    Apparently getting dropped by Julio Diaz and escaping with a narrow decision are all it takes to earn a shot at Floyd Mayweather these days.Scott Heavey/Getty Images

    In boxing, opportunities are earned. A fighter places his body on the line each and every time he steps into the ring, and chances are taken, not given.

    But for the following five men, Christmas may come a little early in 2014. For a variety of reasons, they will each likely receive an opportunity that they don't deserve. 

    Sure, some are more egregious than others, but the fact remains that each of these fighters will get a fight that they either don't warrant, or the bout would be better off going to someone else.

    These five boxers will get opportunities they don't deserve in 2014.

Amir Khan

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    Amir Khan might be about to hit the lottery, whether he deserves to or not.
    Amir Khan might be about to hit the lottery, whether he deserves to or not.Scott Heavey/Getty Images

    Despite being just 2-2 in his last four fights, with both victories coming over less than stellar opponents, Amir Khan might be on the verge of hitting boxing's equivalent of the lottery.

    The 27-year-old former junior welterweight champion has been mentioned as the next foe for pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather, and earlier this week, he said he had signed his end of the contract for the May 3 fight.

    Now, that doesn't conclusively prove that the fight is a go. As Mayweather often says regarding fight rumors, if you didn't hear the news from him, CEO of Mayweather Promotions Leonard Ellerbe or advisor Al Haymon, don't believe it.

    But where there's smoke, there's usually fire, and this particular rumor has been burning for a while now.

    Only Khan has done nothing to earn this fight.

    His last four bouts have been unimpressive. He lost to Lamont Peterson—in a fight that without shoddy refereeing he probably would have won—and then got shellacked by Danny Garcia before rebounding with victories over Carlos Molina (not the 154-pound champ) and Julio Diaz.

    In the Diaz fight, Khan hit the canvas and had to survive for a narrow decision against a fighter who hasn't been relevant since 2007. That's a big problem.

    And that's not the type of resume that should earn a boxer the biggest money fight in the sport, but in Khan's case, it might do just that in 2014.

Miguel Cotto

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    As impressive as Cotto looked against Rodriguez, he hasn't earned a middleweight title shot.
    As impressive as Cotto looked against Rodriguez, he hasn't earned a middleweight title shot.Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    No disrespect to Miguel Cotto, but he hasn't earned a shot at the middleweight championship.

    The Puerto Rican legend is one of the best fighters of his generation, has won world titles in three weight divisions and should have a plaque waiting for him at the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota when he retires.

    His impressive return—after being left for dead after consecutive losses—against Delvin Rodriguez restarted his career and put him in high demand for big fights.

    Cotto reportedly had his pick of either Saul "Canelo" Alvarez or WBC middleweight champion Sergio Martinez, and he settled on pursuing the fight that could earn him a title in a fourth weight division. 

    Cotto vs. Martinez is rumored for some time early in June of this year in the New York City vicinity, and if the Puerto Rican wins, he would become the first fighter from the island to capture world titles in four separate weight classes. 

    Not only that, but given Martinez's recent injury history and seemingly declining skills, it would not be surprising if Cotto pulled off the feat.

    But that doesn't mean he's earned this shot on anything other than lifetime achievement.

    Cotto has never fought above 154 pounds in his career and was far less effective at junior middleweight than he was at welterweight. There are more deserving contenders—such as Gennady Golovkin—who have done more at 160 pounds to earn this chance. 

Deontay Wilder

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    Will Deontay Wilder be the next great American heavyweight?
    Will Deontay Wilder be the next great American heavyweight?Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

    Deontay Wilder is a big boy.

    At 6'7" tall and with an 84-inch reach, he's one of the few big men on the planet who can match up physically with reigning undisputed heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko.

    With 30 consecutive knockout victories to start his career, the "Bronze Bomber" is being groomed as the next great American heavyweight hopeful, and if everything goes according to plan, he could find himself challenging for the heavyweight title by year's end.

    But has he earned it?

    In the context of an overall weak crop of heavyweight challengers, it's possible, but this might be a textbook case of too much too soon.

    Wilder hasn't beaten anyone remotely resembling a top-20 heavyweight. And that's saying something, given today's standard for what a top-tier heavyweight would look like. 

    He has the physical gifts, but he is still raw. Jumping from Nicolai Firtha and Audley Harrison to Klitschko might be career suicide. 

    It's one thing to fight with a style that is—kindly described as—unrefined against the lower tier of the division. But against a surgeon like Klitschko, it could lead to all sorts of problems.

    Still, Wilder's massive punching power, when combined with the historically chinny champion, could lead to a fair amount of intrigue. But that would relegate the challenger to little more than a puncher's chance in the bout.

Victor Ortiz

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    Victor Ortiz has always been talented, but he seems to lack the fire of a champion.
    Victor Ortiz has always been talented, but he seems to lack the fire of a champion.Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    "Vicious" Victor Ortiz keeps on coming back from the boxing dead. And that doesn't always seem to make fans happy.

    Given the ups and downs of his relatively short career, it's amazing to think that the former WBC welterweight champion is still a few weeks shy of his 26th birthday. It feels as though Ortiz has been around—and underachieving—forever.

    He'll make his return to the ring—more than 18 months since his last bout—against fellow former welterweight champion Luis Collazo on a Golden Boy Promotions Thursday night card at the Barclays Center on Jan. 30. 

    A victory in that bout, which is expected, could lead him to bigger and better things in the second half of 2014. One of those bigger and better things could be a fight that was supposed to happen in 2012 but got mothballed after Ortiz suffered a broken jaw in a loss to Josesito Lopez. 

    In the wake of his defeat against Floyd Mayweather in September, Saul "Canelo" Alvarez might return to the ring three times in 2014. One of those potential opponents could wind up being Ortiz.

    That's fight barely made sense at the time it was originally being discussed. 

    Ortiz has never traveled above welterweight as a professional, and if Lopez broke his jaw, what would a substantially bigger and stronger puncher like Alvarez do to him? 

    Even so, this must be classified as a potential opportunityone that Ortiz hasn't done much to earn.

Gary Russell Jr.

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    Gary Russell Jr. may be uber-talented, but he has fought a collection of stiffs.
    Gary Russell Jr. may be uber-talented, but he has fought a collection of stiffs.Scott Heavey/Getty Images

    Gary Russell Jr. is considered to be one of the best young prospects in boxing. But there's a problem. And it's a big one.

    The man they call "Mr." has fought a collection of stiffs, and the few recognizable names on his resume were way past their best.

    There's a running joke in the boxing communitythat Russell has fought "TBA" more than anyone in boxing history, since so many of his opponents have not been settled on until close to fight night. 

    That usually doesn't lead to securing the highest quality of foe.

    Many of those opponents have been awful. For a fun exercise, check out his career ledger on Boxrec.com. See all those red marks next to his foes' names? Those are losses, and most of them had a lot of them before meeting him. 

    Despite that, Russell Jr. has been mentioned as a possible world title challenger in 2014. He currently sits as the mandatory challenger for Orlando Salido's WBO Featherweight Championship and is next in line to face the winner of Salido's defense against Vasyl Lomachenko in March. 

    That's ludicrous given his level of opposition and unwillingness to step it up in recent months. The WBO should be criticized for participating in this farce.

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