The Hottest Boxing Storylines for the Week of Jan. 6
With the holiday season now behind us, and the calendar reading 2014, that means we are ready for the punches, and big news, to start flying again.
Rumor has it that Manny Pacquiao will be finalizing his opponent sooner rather than later. Could we get an announcement this week? And who has jumped to the front of the line?
If Pacquiao does reveal his foe, will pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather try to upstage him with his own big news?
All that, plus the latest on Abner Mares' injury, the early cable boxing schedule and the latest Friday Night Fights controversy.
These are your top boxing storylines for the week of Jan. 6.
Will We Get a Manny Pacquiao Foe?
After successfully returning from a two-fight losing streak with a November shellacking of Brandon Rios, former pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao has a decision to make, and it could be coming soon.
The decision is which of the two most prominently mentioned opponents—WBO welterweight champion Timothy Bradley or WBO junior welterweight champion Ruslan Provodnikov—he will face on his April 12 reserved date at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
According to Dan Rafael of ESPN.com, a decision could have come as early as this past Saturday, with an announcement early next week. Top Rank CEO, and Pacquiao promoter, Bob Arum met with the Filipino icon's senior advisor Michael Koncz at his home this weekend to move towards settling on a foe.
But that meeting reportedly ended without an opponent being finalized.
The late money seems to be favoring Provodnikov, who captured a 140 pound title by making Mike Alvarado quit in October, and who has recently indicated that he prefers a Pacquiao fight over other available options.
Bradley obviously carries the allure of Pacquiao being able to potentially right one of the biggest boxing robberies in recent memory, but he carries with him a stylistic risk that could potentially outweigh the benefit.
Against Provodnikov, Pacquiao would face the same type of come forward brawler that he saw in Rios. Granted, the Russian's heart and intense pressure are far greater, but you'd be hard-pressed to find many who would not expect the "Pacman" to win the fight.
"Desert Storm," on the other hand, really emerged as a true pound-for-pound fighter in 2013 with his victories over Provodnikov and Juan Manuel Marquez. He clearly presents the most high-profile option, but also the highest risk.
Will Floyd Mayweather Steal Pacquiao's Thunder?
Pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather has always treated the man most-often linked to him at the top of the boxing world, Manny Pacquiao, with a less than subtle amount of contempt. The mere mention of Pacquiao's name is often enough to evoke a sneer and words of derision from Mayweather, who seems to consider any mention of his longtime hypothetical rival as beneath him.
So, with Pacquiao potentially about to announce his foe for a scheduled April 12 fight, could Mayweather attempt to steal his thunder by dropping the goods on his next fight soon thereafter?
It wouldn't be at all surprising.
Amir Khan, long rumored to be the man about to cash his boxing lottery ticket, made news last week when he announced he had signed his end of a contract for a fight with Mayweather in May.
Without word from inside the Mayweather camp, that doesn't hold any real water, and Floyd himself took umbrage with Khan's statement, telling Fighthype.com that Khan was, more or less, making it all up.
Still, with Pacquiao about to make an announcement, is it inconceivable that Mayweather could quickly pull together a fight with either Khan or Marcos Maidana to suck the air out of the Filipino's story?
But would it surprise you?
What's Up with Abner Mares?
The last time we saw Abner Mares, he was getting blasted out of the ring by veteran former champion Jhonny Gonzalez in one of 2013's biggest upsets.
It was a stunning outcome, given the overwhelming sense that Mares was on the upswing and Gonzalez, despite being only 32 years old, was past his best days because of so many in-ring wars.
To his credit, Mares handled his first career defeat with a ton of professionalism, refusing to make excuses and giving his opponent all deserved credit for his victory. A rematch was scheduled for Feb. 15 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, but was recently postponed after Mares suffered a rib injury.
No rescheduled date has yet been announced, but according to Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer, Mar. 15 has definitively been ruled out, as Mares is under doctor's orders to not train for several more weeks.
But what would boxing be without rumors and mud-slinging?
Recently, rumors have surfaced in Mexico that Mares decision to postpone the fight had less to do with an injury than lack of preparation. This is clearly just speculation, but something worth keeping an eye on going forward.
Who Will Snatch the Early Lead in the Cable Wars?
You'd have little problem arguing that Showtime got the best of the cable TV boxing wars in 2013. They snagged pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather with an exclusive six fight deal in February, and then put an overall better quality of fights on the air for the remainder of the year.
The crown jewel of last year's events, "The One: Mayweather vs. Canelo," broke all sorts of boxing records for revenue and easily topped anything done by HBO in terms of pure sports event status.
We've had a few weeks to mull over the current state of the battlefield between the two networks—Showtime closed out 2013 on Dec. 14 with Marcos Maidana's exciting upset over Adrien Broner—and HBO will get the chance to fire the opening salvos of what is certain to be an exciting 2014.
The first major televised card of the year will take place on Jan. 18 in Montreal, and it'll be on HBO.
Jean Pascal is a former light heavyweight champion who lost his title to the ageless Bernard Hopkins. A variety of injuries have limited his activity—he's only fought three times since 2010—and he'll be taking on a huge challenge in the form of once-beaten Lucien Bute.
Then a week later, HBO will feature one of their quickest rising young stars, as undefeated Mikey Garcia defends his recently-won super featherweight title against Juan Carlos Burgos from The Theater at Madison Square Garden.
On the same night, Showtime will get back into the game with a double-header, featuring junior welterweight champion Lamont Peterson's—who returns for the first time since nearly having his head removed by Lucas Matthysse in Atlantic City—defense against undefeated Dierry Jean.
None of those fights are earth-shattering, and they won't shift the overall landscape, but expect HBO to get out to the early lead by featuring two potential all-action fights to start the year.
Will Friday Night Fights Continue to Be the Source of Controversy?
ESPN's Friday Night Fights premiered this past weekend, and for a show that has brought a fair amount of controversy, it didn't take long to step in the mud in 2014.
Argenis Mendez, who you might find less recognizable than his promoter, a fellow named Mike Tyson, lost his IBF Super Featherweight Championship to Rances Barthelemy on Friday night, but it happened under highly specious circumstances.
Near the end of the second round, Barthelemy floored the now former champion with a three punch combination that had him in a fair bit of trouble.
Mendez rose, but again found himself in the trouble during the closing seconds of the round. Barthelemy, now on the attack, once again floored the Dominican with another three punch combo, but there was a problem.
At least two, if not all three, of the final shots clearly landed after the bell, and referee Pete Podgorski—who was badly out of position with the round about to end—decided to not call a foul, but instead to count Mendez out.
Watch for yourself and make your own judgement. Pay particular attention after the eight minute mark of the video.
It was an egregious mistake by the referee, and it directly impacted the result of the fight.
The Mendez camp, led by Tyson, have promised to protest the result in an attempt to have it overturned.
Based on the evidence, it would seem they have a pretty convincing case. That's not to say that the ultimate result would've been different—Barthelemy seemed in control early—but that doesn't change the fact that Mendez didn't get a fair shake.