The Hottest Boxing Storylines for the Week of Jan. 20

Kevin McRaeFeatured ColumnistJanuary 19, 2014

The Hottest Boxing Storylines for the Week of Jan. 20

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    Could Floyd really drive away into the sunset after 2015?
    Could Floyd really drive away into the sunset after 2015?Uncredited/Associated Press

    It's been said that boxing doesn't have an offseason, and while that's true, we've certainly seen a lull in the recent weeks.

    But all that changed this past weekend as the fists began flying once again on HBO.

    Here we discuss Floyd Mayweather's recent trip to South Africa and what he said about his future career plans. We'll delve a little deeper into this past weekend's action on HBO and discuss the impact for the fighters going forward, and we'll get a good look at Mikey Garcia and Lamont Peterson as they both seek to make big impacts to start 2014.

    All that and more. These are the hottest boxing storylines for the week of January 20!

Will Floyd Mayweather Announce His Foe/Will He Retire in 2015 as He Said?

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    Floyd Mayweather made some news in South Africa this week when he said he'd find an opponent within a week and retire at the end of his current Showtime contract.
    Floyd Mayweather made some news in South Africa this week when he said he'd find an opponent within a week and retire at the end of his current Showtime contract.Uncredited/Associated Press

    Wherever Floyd Mayweather goes, he makes headlines. 

    The pound-for-pound king recently spent some time in South Africa, where he was brought in to help get a once-proud boxing nation back on its feet, and while there, he dropped a couple of interesting tidbits about his future in the ring.

    According to ESPN.com, Mayweather reiterated that he expects to have finalized an opponent within the next week, and he prominently mentioned Amir Khan as one of the options for his May 3 tilt at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

    He also didn't hesitate to take shots at longtime rival Manny Pacquiao, openly pondering if the Filipino icon's sudden desire to do anything to make a fight with him has to do with his recent bouts with tax authorities in the United States and the Philippines. 

    The second big piece of news Mayweather bestowed upon the world this week was that he indeed intends to finish out his current contract with Showtime, tentatively slated to end in Sept. 2015, and then call it a career. 

    If all goes according to plan, and by that we mean he wins each of his next four bouts, Mayweather would be sitting on a perfect 49-0 record at that point. Is it plausible, that for a businessman and fighter of his acumen, that he'd walk away with a shot of going 50-0? 

    Granted, there is some allure to the No. 49. Legendary heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano left the sport with that exact record. 

    But with all the potential money and interest attached to a 50th professional fight, it seems downright unbelievable that a fighter with his keen eye to, as he'd put it, money, power and respect, would walk away with the opportunity to get so much of each right in front of him. 

What's Next for Jean Pascal and Lucian Bute After Their Montreal Grudge Match?

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    Jean Pascal easily defeated Lucian Bute, who has clearly lost confidence in his abilities.
    Jean Pascal easily defeated Lucian Bute, who has clearly lost confidence in his abilities.Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

    It was billed as the Battle of Montreal, but unfortunately for fans, only one fighter wanted to do battle.

    Former light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal outworked, outfought and out-landed fellow Montreal-based former champion Lucian Bute over 12 mostly one-sided rounds on Saturday night at the Bell Centre. 

    It was Pascal's first victory at a world-class level in over three years, and it came in his customary fashion.

    He utilized good movement and feints to lull Bute into frequent periods of complete offensive inactivity, and then he exploded out at him, darting into range, landing big, discouraging shots and getting back out before his foe could return fire. 

    Overall, it was a very solid performance, and it will likely earn him another significant light heavyweight fight, with rumors of another all-Canada light heavyweight showdown—against division kingpin Adonis Stevenson—in Montreal already flowing fast and furious. 

    As for Bute, a former world champion at super middleweight, it might be time to step away from the sport.

    He's clearly not the same fighter since being absolutely blown out by Carl Froch in May of 2012. He seems to have lost all of his confidence and appeared wobbly, really downright nervous, every time Pascal went on the attack.

    Bute would stiffen up, go into pure survival mode and make no real attempt to change the game with counterpunching, which was once his biggest strength. 

    A final-round rally, in which he seemed to have Pascal in some trouble and showed he can still be dangerous, notwithstanding, it's clear that he's, at least from a psychological standpoint, damaged goods.

    The flesh, in this case, is willing, but it's the spirit that's weak.  

Will Mike Perez Ever Be the Same Fighter?

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    Mike Perez was extremely fortunate to escape with a draw against the unknown Carlos Takam.
    Mike Perez was extremely fortunate to escape with a draw against the unknown Carlos Takam.Al Bello/Getty Images

    Mike Perez maintained in the days and weeks leading up to his return Saturday night against the unknown Carlos Takam that he wouldn't be haunted by the specter of his November fight with Magomed Abdusalamov, which left his foe in a coma fighting for his life.

    On that night, Perez was guilty of doing no more than his job. The 10-round affair was brutal, with both guys sustaining heavy punishment. But it was the Russian who took the brunt. In the immediate aftermath of the fight, he was forced to undergo emergency surgery to remove a blood clot on his brain. 

    He was placed in a medically induced coma to reduce swelling and had a stroke, which further dimmed his chances of survival. Fortunately, Abdusalamov has come out of the worst of it. He'll never fight again, and he's expected to have life-long complications from the brain injuries he sustained, but he will live.

    Perez carried all of that with him into the ring on Saturday night, and his protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, he did not look close to the fighter he was that November night.

    "The Rebel" clearly won the first few rounds, largely because Takam was going backwards and didn't seem to be in much of a hurry to engage. But a headbutt near the end of the third round opened a really nasty gash over Perez's right eye, and from that point on, the fight changed.

    Takam largely took it to Perez, who was lethargic and disinterested, over the second half of the fight, and the massive underdog earned a draw that probably should've been a win. 

    Regardless of the official outcome, this will be viewed in the public's eye as a setback for Perez. The physical and mental toll of the Abdusalamov affair seemed to have, at the the very least, some impact on him. 

    The question remains: Will he ever be the same fighter, and if not, where does he go from here?

Will Mikey Garcia Take the Next Step?

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    Mikey Garcia looks to continue his path to stardom on Saturday night against the tough Juan Carlos Burgos.
    Mikey Garcia looks to continue his path to stardom on Saturday night against the tough Juan Carlos Burgos.Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Mikey Garcia spent much of his 2013 campaign inside a boxing ring looking like the proverbial buzzsaw.

    He opened the year on Jan. 19 with a stunningly lopsided defeat of rugged, veteran world champion Orlando Salido at The Theater at Madison Square Garden. The fight was over nearly as soon as it started, as Garcia placed Salido on the mat four times in the first four rounds before having his nose broken by a foul and winning a unanimous technical decision in the eighth round.

    Garcia then returned in June with a blowout of faded former featherweight champion Juan Manuel Lopez, and then capped off his year in November by capturing a second world title—this time at super featherweight—by becoming the first man to stop Roman "Rocky" Martinez.

    The 26-year-old returns to the ring this Saturday night at a familiar haunt—The Theater at MSG is where he won his first world title a little more than a year ago—against the dangerous Juan Carlos Burgos.

    Burgos may not have the name recognition of Garcia's last few opponents, but he's a tough boxer-puncher who has a legitimate gripe that he's been screwed in two previous world title challenges.

    Garcia is already being groomed for superstardom and, as recently as last week, was named as a potential future foe for former pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao. 

    Now, a lot of things need to go right before that fight is even a realistic possibility, and step one begins Saturday night against Burgos. 

    Make no mistake about it: Garcia is the clear favorite, and he should win, but this is by no means a walk in the park.

Does Bryant Jennings Have What It Takes to Be in the Heavyweight Title Picture?

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    Bryant Jennings meets Artur Szpilka in a matchup of undefeated heavyweights on the Garcia vs. Burgos undercard.
    Bryant Jennings meets Artur Szpilka in a matchup of undefeated heavyweights on the Garcia vs. Burgos undercard.Scott Heavey/Getty Images

    Forgive me if you've heard this story before, but Bryant Jennings is an undefeated American heavyweight with a ton of promise. Yeah, it seems that we've said that about countless other fighters, so if you're reluctant to buy in, we'll cut you some slack. 

    Jennings has made a bit of a name for himself by fighting in and around his hometown of Philadelphia, but he'll be jumping up to a significantly bigger stage this coming Saturday night when he faces undefeated Artur Szpilka on the Garcia vs. Burgos undercard.

    This will be Jennings' first appearance on HBO, which has suddenly developed a bit of heavyweight depth, and he'll be looking to make a statement in order to stand out from the pack. 

    His opponent, the 24-year-old Szpilka is well known in his native Poland, and a cursory look at his record finds the faded remains of several recognizable former heavyweight contenders or gatekeepers. These include Jameel McCline, Brian Minto and Owen "What the Heck" Beck. 

    You can argue whether or not you feel that's more impressive than what Jennings brings to the table—his biggest win was over what used to be former WBO heavyweight champion Siarhei Liakhovich in 2012—but both guys are looking for big showings in prime time.

    Jennings would appear to be the favorite, but he is severely untested and has a long way to go before he can rightfully call himself a contender.

Does Anyone Remember Lamont Peterson?

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    Despite a rough 2013, Lamont Peterson is still a world champion.
    Despite a rough 2013, Lamont Peterson is still a world champion.Nick Wass/Associated Press

    If you were wondering what happened to IBF junior welterweight champion Lamont Peterson, you should tune in to Showtime this coming Saturday night.

    Yes, there will be a sighting of the man who nearly had his head removed from his shoulders by Lucas Matthysse last May in Atlantic City, and he'll be putting his title on the line against undefeated, but little known, Dierry Jean.

    Peterson, who hasn't fought since getting knocked out by Matthysse, has had a rough go of it these last few years. He defeated Amir Khan for his first world title—under highly specious circumstances—to close out 2011, but it's been largely downhill since then.

    He was forced to pull out of a proposed rematch with Khan the following year, after testing positive for synthetic testosterone. Peterson admitted to taking testosterone pellets, which are a banned substance, but claimed to be doing so under doctor's supervision and to correct an abnormally low testosterone level. 

    Regardless, the issue cost him all of 2012, and he fought twice in 2013—a stoppage win over Kendall Holt in February and the Matthysse debacle in May—but did not escape a second bout of PED suspicion, according to Michael Woods of TheSweetScience.com. 

    In facing Jean, Peterson will headline a Showtime card against an opponent who isn't very well known. He badly needs a victory to get his new year off on the right foot, and to hopefully put all the ghosts of years past behind him.