The Hottest Boxing Storylines for the Week of Jan. 27

Kevin McRae@@McRaeWritesFeatured ColumnistJanuary 26, 2014

The Hottest Boxing Storylines for the Week of Jan. 27

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    We have a ton of stuff to unpack this week, as the boxing calendar got into full swing with a pair of cards and some big news from one of the sport's top pound-for-pound fighters.

    Here we break down Manny Pacquiao's decision to face Timothy Bradley in a rematch of their highly controversial first affair, and we will look a little deeper into the Filipino icon's decision to challenge Floyd Mayweather to a fight for charity.

    Will Mayweather even bother to respond?

    He'd better.

    Also, we'll look at Mikey Garcia and Lamont Peterson's performances from this past weekend on HBO and Showtime, and we'll take a look at Victor Ortiz, as he prepares to return to the ring Thursday night at the Barclays Center.

    All this and more! These are the top storylines in the world of boxing for the week of Jan. 27!

Is Manny Pacquiao Biting off More Than He Can Chew?

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    Like most observers, yours truly felt that Manny Pacquiao did more than enough to earn a decision victory over Timothy Bradley on June 9, 2012. The scorecards were ludicrous and did not reflect the action in the ring. All the scorn heaped upon them and the judges who filled them in was deserved.

    Bottom line, Bradley did not defeat Pacquiao in that fight. 

    But he will be, if anything, even more motivated to do so in the rematch scheduled for April 12 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. 

    After declining the option to square off in an immediate return bout—given the considerable fallout after the controversial decision—Pacquiao and his team have apparently had a change of heart about Bradley's marketability, given his recent wins over Ruslan Provodnikov and Juan Manuel Marquez. 

    Pacquiao, on the other hand, has suffered a devastating knockout to his longtime rival, Marquez, and scored a lopsided decision over the tough, but limited, Brandon Rios in November in his first fight in nearly a year.

    The two fighters appear to be on very different career trajectories. 

    Bradley is a consensus top-three pound-for-pound fighter appearing in the third spot on both The Ring Magazine and lists, and Pacquiao, while still highly dangerous, appears to be on the down slope. Both will be looking to set the record straight here, but don't be surprised if "Desert Storm" brings more to the table this time around.

Will Floyd Mayweather Respond to Manny Pacquiao's Challenge?

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    In recent weeks, pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather made some headlines when he called longtime rival Manny Pacquiao a "desperate dog" in an interview with Lem Satterfield of The Ring Magazine and openly speculated that the Filipino icon's recent overtures for a bout had to do with his tax problems. 

    Mayweather has steadfastly held to the line that he's not interested in a bout at this time, and that he would never again do business with Pacquiao's—and formerly his own—promoter Bob Arum or his company Top Rank. 

    The normally passive—at least on the subject of Mayweather's frequent criticisms—Pacquiao finally fired back this week, disputing that he wants the fight at this time to solve any financial difficulties and challenging his foe to a bout for charity.

    Now, there are some who will likely be quick to relegate this move to the trash heap of history, along with so many other things said about this fight, and label it as a publicity stunt or an act of desperation. 

    And make no mistake about it, the challenge doesn't move the needle one inch towards making the fight closer to a reality. Mayweather has made no bones in the past about refusing to have terms dictated to him by anyone, and he definitely won't feel goaded or forced into accepting this offer.

    But the real question is: Will he respond at all?

    It's often said that an unanswered criticism brings with it a ring of truth. Amongst Pacquiao's supporters, to whom this announcement was clearly directed, there is a perception that Mayweather has been reluctant to step in the ring with the Filipino icon for fear of losing the coveted zero on his record. 

    Mayweather's supporters would hotly dispute that claim, and they'd correctly—at least to a degree—ascribe the blame for no fight to Pacquiao's not wanting to submit to random blood testing or accept what was, at the time, a below-market-value purse for the fight.

    But has Pacquiao changed the game here? Will this affect the public's perception, and particularly those fans in the middle, who might now view Mayweather as the one not willing to make the fight happen?

    Absolutely nobody believes, or can reasonably expect, that Mayweather will fight for free. But this challenge, particularly if left unanswered, could cause him a serious perception problem.

Did Mikey Garcia Take a Step Back on Saturday Night?

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    Maybe we've just become spoiled, but Mikey Garcia's lackluster unanimous-decision win over Juan Carlos Burgos Saturday night at Madison Square Garden left the entire room flat. People had shown up to see the explosive, devastating Garcia who had blasted Orlando Salido, Juan Manuel Lopez and Roman Martinez in 2013.

    Instead, they got a technical, but wholly uninspired performance against a foe who was there to survive, not win.

    At his best, Garcia is a surgeon in the ring. He patiently waits for openings, finds them and exploits them to devastating effect. But against Burgos, a former two-time world title challenger who probably should've won at least one of those bouts, he was far too surgical.

    Burgos caught Garcia in the closing seconds of the second round with a hook that buckled his knees and nearly sent him to the mat. But he recovered well, badly hurting the Mexican challenger in the third round, and from that point on, the fight turned into a bit of a bore.

    Garcia stalked, stalked and stalked some more. But he didn't let his hands go often enough, perhaps having a respect for Burgos power, and he allowed him to hang around. By the end of the contest, with Burgos on his bicycle and having no shred of hope of actually winning, the crowd booed Garcia lustily, expressing their displeasure with his lack of aggression.

    Now, in fairness to Mikey, this was a difficult stylistic matchup for him from the get-go.

    As was pointed out by some observers, including yours truly, Garcia was in the ring with a slick boxer for the first time in a while. Salido, Lopez and Martinez were all known for their aggression and willingness to come forward.

    Their game plan was to attack Garcia, and in doing so, they left him a ton of openings that he obviously used against them. Burgos, on the other hand, just wanted to hear the final bell.

    Perhaps this was just a bad night at the office, and given his last three fights, you could say that he's earned one. A win is a win, and Burgos, for all his flaws, is a tough nut to crack. Let's not jump off the Mikey Garcia train just yet.

Is Lamont Peterson a Threat to Danny Garcia?

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    Lamont Peterson, still a beltholder at 140 pounds, despite having his head nearly removed from his shoulders by Lucas Matthysse last May, made an extremely impressive return to the ring on Saturday night, outpointing Dierry Jean to retain his IBF Junior Welterweight Championship.

    With the win, Peterson answered many of the questions that had surrounded him since the knockout loss to the Argentine machine, and he quickly reestablished himself as a top-level fighter in the 140-pound division. 

    The division kingpin is Danny Garcia, who got that distinction by knocking out Amir Khan and then outpointing Matthyssee on the undercard of September's Mayweather vs. Canelo event in Las Vegas. 

    Garcia, who holds the WBC and WBA belts with Peterson holding the IBF, would present an attractive unification option down the road. The 25-year-old Philadelphian of Puerto Rican descent appears to be heading toward a fight in Puerto Rico against veteran Mauricio Herrera in March.

    That's not the most exciting affair, and it would be shocking for Garcia to lose to the 33-year-old with only seven knockouts in 20 career wins.

    But crazier things have happened, and Herrera did outbox current WBO junior welterweight champion Ruslan Provodnikov back in early 2011 for a unanimous-decision win.

    Should he hold serve, however, a unification bout with Peterson would be an intriguing affair.

    Just because Peterson was knocked out by Matthysse, and Garcia subsequently decisioned the Argentine, doesn't mean Peterson would be a pushover.

    In boxing, you can never go by the logic that fighter A beat fighter B, and fighter B beat fighter C so fighter A would beat fighter C. It doesn't always work out that way. It's all about styles, and Peterson's style is much more conducive to fighting Garcia than Matthysse.

    Either way, it's worth finding out, and with his big victory on Saturday night, Lamont Peterson put himself in a position to do just that.

Can Victor Ortiz Find Redemption?

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    It's been a long, winding road for Victor Ortiz. 

    The former WBC welterweight champion will make his return to a boxing ring for the first time in 19 months on Thursday night, taking on veteran fellow former champion Luis Collazo in a crossroads battle for the WBA International Welterweight Championship.

    The title belt is largely symbolic, but for Ortiz, it's an absolute must-win affair.

    Ortiz defeated Andre Berto in a classic, back-and-forth war, early in 2011, but, as of this writing, it remains the last time he's had his hand raised in victory. He went on to use the Berto fight, and his title belt, as a springboard to winning boxing's lottery with a fight against Floyd Mayweather in September of that year.

    By now, every boxing fans knows the dubious circumstances surrounding that bout. Ortiz, down on the scorecards after three rounds, rushed Mayweather to the ropes in the fourth and, out of frustration, uncorked a blatant headbutt to his foe's face.

    After having a point deducted, Ortiz attempted to hug Mayweather and got knocked out with his hands still by his waist.

    In his last fight, against Josesito Lopez with a shot at Saul "Canelo" Alvarez on the line, Ortiz was forced to pull himself from the fight, ahead on the scorecards, after suffering a broken jaw. Many fans and observers were critical of the decision, but it's unclear how many would be willing to stand in there and take punches with their jaw damaged in that way.

    Ortiz is still just 26 years old, and he has all the physical tools to still make a great deal of noise in the sport. That is, if he's totally committed.

    We'll find out a good deal about that this coming Thursday night.

Will a Top-10 Middleweight Finally Step Up to Gennady Golovkin?

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    WBA middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin finds himself in something of a bind.

    He's one of the fastest rising names in boxing, he holds a share of the 160-pound title, and HBO has invested a considerable amount of time and money in making him one of the network's top attractions going forward.

    But he's having a helluva hard time coming up with credible opponents. 

    Golovkin, known by the fans as GGG, will return to action on Feb. 1, defending his title against the little known Osumanu Adama in Monte Carlo. Barring something unforeseen, this is little more than a stay-busy fight for GGG, and it won't be televised by HBO.

    The network had explored the possibility of showing the event live on an afternoon broadcast in the United States, but logistical hurdles made that impossible. It's an extremely small venue, a world away, and Golovkin will be facing an opponent who would seem, at least on paper, to have no reasonable expectation of walking out as the new world champion.

    If he wins, which everyone expects he will, GGG will return in April on an HBO card from Madison Square Garden in New York City.

    But who will he face? 

    Division kingpin Sergio Martinez has shown zero interest.

    WBO middleweight champion Peter Quillin would be a potentially attractive match, but the HBO/Showtime cold war puts the kibosh on that one.

    James Kirkland, a junior middleweight with dynamite in his fists, has been prominently mentioned in the past, but he'd have to come up in weight.

    Former middleweight champion Daniel Geale seemed to want the fight, but HBO turned him down, at least for now.

    GGG is definitely a star, but as long as the top names in the 160-pound division remain elusive targets for him, we won't know how far he can go.