The Hottest Boxing Storylines for the Week of Feb. 23

Kevin McRae@@McRaeWritesFeatured ColumnistFebruary 23, 2014

The Hottest Boxing Storylines for the Week of Feb. 23

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    There's lots to talk about and lots to do in this week's edition of the hottest storylines in boxing.

    What next for Amir Khan now that it appears he's the big loser in the Floyd Mayweather sweepstakes? 

    On the other hand, if Marcos Maidana is indeed the holder of the "golden ticket," what chance does he have of actually unseating Mayweather on May 3?

    Can Vasyl Lomachenko capture a world title in just his second professional fight? And, on the same card, can Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. prove that he actually wants to fight for a living?

    All that and more in this week's edition.

    These are the hottest boxing storylines for the week of Feb. 23!

What Next for Amir Khan?

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    Former junior welterweight champion Amir Khan spent the better part of the last six months big-game hunting, but it appears the prize he sought has gotten away. 

    Khan, long the subject of rumors about a potential fight in May with pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather, took to his official Twitter page on Friday, claiming the bout was dead on arrival, and that he had yet to even receive a response from Mayweather's team. 

    The 27-year-old Brit went on to state that he felt very disrespected by the whole process, and he chided Mayweather for wasting his time and being afraid to face him in the ring.

    If Khan's statements are correct—he went so far as to wish Maidana luck in a rumored but as-yet unconfirmed challenge of the pound-for-pound king—then this represents a devastating setback for his career. 

    It would also represent Mayweather—who via Twitter declared that the fans would choose his next foe—going against the will of the people. Khan was the runaway winner of the poll, per Kevin Iole, garnering over 4,000 more votes than Maidana.

    Khan was originally scheduled to challenge former IBF welterweight champion Devon Alexander in December, but he pulled out of the bout, per ESPN, to not risk jeopardizing a potential showdown with Mayweather the following May.

    The Brit's team issued a quick denial that they had dropped the Alexander fight to pursue Mayweather, per The Guardian, but just days later, it was formally announced that Khan was out, per Dan Rafael, and would be replaced by Shawn Porter.

    Porter would go on to beat Alexander and claim the title, while Khan is now looking pretty foolish for giving up a guarantee for an unknown. 

    Should Maidana get the fight, where does that leave Khan? Could he find himself picking up the scraps and facing someone like Adrien Broner? 

    That's a possibility, but it's also a huge letdown for a fighter who seems to have played a high-stakes game of poker and lost.

What Chance Would Maidana Have Against Mayweather?

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    Nobody speaks for Mayweather but the man himself and a select few who comprise the inner circle of his promotional outfit known as “The Money Team” or “TMT.”

    So Khan's declarations notwithstanding, we don't yet have any clue as to who will stand across the ring from the pound-for-pound king in his next fight, scheduled for May 3 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. 

    But let's just, for the sake of argument, operate under the assumption that it's indeed Maidana who has won the boxing lottery and secured the biggest payday in the sport. What chance would he have of pulling off—what would have to be—one of the most monumental upsets in all of sports?

    Very little. 

    Maidana is extremely rugged and tough. He fights hard, doesn't quit and he won't go down with rounds still in the chamber. But he's slow, one-dimensional and should be tailor-made for Mayweather to potshot from the outside all night.

    Against Broner—his career-best performance—Maidana was fortunate to face an opponent who came into the ring without the ability to adapt once it was clear his plan wasn't working.

    That's not going to be the case against Mayweather. He's the master of in-ring adjustments, and he's better than anyone at figuring out what does and doesn't work and changing accordingly.

    Maidana is definitely a good story, and you can't argue that he hasn't peaked at the right time to earn this fight. But he's still the fighter who lost every round to a slick boxer in Devon Alexander back in 2012.

    And Mayweather is light-years ahead of Alexander in every facet of the game. It's not even close.

    If Maidana were to beat Mayweather in May, it would go down as not just one of the biggest upsets in boxing history but one of the biggest in all of sports.

Can Vasyl Lomachenko Win a World Title in Just His Second Pro Fight?

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    Vasyl Lomachenko might just be the greatest amateur fighter in the history of boxing. His promoter Bob Arum, per The Ring Magazine, sure seems to think he is, and you'd have a very difficult time arguing the point.

    The 26-year-old Ukrainian fighter compiled an insane 396-1 record in the amateurs, per, and twice avenged his lone defeat. He's a four-time winner of the World Amateur Championships and twice—2008 and 2012—captured Olympic gold in boxing.

    Lomachenko made his professional debut in October, appearing on the Bradley vs. Marquez undercard and stopped veteran Jose Luis Ramirez in Round 4 to capture the WBO International Featherweight Championship. 

    This coming Saturday, Lomachenko will challenge for the WBO Featherweight Championship against Orlando Salido in just his second fight since turning pro.

    Salido (40-12-2, 28 KO) has one of the most deceptive records in boxing. He's a three-time world champion, who has gone 26-4 in his last 30 fights, after starting his career a lackluster 14-8-2. 

    The Mexican is rugged and tough, but he's been through many a war inside the ring, and that could leave him vulnerable to the much fresher and more skilled Lomachenko. 

    The man from Ukraine is the heavy favorite to unseat Salido and win a world title on Saturday, and given it's just his second pro fight, that's truly remarkable. 

Is This Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.'s Last Chance?

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    Fans have quickly begun to tire of Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and the traveling circus he brings with him whenever he fights. On Saturday night in San Antonio, he faces Brian Vera in a super middleweight rematch; in what could prove to be his last best shot of showing, he's actually serious about being a professional prizefighter. 

    Chavez Jr. has had a real rough go in his last two fights. Against Sergio Martinez, he was dominated for all but the final seconds of the contest, losing virtually every round while being completely outclassed.

    He subsequently tested positive for marijuana, per Dan Rafael, and was suspended by the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

    He returned to the ring last September against Vera, and despite being thoroughly outworked, emerged with a travesty of a unanimous-decision win.

    Let's just get some context on how bad this decision really was by looking at the numbers. 

    According to Compubox, Vera outlanded and more than doubled Chavez Jr.'s punch output in eight of the 10 rounds. Yet, somehow, judge Gwen Adair saw the fight 98-92 for the troubled former champion.

    She was joined in the parade of the absurd by Carla Caiz (96-94) and Marty Denkin (97-93), who, along with her, handed Chavez Jr. a decision that, to this day, boggles the mind. 

    And that sordid affair came after weeks of Chavez Jr. and his camp steadily needing to increase the weight limit, per Rafael, because their guy couldn't get down in time for the fight.

    Originally scheduled for 162 pounds, it was subsequently moved north to 168 and finally 173 just days before fight night.

    Given all his shenanigans and poor performances of late, Chavez Jr. need to make a statement on Saturday. If he doesn't, he won't have to worry about being a fighter any more.

Will Terence Crawford Take the Next Step?

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    Terence Crawford is a young, undefeated blue-chip prospect.

    Ricky Burns is a two-time world champion, who is truly lucky to still be the holder of the WBO Lightweight Championship. He's had two exceptionally close calls in his last two bouts.

    Badly trailing on the cards in a largely one-sided fight, Burns was the shock winner over Jose A. Gonzalez last May, when the Mexican challenger quit on his stool after Round 9. He followed that lackluster performance up by getting an absolute gift of a split-decision draw against Raymundo Beltran last September.

    Crawford (22-0, 16 KO)—who has a style that's very difficult to watch if he's not matched with the right opponent—was a decorated American amateur. He beat several big-name fighters, such as current unified 140-pound champion Danny Garcia and super featherweight champion Mikey Garcia, while rising through the amateur ranks.

    This is one of those matchups where it seems the fighters are heading in opposite directions.

    Crawford is just coming into his own, while Burns needs to thank his lucky stars that he doesn't have losses on his resume from his last two fights.

    It's extremely difficult to get a decision in Scotland—as Beltran unfortunately found out—but Crawford definitely has the talent to do it—should everything be handled legitimately.