10 Brawler vs. Brawler Matchups That Boxing Fans Want to See
Even the most hardcore boxing purists love a brawl. There's nothing more dramatic in sports.
When a couple of guys are putting everything on the line and slugging it out, it's built into our human DNA to stop everything and watch.
Micky Ward and Arturo Gatti were not elite boxing talents, but they became legends of the sport because of their wars.
Thomas Hearns and Marvin Hagler were elite boxing talents. But above almost anything else, they are still remembered today for the night back in 1985 when they went toe-to-toe, trying to break each other for three action-packed rounds.
The top fight on this list is impossible due to the promotional stalemate between Golden Boy and Top Rank. A few of the fights listed here will probably actually happen.
And a few are just matchups between relatively obscure fighters who would provide a terrific fight.
10. Garrett Wilson vs. Jonte Willis
Garrett Wilson is a cruiserweight journeyman with a 13-7-1 career record. But last November, the Philadelphia native stepped up on a few days notice to face heavyweight contender Vyacheslav Glazkov after Tomasz Adamek had to withdraw due to illness.
I was at this fight, and in press row I didn't hear anybody predicting anything but a quick knockout for the Ukrainian Olympic medalist.
Instead the compact and powerful Wilson forced an ugly and exciting brawl. Although Glazkov still clearly won, Wilson converted most of the live crowd to his side, just like a real-life Rocky Balboa.
Jonte Willis is a 9-9 professional opponent, but he's another compact, durable tough guy who comes to fight. He was stopped in six by Lateef Kayode on Friday Night Fights last January, but he's also lost some very close decisions to decent fighters like Danny Batchelder and Eric Fields.
Neither of these guys probably has a world title in his future. But if they were scheduled to fight each other, I'd definitely want to see it.
9. Mike Mollo vs. Tony Grano
Mike Mollo took part in two of the best heavyweight fights of 2013, getting stopped twice by Polish contender Artur Szpilka. But Mollo had his moments in those fights, knocking Szpilka down three times in less than 11 rounds. The Chicago-based fighter is a rugged and aggressive brawler.
Tony "TNT" Grano of Connecticut would be a terrific opponent for him. As the clip included here of his 2009 stoppage of Travis Kauffman demonstrates, Grano knows his share of "veteran" tactics and is particularly dangerous when hurt.
The most that could ever be at stake between these two is some sort of minor title. But warriors like this don't need a lot of extra motivation to beat each other up.
8. Javier Fortuna vs. Arash Usmanee
This is a fight that would have world-title significance at super featherweight. It would also be one heck of a scrap.
Javier Fortuna is a former interim WBA featherweight champion. He's a quick and explosive fighter with a high work rate.
Arash Usmanee is a native of Afghanistan who now lives in Montreal. In January 2013, I think he was absolutely robbed when he dropped a decision to Rances Barthelemy on Friday Night Fights. In August, he came away with a draw in his attempt to wrest the IBF belt from then-champion Argenis Mendez.
This fight would be a test of Usmanee's strength vs. Fortuna's speed. The action would be nonstop, and it would likely be a Fight of the Year candidate.
7. Curtis Stevens vs. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
I thought Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. got a gift decision when he beat Bryan Vera last September. And the fact that Chavez decisively won the rematch earlier this month didn't prove anything to me aside from that he can beat a much smaller journeyman without dangerous power when he actually trains.
It sure didn't sell me on Chavez Jr. as a credible opponent for Gennady Golovkin or Andre Ward.
But I'll give him credit for having a very good chin. When he's properly conditioned, he's a come-forward brawler who makes for exciting fights.
A very entertaining opponent for him would be middleweight contender Curtis Stevens. He started his career at light heavyweight and super middleweight, and the monster puncher recorded some quick knockouts in those divisions.
I doubt Bob Arum would risk Chavez Jr. against the likes of Stevens. If Vera had Stevens' power, he might have had a shot at knocking the son of the legend out cold.
But it would be an exciting fight and a Chavez Jr. bout that I'd look forward to watching.
6. Edwin Rodriguez vs. Sakio Bika
Edwin Rodriguez failed to make weight for his title shot with Andre Ward last November, so his days at super middleweight are probably over. And during that fight, he absorbed a one-sided beatdown against the pound-for-pound star.
But "La Bomba" is an exciting puncher with promise. I just feel the move up to Ward came way too soon.
Sakio Bika would be a quality test for Rodriguez at super middleweight or light heavyweight, and the two of them would make for a terrific fight. Bika is a mean, nasty brawler who never gives anybody an easy night's work.
Rodriguez is durable, as he showed against Ward, and dangerous, as he demonstrated in his first-round blitz of Denis Grachev last July. A fight with a veteran like Bika would be a good test to demonstrate his true worth.
5. James Kirkland vs. Alfredo Angulo II
The first battle between these two hard-slugging junior middleweights was an action-packed, six-round war. Round 1 was arguably 2011's Round of the Year.
Angulo dropped Kirkland early in the fight and looked to have the "Mandingo Warrior" out of there. But instead Angulo punched himself out and was also dropped before the end of the first.
For the next five rounds, Kirkland took over and beat down the spent Angulo. But "El Perro" has made strong improvements over the past few years, and following the notoriety he gained in facing Saul Alvarez earlier this year, the time couldn't be better for a rematch with Kirkland.
I wouldn't expect the same fight next time, but I would expect another fight that was at least as good.
4. Brandon Rios vs. Mike Alvarado III
I have a very hard time believing that this fight won't happen again, and most likely next fall. The first two bouts between Mike Alvarado and Brandon Rios were on everybody's Fight of the Year short list in both 2012 and 2013.
Rios won the first battle by Round 7 TKO in October 2012, capturing the vacant WBO light welterweight title. It was a nonstop slugfest, and the valiant Alvarado was never knocked off his feet.
Alvarado made some adjustments and used some boxing to win a very close decision in the March 2013 rematch, taking home the WBO strap in the process. But while Alvarado used more craft the second time around, it was still a give-and-take war.
The rubber match will take place at full welterweight, where both fighters will be stronger. It won't matter if any belts are on the line. Pride alone will be enough to motivate both of them, and fans across North America will tune in to watch.
3. Leo Santa Cruz vs. Abner Mares
Abner Mares made the Olympics as an amateur and has solid boxing skills. As he told Showtime's Jim Gray prior to winning the WBC featherweight title from Daniel Ponce De Leon, he is a master of Mexican judo: "Ju don't know if I'm going to box or if I'm going to brawl."
For the majority of the time in his career, he has opted to brawl. His all-action, swarming style made him a champion and pound-for-pound star at bantamweight and super bantamweight.
Leo Santa Cruz is a relentless, pressure fighter. I've never seen him in a boring fight.
Golden Boy has seemed to be positioning for this fight over the past couple of years, featuring both fighters on the same cards. It's quite possible Mares will to want to avenge himself against Jhonny Gonzalez first, who knocked him out in Round 1 last August.
But down the road, it seems likely that he'll face off with Santa Cruz. It will be a good night for the fans when he does.
2. Marcos Maidana vs. Robert Guerrero
Robert Guerrero is a skilled boxer, but as he showed when he closed both of Andre Berto's eyes in November 2012, he can brawl with the best of them, if that's what it takes to win.
Against Marcos Maidana, Guerrero would be forced into brawling situations for at least large portions of the fight. The result would be a scrap that would have the fans on their feet and screaming all night long.
Like Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado, this is a fight that could easily happen. Maidana and Guerrero are both Golden Boy fighters, and so long as Maidana doesn't pull off the upset of the decade against Floyd Mayweather this spring, Maidana vs. Guerrero would make a ton of sense for next fall.
1. Ruslan Provodnikov vs. Lucas Matthysse
Lucas Matthysse and Danny Garcia's battle last September for the WBC and WBA light welterweight titles was one of the most highly anticipated fights of 2013. But in a perfect world, both men would face WBO champion Ruslan Provodnikov as well.
Chalk these up as yet two more fights that fans will never see due to the impasse between Golden Boy and Top Rank.
Of the two fights that can never be, the brawler vs. brawler matchup between Provodnikov and Matthysse might be the most exciting. It would be a case of Matthysse's roaring river against Provodnikov's immovable slab of granite.
I'm inclined to believe the "Siberian Rocky" would weather the storm and land the heavier blows to win. Either way, it's one fight I'd sure love to watch.
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