The Hottest Boxing Storylines for the Week of June 16
Chris Algieri made it back-to-back weekends of major upsets in New York City Saturday night, taking the WBO Junior Welterweight Championship off Ruslan Provodnikov in a stunning upset.
We'll take a look at all the fallout from that contest.
Did Algieri, who turned in a gutsy performance, deserve the win? Or was Provodnikov's clear power advantage not rewarded?
Where does this leave Manny Pacquiao in his search for an opponent this November in Macau?
Then, we shift our gaze forward to this Saturday night's Showtime tripleheader featuring the return of Robert Guerrero and a featherweight title contest.
So consider yourself informed for the week ahead.
These are the hottest storylines in boxing for the week of June 16.
Was Chris Algieri's Win Controversial?
Algieri, an undefeated but up to that point untested local fighter from Huntington, New York, shocked the boxing world Saturday night, putting in one of the gutsiest performances in recent memory to unseat Provodnikov and win the WBO Junior Welterweight Championship.
It was a result that almost nobody saw coming, and it sparked considerable debate among fans and media at the Barclays Center about whether or not the right decision had been reached.
The wide divergence on the scorecards certainly added fuel to the fire, with Algieri being favored 114-112 on two of the cards and Provodnikov by a wholly different 117-109 on the third.
But controversy? Not so much.
Provodnikov was clearly the harder puncher. He swelled Algieri’s right eye shut and put him on the mat twice in the opening round. But he struggled to land cleanly as the fight went along, finding difficulty with Algieri’s movement and high level of activity.
The Russian stalked Algieri around the ring, coming in naked without a jab and getting popped from the outside. The landed punches weren’t hard, but they were enough to score points with the judges.
By the time Provodnikov got into scoring range, Algieri was already gone, back on his horse and out of Dodge. CompuBox numbers, via ESPN Boxing, aren’t perfect, and they cannot be used in isolation as criteria to score a fight, but they did show the new champion with a huge edge in both thrown and landed punches.
Boxing is a subjective sport to judge. Some prefer activity and some prefer power. That explains the wide gap on the official cards.
Does that make it controversial?
You could score this fight for Provodnikov for landing the harder shots or Algieri for landing more of them and controlling the ring.
Neither is wrong.
Who Does Manny Pacquiao Face Now?
The biggest loser from Saturday night’s action might well have been Pacquiao.
Pacman is searching for an opponent for his scheduled fall date in Macau, and the man most frequently mentioned in recent days was Provodnikov. Whether or not all that talk goes out the window now that he’s been unseated by the relatively unknown Algieri remains to be seen.
Holding court at last week’s final presser for Cotto vs. Martinez, Top Rank CEO Bob Arum, channeling his inner Nostradamus, not only predicted that Algieri would knock off the Russian slugger, but said that once he did, he’d look to match him with Pacquiao.
"The fight I would love to do and the fight I think I’m going to zero in and try to do is Pacquiao-Algieri after Algieri beats Provodnikov. I think Algieri has a good shot with his style to beat Provodnikov. It’s a better fight than people think," Arum said.
Part 1 of that prediction has come to pass, but it remains to be seen if Arum—a character in boxing if there ever was one—or his partners at HBO will be willing to put Algieri onto one of the biggest stages in all of boxing off one big win.
It also remains to be seen whether or not Provodnikov will drop from the conversation. Even in defeat, he probably remains the more marketable opponent, and a fair number of people felt he deserved the victory Saturday night for landing the harder punches.
Juan Manuel Marquez also remains a viable option. If he wants the fight. And that’s a big if.
Every recent indication seems to support the notion that he remains done with Pacquiao and the fight doesn’t look likely to happen.
That leaves Pacquiao with Algieri, Provodnikov or possibly some fighters from the Golden Boy Promotions' side of the fence, should the two sides be able to get together on a deal and solve any possible legal issues surrounding Golden Boy fighters.
Either way, look for Pacquiao to fight someone outside of the box in his next fight, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Can Robert Guerrero Still Be a Factor?
It’s been 13 months since we’ve seen Guerrero step inside a boxing ring, and it’s been a tough slog for the California-based fighter who lost a clinical unanimous decision to pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather last May.
Guerrero, who was less the story in that fight than his hotheaded father Ruben, was dominated, finding out like so many before him that it’s easy to say you’ll beat Mayweather but discovering a whole new world when he got in the ring.
Less than a year removed from the biggest fight of his life, Guerrero attempted to break his contract with Golden Boy Promotions, seeking and being denied arbitration by the California State Athletic Commission.
With all the drama and disappointment behind him—at least insofar as we can tell—Guerrero returns to the ring under the Golden Boy flag Saturday night, facing the little-known and lightly regarded Yoshihiro Kamegai at the StubHub Center in Carson, California.
Guerrero, who has won featherweight and junior lightweight world championships as well as interim belts at lightweight and welterweight, still has the talent and name recognition to be a factor at 147 pounds.
But first things first. He’s a heavy favorite against Kamegai, who doesn’t have a single win against a foe of note, and barring something completely unexpected, this should be little more than your typical comeback fight.
Guerrero needs a win—to build confidence and remind people he’s still around—and he should have little problem picking one up in this fight.
But, then again, it's boxing, and anything can happen.
Who Is Less Deserving? Gary Russell Jr. or Vasyl Lomachenko?
Gary Russell Jr. and Vasyl Lomachenko will meet Saturday night with the vacant WBO Featherweight Championship in the balance, and the real question might be: Who deserves it less?
That’s not a typo either.
Russell Jr. is a serious talent. He’s been a top prospect for years now, but he has yet to step into the ring against anything resembling a live opponent. That’s not meant to be read as criticizing him for not facing world-class opposition or being brought along slowly.
His ledger is a who’s who of absolutely terrible opponents, many of whom were not settled on until a few weeks before the fight date. That’s why many fans and media will tell you that he possesses more victories over TBA and TBD than any fighter in boxing. The names don't even matter.
Lomachenko, amazingly enough, has faced better opposition in his professional career than Russell Jr., and he’s only entering his third fight.
Let that settle in for just a second.
The Ukrainian former amateur standout is just 1-1, and he failed in his first world-title challenge, dropping a close decision to veteran Orlando Salido in his most recent fight, the second of his pro career.
But, still, challenging a guy of Salido’s pedigree, accomplishments and skill level in just your second professional fight is gutsy, and it’s far more impressive than anything Russell Jr. has done.
This may well turn out to be a very good and compelling fight. And, yes, you can argue that many people who fight and even win world championships aren’t worthy of the honor. It’s just the nature of a boxing business that often values criteria other than in-ring accomplishment.
But that doesn’t make it right.
Is Demetrius Andrade a Budding Star?
Demetrius Andrade has everything you want in a star fighter.
He’s a world champion, had a decorated amateur career, represented the United States in the Olympic Games and is a nice kid.
He made his Brooklyn, New York, debut Saturday night, dominating a woefully overmatched Brian Rose and stopping him in Round 7 on the Provodnikov vs. Algieri undercard. It was the most dominant performance of his career, and it definitely raised his profile in a crowded 154-pound mix.
The 26-year-old WBO junior middleweight champion has the talent to go far. He possesses great speed and power, particularly with his left hand, a punch that simply couldn’t miss for him against Rose.
The big question is going to be whether or not other name fighters in his weight division are going to want a piece of him. His style is tricky, and he presents great risks without a ton of reward.
He’s called out pound-for-pound king Mayweather in the past—that’s never going to happen—but he could become a factor in a junior middleweight/middleweight mix that includes guys like newly crowned middleweight champ Miguel Cotto, Gennady Golovkin, Canelo Alvarez and Erislandy Lara.
There are a bunch of potential star-making fights around him, but it remains to be seen if he can land one of them.
Kevin McRae is a featured boxing columnist for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @McRaeBoxing. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.