Boxers Ready to Jump to a Higher Weight Class for Their Next Fight

Brian McDonaldContributor IJuly 3, 2014

Boxers Ready to Jump to a Higher Weight Class for Their Next Fight

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Despite some boxers doing so with ease, going up in weight is usually a tough thing to pull off, making that decision more difficult.

    Guys like Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao seem to jump back and forth between weight classes nearly every other fight. Most fighters gradually move up the scales as they get older, add more muscle to their frame and decide that they don't want to go through the hassle of trying to cut down to a lighter weight anymore.

    Of course, there are times when that decision is made too quickly for a fighter, and he ends up not prepared for the power he'll see at the next level. That's what happened to Adrien Broner against Marcos Maidana last December.

    As I mentioned before, Pacquiao has moved up in weight throughout his entire career. Could he move up again and claim a world title in a ninth weight division?

    I would say that the answer is 90 percent no because both he and Miguel Cotto share the same trainer, but it's possible. Fighting at 160 pounds sounds crazy initially for Pacquiao, who won his first title in the flyweight division, but he and Cotto have fought before, so I don't think the weight would be an issue.

    While the bout would be for the 160-pound title that Cotto won from Sergio Martinez last month, neither fighter would likely weigh in right at the limit. Cotto is the naturally bigger man, but it wasn't a problem for Pacquiao when he stopped Cotto in the 12th round of their fight in 2009 at a catchweight of 145 pounds.

    As long as Freddie Roach is the trainer for both guys, the fight won't happen. I have a hard time imagining either fighter leaving Roach, but the rematch makes sense for both fighters.

    There are some intriguing options out there for Cotto—especially if Top Rank and Golden Boy start working together as promised—but what potential Pacquiao opponents excite you?

    I have zero interest in a third fight with Timothy Bradley, Ruslan Provodnikov is likely off the table since they share the same trainer, and Pac-Man would wipe the floor with Mike Alvarado or Chris Algieri. The only fight I'm interested in is a fifth bout with Juan Manuel Marquez.

    Other than that, not much excites me, and Pacquiao still has five fights left on his contract with Top Rank. The problem is that most of boxing's exciting fighters at 140 and 147 are signed with Golden Boy or Al Haymon. Every Pacquiao fight will be on HBO pay-per-view so one of the fighters on the other side would have to cross over, which is doubtful.

    In all likelihood a second fight between Pacquiao and Cotto won't happen, but there are many other star fighters who should consider a move up in weight. My criteria for who should move up in weight will be determined by the quality of the division, the money that could be made in another division and whether they've simply outgrown their current weight class.

    I'll go over a few of those names over the upcoming slides.

Gennady Golovkin

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    Gennady Golovkin is a fighter whom I could see going up or down for a fight depending on the matchup and the money being offered. He agreed to move up to presumably 168 for a fight with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., but the fight fell through after Chavez and Top Rank failed to reach an agreement on a contract extension stipulation as a part of the deal.

    Golovkin also said after his win over Curtis Stevens that he'd be willing to go down to 154 pounds for a potential dream fight with Mayweather. In reality, that fight has little chance of being made, but moving down to face other guys like Canelo Alvarez would energize boxing fans worldwide.

    Back to the possible matchup with Chavez, I got really excited about that fight when the rumor first surfaced. While it's not on the schedule right now, the fight could still be made in the fall or next spring. That is unless Chavez Jr. decides to leave Top Rank and sign a deal with Showtime or Golden Boy Promotions.

    HBO has the exclusive U.S. TV rights to every GGG fight and has banned Al Haymon and also Golden Boy fighters from competing on the channel for several years. So if Chavez Jr. signs with one of them, that potential matchup is dead.

    Throw the potential fight with Chavez Jr. to the side for now; even with that matchup off the table, there are still plenty of other attractive options for Golovkin at the 168-pound limit. In particular, Andre Ward Carl Froch would be interesting options, and both of those guys are with HBO, so they wouldn't have to jump through any extra hoops to make it happen.

    If I got the chance to play fantasy matchmaker, this is how I would set up GGG's next two fights.

    Assuming he defeats Daniel Geale in a couple of weeks and Andre Ward settles his promotional dispute, I would have them face off in the late fall, sometime around November. If—and that is a huge if—Golovkin were to defeat Ward, I would then have him face the winner of the rumored fall match between Chavez Jr. and Carl Froch in the late spring of 2015.

    How great would that be?

    I don't know about you, but I don't think Golovkin would have any problem going up in weight to 168 and maybe even 175; his power would transfer in my opinion because of how superior he is technically.

    He isn't a guy who has to throw big, looping punches or put his whole body behind a punch to land with power. His power shots are short, tight and accurate. There's no wasted motion; they land exactly where he wants them to, and they shut people down.

    He likely wouldn't continue his knockout streak up to 175, but he has enough power to keep opponents honest and be successful at that weight.

    If he did move to 175, that would set up potentially one of the most anticipated brawls in decades between Golovkin and Sergey Kovalev. We can dream, can't we?

Andre Ward

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    Andre Ward will have to settle his dispute with his management team before he's able to return to the ring, but once he does, a move up in weight from 168 to 175 makes sense.

    The question is: Who is left at 168 that excites you as a potential opponent for Ward? Another fight with Carl Froch? No, thanks. George Groves or Mikkel Kessler, perhaps? Ward would wipe the floor with both of them.

    The only fight that interests me at 168 would be if Gennady Golovkin decided to move up in weight. That fight would be worth sticking around for, but outside of that, it's time for Ward to make the jump.

    Ward cleaned out the division during the Super Six competition several years ago and has proved to have no equal at that weight. A move up to 175 could mean a matchup with Sergey Kovalev, which would instantly be the most anticipated fight of the year for many boxing diehards.

    The issue with Ward moving up would obviously be whether or not he would have enough power to back people off. In most cases, I don't think his lack of power would be a big issue, because he doesn't need or want to knock guys out to win.

    With only 14 knockouts in his 27 career wins, Ward has obviously proved capable of outboxing his opponent to gain a victory. The concern would come when he faces a guy like Kovalev, who could potentially walk through his shots and eventually impose his physical advantage on the smaller Ward.

    While Kovalev is the most interesting option for him at 175, Ward could also choose to feast on other overmatched opponents like he did at 168.

    Moving down in weight to 160 could also be a good option for Ward. Potential opponents include Jermell Charlo, Demetrius Andrade or the winner of Canelo Alvarez vs. Erislandy Lara if they'd be willing to step up in weight.

    Either way, he shouldn't stay at 168 unless he can land a fight with Golovkin.

Danny Garcia

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    The people in charge of running Danny Garcia's career have wasted his time and the time of boxing fans during 2014.

    After a sensational win over Lucas Matthysse in September of 2013, Garcia fought a lower-ranked opponent ranked than he should have faced in Mauricio Herrera, who was at least a competitive fighter. He turned out to be more than just competitive, landing more total punches than Garcia, according to CompuBox and even earning a draw on one judge's scorecard. I also scored the fight as a draw.

    After taking what was supposed to be an easy fight to showcase him in Puerto Rico, most people expected Garcia to take on a tougher opponent in his next fight. A fight with Adrien Broner, fellow titleholder Lamont Peterson or a rematch with Matthysse would have been well-received.

    As you all know by now, though, that's not the option his team chose.

    Instead of facing one of the guys I mentioned before, his team instead chose to face someone named Rod Salka. I love boxing, and I've never heard of him.

    I'm not sure many people who work in boxing have either, because Salka isn't even ranked by the WBC or WBA—the two belts he'll be fighting for in August. He has also scored an equal amount of knockouts to losses during his mediocre career—three.

    Who is this guy, and how in the world did he get this fight?

    Rod Salka who faces Danny Garcia is ranked 77th in LIGHTWEIGHT division as per Box Rec. #boxing @danrafaelespn @StephenEspinoza @DannySwift

    — The State of Boxing (@StateOfBoxing) June 27, 2014

    Teddy Atlas of ESPN nailed it when he went on a rant during a recent telecast of Friday Night Fights.

    Once Garcia takes out the trash next month, he has to take on better competition or the fans will turn on him quickly. I also think his next fight should be at the 147 pound weight limit.

    While interesting options are available at 140, the big money could be made by moving up. Garcia would have the choice of fighting other stars in the division like Keith Thurman, Devon Alexander, Marcos Maidana, Robert Guerrero and Amir Khan before eventually trying to land a fight with Floyd Mayweather in the fall of 2015.

    If I were Garcia, I would hold my own mini-tournament at 147 and try to knock off two of those guys over the course of this winter and next spring before cashing in against Mayweather, in what would be the last fight on his current deal with Showtime.

Terence Crawford

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    After a star-making performance that is my early top candidate for fight of the year, Terence Crawford should move up from the 135-pound division in the pursuit of bigger fights with bigger paydays.

    Boxing fans were all pumped for Crawford's fight against Yuriorkis Gamboa. Despite the great matchup, the casual fan likely had not heard of either fighter. With the excitement surrounding Crawford after his tremendous performance against Gamboa, it would be wise for him to strike while the iron is hot.

    The boxing public took notice of his performance, the fight did great at the box office, and it outperformed other recent main events on premium TV channels, so both the fans and the networks are eager to see him again.

    Despite how great the fight was, I don't have much interest in a rematch with Gamboa, who has said he's going to move back down to 130 pounds anyway. Lightweight—where Crawford holds a world title—isn't packed with big names, so if he wants to ride this momentum to potential superstar status, he needs to start moving up in weight.

    How big of a fight are we talking about? From Dan Rafael of ESPN, Top Rank CEO Bob Arum is already starting to ponder about a potential matchup next year with PPV cash cow Manny Pacquiao. That matchup is one the casual fans would notice:

    Down the road -- and it's very possible -- that a year from now we put him in with Pacquiao. That would be a huge fight and a great fight. If you really think you have a great fighter with superstar qualities, you move him that way, you don't protect him. You move a superstar into the biggest fights you can make for him, and that's what we are going to do.

    If a fight with Pacquiao does happen, it won't be the next fight for either guy. Pacquiao has the likely fifth match with Juan Manuel Marquez coming up, and jumping from 135 all the way to 147 against an elite fighter would be a mistake for Crawford.

    If I was managing Crawford, I would have him move up to 140 this fall for his next fight and treat it as a tune-up with someone he can handle while adjusting to the weight difference. If he looks impressive in that match, then I would look for a fight with a champion at 140 like Chris Algieri in spring 2015.

    If he passes both tests, then he could move to 147 to face a lesser fighter for a tune-up before challenging Pacquiao in the spring of 2016.

    Facing Pacquiao—who would be 37 at that point—could be a good match for Crawford. If he was facing the Pacquiao of 2009 who destroyed both Miguel Cotto and Ricky Hatton—there's only one by the way—he would probably meet a similar fate. At that stage of their careers in 2015, though, Crawford could win.

    He has the accuracy and speed to box and has proved to have knockout power. Will that power translate up two weight classes? Maybe not, but who would have figured that Pacquiao would have had the string of knockouts he did after moving up to his sixth, seventh and eighth weight divisions?

    Plus, the styles of Pacquiao and Crawford's last opponent are similar. Both Pacquiao and Gamboa like to circle, use their speed, jab and then stop, plant and unload a combination before escaping.

    That strategy worked against Crawford early in the fight until he adjusted and switched to a southpaw stance where he could use his more powerful right hand to jab and time Gamboa on his way in when he lunged.

    Against a slower Pacquiao at age 37, Crawford would be able to use his height and reach advantage to time Pacquiao coming in and outbox him. Again, I'm assuming that Pacquiao goes through the natural regression that all fighters do over the next two years.

    Even if a fight with Pacquiao doesn't happen, potential opponents at both 140 and 147 would generate much more fan excitement and revenue than any match in Crawford's current division. If the well-known issues between promoters officially get settled, then he would join a loaded group of fighters at 140 and 147, where he could have three major fights per year for several years in a row.

Mikey Garcia

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Like Andre Ward, Mikey Garcia is another boxer who has to work out promotional issues before he'll be able to step back into the ring.

    He was on track to be moved up in weight to face Yuriorkis Gamboa at 135 before an eventual showdown with Manny Pacquiao, according to Top Rank CEO Bob Arum, who spoke to Ring Magazine earlier this year:

    Mikey will tell you himself. He was over in Macau when his stablemate, Brandon Rios, fought Pacquiao," said Arum of Garcia, who has knocked out 10 of his past 11 opponents. "He indicated to various people that down the road, he would look forward to a battle with Manny Pacquiao. Why wouldn't it be good? Of course that was my thought. I'm a big Mikey Garcia fan.

    I really believe that Mikey is a top 10 pound-for-pound fighter right now," said Arum. "I believe that long term, Mikey will challenge, if not be universally accepted as the best pound-for-pound fighter in boxing. I think he's a complete fighter.

    That plan has fallen apart, however, after a boring decision victory on January 25 against Juan Carlos Burgos and the lawsuit from Garcia to get out of his Top Rank agreement.

    Moving all the way up from 130 to 147 would have been a mistake for Garcia, regardless of the opponent. He's proved to be a very skilled boxer, but I the stronger guys at 147 would have walked through his shots and got to him eventually.

    Moving up to 135 and later 140, though, would be financially beneficial for Garcia and something he could handle physically.

    Mayweather singles Mikey Garcia out as "the next superstar in the sport of boxing." Think Mayweather wants Mikey to break with Top Rank?

    — Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) May 4, 2014

    He could take the match that almost happened with Gamboa or former titleholder Juan Diaz as a test before moving up to 140 to face guys like Mike Alvarado, Ruslan Provodnikov and current titleholder Chris Algieri.

    Garcia is well-equipped to move up, because at 5'7'' he's taller than Pacquiao, who regularly fights at 147. Garcia's frame has room to add on weight and muscle. He is also a very skilled and polished boxer who could use his athleticism and movement to defeat bigger fighters with possibly more power.

    Except for Provodnikov because of his one-punch knockout power, Garcia would handle the other guys I mentioned with ease. It doesn't hurt that his brother happens to be one of the best trainers in the world.