The Hottest Boxing Storylines for the Week of August 4

Kevin McRaeFeatured ColumnistAugust 3, 2014

The Hottest Boxing Storylines for the Week of August 4

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    TIM LARSEN/Associated Press

    It was quite the interesting night at the fights this weekend in Las Vegas.

    Brandon Rios got the win over Diego Chaves, but it was marred by all sorts of fouls and poor officiating.

    Did we really learn anything about Rios in his comeback bout?

    Sergey Kovalev took care of business in emphatic fashion once again in Atlantic City, successfully defending his light heavyweight championship for a third time. With the win, he advances to a fall unification showdown against Bernard Hopkins.

    Has Hopkins finally bitten off more than he can chew against the Krusher?

    Next, we turn our attention to this Saturday's action at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

    Is Danny Garcia being protected? Why the heck is he stepping down his level of opposition this drastically?

    And can Danny "Miracle Man" Jacobs capture his first world title after battling back from a life-threatening bout with cancer?

    All that and more in this week's edition of the hottest storylines in boxing.

Is Sergey Kovalev a Bridge Too Far for Bernard Hopkins?

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    TIM LARSEN/Associated Press

    Kovalev ran through yet another overmatched opponent on Saturday night at the Revel Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey, stopping Blake Caparello in Round 2.

    But the real action happened the day before the fight.

    Kovalev and his promoters, Main Events, finalized a contract for a unification showdown with ageless wonder Bernard Hopkins, per Dan Rafael of ESPN.com, on Friday.

    By putting the finishing touches on Caparello, the Krusher kept up his end of the bargain, and the fight will go ahead this fall on HBO.

    It’s a stunning turnaround for all the major players in the light heavyweight division, and it’s the exact opposite of what many were expecting when Adonis Stevenson left HBO for Al Haymon and Showtime earlier in the year.

    Most believed that Hopkins would meet Stevenson in a unification bout, and Kovalev would be left in the cold. Instead, at least for now, it’s Stevenson who is the odd man out.

    Much of the early conversation about the Hopkins-Kovalev tilt has been dominated by surprise that the nearly 50-year-old executioner turned alien would even take this fight.

    Kovalev is a huge puncher, and even if he has some technical flaws that could be exploited by the cagey Hopkins, all it takes is one big shot for it to be sayonara in a hurry.

    And that’s why this fight has intrigue written all over it.

    When was the last time that Hopkins, who has made a career out of beating guys many felt he couldn’t, faced such a physically imposing challenger? The last time he faced a guy who can punch like Kovalev and has his vicious, menacing demeanor?

    Underestimate the old master at your own peril, but Kovalev isn’t Beibut Shumenov.

    And he isn’t Karo Murat.

    The Russian is one dangerous dude, and he’s packing some howitzers in his fists, leading some to question whether this is too much for Hopkins to handle at this stage.

    We’ll find out in November.

Did We Learn Anything from Brandon Rios' Ugly Win?

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    Nicky Loh/Getty Images

    Rios certainly didn’t get the result he was hoping for on Saturday night, but he ought to take referee Vic Drakulich out for a nice steak dinner.

    The 28-year-old’s record does have an additional win on it, but his victory over Argentina’s Diego Chaves was ugly.

    And not just ugly—ugly.

    It was clear from the early going that Rios and Chaves didn’t like each other, and it was equally clear that Drakulich had no clue how to handle the street fight that was breaking out on his watch.

    Chaves had a quick point taken in Round 3 for clinching on the inside, a spurious decision for sure, but Drakulich evened the score two rounds later when he docked Rios for roughhousing.

    Matters continued along that path for the rest of the fight, with each man frequently complaining about fouls both real and contrived.

    When it comes to the legal fighting that was occurring in the ring, Chaves had the upper hand when the fight was contested at a comfortable distance. Rios did better at close quarters, but on balance it seemed the Argentine was doing enough to win the fight.

    Chaves had a second point deducted in Round 8 before being suddenly disqualified a round later for a foul that nobody could seem to explain or understand.

    Drakulich, who was not interviewed after the fight, didn't have to explain his verdict, and as of yet, nobody has gotten word of what caused the disqualification. Watching live and on replay, there didn't appear to be an obvious foul, much less one worthy of ending a fight.

    To ensure full disclosure, Rios trailed by a point on two of the scorecards at the time of the questionable stoppage, and he led by a point on the third.

    Nobody, least of all Rios and Chaves, was happy with the way the fight ended, and it didn’t really answer many of the questions that swirled around Bam Bam coming into the fight.

    To his credit, he acknowledged that fact in post-fight comments to HBO’s Jim Lampley.

    Everything about this ending stinks, and nobody, regardless of the official result, wins in these situations when the referee and not the fighters are the story.

Is Danny Garcia Being Protected?

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    Ricardo Arduengo/Associated Press

    Garcia, the unified junior welterweight champion, seems to be stuck in reverse.

    The 26-year-old Philadelphian went from the co-featured bout on boxing’s richest pay-per-view event, defeating Argentine knockout machine Lucas Matthysse on the undercard of Mayweather vs. Canelo, to a pair of fights that can only be described as disappointing.

    Garcia returned to his ancestral homeland of Puerto Rico in March, narrowly outpointing Mauricio Herrera in a fight that more than a few observers felt he lost. But even if you are among those who believe that home cooking wasn’t a factor in the decision, you could hardly argue that things went according to plan for the WBA/WBC 140-pound champion.

    Next up for Garcia, a non-title fight on Saturday night at the Barclays Center against 31-year-old fellow Pennsylvanian Rod Salka.

    You’re not alone if your first reaction to hearing Salka’s name is a quizzical expression followed by an excoriation of: "Who?"

    Salka, no disrespect intended, is not a world-class challenger who should be stepping into the ring with the man recognized as the legitimate 140-pound champion. He’s barely above the level of club fighter, and while one never says never in boxing, this is a real long shot.

    Garcia has received a fair amount of flak for this fight, much of it deserved, but recently pointed out that his adviser Al Haymon is the man responsible for selecting opponents. That fits nicely into the narrative crafted by many of Haymon’s detractors that he protects his fighters and steers them away from risky fights.

    That criticism isn’t entirely fair—Haymon did put Garcia in there with Matthysse—but fights like this don’t do anything to enhance Haymon or Garcia’s reputation.

Can Danny Jacobs Overcome the Odds Once Again?

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Jacobs is one of the most inspirational and awe-inspiring stories in sports.

    A blue-chip prospect, the Brooklyn, New York, native won his first 20 fights, most inside the distance, to earn himself a shot at a vacant middleweight championship. But Dmitry Pirog, a heavy underdog, denied him, scoring a stunning fifth-round knockout.

    The upset was a huge setback for Jacobs’ career, but it paled in comparison to what would come next.

    Jacobs was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a highly aggressive cancer, in 2011 after feeling weakness in his legs. The tumor, which was wrapped around his spine, threatened not just his boxing career, but his ability to walk and even his life.

    After a successful surgery and radiation treatments to remove the tumor, Jacobs had to learn how to walk all over again. It was a frustrating and mentally taxing period in his life, but he eventually found his way.

    Lucky to have his life, Jacobs is not only got back on his feet but is back into the boxing ring. He returned to training and sparring against his doctor's wishes and made a triumphant return in 2012, scoring a first-round knockout in the inaugural card held at his hometown Barclays Center.

    He’s won all five his his fights since returning from cancer, overcoming the odds, and on Saturday night he will get his second chance at a world title, taking on once-beaten Jarrod Fletcher at the Barclays Center.

    You can quibble about the value of the belt at stake—Gennady Golovkin is the legitimate WBA middleweight champion—but you can’t help but be impressed at the wherewithal of Jacobs.

    Even getting to this point—where he’ll be the favorite to walk out of Barclays with his first world title—is an accomplishment.

    You could say that Jacobs is playing with house money, but an already great story has a chance to get that much more impressive on Saturday night.

Has HBO Turned the Corner in Battle with Showtime?

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Under the leadership of executive vice president Stephen Espinoza, Showtime transformed their boxing operation into a legitimate heavyweight—pun intended—in the cable-boxing wars.

    Espinoza, a former attorney for Golden Boy Promotions, scored a coup early last year, signing pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather to a record contract and pulling him from HBO in a coup that helped reshape the boxing landscape.

    Not long after, HBO severed ties with Golden Boy, effectively shuffling their loaded roster of talent to Showtime along with Mayweather.

    Showtime used this massive new influx in talent, along with some keen matchmaking, to shift the balance of power in its favor.

    But with the recent departure of Golden Boy’s longtime CEO Richard Schaefer, and a corresponding seizure of the reins by the company’s founder Oscar De La Hoya, it seems that Showtime’s stranglehold on the GBP stable is over.

    Case in point: Hopkins, a Golden Boy fighter, will meet Sergey Kovalev in a unification bout this November on HBO and not Showtime.

    Kovalev is under contract with HBO, but De La Hoya’s willingness to take one of his highest-profile assets back to the network that shunned his company a year ago must be at least somewhat troubling to the folks over at Showtime.

    Especially given the presence of Stevenson, who holds the lineal title and himself left HBO earlier this year, at least partly, it seemed, to make a run at Hopkins, at Showtime.

    Many of the legalities that will help us answer the crucial question of which fighters are under contract to Golden Boy, which work for just Haymon and which are contracted to both haven’t been decided yet.

    They will, for sure, but that will take time and a lot of high-priced attorneys. And it will govern how much the Golden Boy/HBO rapprochement really matters in the scheme of things.

    But, either way, it can’t be greeted with much happiness across the tracks.