Predictions for the Biggest Boxing Fights in the Fall of 2014

Briggs SeekinsFeatured ColumnistAugust 18, 2014

Predictions for the Biggest Boxing Fights in the Fall of 2014

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    Boxing is a year-round sport, and we've seen plenty of great fights this summer. But there are lulls during the calendar year, and as the temperatures start to drop, the action in the ring starts to heat back up. 

    That will be the case again this year. The two biggest stars in the sport, Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, both return to action this fall. In the first weekend of September, world-title fights will take place on three different continents. 

    It's a safe bet that more big fights will be announced in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, here are predictions for what's already on tap. 

September 5: Akira Yaegashi vs. Roman Gonzalez, WBC and Lineal Flyweight Titles

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    A huge international boxing weekend kicks off in Tokyo on Friday, September 5, when lineal and WBC flyweight champion Akira Yaegashi defends his title against undefeated, two-division superstar Roman Gonzalez. 

    Gonzalez has stopped 33 of 39 opponents and has rarely been in a close fight. He is a terrific combination puncher with solid boxing skills, blazing speed and big-time power. 

    Yaegashi wouldn't be in this position if he wasn't a legitimate, world-class fighter. Last December he won a unanimous decision over veteran Edgar Sosa. 

    But the lineal title fell to Yaegashi under unusual circumstances. Journeyman Sonny Boy Jaro shocked a past-his-prime Pongsaklek Wonjongkam to win the belt and then lost it by split decision to Toshiyuki Igarashi, who dropped it to Yaegashi last year. 

    Yaegashi will have the benefit of a home crowd cheering everything he does. But Gonzalez is a special fighter. I'm not sure his full power will carry up to flyweight, but I expect him to earn a clear unanimous decision to become a three-division champ. 

September 6: Juan Estrada vs. Giovani Segura, WBA and WBO Flyweight Titles

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    The day after Akira Yaegashi and Roman Gonzalez battle for the WBC flyweight title in Tokyo, WBA and WBO champion Juan Francisco Estrada will defend his belts against former light flyweight champion Giovani Segura in Mexico City. 

    A few years ago, Segura was ranked in the pound-for-pound top 10 by The Ring, mostly on the strength of two knockouts of Ivan Calderon. But he's had an up-and-down career since moving to flyweight. In 2011, he was dismantled by Brian Viloria, whom Estrada beat for his titles.

    In 2013, Segura lost to Edgar Sosa. But last year he recorded an exciting, Round 12 knockout of former champion Hernan Marquez to prove he still carries dangerous power in his hands. 

    Estrada is a terrific boxer and should prevail here, so long as he can stay away from Segura's big punches.

September 6: Adrien Broner vs. Emmanuel Taylor

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    Adrien Broner has been wildly overhyped and overrated in his young career. His brash personality has turned off more fans than it has won, but promoters realize that sometimes it's easier to sell a fighter when the majority of fans want to see the guy get knocked out. 

    Still, nobody would be backing Broner as a big-time prizefighter if there wasn't at least a kernel of legitimacy to him. And Broner's skills are legit. 

    Emmanuel Taylor is relatively unknown, but he has talent. He dropped an eight-round split decision to Prenice Brewer in 2011 and a unanimous decision to Chris Algieri last year. But he rebounded from the lost to Algieri by beating Karim Mayfield, a strong, athletic and intelligent fighter. 

    Mayfield doesn't have the speed and the boxing acumen of Broner, though. This is a fight Broner should be able to win. However, he better prepare for this fight and plan on putting in serious work rather than clowning around and putting on a show. 

    I'm predicting Broner will win. But if he thinks Taylor is a nobody he can breeze by, he could get a rude awakening. 

September 6: Lucas Matthysse vs. Roberto Ortiz

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    Roberto Ortiz is an interesting opponent here for the popular Lucas Matthysse. The WBC light welterweight silver champion is 31-0-1 with 24 KOs. But he hasn't faced a significant opponent to date, and Matthysse represents a major step up in competition. 

    Ortiz looks like a guy who could make for an exciting fight against Matthysse. I'm predicting a slugfest, and that's a very tough type of fight to win against the Argentine gunslinger. 

    As John Molina found out earlier this year, even when you do serious damage to Matthysse, he's still going to keep coming. I don't know a lot about Ortiz, but if he can overpower Matthysse, I'll be excited about the emergence of a new talent in the division. 

    But I'm predicting Matthysse by Round 10 TKO in a shootout. It's the rare man who can stand up against The Machine.

September 6: Kiko Martinez vs. Carl Frampton, IBF Super Bantamweight Title

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    Carl Frampton already beat Kiko Martinez by Round 9 TKO in February 2013. Despite that loss, Martinez was able to fight for the IBF super bantamweight title a mere six months later, winning against Jhonatan Romero by stoppage. 

    Martinez is a rugged, pressure fighter. He's legitimately one of the better fighters in the world at 122 pounds. 

    But the undefeated Frampton is one of the more talented young fighters in the sport. His stoppage of Martinez last year was no fluke. 

    This one might be closer and even go the distance. But Frampton is walking away as a world champion. 

September 6: Wladimir Klitschko vs. Kubrat Pulev, World Heavyweight Championship

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    Wladimir Klitschko lost three fights by stoppage between 1998 and 2004. But over the past decade he's been as dominant as any heavyweight in history. For his career, he's knocked out 52 of 65 opponents for a knockout percentage of 80 percent. 

    But in a few weeks he'll face what could be one of the tougher challenges of his career against undefeated Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev. At over 6'4", Pulev has the size to prevent Klitschko's notorious jab-and-lean strategy. He should be able to make the champion fight. 

    Pulev isn't a knockout artist, but he has the power to rock Klitschko's famously vulnerable chin and the technical skill to reach him. I believe Klitschko is the bigger puncher and the better boxer. He should win this fight by unanimous decision or late stoppage. 

    But an upset seems more possible than it has for any Klitschko fight in years. 

September 13: Floyd Mayweather vs. Marcos Maidana, World Welterweight Title

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    For the first time in more than a decade, Floyd Mayweather went to the cards against Marcos Maidana last May with victory in doubt. He came away with a majority decision that many fans, especially those who hate Mayweather, have criticized as unjust. 

    My own opinion is that Mayweather earned a narrow decision. I thought Maidana won four of the first six and Mayweather took five of six in the second half of the fight. 

    The fact that Mayweather came back stronger in the second half of the fight leads me to believe he'll win by decision again, and that it could very well be by a wider score. But I also think the Argentine brawler will come out like a wild bull again, making the fight a tough one no matter what. 

    Even if many of Maidana's punches aren't really landing, the judges don't have the benefit of punch stats between rounds when they are recording their scores. If Maidana can force another violent, fast-paced scrap, he should be able to earn the benefit of some close rounds again. 

    Maidana got away with a lot of borderline tactics in the last fight, and I think the referee will enforce the regulations more strictly this time out. So I'm predicting a clearer decision for Mayweather this time. 

    But I didn't expect Maidana to have as much success as he did the last time. 

October 18: Gennady Golovkin vs. Marco Antonio Rubio, WBA Middleweight Title

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    Gennady Golovkin vs. Marco Antonio Rubio has yet to be officially announced, but Rubio has been trumpeting it on Twitter since last Friday:

    ...♫♥♪►+@MAVenenoRubio Vs. @GGGboxing#Oct18 👊😃✊ #GolovkinRubio 100% puro guerrero mexicano presente cabrones! #Veneno#Champ* ! ♥ #SóLóve

    — Neeks Chillin' (@elHijoDlaCumbia) August 15, 2014

    Nobody from K2 has stepped forward to disavow this rumor, so I'm inclined to believe it's probably true. 

    Rubio is an extremely experienced middleweight contender with a lot of heart, but I don't view him as better than Daniel Geale, whom GGG just smashed in three rounds. Rubio will come to fight and make for a good opponent, but don't expect to see Golovkin's 17-fight KO streak come to a halt. 

    Miguel Cotto is the lineal middleweight champion, but Golovkin's march of destruction is leaving little doubt who the real top dog is at 160 pounds. 

October 25: Alexander Povetkin vs. Carlos Takam

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    This fight will probably not get much attention in North America, but it's relevant to the future of the heavyweight division moving forward. Carlos Takam represented Cameroon in the 2004 Olympics. While he has developed slowly as a professional, he emerged as a top-level heavyweight last January when he fought to a majority draw against Mike Perez. 

    Takam followed that by beating longtime contender Tony Thompson via wide unanimous decision. Takam is a big, athletic fighter and looks like he could be ready for a world-title shot.

    Facing Alexander Povetkin in Russia is a bold move for Takam. Povetkin has been one of the top heavyweights in the world for years. He came up short last year against Wladimir Klitschko, but aside from a close fight with cruiserweight champion Marco Huck in 2012, Povetkin has always been a cut above everybody he has faced. 

    It will be more exciting for the heavyweight division if Takam can apply forceful pressure and upset Povetkin. It will make him the natural No. 1 contender to whoever emerges between Wladimir Klitschko and Kubrat Pulev. 

    But realistically, I expect Povetkin to have too much skill. I'm predicting he will win by unanimous decision to keep his name near the top of the heavyweight division. 

November 8: Bernard Hopkins vs. Sergey Kovalev, IBF, WBA, WBO Light Heavyweight

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    On November 8, less than two months from his 50th birthday, WBA and IBF light heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins will face WBO champ Sergey Kovalev in a unification bout. The fact that we're even still talking about Hopkins in these kinds of high-profile fights seems surreal. 

    Hopkins had already punched his ticket to the Hall of Fame more than a decade ago, when he was an undisputed middleweight champion. If he can beat the monstrous Kovalev, he'll be three-quarters of the way to becoming an undisputed light heavyweight champion, with his biggest hurdle passed. 

    That's a very big "if," though. Kovalev has extremely dangerous punching power. Hopkins' run over the past few years has been completely remarkable, but he's benefited from facing limited boxers like Jean Pascal, Tavoris Cloud and Beibut Shumenov. 

    Kovalev has a great amateur background and is a very smart and patient offensive fighter. 

    I have heard a few fans referring to Hopkins' great win over Kelly Pavlik in October 2008—another bout when many expected Hopkins to get overwhelmed by a much younger star. But that was six years ago, and Pavlik is no Kovalev. 

    I'm a 40-something gym rat. I want Hopkins to pull this off. But I don't think it's likely. 

    I expect the last remaining great fighter from my youth to quit on his stool in this one, with Hopkins getting stopped for the first time in his remarkable career. 

November 22: Tyson Fury vs. Dereck Chisora

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    Tyson Fury has spent the past two years enduring a run of fights scrapped when his opponents get hurt. The pugnacious Fury doesn't always make a good impression when he speaks in public, but his frustration is very understandable at this point. 

    Fury should finally get the chance to return for a high-profile fight this November when he faces Dereck Chisora. This is a rematch of their 2011 fight, which Fury won by unanimous decision. 

    Chisora has been a much better fighter since then, taking his conditioning more seriously and tipping in at much healthier weights. This rematch is a great opportunity for him, and he needs to win in order to climb into the upper echelon of the heavyweight division. 

    But while Chisora has improved significantly since 2011, Fury has developed into a better fighter as well. I think the 6'9" Fury will be able to stand up to Chisora's physicality and use his length to once more win a decision. 

November 22: Manny Pacquiao vs. Chris Algieri, WBO Welterweight Title

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    It's reasonable for fans to wonder what Chris Algieri is even doing in a pay-per-view fight with Manny Pacquiao. Algieri's split-decision victory over Ruslan Provodnikov in June was a gutsy, well-boxed effort. He came back from two first-round knockdowns and battled most of the way with an eye closed. 

    Prior to that, Algieri earned a quality win over Emmanuel Taylor. Back-to-back victories over Taylor and Provodnikov should be enough to establish Algieri as an emerging star. 

    They shouldn't be enough to earn him a slot in one of the biggest boxing events of the year, however.

    Regardless, Algieri has some physical advantages over Pacquiao that could make this fight interesting. Algieri has much better length and reach. 

    Still, Pacquiao should have too much speed and experience. I expect him to move in and out, attacking from angles all fight long.

    Algieri showed that he is extremely durable against Provodnikov, and Pacquiao hasn't stopped anybody in a long time. So I'm not predicting a knockout. But I do think Pacquiao will rough him up badly and earn a clear decision. 

November 29: Terence Crawford vs. Raymundo Beltran, WBO Lightweight Title

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    In the last weekend of November, Terence Crawford will defend his title against Raymundo Beltran, who should, by all rights, already have it. Crawford won the belt from Ricky Burns in Scotland last March.

    But Beltran's draw against Burns was among the worst decisions rendered last year. Beltran busted Burns' jaw and should have won a decision by wide scores.

    So this is Beltran's chance to get what should already be his. Unfortunately for the veteran, Crawford is a far tougher foe than Burns.

    Crawford would be my choice for Fighter of the Year, if the voting was held right now. After beating Burns in March, he turned in a stellar performance against Yuriorkis Gamboa, stopping the previously unbeaten Cuban in Round 9.

    Beltran will be the toughest opponent Crawford has faced. But Crawford is a star on the rise. He'll have too much speed and variety for Beltran to deal with.

    This will be a battle, but Crawford will retain his title with a clear decision.