The Hottest Boxing Storylines for the Week of July 5
Don't you wish all slow fight weeks were this exciting?
Boxing fans weren't treated to much action this past holiday week, but we have an interesting Premier Boxing Champions card coming up Saturday and a ton of news about high-profile fighters to discuss.
We start with Keith Thurman's second chance to open up a huge PBC event.
One Time takes on veteran former world champion Luis Collazo at home in Florida on ESPN Saturday night; it's the first card for the new promotion on the iconic sports network.
But is this a trap fight for the rising welterweight star?
Next, we turn to the big news.
It seems like the long-anticipated fight between middleweight champion Miguel Cotto and Saul "Canelo" Alvarez is a go for the fall.
Will this be the fight of the year?
One fight we know for sure is a go—finally—is Leo Santa Cruz vs. Abner Mares in Los Angeles in the late summer. We throw this one under the microscope and ponder whether it is really the big step-up fight everyone was hoping for or a managed risk.
We'll also take a look at the continued sniping between Gennady Golovkin and Carl Froch, and what's next for featherweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko.
Hint: It's who you think or probably were hoping to see.
These are the hottest boxing storylines for the first full week of July!
Can Keith Thurman Avoid a Letdown?
Thurman defends one of the many versions of the WBA Welterweight Championship Saturday night at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa, Florida, against former 147-pound titlist Collazo.
The fight will be the first televised by ESPN as part of its agreement with Al Haymon's Premier Boxing Champions, which replaces Friday Night Fights after 17 years.
Other than getting his second opportunity to headline a significant PBC card—One Time faced Robert Guerrero in the main event of the inaugural card on NBC in March—and fighting just 20 or so miles from his hometown, Thurman doesn't have a ton to accomplish in this fight.
Collazo is one of the sport's genuine good guys. He's tough and workmanlike and has accomplished things in the sport through sheer will that probably exceed his level of God-given talent. The Brooklyn, New York, native is impossible to root against, but you'll have a hard time finding anyone who doesn't feel he's outgunned here.
Thurman is one of the sport's biggest punchers—21 knockouts in 25 fights—but he's much more than a one-trick pony. He can box effectively and has the skill to handle a stubborn foe who won't go down or stay down for the count.
The biggest risk in this fight seems to be the dangers of looking ahead.
Thurman is a grounded and humble individual, but the potential for distractions when fighting so close to home and with huge fights on the horizon is real.
They call this a trap game in the NFL.
You know, when you have the Patriots and Broncos on the schedule with a home tilt against the Browns (no offense) stuck in the middle?
Those are always the most dangerous games to play, and Thurman finds himself in a similar situation, even with an upset highly unlikely.
Will Cotto vs. Canelo Be the Year's Biggest Fight?
They say that good things come to those who wait.
Cotto, the WBC and lineal middleweight champion, will finally meet rising sensation Canelo this fall on HBO pay-per-view in a mega-event that will once again stoke the long-standing Puerto Rico vs. Mexico boxing rivalry.
ESPN.com's Dan Rafael reported last week that the hotly anticipated showdown was set for the fall at a catchweight of 155 pounds. Two dates, November 7 and 21, are under consideration, with the MGM Grand and the newly renovated Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas as the leading venues.
Madison Square Garden and the Barclays Center in New York City remain possibilities, but it seems like this fight is destined for the bright lights of the Nevada desert. It's somewhat neutral ground and will generate huge buzz and dollars for everyone involved.
Cotto and Canelo seemed destined for a superfight earlier in the year, but negotiations fell apart at the last minute, and each man instead took impressive victories in interim bouts with the aim of talking again in the future.
Canelo decimated James Kirkland in May, while Cotto scored a fourth-round knockout over badly weight-drained former 160-pound titlist Daniel Geale early in June.
Those bouts were expected to pave the way for their showdown, but given past history, it was safer to take a wait-and-see approach.
But a reward for patient fans seems to be in the offing.
Cotto vs. Canelo is the biggest fight in boxing. It's a true superfight between a pair of elite-level fighters with rabid and vocal fanbases.
Unlike the last fight to attain that name, this one seems guaranteed to produce action and dramatics. It won't come close to challenging the virtually impossible records set by Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao, but it'll be a better fight.
You can be sure of that much, at least.
Leo Santa Cruz Finally Steps Up
Santa Cruz has spent the last two years fighting foes who were either hopelessly overmatched or well past their best fighting days. Without too much exaggeration, his last three foes were never heard of before and will—hopefully—never be heard from again.
The criticism has grown exponentially for the WBC super bantamweight champion, who, finally, after two-plus years of waiting, has secured the type of name opponent that boxing fans craved.
Lance Pugmire of the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday that Santa Cruz will defend his 122-pound title against former three-division champion Abner Mares at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The fight is slated for August 29 and will likely be on Premier Boxing Champions.
A Santa Cruz-Mares clash has been in demand for the past couple of years. It should sell well in Los Angeles, given both fighters' Mexican roots and all-action styles.
Mares clearly represents the most dangerous and recognizable opponent of Santa Cruz's career, but it's hard to not think that this bout would have been more competitive and exciting had it taken place earlier.
It's a big step up in class, yes, but Mares hasn't recently looked like anything close to the fighter he was before Jhonny Gonzalez nearly decapitated him in the opening round of 2013's biggest upset.
He's won three in a row against so-so opposition, but the fire and aggression that were once his trademarks haven't been apparent. He looks tentative and reluctant to let his hands go in the way that won him accolades as one of the sport's rising undefeated pound-for-pound stars just a couple of years back.
Nobody is saying he's a shot fighter, or close to it, but he definitely hasn't looked the same.
Santa Cruz is moving in the right direction, but this has the smell of a managed-risk fight.
Mares is still dangerous, but he might be just a little less dangerous now than he was last year or the year before, and that might be just the point.
Why All the Double Talk Between Froch and Golovkin?
Gennady Golovkin badly needs a significant fight to validate his designation as boxing's next big star.
Carl Froch badly wants a significant fight before he rides off into the sunset and calls it a career.
Seemed like a perfectly logical solution would be to pit GGG against the Cobra, right?
Jeff Powell of the Daily Mail reported in May that the two camps, led by promoters Tom Loeffler (Golovkin) and Eddie Hearn (Froch), had opened negotiations for a potentially huge fight at London's Wembley Stadium.
But Froch, who hasn't yet committed to even fighting again, now seems to favor his British compatriot and newly minted IBF super middleweight champion James DeGale over Golovkin as an opponent.
Edward Chaykovsky of Boxing Scene reported last week that Froch told Steve Bunce of BoxNation that he was still open to a fight with DeGale or Golovkin, "probably" in that order.
Per Steve Kim of Boxing Scene, Loeffler disputed some of Froch's comments about the possibility of wanting a catchweight for the bout, restating that the Kazakh destroyer would be perfectly willing to make the jump to 168 pounds for the fight.
Froch took things to another level on Saturday, posting a picture on his Twitter looking ripped and ready with a warning that he's "too big" and "too strong for GGG."
Loeffler quickly retweeted Froch's quip, but he shot a bit of truth his way: "Carl, there's only one way to find out," the veteran promoter said.
Whether or not this little Twitter spat means that Golovkin and Froch are closer to fighting or not remains to be seen, but we can hope.
It doesn't look good, particularly for Froch, to post that sort of thing and then not fight the guy.
What Next for Lomachenko If Not Walters?
Most people anticipated that Lomachenko's next foe would be fellow featherweight titlist Nicholas Walters.
The Axe Man's power-punching style would have been a treat for fans when matched against the technical prowess and general boxing expertise of the Ukrainian former amateur standout and WBO featherweight champion.
But, alas, this is one fight that will need to wait for another day.
Lomachenko's people have cooled to the idea of facing the Jamaican puncher, who defeated Miguel Marriaga last month at the Theater at Madison Square Garden but lost his belt on the scale the day before the fight.
Walters missed weight, and per Rafael, Lomachenko's team no longer feels he brings enough to the table to justify the risk.
They're afraid that Walters, who came into the ring as a functional welterweight against Marriaga, could miss weight again, and they have no interest in putting their man in with a guy that big without the chance to at least unify belts.
Lomachenko will return in either October or November with Lee Selby, who recently captured the IBF 126-pound title from Evgeny Gradovich, and former champion Simpiwe Vetyeka mentioned as possible opponents.
Vetyeka lost his belt under highly spurious circumstances against Nonito Donaire last year in Macau, and it's possible he's being floated for this opportunity as something of a make up for that sham.
And it was a sham.
Selby is clearly the more attractive option. He has a belt and a higher profile after a career-best performance against Gradovich. Whether or not Hearn wants to match his new world champion that tough in his first fight since winning the belt, however, remains to be seen.