Calling Fact or Fiction for the Biggest Rumors and Speculations in Boxing
The day-to-day life of professional boxing is driven by rumor and speculation. This is true to some degree about all big-time sports, but it is particularly the case with the sweet science.
Lacking organized leagues or tournaments, prizefighting depends upon individual stars agreeing to fight each other. Given the brief window even an elite fighter has to earn revenue, each matchup carries the pressure of a major business deal.
So it's never easy to predict what will happen in boxing. Even in cases where both fighters have verbally committed to a fight, I never fully believe until the press conference takes place and a signed contract is presented.
These are some of the most entertaining rumors or speculations in the sport right now.
Deontay Wilder Will Defend His WBC Belt Against Shannon Briggs: Fiction
As seen in the video included above, in April at the weigh-ins for Wladimir Klitschko's defense against Bryant Jennings, WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder got into a loud verbal shouting match with former belt holder Shannon Briggs.
The incident was hardly surprising. Briggs has made it a habit to hunt down Klitschko and attempt to provoke him. Getting nowhere with the WBA, IBF and WBO champion, he apparently decided to set his sights on the only other titlist.
At 43, Briggs hasn't been relevant to the heavyweight division since he was battered by Vitali Klitschko in 2010. Somebody told me he was attempting a comeback after a press conference following Umberto Savigne's KO of Junior Jackson in 2013, but it sounded unlikely.
But sure enough, a physically impressive Briggs returned to action in 2014, winning six fights, five of them by stoppage.
Still, he wasn't exactly fighting contenders or even steppingstones. The most recognizable name of the bunch was Matthew Greer. Currently, BoxRec.com lists Briggs just inside the heavyweight top 50, at No. 46.
It's a big jump from there to becoming a legitimate contender. A win over Zoltan Petranyi, whom he knocked out in March, isn't likely to get him much closer.
Still, boxing is part show business, and Briggs has appeal from that side of the equation. It's not impossible he will maneuver himself into position for Wilder's team to select him as an opponent.
Not impossible, but unlikely enough for me to call fiction on it.
Gennady Golovkin Will Fight Carl Froch: Fact
With 20 straight knockouts, undefeated WBA middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin is one of the hottest fighters in boxing. But what he has lacked so far is a true, big-name opponent.
Nobody is in a rush to face GGG, at least not at 160 pounds. Former super middleweight champion and pound-for-pound star Andre Ward has expressed an interest in Golovkin on numerous occasions.
But Ward took off more than a calendar year and isn't exactly a hot commodity right now, despite his stellar resume. For Golovkin, he would be a dangerous fight without a sure big audience. It makes more sense to let Ward build back up his own reputation and then make the fight as a major event.
Meanwhile, Ward's former opponent, Carl Froch, has also inserted himself into the fray, tweeting on July 4:
Too big & too strong for GGG... pic.twitter.com/WIfhNImCIk— Carl Froch (@Carl_Froch) July 4, 2015
Froch definitely is bigger than Golovkin, but whether or not he is "too big" is an open question that many fans on both sides of the Atlantic would love to see answered. While Froch lacks the greatness of Ward, he has a much bigger fanbase.
A showdown with Froch would be a perfect opportunity for GGG to attempt a British invasion. The bout would unquestionably sell out Wembley Stadium or O2 Arena and would probably be a pay-per-view event.
For those reasons, it will definitely happen.
Adonis Stevenson Will Face Sergey Kovalev to Unify Light Heavyweight: Fiction
Not that long ago, it looked like Sergey Kovalev and Adonis Stevenson were destined to face off. In 2013, they both turned in identical 4-0 records with four KOs. Each man won a version of the light heavyweight crown.
At year's end, they fought on the same card on HBO. It seemed like Stevenson vs. Kovalev was fated to be one of 2014's most highly anticipated bouts.
Instead, Stevenson jumped ship to Showtime, signing with Al Haymon. In the time since, Kovalev has defeated Bernard Hopkins to unify the WBO, IBF and WBA belts, while Stevenson has given the appearance of ducking him.
It's probably an unfair accusation, though. When Kovalev knocked out Jean Pascal in Stevenson's hometown of Montreal last March, Stevenson told Hopkins, who was broadcasting the fight for HBO, that he absolutely wanted to fight Kovalev.
And it was Kovalev's team who pulled out of the purse bid for the fight last April. That move had a lot more to do with Kovalev's promoter, Main Events, butting heads with Haymon than it did with its lack of confidence in Kovalev, but it still threw a wrench in what would be one of the year's most anticipated events.
A Kovalev-Stevenson showdown would yield that rarest of unicorns: a true, undisputed champion. Unfortunately, I've begun to doubt it will happen. At 37, Stevenson is not getting any younger, and in the alphabet soup era, the title belts rarely stay together for long.
Manny Pacquiao's Shoulder Injury Is Fake: Fact, Mostly
This one is less a rumor or speculation and more an outright accusation, leveled, most famously, by former champion and Showtime analyst Paulie Malignaggi (warning: strong language), who expressed serious doubts about the Manny Pacquiao camp's claim that Pac-Man fought with an injured rotator cuff against Floyd Mayweather Jr. last May 2. Bernard Hopkins (warning: strong language) has expressed similar doubts.
Both Malignaggi and Hopkins make compelling cases. Based purely on the footage that was shown of Pacquiao working the heavy bag and pads during the buildup to the fight, it's hard for me to believe he had a significant shoulder injury.
And on the rare occasions when Pacquiao managed to get into range against Mayweather, he let his right hand go. His low punch output was a result of the fact that he was rarely in range to throw punches.
Still, as an athlete in his mid-30s, who has been competing since he was a teenager, it is believable that Pacquiao might have some nagging shoulder issues that he finally decided to address with surgery.
And it's easy enough to injure your shoulder when you fail to connect with a lot of power punches. So there is probably some truth to the fact that Pacquiao has a bum shoulder.
Pacquiao's surgeon for the procedure was Dr. Neal ElAttrache, a well-respected orthopedic surgeon, so clearly there was some legitimate issue with the superstar's shoulder.
But I've seen a lot of fighters compete with injured hands or arms over the years, and it is almost always pretty obvious. At no point during the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight did anybody even suspect Pacquiao was fighting with one arm.
Miguel Cotto Will Face Canelo Alvarez: Fact
I'm actually a little bit gun-shy about calling fact on this speculation, considering that I was convinced Miguel Cotto was going to sign to fight Saul Alvarez at the end of last year, and it never happened.
But once again, I'm buying the hype for this potential superfight. Miguel Rivera of Boxing Scene quoted Cotto's legal adviser as stating that the Alvarez deal was "90 percent" done and is likely to happen in November.
It just doesn't make any sense for this fight not to happen. Cotto is the most popular Puerto Rican boxing star of his generation, and Saul Alvarez is the inheritor of the great Mexican tradition. And Puerto Rico vs. Mexico is one of sport's great rivalries.
Both men are also legitimate pay-per-view headliners in their own right. Cotto vs. Alvarez probably wouldn't surpass Mayweather vs. Pacquiao in sales, but it could make a good run at the previous PPV record, set by Mayweather vs. Alvarez.
Beyond that, it promises to be a tremendous fight between two well-matched opponents at different points in their careers.
Al Haymon Is Ruining Boxing: Fiction
This one is less rumor and speculation and more a common theme I see repeated frequently by boxing fans on social media. To some degree, I get it.
As can be demonstrated from this tweet I sent out during Leo Santa Cruz's fight on the Mayweather-Pacquiao undercard, I don't hesitate to criticize Al Haymon from time to time:
Santa Cruz is fighting a guy coming off a loss, 0-2 in 10 rounders, who has two day jobs. It's like Haymon is trolling.
— Briggs Seekins (@Briggsfighttalk) May 3, 2015
Haymon has turned an exciting young fighter in Santa Cruz into a walking punch line by overprotecting him. And as a Showtime subscriber, I found his pairing of Danny Garcia with Rod Salka last year insulting.
But as the most powerful man in boxing, Haymon has the capacity to do a lot of good, and so far, in 2015, he's been doing it. There is more boxing available in television right now than ever before. For the first time in a generation, it's broadcasting on network television.
All of this is terrific for boxing. People my age became fans by watching boxing on television on weekend afternoons, not by staying up until the early morning hours watching premium cable (which barely even existed when I started watching boxing).
There's plenty to criticize Haymon for. Anybody in a position of power will do things that make people unhappy.
But overall, he's done great things for the sport this year.
Floyd Mayweather Will Fight for the Last Time on Free Television: Fact
We will debate forever where Mayweather deserves to rank among the all-time greats. But there's no denying that he will retire as the pay-per-view king.
Yet, according to rumors circulating now, he might end his storied career fighting on free, network television. On July 8, Lyle Fitzsimmons wrote for CBS Sports that Mayweather's 49th fight may very well happen on CBS.
I'm calling this one fact in part because I want it to be fact. Boxing's return to free television this year has been one of the sport's major stories, and it would be appropriate for the sport's biggest star to take part in the move.
I can remember as a small boy watching a doubleheader featuring Marvin Hagler vs. Vito Antuofermo and Ray Leonard vs. Wilfred Benitez, and all I needed was a pair of rabbit ears. Superstars Leonard and Hagler both fought frequently on free television, as did Larry Holmes, the heavyweight king of the era.
Beyond that, if Mayweather is truly serious about facing an opponent like Andre Berto or Karim Mayfield, he'll struggle to sell it on pay-per-view. So why not give the fans a going-away present, after they spent nearly two full decades making him one of the richest athletes of all time?