The Hottest Boxing Storylines for the Week of July 19
Summer is traditionally a down time for boxing, but we have plenty of fights and news around to keep us occupied as the heat intensifies.
Sergey Kovalev makes a mandatory defense Saturday night in Las Vegas, but can the Krusher avoid a letdown with big fights swirling around him?
Can we all stop paying attention to Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. after his latest lackluster display of unprofessionalism against Marcos Reyes on Saturday night in El Paso, Texas?
Did Carl Frampton live up to the massive hype that preceded his arrival in the United States by taking a unanimous decision from Alejandro Gonzalez Jr. on Premier Boxing Champions?
And then we shift our attention to the good and bad news that will dominate headlines in the weeks and months ahead.
What can we make of all this speculation that pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr. really does intend to fight Andre Berto for his final fight in September?
And where does Miguel Cotto vs. Canelo Alvarez ultimately land this fall?
These are the hottest boxing storylines for the coming week.
Can Sergey Kovalev Avoid a Letdown?
Kovalev is considered by most in the know to be the true light heavyweight champion—lineal titles and who-beat-the-man considerations be damned. His resume over the past several fights surpasses WBC and Ring magazine champion Adonis Stevenson's by a laughable amount, even as a fight between the two punchers seems farther away than ever.
The Krusher, an accurate nickname if ever there was one, won every round against ageless wonder Bernard Hopkins to unify three-fourths of the 175-pound crown late in 2014 and followed up by becoming the first man to stop Jean Pascal this past March.
He makes a mandatory defense Saturday night in Las Vegas against Nadjib Mohammedi with much larger fights on the horizon.
Mohammedi is a decent fighter, and he's played the good soldier, stepping away a couple of times as mandatory to allow bigger fights to take place around him, but his chances of unseating Kovalev would appear extremely thin.
No, this is little more than an appetizer to the main course.
ESPN.com's Dan Rafael reported this weekend that negotiations are already underway for Kovalev to meet unified super middleweight champion Andre Ward in the near future. Let's not misinterpret this to mean the fight is close or a done deal, but the two sides are in talks and moving toward each other on terms.
Ward will fight again sometime before the end of the year, and Kovalev could take an interim bout as well, but it seems like the two are on a collision course before too long.
That is great news for everyone involved.
Why Do We Continue Humoring Chavez Jr.?
Chavez Jr. never fails to disappoint.
The 29-year-old poster child for entitlement in boxing won a lackluster unanimous decision over a comically undersized Reyes on Saturday night in El Paso, Texas.
It was a fight filled with typical Chavez antics, including missing weight, petulant complaining to the referee resulting in a shoddy point deduction and delusional excuses about the whole process.
Chavez claimed that he was putting his notoriously shaky work habits and commitment to the sport on the shelf for this fight—his first under new trainer Robert Garcia—but that was clearly not the case.
He was out of shape (again), missed weight on Friday (again) and seemed to have a 20-to-30-pound functional weight advantage over Reyes, a career junior middleweight/middleweight, in the ring.
You really only needed two eyes and a television to see the graphic size disparity between the fighters.
Chavez, who only fought in 30-second spurts in most rounds, dwarfed Reyes, and the power disparity between the fighters was the difference in a fight that saw the lesser-known fighter throw more and land more punches.
The erosion of a once rabid fanbase, who desperately wanted to buy into the younger Chavez's chances of succeeding his legendary father, will only take another rapid leap forward based on this performance.
A crowd of 9,000-plus fans cheered for Reyes, who showed a great deal of heart and will, and once again booed Chavez when the scores were read and Showtime's Jim Gray settled in for another odd and off-putting post-fight interview devoid of responsibility for the fighter's utter lack of professionalism.
Maybe one day this kid will learn, but, if not, hopefully we will.
Chances, when squandered time after time, aren't unlimited.
Or are they?
Did Frampton Live Up to the Hype?
Frampton's stateside debut in El Paso began with a disaster but ended with a satisfying victory over a determined foe who was better than advertised.
Gonzalez floored the Irish fighter twice in the opening frame of a super bantamweight title clash that headlined a PBC on CBS card on Saturday afternoon, but he couldn't finish and was eventually outclassed in a tough and competitive scrap.
Frampton could have done without hitting the deck just minutes into his first performance on American soil, but he showed the wherewithal to rally from an awful start and turn the tide against a once-beaten prospect who should earn another significant fight based on this performance.
The 22-year-old Mexican was docked two points for low blows, and as the fight wore on, it became clear that he had enough to hang with but not beat the Irish champion.
Frampton's quick, powerful combinations and consistent work rate ultimately proved the difference.
But, still, you'd have to think there were more than a few dicey moments in the corner during that opening three minutes. Frampton signed with powerful adviser Al Haymon earlier in the year—to the shock of many—with the intention of transitioning his U.K. and European stardom into an international presence.
A loss to the little-known Gonzalez would have thrown a monkey wrench into plans to make Frampton a draw among rabid Irish fans along the American East Coast and match him with the slew of high-profile fighters Haymon manages between 122 and 126 pounds.
It probably wasn't the performance that The Jackal was looking for, but he survived. It's behind him now, and he can shift the focus to bigger and better things on both sides of the pond.
What to Make of Floyd vs. Berto?
Floyd does what Floyd wants to do.
Anyone who hasn't figured that out yet is either willfully ignorant or just not paying attention.
According to TMZ (h/t Bad Left Hook), his reportedly close selection of Berto as the swan-song opponent for his final fight might not be the kind of thing his many fans and detractors were hoping to see (for their own reasons), but it does make a certain bit of sense when you consider Mayweather's internal logic.
Mayweather is his own boss, and he makes his own rules.
Sure, he could have faced Amir Khan or Keith Thurman and satisfied some people. But there was always going to be critics and cynics who spin whatever opponent he selected to their own needs.
Let me pause here a quick second before you get the wrong idea.
No, Mayweather vs. Berto is not a good fight.
Berto is light-years removed from the undefeated uber-prospect we saw post 27 straight wins on his way to seeming boxing stardom. He's just 3-3 in his last six fights with losses to Victor Ortiz and Robert Guerrero (two recent Mayweather victims) and gatekeeper Jesus Soto Karass.
Mayweather will put on a clinic, but at least this one shouldn't cost you upwards of $100 to watch on pay-per-view. The pound-for-pound king is likely taking his show to free television on CBS, and while there are many reasons to be skeptical of this fight, that should provide record exposure for the sport.
Whether or not it proves to be good exposure is a different question, but we can hope, right?
Where Does Cotto-Canelo Land?
Cotto vs. Canelo seems like nothing more than a formality at this point (not the first time), with the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and New York City's Madison Square Garden both making strong pitches to host the fall showdown that will take place on HBO PPV.
Miguel Rivera of Boxing Scene reported last week that representatives of Roc Nation Sports (Cotto) and Golden Boy Promotions (Canelo) have met to begin ironing out specifics for the fight and that both Las Vegas and NYC remain in play.
There are obvious allures to both locales.
Las Vegas is the premier big-fight destination in America, and it would represent something of a neutral ground for a pair of fighters with strong national fanbases. Nothing screams major event like the Nevada desert with its bright lights, gambling and high-energy atmosphere.
New York City is definitely Cotto's stomping grounds. His Puerto Rican roots make him a natural draw with the city's large population from the boxing-crazed island, and he's fought there on 11 previous occasions with a 10-1 record.
Whether or not Canelo will be willing to walk into that hornet's nest is an open question.
In addition, will Cotto, the defending champion, rightfully claim the A-side (as he usually does) of the promotion and the ability to dictate some of the finer points of the contract?
What say you, boxing fans?
Where would you like this fight to land?
Kevin McRae is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. You can follow him on Twitter @McRaeWrites.