The Biggest Questions Surrounding Boxing's Top Remaining Fights in 2015
While at least a few more significant fights will probably be added to the boxing roster before the end of 2015, the schedule is already set with a number of big-time bouts. Miguel Cotto vs. Saul Alvarez will possibly surpass all previous pay-per-view sales, save last May's Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao clash.
Gennady Golovkin will make his pay-per-view debut against fellow knockout artist David Lemieux. On the undercard for that fight, two-division champion Brian Viloria will challenge pound-for-pound superstar Roman Gonzalez.
Wladimir Klitschko and Deontay Wilder will be defending their respective claims to the heavyweight crown, and Leo Santa Cruz and Abner Mares will meet in bout that has seemed inevitable for years now.
The biggest boxing star of this generation, Floyd Mayweather, will make what could be his final trip into the prize ring.
These are the biggest questions facing the biggest fights remaining on the schedule.
Will Cornelius Bundrage Be Able to Turn Back a Phenom Like Jermall Charlo?
As a fan in my mid-40s, I always find myself cheering for fighters like Cornelius Bundrage. In 2006, he had his first breakout moment in the sport, appearing on The Contender television series.
But he's had an up-and-down career. By the time he won the IBF junior middleweight belt in 2010, he was 37 years old. After two successful defenses, he dropped the title to Ishe Smith in 2013, two months shy of his 40th birthday.
Then last October, at 41, K-9 made one last run to the top, recapturing the IBF belt from Carlos Molina, the fighter who took it from Smith.
His first defense is scheduled for September, when he will meet undefeated phenom Jermall Charlo. Jermall is one of the two highly tauted Charlo twins. He's a minute older and inch taller than his brother, Jermell.
The Charlo twins have been viewed as potential superstars since their amateur days. Trained by the highly respected Ronnie Shields, Charlo is 21-0 with 16 KOs.
This looks very much like a changing-of-the-guard fight. Bundrage has never really been more than an exciting, second-tier talent. At just 25, Charlo could be one of the major stars in the sport for the next half decade or more.
Still, Bundrage has been counted out many times before. At the very least, this underdog won't go down without a fight.
Will Deontay Wilder Fight a Legitimate Heavyweight Contender?
WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder won the first 32 fights of his career by knockout, with nobody getting past Round 4 against him. But the dominance of that run was undercut by the fact that Wilder continued to fight lower-tier opponents for an absurdly long time.
Still, in January of this year he finally moved up and faced a top heavyweight fighter, turning in an impressive performance to beat Bermane Stiverne by unanimous decision and capture the WBC belt.
Unfortunately, in his first defense of his title, last June, he went back to the lower-level talent he feasted upon to build his resume, knocking out Eric Molina, a fringe contender who had already been stopped twice in Round 1.
Wilder could become one of the most exciting fighters in the sport. His power cannot be questioned. He is a likable star with an inspiring background story involving his disabled daughter.
He's a guy American boxing fans would love to cheer for. But he's going to need to face and beat legitimate contenders to earn that kind of affection.
He's scheduled to defend his belt in September. As of this writing, his opponent has still not been officially posted to Boxrec, but according to Drew Champlin of AL.com, the opponent will be Frenchman Johann Duhaupas.
So it looks very much like the answer to the question posed for this entry is "No. Wilder will not be fighting a legitimate contender."
Will Viktor Postol Be Able to Keep Lucas Matthysse on the Outside?
Lucas Matthysse's all-action style has made him one of the sport's most popular fighters. The Argentine gunslinger is an extremely talented offensive fighter, having won 37 of 40 professional fights and 34 by stoppage.
He's been in multiple Fight-of-the-Year quality battles and two of his three losses were hotly contested split decisions. In both of those split-decision losses he knocked his opponents down.
In October, he faces undefeated Ukrainian Viktor Postol for the vacant WBC light welterweight belt. Postol has very much earned this title shot, even if he lacks Matthysse's flashy appeal.
He could also prove a difficult opponent for Matthysse. He's not a huge puncher, but he's nearly five inches taller than Matthysse and uses good footwork and straight punches to control the distance and tempo of his fights.
It's easy to look past this matchup and start imagining Matthysse against other big names at 140 pounds, like Terence Crawford or Manny Pacquiao.
But if Postol can manage to keep Matthysse on the outside for large portions of this fight, he could make it a frustrating fight for the come-forward slugger.
Is Leo Santa Cruz Finally Ready for a True World-Class Opponent?
Leo Santa Cruz is an undefeated, two-division world champion. He's an exciting, all-action fighter. But he's also been overprotected.
His opponents have mostly been second-tier, fringe contenders or aged veterans fighting above their natural weight. All that stops, though, on August 29, when he faces three-division world champion Abner Mares.
Nobody could call Mares overprotected. Between 2010 and 2013, he collected belts at 118, 122 and 126 pounds while facing one top contender after another.
In August 2013, he received the first loss of his career in stunning fashion, getting knocked out in one round by Jhonny Gonzalez.
He's won three straight fights since then, though none of those three opponents were top-shelf competition. So he'll have his own questions to answer against the undefeated Santa Cruz.
This is a matchup fans have been eyeing for a couple of years now. It should be action-packed and entertaining.
Will Tyson Fury's Size Make Him Competitive Against Wladimir Klitschko?
Wladimir Klitschko might not receive the recognition he deserves in the United States, but he's had one of the most dominant careers in the history of the heavyweight division. He's held some variety of the world title for most of this century.
Although he was knocked out three times between 1998 and 2004, he's been untouchable since then. Under the guidance of Emanuel Steward, he developed a style that exploits his height and makes him nearly invincible.
Now 39, he is almost surely nearing the end of his run. But in the closing era of his career, he seems to be making it a point to take on undefeated, younger challengers. He's faced four of them since 2012 and has another one this October, in the form of Tyson Fury.
Fury has definitely earned his shot. And at 6'9", he's a giant of a man who will deny the 6'6" Klitschko the ability to do some of the things he normally does, like wearing down shorter opponents in the clinch.
At the same time, Fury's height can be a vulnerability for him at times, as he tends to lean toward his opponents' punches. If he leans into the kind of shot Steve Cunningham dropped him with in in 2013, Klitschko will put him to sleep.
The champion has to be viewed as a significant favorite in this fight. But Fury's stature could make for some interesting moments.
Will Brian Viloria's Experience Let Him Be Competitive Against Roman Gonzalez?
Fighters in the smallest weight classes rarely get the attention and prestige they deserve, especially in the United States. But every so often a fighter emerges with so much talent and charisma that he just can't be denied his place in the spotlight.
Roman Gonzalez has developed into that type of fighter. The WBC and lineal flyweight champion is 43-0 with 37 KOs. At 28, he's already a three-division champion and still appears to be very much in his prime.
Gonzalez finally made his HBO debut earlier this year, when he knocked out veteran Edgar Sosa in two rounds on the undercard for Gennady Golovkin and Willie Monroe Jr. He'll co-star with GGG again in October, when Golovkin makes his pay-per-view debut against David Lemieux.
Gonzalez's opponent will be two-division world champion and 2000 Olympian Brian Viloria. At 34, Viloria is definitely an underdog in this fight. But he's also one of the most experienced and skilled fighters in the flyweight division.
In 2011 and 2012, Viloria had a four-fight win streak that rivaled any fighter in the sport during that period. In July 2011, he won the WBO flyweight title from Julio Cesar Miranda.
In December 2011, Viloria stunned much of the boxing world by dissecting the ferocious Giovani Segura, knocking him out in eight rounds. At the time, Segura was ranked in the pound-for-pound top 10 by the Ring.
Viloria turned in outstanding performances to stop Omar Nino Romero and Hernan Marquez in 2012, before losing his belt by split decision to Juan Francisco Estrada in April 2013. He's won four straight since then, although he hasn't faced a significant contender.
This opportunity against Gonzalez could be the last big chance of his career. He's got his work cut out for him, but he's got the experience to at least be as well prepared as possible.
Can Shane Mosley and Ricardo Mayorga "Go Back in Time"?
Shane Mosley is one of the better pound-for-pound fighters of this century. Ricardo Mayorga's brawling, aggressive style and over-the-top mouth have always made him an entertaining performer. When the two fought in September 2008, it was an exciting, back-and-forth fight.
Mosley won that fight by KO with one second left in Round 12. He followed up that win by capturing the lineal welterweight title from Antonio Margarito, and from there fought high-profile, pay-per-view bouts with Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao.
But at this point, both men are past 40 and neither is remotely relevant at the world-championship level.
Regardless of that fact, they are set to meet August 29 on pay-per-view. There's no doubt that the promotional hype surrounding this one has been entertaining. Whether or not these two can translate that emotional intensity into the ring in two weeks remains to be seen.
And at this point, it's not even clear if the fight will happen. As reported by Boxing Scene's Rick Reeno on August 14, Don King has filed a suit with the District Court of Miami to prevent the fight from taking place, arguing that he still has promotional rights to Mayorga.
Will David Lemieux's Offense Be Dangerous Enough to Slow Down Gennady Golovkin?
Undefeated WBA middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin has 20 straight knockouts and 30 stoppages in 33 professional fights. So it's no surprise that his power is such a focus of attention.
But his granite chin and offensive footwork are just as much a part of the story.
It's common to hear about "take two to give one" fighters. Golovkin is a "take one to give two or three" fighter. When he takes a punch, he's often moving into position to unleash a barrage.
That's what makes his matchup with IBF champion David Lemieux the most interesting fight of his career to date. Lemieux hasn't quite been the wrecking machine that GGG is, but he's definitely a dangerous offensive fighter.
It's one thing to walk through the punches of Willie Monroe Jr. or Daniel Geale. Trying to simply walk though Lemieux might not be quite so easy.
This fight should present challenges to Golovkin that he hasn't had to deal with so far. There's no doubt that he's still a significant favorite.
But it's a compelling enough matchup to make Golovkin's pay-per-view debut a can't-miss fight.
Will Miguel Cotto Be Able to Stand Up to Saul Alvarez's Physicality?
Youth vs. experience has always been a classic archetype in the fight game. Few matchups are more compelling than an aging legend vs. a rising young star.
That storyline is very much a part of Miguel Cotto's upcoming clash with Saul Alvarez. Cotto has been one of the biggest boxing stars of this century. Already a superstar at 25, Alvarez figures to play a prominent role in the years ahead.
Cotto's June 2014 TKO victory of Sergio Martinez to claim the lineal middleweight title was one of the year's most exciting moments. But Martinez was a 39-year-old man who had undergone multiple surgeries in the past two years.
It's simply undeniable that the Martinez defeated by Cotto was a diminished version.
Nobody will be able to say that about Alvarez. He's the much younger man and larger, as well. He's got two inches in height on Cotto and over three in reach.
If Cotto can turn back Alvarez, it will be a true and unqualified credit to his craft and greatness.
Will Fans Pay to See Floyd Mayweather Fight an Unranked Opponent?
I'm a big fan of Virgil Hunter, who will be Andre Berto's trainer for his September challenge against Floyd Mayweather. He's an intelligent and thoughtful molder of men. Trainers like him represent everything that is great and noble about prizefighting.
At the same time, it's hard not to find his recent comments about the Berto-Mayweather matchup insulting. For example, on August 14, he told BoxingNews:
"My reaction to the fans who have criticised the fight is this: you’re not really a boxing fan. If you’re a true fan of something you really love, you won’t criticise it."
Hunter further tried to color the criticism over the fight as generated by people who don't like Mayweather: "If the one you dislike is getting what you think is an easy way out, you’re going to be critical of that, particularly if the one getting the easy way out is making a ton of money"
It's Hunter's job to stick up for his fighter and help sell the fight. So I can't completely fault him for this kind of rhetoric.
And to be fair, there are a lot of haters out there who are going to pick at and find fault with anything Mayweather does.
But there are also a lot of true boxing fans, who respect and acknowledge Mayweather's talent and record, who respect and admire Berto's warrior spirit, who still look at this matchup and ask: "Seriously?"
Hunter is talking like he thinks the job of a boxing writer is to provide unabashed publicity for the sport. It's not. The job of any writer, on any subject, is to look at that subject with a critical eye and tell the truth as he or she sees it.
And the truth in this matter is that, at this point, Andre Berto is barely a top-20 welterweight. It's fair to argue that he's not a top-20 welterweight.
That's not a slur against Berto, who has fought some highly entertaining wars and deserves the respect and admiration of all boxing fans. It's simply an honest assessment.
He was knocked out by journeyman Jesus Soto Karass in 2013, beat the irrelevant Steve Chambers in 2014 and benefited from a very quick stoppage when he beat Josesito Lopez by TKO last March.
It's more than fair to criticize him as an opponent for the pound-for-pound king. And it's an open question how many many fans will pony up the money to buy this one on pay-per-view.