The Hottest Boxing Storylines for the Week of September 20
Slow weeks aren't always boring weeks, and we have quite a bit to talk about in this week's edition of the hottest boxing storylines.
Deontay Wilder defends his heavyweight championship against an unknown Frenchman with (probably) as much hope of beating him as all of us have at hitting the lotto in three, two, one...
Does this put Wilder in the ultimate lose-lose situation as he tries to build his standing as an American heavyweight star?
Next, we return to the fallout of Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s win over Andre Berto, including why the WBC/WBA still recognize him as a world champion, the idiocy of Virgil Hunter's insult to fans and the lackluster (putting it lightly) pay-per-view numbers.
We'll also check in on Timothy Bradley, so let's get right to it.
Does Deontay Wilder Have Everything to Lose and Nothing to Gain?
Wilder makes his network-television debut Saturday night defending his WBC Heavyweight Championship against a challenger so unworthy that most (if not all) of you have probably never seen or heard of him before.
It's not entirely clear what hole the people who make the matches for PBC dragged Johann Duhaupas out of for his 15 minutes (quite possibly less) of fame, but this matchup is so putrid. It's so beneath the station of a champion who is fighting to become a huge international superstar that Wilder can't win, even if he does.
Duhaupas only gives more fuel to the fire of those (like yours truly) who frequently laud PBC for providing free boxing but heavily criticize it for providing free boxing that's too often bad boxing.
And it comes only a couple of weeks removed from Peter Quillin, once a middleweight champion with huge potential, sending an unknown opponent who possibly moonlights as a male stripper to the hospital on a stretcher right there on network TV.
Duhaupas is a complete unknown outside of France, and his only notable win came over Manuel Charr, who was last seen suffering an absolutely brutal knockout late in August. The WBC, which will sanction the fight for Wilder's title, doesn't even place him in the top 10 of its latest rankings as of this writing.
What exactly is there to gain in this fight for Wilder, other than biding his time against a second straight unworthy (he knocked out Eric Molina in June) opponent while waiting around for Wladimir Klitschko to give him a jingle?
One of these days—likely not this one—PBC is going to pay for these types of matchups when some no-hope nobody comes in and shocks the house guy.
But that's the risk you take when you place your fighters, particularly one like Wilder, who has the size, strength and personality to be a huge star, in there with opponents who they won't get credit for beating but could ruin them with an upset.
If Floyd Mayweather Is Retired, Why Hasn't He Vacated His Belts?
Mayweather beat Andre Berto last Saturday night without so much as having to break a sweat and then promptly announced (as he had maintained all throughout the promotion) that he was retiring from the sport that made him hundreds of millions of dollars.
But you already knew all that.
So why are we here again?
ESPN's Dan Rafael reported earlier this week that the WBC and WBA (the two sanctioning organizations that currently recognize Mayweather as world champion) have not yet vacated the titles the (we presume) former pound-for-pound king currently holds.
Rafael points out the absurdity of not one but two sanctioning bodies allowing a retired fighter to continue his reign as champion in two (Mayweather holds 147 and 154-pound titles) weight divisions.
The WBA is known for this type of ridiculousness, and it often crowns two, three and sometimes four world champions per division through its mind-numbingly disingenuous system of designating fighters interim and super champions.
It hasn't done anything yet but, according to Rafael, will "eventually" vacate the belts.
The WBC, on the other hand, doesn't plan to address the situation until its annual convention early November in China.
Of course, for you conspiracy theorists out there, this could well serve as further fodder that Mayweather hasn't vacated because he intends to test out the waters at least one more time.
Or maybe not.
All we know is that he still has a few belts around his waist.
The Idiocy of Virgil Hunter's Comments
Virgil Hunter might be a hell of a coach, but his public relations skills?
Hunter, who you may know as the man who guided Berto to winning maybe one round against Mayweather last weekend, stepped in the mud (or some other brown substance you don't want on your shoes) with these comment to Fight Hype (h/t Michael Woods of Ring TV): “If you’re a fan and you’re critical, like I said before, you’re not a real boxing fan.”
Got that, everyone?
Hunter, who has been (apparently) imbued with the exclusive right to decide who is and is not a boxing fan, has declared that everyone who felt Mayweather vs. Berto was a bad fight is no longer welcome at the table of boxing fandom.
In other words: Sit down, shut up and accept what you're given.
It's a terrible look for Hunter, who also serves as an on-air analyst for PBC, and it looks even worse given how bad his fighter performed after the promises they'd make for an exciting fight and prove everyone wrong.
Hunter is certainly entitled to his opinion, though we can argue on the intelligence of throwing it up on the Internet, but fans definitely have a right to feel insulted and turned off.
Without them supporting this sport (many times when the sport didn't give them a reason to) all of us, including Hunter, would be looking for a new line of work.
So, Virgil, stick to the gym.
The Fans Have Spoken
If Saturday night was truly Mayweather's last fight, it turned out to be a colossal miss at the box office.
ESPN's Dan Rafael reports that pay-per-view sales will wind up somewhere between 400,000 and 550,000, with an industry source describing the latter number as "being generous."
That's a huge decline (with obvious reason) from the record 4.4 million buys that Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao pulled in for their superfight in May.
A drop in those numbers was not only understandable but expected. That's why we called Mayweather vs. Pacquiao a once-in-a-lifetime event, but the level of boxing fan's displeasure with this matchup seems to have finally come home to roost.
Mayweather has been boxing's PPV king for much of his career, so it's not his presence on the bill that was the problem. It was Berto, a once-promising fighter who won just three of six coming into the fight and presented none of the associated risk that made fans want to part with their (ridiculous) $75 to watch.
Even when viewed in that vein, this is pretty bad, given the arena wasn't close to sold out and the lack of much interest among fans in the days and weeks prior to the fight.
And that creates a problem for the money counters.
Showtime/CBS is going to have a hard time breaking even on this fight, which was the last of Mayweather's six-fight commitment to the network.
He was guaranteed $32 million and Berto $4 million, so with lackluster PPV numbers and thousands of empty seats in the MGM Grand Garden Arena (plus who knows how many comps), you can expect the suits to be taking a bath on this fight.
Even if Virgil Hunter blames it on people like you and me.
Can Timothy Bradley Avoid a Slugfest Against Brandon Rios?
Bradley recaptured the WBO Welterweight Championship against Jessie Vargas in June after surviving a near-knockdown in the literal closing seconds.
If only that were the biggest news in Bradley's professional life.
Next followed a split with longtime trainer Joel Diaz, which (at least in the public's eyes) came virtually out of the blue. The two men enjoyed a long and successful relationship over the years that included multiple world championships and an unpopular win over Pacquiao.
Teddy Atlas steps into the lead spot in Bradley's camp as preparations begin for a showdown with former lightweight champion Brandon Rios in November on HBO.
The question will be whether or not Atlas can help Bradley get back to his boxing roots and avoid some of the slugging mentality he's fallen into in recent fights, which has made him more exciting but also much more vulnerable.
Rios is a what-you-see-is-what-you-get fighter.
He's tough, rugged and loves to fight, but he's not and never will be the finest of technical specimens. He knows that, and he makes the most of what he brings to the table.
Bradley has the edge here, but it'll be interesting to see how he looks with a new face in camp and a new voice in his ear between rounds. Atlas is known for his brutal honesty (he's not all that dissimilar to Diaz in that regard) and won't be happy with his man taking unnecessary risks.
So Desert Storm better tighten up, or he'll invite the wrath of Atlas.
Kevin McRae is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. You can follow him on Twitter @McRaeWrites.