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Best Still Yet to Come: The TSS 2018 Mid-Year Awards & Review

While some of the biggest and most important fights in boxing continue to get pushed to the back burner of 2019 and beyond by greedy promoters and selfishly avoidant fighters

Jeffrey Freeman




While some of the biggest and most important fights in boxing continue to get pushed to the back burner of 2019 and beyond by greedy promoters and selfishly avoidant fighters, calendar year 2018 came out swinging with some excellent results inside and outside the ring.

In March, World Heavyweight Champion Anthony Joshua added another belt to his growing collection, decisioning Joseph Parker in a unanimous affair to claim the Kiwi’s WBO title in Cardiff. AJ is in shaky negotiations for an undisputed unification showdown with American WBC champ Deontay Wilder. That’s a MEGA FIGHT if it happens, preferably at Wembley Stadium.

Wilder did his part in March at Barclays in Brooklyn, beating down undefeated Cuban boogeyman Luis Ortiz over ten compelling rounds but not before proving his own championship resolve in a rough and stumble seventh round scored 10-8 for Ortiz by all three ringside judges.

According to ESPN, talks between the camps hit a wall on Wednesday, June 27 (the 30th anniversary of Tyson-Spinks) with both sides expressing bitter disappointment on Twitter. If nothing changes, Joshua looks to be moving towards the fall challenge of Alexander Povetkin.

Terence Crawford stopped Jeff Horn in June to become WBO welterweight champion, his first world title in the loaded 147-pound weight class. Many are now saying the Nebraskan American “BUD” has the best P4P stuff in the world. Crawford has done absolutely nothing to prove them wrong. TC strikes like an assassin without weakness. Unfortunately, a prime versus prime unification matchup with IBF titlist Errol Spence Jr. looks unlikely to materialize anytime soon.

Maybe Essex’s Eddie Hearn can help.

In May, the relentless promoter announced the formation of Matchroom USA, a bold attempt to export the thriving British boxing experience to the United States for sixteen Hearn-promoted shows a year in the U.S. featuring his top available talent in their best matchups. American fans are hopeful Hearn can deliver where others like Arum, Oscar, and Haymon have failed them. Hearn warned his competitors it’s now “open season” on all free agent fighters in America.


Best Fight

Jarrett Hurd SD 12 Erislandy Lara, April 7, 2018, Las Vegas: ​In a beautifully spirited super welterweight unification bout aired on SHO, IBF champion “Swift” Hurd lived up to his reputation as an American pressure fighter who eventually catches up to you. With his size, creative tats and orange day-glo hair, it’s a good thing too because Hurd looks the part of an action hero.

Against Lara, a pure southpaw boxer, roles were reversed often as the ordinarily mobile Cuban stood his ground in defense of his WBA title using an arsenal of straights lefts, left hooks and left uppercuts. It’s not that Hurd wasn’t hitting Lara back, it’s that Lara was almost always taking it well enough and dishing it back even better. It showed on the swollen right eye of Lara in the ninth and in the fact that the younger Hurd needed eleventh hour heroics to pull out the victory.

Late in the twelfth, Hurd broke through, battering Lara to the canvas with a bloody assault capped off by a left hook; turning the tables on his lefty nemesis. Blinded, Lara got up at six, stalled for a second or two and then survived the last twenty ticks not by running or bike riding but by trading punches along the ropes until the final bell.

Without the dramatic knockdown, the fight is ruled a majority draw with no winner or proper unification resolution. With it, Hurd wins a legit split 114-113, 113-114 and 114-113 to unify two world titles; effectively putting his WBC counterpart Jermell Charlo on notice.

“I’m No. 1 now. We’re calling the shots.”

Next Best: ​Adonis Stevenson D 12 Badou Jack, May 19, Toronto, Canada. In a quality WBC light heavyweight title contest marred only by the majority draw verdict, 40-year-old “Superman” showed why he’s been so tough to beat for so long now. He’s a power puncher to the body with better punch resistance than he’s currently given credit for. Jack couldn’t crack the champ’s chin and it was the challenger ripped up downstairs and backing up in the championship rounds.

Top Fighter

Vasyl Lomachenko: ​The Ukrainian sensation made boxing history at Madison Square Garden in May, fast rising from his first ever knockdown at the skilled hands of Jorge Linares to win the world lightweight title; making Loma a three-division champion in just twelve pro bouts while simultaneously exposing a glitch in the matrix. Considered by many to be the top P4P talent in boxing, Lomachenko (aka #NoMasChenko) has a reputation for making good fighters quit.

It was the body chopped liver of Linares that tapped out against Loma. It remains to be seen if Lomachenko’s right shoulder will present future problems. After injuring it in the Linares fight, Lomachenko, 30, went under the blade for a torn labrum, never a good thing for any athlete. Named the BWAA 2017 Fighter of the Year, what if he’s now never as good as he was then?

Next Best: ​Errol Spence. The new IBF welterweight champion started the new year off strong in January, retiring Lamont Peterson in the corner after seven rounds to retain his title. Spence followed that up in June with an easy Texas homecoming against Carlos Ocampo. There is a growing desire to see Spence Jr., 28, involved in key fights before he’s past his peak.


Dillian Whyte KO 6 Lucas Browne: ​Some knockouts in boxing are things of beauty. Consider Robinson-Fullmer II or Marciano-Walcott I for the title. Other times, they’re like slo-mo car wrecks and you should look away from the carnage. British heavyweight Dillian Whyte’s March 24 mashup of Australian Lucas Browne at the O2 in London was neither artistic nor beautiful but it was conclusive. For five rounds, Whyte turned Browne red, making a gory mess of his face.

In the sixth, Whyte went for the kill, punctuated by a lethal left hook that nearly took Browne’s bald head off. Browne’s limp frame crashed upon the canvas, face first, KTFO as they say.

Ain’t gonna be no rematch.

Honorable Mention: ​Gennady Golovkin KO 2 Vanes Martirosyan, May 5, Carson, CA. The middleweight champion hadn’t scored a KO in two years, having been extended by Danny Jacobs and Canelo Alvarez. Martirosyan, sub for a suspended Canelo, had never been stopped; standing up to the power of Demetrius Andrade and Jermell Charlo. After taking a full ten count from the two fisted fury of Triple G, Martirosyan likened it to being struck by a train.

Significant Event

Presidential Pardon of Jack Johnson: ​Say what you will about the reigning and defending President of the United States but the man loves his boxing. Already a member of two fistic Halls of Fame, Donald J. Trump made his case for Canastota at the White House on May 24.

Flanked by former champion Lennox Lewis, current champion Deontay Wilder and movie champ Sylvester “Rocky” Stallone, President Trump posthumously pardoned the “Galveston Giant” Jack Johnson, boxing’s first black World Heavyweight Champion. The POTUS did so with a green World Boxing Council (WBC) heavyweight title belt sitting on his Oval Office desk. Only in America.

Honorable Mention: ​Surprise Announcement of Canelo-Golovkin II.​ ​Taking a page or two from the #BombSquad school of suspenseful hashtagging on Twitter, Golden Boy & K2 Promotions announced #CaneloGGG2 via an unexpected Oscar De La Hoya tweet on Wednesday afternoon, June 13. It didn’t help me forgive ​Adalaide Byrd ​or forget Cinco De Clenbuterol.

Alvarez will again face Gennady Golovkin in a now over-marinated “all about the money” rematch September 15 on HBO PPV. Barring a GGG KO in the 13th round, cynical insiders expect Golovkin to be leaving Las Vegas a robbed ex-champ; albeit a very well paid one.


Tyson Fury: ​Depending on who you ask, the “Gypsy King” is either still the undefeated (26-0) heavyweight champion of the world or he’s at least a big fat piece in the lucrative heavyweight puzzle that today includes Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder—and few others, if any.

In the case of Fury’s comeback, it’s not who he fought (Sefer Seferi) or what happened when he did (Tyson kissed and clowned before his handpicked cruiserweight foe quit on cue after four) but just that Fury ​got off the damn couch to exercise his educated fists and priceless lips.

Ending nearly three years of unhealthy inactivity stretching back to his drab November 2015 title victory against Wladimir Klitschko, Fury, 29, started this comeback from his own demons on June 9 in Manchester. You can follow Fury’s bollocks on his hyperactive Instagram account.

Honorable Mention:​ Amir Khan. Out of the ring for two years after being knocked out cold by Canelo Alvarez in 2016, Khan made easy work of Phil Lo Greco in his Liverpool homecoming on April 21. If his suspect chin holds up, Khan’s best may be yet to come. He’s still only 31. Viable future welterweight opponents likely include Kell Brook and potentially Errol Spence Jr.

Best Three Minutes

Deontay Wilder vs. Luis Ortiz (Round 7): ​If you can impress “The Fighter” Micky Ward, you’ve done something extraordinary. The simmering pace of a red hot WBC heavyweight title fight erupted late in the seventh round when Ortiz started landing straight lefts to Wilder’s chin and nearly everything he threw to the body. Wilder was rocked—trying to clinch but deciding to punch. With millions at stake in a future superfight with Anthony Joshua, Deontay dug deep.

“Wilder showed something he didn’t show in any of his other fights,” said Ward. “He got hurt and he fought back. He showed he has balls and heart. He has the will. He’ll come back. He doesn’t just talk smack,” Ward says. “That shows me, and I know from being in there, he’s a warrior.”

Biggest Upset

Roberto Ramirez TKO 2 Dejan Zlaticanin: ​Comebacking from a 2017 title loss to Mikey Garcia, former WBC lightweight champion “Dynamite” Zlaticanin got blasted; suffering a broken nose, a busted jaw and two knockdowns on a June 21 DiBella promoted Broadway show in Queens. Zlaticanin’s 18-2-1 (13) Mexican opponent “Rifle” Ramirez once dropped a decision to Carlos Ocampo in Tijuana. Yes, that Carlos Ocampo. Zlaticanin defeated Ricky Burns in 2014 before outclassing an undefeated Ivan Redkach in 2015 on the Wilder-Molina undercard.

At 34, Zlaticanin looks washed up.

Next Biggest Surprise: ​Jaime Munguia TKO 4 Sadam Ali. Fresh off his upset of Miguel Cotto last year, “World Kid” Ali got tuned up on HBO at the Turning Stone Casino in upstate New York. This was a WBO 154 lb. title bout nearly everyone assumed would be won handily by Ali, the defending champ. Munguia dominated. Though 28-0, the Mexican challenger had never fought in the U.S. and was considered far too inexperienced to stand in for Canelo against Golovkin.

Top Prospect

Nico Hernandez: This talented little 5-0 (4) flyweight can fight but you’ve probably not seen him do it yet. That’s because for now he only boxes in what some Americans might call flyover country. The 22-year-old 2016 Olympic Bronze Medalist from Wichita, Kansas already holds a minor world title in his opportunistically lean weight class, stopping flyweight vet Szilveszter Kanalas in the first of a scheduled twelve rounder. Boxrec rates Hernandez number 113 at flyweight.

Although fighting at home suits him just fine, Hernandez will probably have to travel the world again like an Olympian to better his fistic fortunes and elevate his world rating. Don’t tell him that though. “My plan is to do it here like Terence Crawford has done it in Omaha.”

Hernandez was 2-0 with two knockouts in the first half of this year after debuting in March of 2017 at the Kansas Star Arena. Hall of Fame referee Steve Smoger worked both outings. Nico is promoted by John Anderson’s KO Night Boxing.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

To comment on this article at The Fight Forum, CLICK HERE.


The BWAA Shames Veteran Referee Laurence Cole and Two Nebraska Judges

Arne K. Lang



In an unprecedented development, the Boxing Writers Association of America has started a “watch list” to lift the curtain on ring officials who have “screwed up.” Veteran Texas referee Laurence Cole and Nebraska judges Mike Contreras and Jeff Sinnett have the unwelcome distinction of being the first “honorees.”

“Boxing is a sport where judges and referees are rarely held accountable for poor performances that unfairly change the course of a fighter’s career and, in some instances, endanger lives,” says the BWAA in a preamble to the new feature. Hence the watch list, which is designed to “call attention to ‘egregious’ errors in scoring by judges and unacceptable conduct by referees.”

Contreras and Sinnett, residents of Omaha, were singled out for their scorecards in the match between lightweights Thomas Mattice and Zhora Hamazaryan, an eight round contest staged at the WinnaVegas Casino in Sloan, Iowa on July 20. They both scored the fight 76-75 for Mattice, enabling the Ohio fighter to keep his undefeated record intact via a split decision.

Although Mattice vs. Hamazaryan was a supporting bout, it aired live on ShoBox. Analyst Steve Farhood, who was been with ShoBox since the inception of the series in 2001, called it one of the worst decisions he had ever seen. Lead announcer Barry Tompkins went further, calling it the worst decision he has seen in his 40 years of covering the sport.

Laurence Cole (pictured alongside his father) was singled out for his behavior as the third man in the ring for the fight between Regis Prograis and Juan Jose Velasco at the Lakefront Arena in New Orleans on July 14. The bout was televised live on ESPN.

In his rationale for calling out Cole, BWAA prexy Joseph Santoliquito leaned heavily on Thomas Hauser’s critique of Cole’s performance in The Sweet Science. “Velasco fought courageously and as well as he could,” noted Hauser. “But at the end of round seven he was a thoroughly beaten fighter.”

His chief second bullied him into coming out for another round. Forty-five seconds into round eight, after being knocked down for a third time, Velasco spit out his mouthpiece and indicated to Cole that he was finished. But Cole insisted that the match continue and then, after another knockdown that he ruled a slip, let it continue for another 35 seconds before Velasco’s corner mercifully threw in the towel.

Controversy has dogged Laurence Cole for well over a decade.

Cole was the third man in the ring for the Nov. 25, 2006 bout in Hildalgo, Texas, between Juan Manuel Marquez and Jimrex Jaca. In the fifth round, Marquez sustained a cut on his forehead from an accidental head butt. In round eight, another accidental head butt widened and deepened the gash. As Marquez was being examined by the ring doctor, Cole informed Marquez that he was ahead on the scorecards, volunteering this information while holding his hand over his HBO wireless mike. The inference was that Marquez was free to quit right then without tarnishing his record. (Marquez elected to continue and stopped Jaca in the next round.)

This was improper. For this indiscretion, Cole was prohibited from working a significant fight in Texas for the next six months.

More recently, Cole worked the 2014 fight between Vasyl Lomachenko and Orlando Salido at the San Antonio Alamodome. During the fight, Salido made a mockery of the Queensberry rules for which he received no point deductions and only one warning. Cole’s performance, said Matt McGrain, was “astonishingly bad,” an opinion echoed by many other boxing writers. And one could site numerous other incidents where Cole’s performance came under scrutiny.

Laurence Cole is the son of Richard “Dickie” Cole. The elder Cole, now 87 years old, served 21 years as head of the Texas Department of Combat Sports Regulation before stepping down on April 30, 2014. At various times during his tenure, Dickie Cole held high executive posts with the World Boxing Council and North American Boxing Federation. He was the first and only inductee into the inaugural class of the Texas Boxing Hall of Fame, an organization founded by El Paso promoter Lester Bedford in 2015.

From an administrative standpoint, boxing in Texas during the reign of Dickie Cole was frequently described in terms befitting a banana republic. Whenever there was a big fight in the Lone Star State, his son was the favorite to draw the coveted refereeing assignment.

Boxing is a sideline for Laurence Cole who runs an independent insurance agency in Dallas. By law in Texas (and in most other states), a boxing promoter must purchase insurance to cover medical costs in the event that one or more of the fighters on his show is seriously injured. Cole’s agency is purportedly in the top two nationally in writing these policies. Make of that what you will.

Complaints of ineptitude, says the WBAA, will be evaluated by a “rotating committee of select BWAA members and respected boxing experts.” In subsequent years, says the press release, the watch list will be published quarterly in the months of April, August, and December (must be the new math).

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel


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The Avila Perspective, Chapter 8: Competing Cards in N.Y. and L.A.

David A. Avila



Rival boxing shows compete this Saturday as light heavyweight world titlists are featured in New Jersey while former world champion welterweights and middleweights tangle in New York.

A mere 150 miles separate the two fight cards staged in Uniondale, N.Y. and Atlantic City.

But there’s no mercy inside the boxing ring and certainly no mercy between boxing promotions. While Main Events stages WBO light heavyweight titlist Sergey Kovalev and WBA light heavyweight titlist Dmitry Bivol in separate bouts, DiBella Entertainment stacks former champs Andre Berto against Devon Alexander in a welterweight clash.

Take your pick.

Russia’s Kovalev (32-2-1, 28 KOs) has lost some luster and hopes to reboot his popularity with a win against Canada’s Eleider Alvarez (23-0, 11 KOs). But he will be directly competing against WBA champ Bivol (13-0, 11 KOs), also of Russia, who defends against Isaac Chilemba (25-5-2) of South Africa.

HBO will televise both light heavyweight title fights.

Bivol, 27, has slowly, almost glacier-like slow, picked up fans along the way by training in Southern California. The quiet unassuming fighter with a conservative style and cobra-like quickness appeals to the fans.

“I do not think that now I am the best light heavyweight, but I am now one of the best. One of four guys,” said Bivol during a press conference call. “But I hope in not the far future, we will know who is the best.”

That, of course, would mean a date with Kovalev should both fighters win on Saturday. Nothing is certain.

Kovalev, now 35, has lost some of that fear factor aura since losing back-to-back fights to now retired Andre Ward. Though he’s cracked two opponents in succession by knockout, many are pointing to the potential showdown with Bivol as the moment of truth.

“Most likely this fight is gonna happen since both Sergey and I are HBO boxers and as long as that’s what the people want, most likely the fight will happen,” said Bivol. “Me and Sergey will make sure to give this fight to the people.”

It’s time for the build-up and it starts on Saturday Aug. 4, on HBO.

“That’s certainly a goal of Sergey’s and he’s made it very clear to me that that’s what he wants to do,” said promoter Kathy Duva, CEO of Main Events. “He wants to do unification fights if he is successful with Eleider Alvarez. That’s what he wants to do next; he’s been very clear about that.”


Five former world champions stack the fight card at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York.

Former welterweight world champs Andre Berto (31-5, 24 KOs) and Devon Alexander (27-4-1, 14 KOs) lead the charge in a 12-round clash. FOX will televise the main event and others at 4 p.m. PT/7 p.m. ET.

Berto, 34, has been fighting once a year so it’s difficult to determine if age has crept into his reflexes. When he knocked out Victor Ortiz in a rematch two years ago Berto looked sharp and dangerous. But against Shawn Porter a year ago, the crispness seemed gone and he quickly lost by knockout.

Alexander, 31, has the advantage of being a southpaw. But he always seems to do the minimum when he fights. Last February he slowed down and allowed Victor Ortiz to steal the fight. All the commotion by the announcers was for naught. Defense does not win fights, it allows you to win fights. The lack of offense in the latter rounds cost Alexander a win in a match that entered the books as a majority draw.

It’s a curious matchup of former world champions.

Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin (33-1-1, 23 KOs) the former WBO middleweight titlist meets J’Leon Love (24-1-1, 13 KOs) in a super middleweight bout set for 10 rounds. It’s another intriguing fight especially between two fighters with great personalities.

Quillin, 35, was ambushed by Daniel Jacobs in the first round a year ago in losing the title. Was it bad luck, age or both? As a fighter the Brooklyn-based prizefighter has a ton of followers who like him as a person. Few are as classy as Quillin.

Love, 30, has long been a mainstay in Las Vegas and since his amateur days his abilities have been touted. Throughout the years Love has shown that charm and friendliness can go a long ways, even in the bitter wars of prizefighting. But the time has come to see if he belongs in the prizefighting world. Quillin will present an immense challenge for Love.

A number of other interesting fights are slated to take place among former world champions including Sergey Lipinets who lost the super lightweight title to Mikey Garcia this past winter. There’s also Luis Collazo in a welterweight match.

One world title fight does take place on the card.

Female WBA super middleweight titlist Alicia Napoleon (9-1) makes the first defense of her title against Scotland’s Hannah Rankin (5-1). It’s a 10 round bout and the first time Napoleon defends the title since winning it last March against Germany’s Femke Hermans. Ironically, Hermans now has the WBO super middleweight title after defeating former champ Nikki Adler by decision this past May.

L.A. Congestion

Next week the city of Angels will be packed with three fight cards in four days.

First, on Wednesday Aug. 8, 360 Promotions stages Abraham Lopez (9-1-1, 3 KOs) versus Gloferson Ortizo (12-0-1, 6 KOs) in the main event at the Avalon Theater in Hollywood, Calif. This is Filipino fighter Ortizo’s ninth fight this year. You read that correctly.

All of Ortizo’s fights have taken place across the border in Tijuana. The 32-year-old now returns to California against another Californian in Lopez. He’ll be looking for his fourth consecutive knockout, but Lopez, 22, has not lost a fight since his pro debut. Inactivity might come into play for Lopez who hasn’t stepped in the boxing ring in over a year.

New York’s Brian Ceballo (3-0) returns in a six round welterweight bout against local fighter Tavorus Teague (5-20-4). Ceballo, who is promoted by 360 Promotions, looked good in his last appearance. The amateurish punches seen in his first two bouts were gone by his third pro fight. His opponent Teague has ability and can give problems if Ceballo takes his foot off the pedal.

One of Gennady “GGG” Golovkin’s training partners Ali Akhmedov (11-0, 8 KOs) makes his California debut when he meets Jorge Escalante (9-1-1, 6 KOs) in a light heavyweight match.

Female super lightweight Elvina White (2-0) is also slated to compete. The entire fight card will be streamed at and on the 360 Promotions page on Facebook. First bell rings at 6:15 p.m.

Belasco Theater in downtown L.A. is the site of Golden Boy Promotions fight card on Friday Aug. 10. A pair of young prospects will be severely tested.

San Diego’s Genaro Gamez (8-0, 5 KOs) meets Filipino fighter Recky Dulay (10-3, 7 KOs) for the vacant NABF super featherweight title. For Dulay it’s always kill or be killed. Five of his last fights have ended in knockout wins or losses.

Gamez, 23, seems to thrive under pressure and broke down two veterans in back-to-back fights at Fantasy Springs Casino. Now he returns to the Belasco, a venue where he has struggled in the past. But this time he’s the main event.

Another being severely tested will be Emilio Sanchez (15-1, 10 KOs) facing veteran Christopher Martin (30-10-3, 10 KOs) who is capable of beating anyone.

Sanchez, 24, lost by knockout in his last fight this past March. He’s talented and fearless and one mistake cost him his first loss as a pro. He’s not getting a break against Martin, a cagey fighter who has upset many young rising prospects in the past. Martin also has experience against world champions. It’s an extremely tough matchup for Sanchez.

The fight card will be televised by Estrella TV beginning at 6 p.m.

World Title Fight

On Saturday, boxing returns to the Avalon Theater in Hollywood.

The main event is a good one as Puerto Rico’s Jesus Rojas (26-1-2, 19 KOs) defends the WBA featherweight world title against Southern California’s Jojo Diaz (26-1) in a 12 round clash. It’s power versus speed.

Rojas, 31, is one tough customer. When he took the interim title against Claudia Marrero last year he chased down the speedy southpaw Dominican and blasted him out in the seventh round. Several months earlier he obliterated another Golden Boy prospect, Abraham Lopez (not the same Abraham Lopez that is fighting on the 360 Promotions card), in eight rounds. Now he has the title and defends against the speedy southpaw Diaz.

Diaz, 25, just recently lost a bid for the WBC featherweight title against Gary Russell Jr. Though he lost by decision three months ago, that fight might be easy in comparison to this challenge against Rojas.

The former Olympian won’t be able to take a breath against the Puerto Rican slugger who is about as rough as they come.

Two more undefeated Golden Boy prospects get a chance to eliminate each other when Philadelphia’s Damon Allen (15-0-1) meets East L.A.’s Jonathan Navarro (14-0, 7 KOs) in a super lightweight fight set for 10 rounds.

Phillie versus East LA is like fire versus fire in the boxing ring. Boxers originating from those two hard-bitten areas usually have go-for-broke styles that result in pure action. Allen versus Navarro should not disappoint.

Allen, 25, is not a hard puncher but he’s aggressive and like most Philadelphia fighters, he’s not afraid to mix it up.

Navarro, 21, lives in East L.A. but trains in Riverside under Robert Garcia. He’s slowly finding his timing and will be facing the fastest fighter since his pro debut in 2015.

Others featured on the card will be Hector Tanajara, Aaron McKenna and Ferdinand Kerobyan.

The card will be streamed on the Golden Boy Fight Night page on Facebook beginning at 6 p.m.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

To comment on this article at The Fight Forum, CLICK HERE.

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What’s Next for Manny Pacquiao?

Kelsey McCarson




Manny Pacquiao isn’t quite ready to retire, and more big-money fights against high-level competition seem to be on the 39-year-old’s way.

“I feel like I’m a 27-year-old,” Pacquiao told’s Jamil Santos last week. “Expect more fights to come.”

Pacquiao (60-7-2, 39 KOs) looked exceptionally sharp in his seventh-round knockout win over former junior welterweight titleholder Lucas Matthysse on July 15 at Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It was Pacquiao’s best performance in at least four years, netting Pacquiao a secondary world title at welterweight along with a slew of renewed public interest in the boxing superstar’s career.

But what comes next for the only fighter in the history of boxing to capture world titles in eight different weight classes? TSS takes a detailed look at the potential opponents for one of the sport’s most celebrated stars.

Cream of the Crop

Pacquiao looked good enough against Matthysse to suggest he’d make a viable candidate to face either Terence Crawford or Vasyl Lomachenko next. Crawford is ranked No. 2 on the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board’s pound-for-pound list while Lomachenko slots at No. 1.

While Pacquiao is no longer under contract with longtime promoter Bob Arum at Top Rank, most industry insiders expect he will continue working with Arum’s team in some capacity so long as his career keeps moving forward. Pacquiao started his own promotional venture, MP Promotions, to co-promote the Matthysse bout with Oscar De La Hoya, but Top Rank was still involved in the fight which is why the bout ended up streaming on ESPN+.

Top Rank’s two hottest commodities at the present are Ring Magazine and WBA lightweight champ Lomachenko and welterweight titlist Crawford. Both are highly-regarded, multi-division world titleholders in the primes of their careers who are universally considered the top fighters in boxing.

Lomachenko and Crawford would each present a unique set of problems for Pacquiao stylistically. Of the two, Pacquiao probably matches up best with Lomachenko at this point in his career. Crawford (33-0, 24 KOs) is much larger and heavier than both Pacquiao and Lomachenko, and unless Pacquiao just really wants to test himself against someone incredibly dangerous, it’d probably be best for Team Pacquiao to avoid fighting Crawford at all costs. Crawford would be a heavy favorite against Pacquiao and most boxing insiders don’t believe this version of Pacquiao could compete with Crawford.

Lomachenko (11-1, 9 KOs) is naturally smaller than Pacquiao and has never fought above 135 pounds. If Pacquiao could lure Lomachenko to 140 pounds or above, he’d find himself in a winnable fight against a top-notch opponent. Lomachenko would probably be the slight favorite based on age alone but Pacquiao’s power and athleticism would give him a realistic chance to pull the upset.

Other Notable Possibilities

Former junior welterweight titleholder Amir Khan has long been angling for a bout against Pacquiao. Khan faces Samuel Vargas on Sept. 8 in another comeback bout against lower level competition. Khan (32-4, 20 KOs) bravely moved up to middleweight to fight Canelo Alvarez in 2016 but was knocked out in the sixth round. He left the sport for a spell but returned to boxing in February as a welterweight with a sensational first round knockout win over Phil Lo Greco. A win over Vargas puts Khan in good position to secure a bout with Pacquiao, and the fight is a reasonable move by both camps. Pacquiao would probably be the heavy favorite, but Khan’s speed and long reach give him a decent chance to pull the upset.

Former welterweight titleholder Jeff Horn won a controversial decision over Pacquiao last year in Australia. The bout grabbed huge ratings for ESPN and there have been many debates since it happened as to which fighter truly deserved the nod from the judges. Horn (18-1-1, 12 KOs) doesn’t possess elite level talent, but he’s huge compared to Pacquiao and fights with such ferocity that the two can’t help but make an aesthetically pleasing fight together. Pacquiao would be the heavy favorite to defeat Horn if the two fight again.

Pacquiao vs. PBC fighters?

Boxing’s current political climate and the ongoing battle of promoters and television networks for the hearts and minds of boxing fans usually leaves many compelling fights between top level stars off the table. Fighters promoted by Top Rank and Golden Boy are almost never able to secure bouts with fighters signed to Al Haymon to appear under the Premier Boxing Champions banner and vice versa. But Pacquiao’s free agent status opens up new and interesting possibilities for the fighter to pursue noteworthy PBC fighters.

There had been lots of chatter about Pacquiao facing Mikey Garcia next. Garcia (39-0, 30 KOs) has been decimating competition at both lightweight and junior welterweight. Garcia is considered by most experts to be one of the top 10 pound-for-pound fighters in the sport. He’s the TBRB junior welterweight champion and a unified lightweight titleholder (WBC, IBF). While Garcia is hoping to land a big money bout against IBF welterweight titleholder Errol Spence, most boxing experts believe the jump up to 147 pounds would be too much for the diminutive Garcia who began his career at featherweight. A better welterweight target for Garcia would be Pacquiao who also began his career in a much lower weight class.

Spence (24-0, 21 KOs) is probably the best of the PBC welterweights. He’s considered by many to be on par with Crawford at 147 so it would be an incredibly dangerous bout for Pacquiao to go after at this point in his career. But Spence is aggressive and fights in a style that Pacquiao traditionally matches up very well against. Spence would be the favorite based on size, age and skill.

Slightly less dangerous to Pacquiao would be facing the winner of the Sept. 8 battle between Danny Garcia and Shawn Porter. Garcia (34-1, 20 KOs) and Porter (28-2-1, 17 KOs) are fighting for the vacant WBC welterweight title and the possibility of capturing another world title in his career could sway Pacquiao to seek out the winner. Pacquiao could find himself a slight favorite or underdog depending on which of the two fighters he would face, but both would be winnable fights.

The WBA welterweight champion is Keith Thurman. Thurman (28-0, 22 KOs) is a good boxer with tremendous power but Pacquiao’s speed and athleticism would probably give him the leg up in that potential matchup. Thurman hasn’t fought in over 16 months though and recent pictures suggest he’s not in fighting shape at the moment, so the likelihood of a Pacquiao vs. Thurman fight is pretty much nil.

Some fans want Pacquiao to face Adrien Broner. Broner (33-3-1, 24 KOs) is a solid contender at 147 but probably doesn’t have the skill to seriously compete with Pacquiao. Pacquiao would be a significant favorite and would likely stop Broner if the two were able to meet in a boxing ring.

Mayweather-Pacquiao 2?

Pacquiao lost a unanimous decision to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2015, but the circumstances surrounding the fight, and the fact it was the biggest box office bash in the history of the sport, have led many to suspect the two fighters would meet again in a rematch.

Yes, Mayweather (50-0, 27 KOs) is retired, but he’s unretired several times in his career for big money fights including last year’s crossover megafight with UFC star Conor McGregor. While it seems unlikely to happen, Mayweather-Pacquiao 2 would still be a huge worldwide event worth millions of dollars to both fighters so those following the sport can never say never to the idea of it happening again.

While Mayweather is 41, he’d still get the nod as the betting favorite should he fight Pacquiao again based on what happened in the first fight as well as his stylistic advantage over Pacquiao.

Pacquiao vs. McGregor?

McGregor’s bout against Mayweather last year was such a financial success and the MMA star made so much more money in the boxing ring than he did as a UFC fighter that the idea of him returning to the sport to face Pacquiao isn’t as far-fetched as one might think.

Pacquiao vs. McGregor would be an easy sell to the general public. According to CompuBox, McGregor landed more punches against Mayweather than did Pacquiao, and the general consensus is that Mayweather-McGregor was more fun to watch than Mayweather-Pacquiao.

The size difference between the two would lead to an easy promotion. McGregor is a junior middleweight and Pacquiao has only competed at the weight once back in 2010. Despite all that, Pacquiao would be a significant favorite to defeat McGregor and rightly so. He’s too fast and too good a boxer, and his aggressive style would likely lead to a stoppage win.

Pacquiao’s Top Targets

Pacquiao’s top targets should be Mayweather, McGregor and Lomachenko. Pacquiao would stand to make the most money facing either Mayweather or McGregor. Pacquiao’s reportedly injured shoulder heading into 2015 bout left many wondering how the fight might be different had the Filipino gone into things at his best, and Mayweather’s age might play more of a factor in the second fight than it did in the first. A Pacquiao-McGregor fight would be a worldwide spectacle, one Pacquiao would be heavily favored to win. Besides, it’d be interesting to see if Pacquiao could stop McGregor sooner than historical rival Mayweather. Finally, Lomachenko might be trying to climb up weight classes too fast, and Pacquiao would certainly be fit to test the validity of that theory. It’d be one of the biggest fights in boxing and a win for Pacquiao would be another huge feather in the cap of one of boxing’s true historically great champions.

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