THREE PUNCH COMBO — Boxing is primed for potentially a big year in 2017. But it won’t be a big year without big fights. The sport needs these types of bouts more than ever. Without including anything currently on the schedule (Keith Thurman-Danny Garcia and Anthony Joshua-Wladimir Klitschko), here are three makeable fights we need to see in 2017 that will get some much needed buzz going again in boxing.
Okay this one is obvious but it needs to happen next year. This fight pits two legitimate superstars against each with both in the prime of their respective careers. The buzz is there and the fans want this bout. It will do big numbers on pay-per-view. How will Golovkin handle Canelo’s hand speed? How will Canelo handle Golovkin’s power? The winner, of course, becomes boxing heir apparent to Manny Pacquaio and Floyd Mayweather as a legitimate pay-per-view star with crossover appeal to general sports fans.
Roman Gonzalez-Naoya Inoue
The lower weight classes are flush with talent and finally starting to get some recognition from premium cable networks in the United States. The best fight to be made in these lower weight classes is between the fighter many consider to be the best pound for pound fighter in Roman Gonzalez and a monstrous puncher in Naoya Inoue. Gonzalez is just so skilled and has very few weaknesses. He is a natural boxer-puncher with speed, reflexes and a sound defense. In Inoue, an aggressive fighter who is pound for pound one of the hardest punchers in the sport, he would be facing his stiffest challenge. How would Gonzalez handle Inoue’s pressure and power? Can Inoue find a way to get to Gonzalez and ask questions of Gonzalez that have not been asked? No doubt, this fight would feature high level intrigue as well as action that would make it can’t miss.
Vasyl Lomachenko-Guillermo Rigondeaux
Looking at the current landscape for budding star Vasyl Lomachenko, who can realistically pose a challenge for him between featherweight and lightweight? He is just so skilled and above the level of anyone currently competing in those weight classes. But what about a tilt with junior featherweight Guillermo Rigondeaux at some catch weight? It would feature two of the most accomplished amateurs ever and be a highly skilled bout where Lomachenko would not be an overwhelming favorite. These are arguably the two most skilled fighters in the sport and though this certainly would not be a slugfest, it would be a high level tactical fight that would appeal to hardcore fans.
Solution to Fighters Missing Weight
Once again, we saw a boxer significantly miss the contracted weight in a high profile bout. John Molina Jr. came in initially four pounds over the 140 limit for his title fight against Terence Crawford. After “trying” to get down to 140 and cutting about half a pound, Molina reached an agreement with the Crawford camp to allow him to go forward with the fight as scheduled. The issue of fighters missing the contracted weight is not a new one and a simple solution can go a long way to prevent this issue in the future.
In the case of this fight, Molina knew he didn’t have to make weight and could essentially for a small price buy a weight advantage. The fight was taking place in Crawford’s hometown of Omaha and Crawford was the ticket seller for the event and HBO headliner. If Crawford raised an issue and threatened to pull out, many of his fans would have been disappointed and HBO would have had to pull the plug on the show. There were no realistic scenarios where Crawford would pull out if Molina missed weight and Molina was well aware of that fact.
So how do we prevent this going forward? It’s a simple solution and that is making it a stiff financial penalty for missing weight. This is where state commissions need to step up. When a contract is signed, have standard language in that contract stating the financial penalty for not making weight. And make that penalty very high. I would say 75% of the purse.
I can absolutely guarantee that the penalty Molina paid was not anywhere near 75% of his purse. But what if he knew that was the penalty for missing weight and still going forward with the event? Rest assured that Molina would have done everything possible to make the contracted weight. With such a stiff penalty, Molina would have been very incentivized to make weight and almost assuredly would have accomplished it.
Missing weight is not only unprofessional but can potentially be very dangerous. Think about it, one fighter drains himself to get to weight while the other is not nearly as drained and owns a weight advantage coming into the fight. By putting stiff financial penalties upfront, fighters will have much more incentive to get to the contracted weight.
2016 Breakout Fighters
Every year a few fighters separate themselves as potential future stars. This year, junior middleweight Jarrett Hurd and featherweight Oscar Valdez separated themselves with breakout performances.
Hurd first came to the attention of boxing fans in November of 2015 when he sprung a mild upset in stopping rising prospect Frank Galarza. But it was Hurd’s two performances in 2016 that raised a lot of eyebrows. In June, he dominated and stopped former amateur standout Oscar Molina. In that fight, Hurd displayed fast hands and sharp punching that is not often seen in the sport. He followed that up with an equally impressive stoppage of former world title challenger Jo Jo Dan in November. It wasn’t that Hurd won, but how he looked in dismantling Dan. Hurd’s combinations flowed smoothly and naturally. He used subtle movement to set up the angles to land those combinations.
Valdez was always considered a good prospect but his performances in 2016 turned him from prospect to potentially something special. In April, he took a big step up in class in facing former world champion Evgeny Gradovich. In a fight that many thought he would be tested, Valdez showed eye popping power in dominating and stopping Gradovich in round four. Valdez followed that up with another impressive display in stopping the previously undefeated Matias Carlos Adrian Rueda in two rounds to win a featherweight belt. And in November, Valdez stopped Hiroshige Osawa in the seventh round. In all these fights, Valdez displayed very fluid combination punching that at times was very explosive. His natural power jumped out as well and he displayed much improved lateral movement from earlier in his career.
Jarrett Hurd and Oscar Valdez entered 2016 as two prospects to watch. They separated themselves from others with their impressive displays and each appears destined to be stars in this sport sooner rather than later.
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