THREE PUNCH COMBO — Oleksandr Usyk and Oleksandr Gvozdyk each scored solid wins on Saturday night in their respective showcases on HBO. The future looks bright for both and they have interesting options for their next big engagements.
On his rise up the cruiserweight division, Usyk (pictured) received a lot of buzz from hardcore fans. Though his last three performances have all been relatively dominant wins, they did not produce that eye opening performance that some of his earlier wins had produced. Thus, the buzz has come down a little on Usyk. Part of the reason is he has faced opponents recently who are elusive targets and possess enough speed to throw off his timing.
Expect an opponent next time out for Usyk to be one where he can look sensational. It won’t be an elusive defensive-minded fighter like Thabiso Mchunu or quick handed opponent with quick feet to move around the ring like Michael Hunter. It will be someone who is relatively aggressive and not as quick on their feet. One fighter who fits those criteria to a tee is Maksim Vlasov. Vlasov is a solid guy but certainly not elusive or defensively sound. He will bring the fight to Usyk and could bring out the best in Usyk. Vlasov has fought on HBO before and is on a current eight-fight winning streak since moving to cruiserweight. He is just the opponent needed for Usyk at this point in his career.
Gvozdyk is on a fast rise in the light heavyweight division and beginning to get a lot of notice amongst boxing fans. Light heavyweight is also a very deep division and to get the title shot he wants Gvozdyk must continue to step it up in class. On Saturday on HBO Latino, Sullivan Barrera headlines a card against Paul Parker. It should be no more than a stay-busy fight for Barrera and should he win would make for the perfect opponent for Gvozdyk. It would be a fight that HBO would certainly be interested in and the winner in prime position to challenge the best at 175. It is the type of fight both Gvozdyk and Barrera would each need in their respective careers. And it is a bout that I see HBO getting behind for a future Boxing After Dark card.
Lomachenko-Salido II Will Prove Difficult to Make
Following his dominant TKO win against the tough Jason Sosa, thoughts turned to the immediate future of Vasyl Lomachenko. The fight that seems natural to make next is a rematch with Orlando Salido. However, that fight is going to prove a challenge to make and may force Lomachenko to head in a different direction.
The reason the fight will be difficult to make has nothing to do with politics. Salido and his team have worked with Lomachenko promoter Top Rank quite a bit during the last few years. The issue instead has to do with the situation Lomachenko finds himself in at the moment as well as the economics of boxing.
For this fight against Sosa, Lomachenko tried to entice other opponents in the ring first. WBA champion Jezreel Corrales turned down the fight as did others which led to Sosa. And this is Lomachenko’s problem at the moment. There are not a lot of fighters who are willing to step in the ring with him and those that will are not considered top level guys. Add in the fact that junior lightweight is fairly barren at the moment.
However, there is Salido and that fight seems a natural. The problem is the fact that there are very few other options for Lomachenko and Salido is well aware of that fact. Salido has leverage and is using it. He was of course one of those other opponents for this last fight for Lomachenko but could not come to terms on a deal. Salido is going to hold out hoping Top Rank meets his asking price which will be substantial. He is betting on the fact that Lomachenko has such limited options that his price will have to be met. Unfortunately for boxing fans, HBO has apparently scaled back its boxing budget and understandably Top Rank will not want to put on such a fight that will lose significant money. So we are at a standstill.
So where will Lomachenko go from here if the rematch is off the table? We know Corrales already turned down the fight. WBC champion Miguel Berchelt is headed toward a fight with Takashi Miura and IBF champion Gervonta Davis will be steered far away from Lomachenko by his promoter Floyd Mayweather Jr. Without Salido, there are no viable options at junior lightweight remaining.
This probably will lead Lomachenko to head north to lightweight. The most likely opponent in the near term may be Raymundo Beltran. It won’t be for a belt but will give Lomachenko a chance to get a feel for the lightweight division. Beltran is with Top Rank so the fight would be relatively easy to make. And Beltran fought on HBO last December in an impressive performance plus gets another opportunity on the network next month. A win by Beltran likely sets up a late summer/early fall date with Lomachenko assuming Salido negotiations turn south.
Let’s Play Matchmaker
In this sport, it is not always about making big fights involving big names. There are plenty of fights out there that can be made involving solid fighters whose styles should mix well to make for a fan friendly contest.
This week, Adonis Stevenson announced he would be facing Andrzej Fonfara in June in a rematch of their 2014 title fight. That announcement leaves Sean Monaghan on the sidelines as he was initially in line for the Stevenson fight. Also recently passed over by Stevenson was Joe Smith. Well, with both Monaghan and Smith without the opponent they hoped, why not make the fight between the two of them now?
A fight between Monaghan and Smith would draw a lot of buzz and sell a lot of tickets in New York. It would be a perfect fit for Nassau Coliseum; almost certainly a sellout. This showdown has been discussed for quite some time between the native New Yorker’s but never come to fruition. It would be a rivalry type of bout and the aggressive styles of both men would be certain to produce fireworks. The timing for such a fight has never been more perfect with each being passed over as opponents for Stevenson. The winner of Monaghan-Smith would move into a prime position at light heavyweight, perhaps leading to a showdown with the winner of the Ward-Kovalev rematch. Or if the fight is as good as it possibly could be, an immediate rematch could net both men quite a few dollars. Either way, a fight between Monaghan and Smith now makes too much sense not to happen.
Francisco Vargas has been involved in some wars of late and is rightly taking a bit of a breather. Jason Sosa is coming off a loss to Vasyl Lomachenko in a fight where Sosa showed tremendous courage in fighting all out to win despite taking tremendous punishment. Both Vargas and Sosa have earned a return appearance to HBO and the paycheck that comes with that appearance. How about we match the two of them either late this year or early next year?
Think about it. Both Vargas and Sosa come forward aggressively willing to take punches to get in their own shots. They have defensive limitations and have gotten exposed at the higher levels. But a match between the two would be evenly matched and competitive. There would no doubt be plenty of action and it would be a high stakes fight with the winner moving back in position to contend for a title. It is the type of crossroads fight we used to see a lot of in this sport and the type of bout that can’t be anything but entertaining.
Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel.