Three Punch Combo: What’s Next for Boxing’s Ukrainian Hit Squad?

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.

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COMMENTS

-Kid Blast :

Smith vs. Monaghan: The Reality The specter of two highly rated Irish-Americans from the New York City area fighting one another is mouth watering to say the least. Seanie has long been calling for a fight with one of the top names in the light heavyweight division—names like Stevenson, Kovalev, and Brahmer—but blames “boxing politics” as preventing his chances. After a win against tough Queens light heavy Will Rosinsky in December 2015, Smith Jr reportedly called out Monaghan and Seanie stated his willingness to take up the challenge and meet his fellow Long Islander. But again that was then and this is now and more options loom for Smith. If the win against Rosinsky opened new doors, the win against Fonfara removed Joe from anonymity and then the slaughter of Hopkins placed him squarely on center stage. Joe is no longer a “fight away from getting a big fight.” Who he fights next now turns on economics more than anything else, including “boxing politics.” Maybe a fight with Monaghan might have been a sage move at the time, but the Fonfara mugging made a big splash on boxing’s broader landscape and the Hopkins massacre sealed the deal. Irish Seanie now needs Joe far more than Joe needs Seanie. Thing is, Smith’s life *changed in a very big way in just 12 months and three fights; Seanie Monaghan’s life didn’t.


-Kid Blast :

Smith vs. Monaghan: The Reality The specter of two highly rated Irish-Americans from the New York City area fighting one another is mouth watering to say the least. Seanie has long been calling for a fight with one of the top names in the light heavyweight division?names like Stevenson, Kovalev, and Brahmer?but blames ?boxing politics? as preventing his chances. After a win against tough Queens light heavy Will Rosinsky in December 2015, Smith Jr reportedly called out Monaghan and Seanie stated his willingness to take up the challenge and meet his fellow Long Islander. But again that was then and this is now and more options loom for Smith. If the win against Rosinsky opened new doors, the win against Fonfara removed Joe from anonymity and then the slaughter of Hopkins placed him squarely on center stage. Joe is no longer a ?fight away from getting a big fight.? Who he fights next now turns on economics more than anything else, including ?boxing politics.? Maybe a fight with Monaghan might have been a sage move at the time, but the Fonfara mugging made a big splash on boxing?s broader landscape and the Hopkins massacre sealed the deal. Irish Seanie now needs Joe far more than Joe needs Seanie. Thing is, Smith?s life *changed in a very big way in just 12 months and three fights; Seanie Monaghan?s life didn?t.


-deepwater2 :

Smith vs. Monaghan: The Reality The specter of two highly rated Irish-Americans from the New York City area fighting one another is mouth watering to say the least. Seanie has long been calling for a fight with one of the top names in the light heavyweight division?names like Stevenson, Kovalev, and Brahmer?but blames ?boxing politics? as preventing his chances. After a win against tough Queens light heavy Will Rosinsky in December 2015, Smith Jr reportedly called out Monaghan and Seanie stated his willingness to take up the challenge and meet his fellow Long Islander. But again that was then and this is now and more options loom for Smith. If the win against Rosinsky opened new doors, the win against Fonfara removed Joe from anonymity and then the slaughter of Hopkins placed him squarely on center stage. Joe is no longer a ?fight away from getting a big fight.? Who he fights next now turns on economics more than anything else, including ?boxing politics.? Maybe a fight with Monaghan might have been a sage move at the time, but the Fonfara mugging made a big splash on boxing?s broader landscape and the Hopkins massacre sealed the deal. Irish Seanie now needs Joe far more than Joe needs Seanie. Thing is, Smith?s life *changed in a very big way in just 12 months and three fights; Seanie Monaghan?s life didn?t.
I think Joe Smith Jr should be -300 against Seanie. I like Seanie, as I live down the block from him, and his trainer Higgins is a fine trainer and even better man. Here is Seanie vs Joe in the Gloves.
.
->https://youtu.be/N9UInwiHKlQ Joe can box and move, Monaghan doesn't , but has an iron chin and a great punch.


-Kid Blast :

I think Joe Smith Jr should be -300 against Seanie. I like Seanie, as I live down the block from him, and his trainer Higgins is a fine trainer and even better man. Here is Seanie vs Joe in the Gloves.
.
->https://youtu.be/N9UInwiHKlQ Joe can box and move, Monaghan doesn't , but has an iron chin and a great punch.
Both good guys but now Joe has some very fine options and Joe DeGuardia will move him along factoring the best risk-reward possible. I think fighting the very best right now is too soon. Maybe Marcus Browne and then, if all goes well, see what's out there. One thing is for sure. Superman will not fight Joe. Alvarez and Beterbiev are possibilities as well but I personally would go after Sullivan Barrera.


-Kid Blast :

I think Joe Smith Jr should be -300 against Seanie. I like Seanie, as I live down the block from him, and his trainer Higgins is a fine trainer and even better man. Here is Seanie vs Joe in the Gloves.
.
->https://youtu.be/N9UInwiHKlQ Joe can box and move, Monaghan doesn't , but has an iron chin and a great punch.
Both good guys but now Joe has some very fine options and Joe DeGuardia will move him along factoring the best risk-reward possible. I think fighting the very best right now is too soon. Maybe Marcus Browne and then, if all goes well, see what's out there. One thing is for sure. Superman will not fight Joe. Alvarez and Beterbiev are possibilities as well but I personally would go after Sullivan Barrera.


-oubobcat :

Smith vs. Monaghan: The Reality The specter of two highly rated Irish-Americans from the New York City area fighting one another is mouth watering to say the least. Seanie has long been calling for a fight with one of the top names in the light heavyweight division—names like Stevenson, Kovalev, and Brahmer—but blames “boxing politics” as preventing his chances. After a win against tough Queens light heavy Will Rosinsky in December 2015, Smith Jr reportedly called out Monaghan and Seanie stated his willingness to take up the challenge and meet his fellow Long Islander. But again that was then and this is now and more options loom for Smith. If the win against Rosinsky opened new doors, the win against Fonfara removed Joe from anonymity and then the slaughter of Hopkins placed him squarely on center stage. Joe is no longer a “fight away from getting a big fight.” Who he fights next now turns on economics more than anything else, including “boxing politics.” Maybe a fight with Monaghan might have been a sage move at the time, but the Fonfara mugging made a big splash on boxing’s broader landscape and the Hopkins massacre sealed the deal. Irish Seanie now needs Joe far more than Joe needs Seanie. Thing is, Smith’s life *changed in a very big way in just 12 months and three fights; Seanie Monaghan’s life didn’t.
If I were managing Monaghan, the first phone call I would have made after the Stevenson fight fell apart was to Smith's team. And if I were managing Smith, the first phone call I would have made after hearing Stevenson would not be fighting Monaghan would be to Monaghan's team. Smith needs a big fight. I agree. But who is available? Not Stevenson. Not Ward or Kovalev. Realistically, whoever wins Ward-Kovalev II probably goes to a much safer opponent than Smith next if not heading into a trilogy. So what other big options are there for Smith? A fight with say Gvozdyk would be high risk with not the monetary value of Monaghan. Would Jean Pascal consider fighting Smith? I doubt it. And Beterbiev or Browne. Similar to Gvozdyk, not a lot of money with high risk. Why not Monaghan now? A fight that sells and both men get paid. For Smith, a fight he is favored and gets a could payday. He keeps his name out there and a win would almost certainly move him toward a Ward or Kovalev fight in 2018. As for Monaghan, he wants a big opportunity. Again, think Beterbiev or Browne. Do they bring the dollars that a fight at a sold out Nassau Coliseum with both HBO and Showtime bidding for rights as a Smith fight would? Is Smith more beatable than Beterbiev? Gvozdyk? Barrera? With the style of Smith, Monaghan faces better shot than those others names. It makes a ton of sense now for both. I'd be shocked if there are not serious negotiations going on right now between the two camps.


-oubobcat :

Smith vs. Monaghan: The Reality The specter of two highly rated Irish-Americans from the New York City area fighting one another is mouth watering to say the least. Seanie has long been calling for a fight with one of the top names in the light heavyweight division?names like Stevenson, Kovalev, and Brahmer?but blames ?boxing politics? as preventing his chances. After a win against tough Queens light heavy Will Rosinsky in December 2015, Smith Jr reportedly called out Monaghan and Seanie stated his willingness to take up the challenge and meet his fellow Long Islander. But again that was then and this is now and more options loom for Smith. If the win against Rosinsky opened new doors, the win against Fonfara removed Joe from anonymity and then the slaughter of Hopkins placed him squarely on center stage. Joe is no longer a ?fight away from getting a big fight.? Who he fights next now turns on economics more than anything else, including ?boxing politics.? Maybe a fight with Monaghan might have been a sage move at the time, but the Fonfara mugging made a big splash on boxing?s broader landscape and the Hopkins massacre sealed the deal. Irish Seanie now needs Joe far more than Joe needs Seanie. Thing is, Smith?s life *changed in a very big way in just 12 months and three fights; Seanie Monaghan?s life didn?t.
If I were managing Monaghan, the first phone call I would have made after the Stevenson fight fell apart was to Smith's team. And if I were managing Smith, the first phone call I would have made after hearing Stevenson would not be fighting Monaghan would be to Monaghan's team. Smith needs a big fight. I agree. But who is available? Not Stevenson. Not Ward or Kovalev. Realistically, whoever wins Ward-Kovalev II probably goes to a much safer opponent than Smith next if not heading into a trilogy. So what other big options are there for Smith? A fight with say Gvozdyk would be high risk with not the monetary value of Monaghan. Would Jean Pascal consider fighting Smith? I doubt it. And Beterbiev or Browne. Similar to Gvozdyk, not a lot of money with high risk. Why not Monaghan now? A fight that sells and both men get paid. For Smith, a fight he is favored and gets a could payday. He keeps his name out there and a win would almost certainly move him toward a Ward or Kovalev fight in 2018. As for Monaghan, he wants a big opportunity. Again, think Beterbiev or Browne. Do they bring the dollars that a fight at a sold out Nassau Coliseum with both HBO and Showtime bidding for rights as a Smith fight would? Is Smith more beatable than Beterbiev? Gvozdyk? Barrera? With the style of Smith, Monaghan faces better shot than those others names. It makes a ton of sense now for both. I'd be shocked if there are not serious negotiations going on right now between the two camps.


-Kid Blast :

You will be shocked, then, though I would not bet against it. In my view, Smith would wax the Irishman in short order, but you are correct in that it would generate interest in the NYC area. Chilemba would be a better opponent and since he fought Gvozdyk, there would be a measure of comparison.