Three Punch Combo: Old School Fighters, a Lomachenko Look-Ahead and More

THREE PUNCH COMBO — This past week, we saw Raymundo Beltran (34-7-1, 21 KO’s) move a step closer to another crack at a world title belt with his majority decision win against tough contender Bryan Vasquez (35-3, 19 KO’s). Beltran’s story is a unique one in modern day boxing. He suffered several losses, including some by knockout, before finally finding himself and earning a world title shot 14 years into his professional career in 2013. Though he has yet to succeed in a world title fight, he has found himself an inspiration to others in the sport.

Here are three other fighters who are somewhat similar to Beltran (pictured on the right) in that they have earned an opportunity to fight for some sort of belt by coming up the old school way. These are fighters who at one point were written off as journeymen, but rebounded, much like Beltran, and earned the right the old school way to fight for a title. (One of the criteria in selecting these fighters is that they hadn’t previously fought for a world title belt or have a fight scheduled for a belt.)

Adrian Granados (18-5-2, 12 KO’s)

Granados, who campaigns between 140 and 147, has a pedestrian record but he can fight. He could always fight but often found himself in tough. In his 11th pro fight in 2011, he was hand selected as the opponent for hot prospect Frankie Gomez. Granados performed much better than anyone thought in dropping a hard fought majority decision. A few years later, Granados found himself, back to back, in with undefeated fighters in Felix Diaz and Brad Solomon. Again, what were supposed to be easy fights for his opponents turned into tougher than expected challenges. Though Granados lost both contests, he continued to hone his skills and improve inside the ring. In 2015, Granados was once again hand selected for hot prospect Amir Imam’s stay busy fight. This time, Granados turned the corner and exposed the flaws of the hard punching Imam, stopping him in the eighth round. This performance scared off many potential opponents. However, earlier this year Adrien Broner’s team selected him for what was supposed to be an easy night’s work.  But it was far from easy for Broner who escaped with a controversial split decision win. Granados has earned a crack at something bigger based off his latest performances and hopefully is rewarded sometime soon.

Yordenis Ugas (19-3, 9 KO’s)

Ugas, who is now campaigning at 147, was a highly decorated Cuban amateur and a once highly thought of pro prospect. But three losses between 2012 and 2014 had most ring experts thinking he’d never be able to compete with anyone past the club level. Following 27 months out of the ring, Ugas returned in 2016 as a last second replacement to face the undefeated Jamal James who was then regarded as one of the sport’s best prospects. But Ugas took James to school in earning an impressive unanimous decision win. Ugas followed that win up with three more in a row, including an impressive stoppage of another highly thought of prospect in Bryant Perrella. Each time out since his return, Ugas has looked better and better. The fighters he has defeated and the manner he has done so have earned him the right to fight for something bigger at 147.

Fidel Maldonado Jr. (24-3-1, 19 KO’s)

Maldonado, now fighting at 140, was also once a very highly thought of prospect and in the eyes of many destined to be a future world champion. After starting his career with 13 straight wins, he was shockingly starched in two rounds by Fernando Carcamo in 2012. Later that year, he would drop a tight split decision to Michael Perez. After being built back up following the Perez loss, Maldonado would enter a high stakes fight with the aforementioned Imam in January 2015. Maldonado would slug it out with Iman but get dropped four times in ultimately being stopped in the 5th. Boxing experts questioned his chin and wondered if this third setback would push him into permanent journeyman territory. But since the Imam fight, Maldonado has shown much better boxing skills. This was evident in his last fight when he used his seemingly new found boxing skills against pressure fighter Pablo Cesar Cano to win a decision. If he continues to box like he has since the Imam fight, Maldonado can be a force at 140.

Realistically What’s Next For Lomachenko?

Vasyl Lomachenko (9-1, 7 KO’s) defended his 130-pound belt in a one sided beat down of Miguel Marriaga (25-3, 21 KO’s) on Saturday night. The result was not unexpected and prior to the fight pundits were already wondering where Lomachenko was headed next. Unfortunately for boxing fans, the pickings are slim as we put the crystal ball to what may be in store for the ultra-talented Ukrainian.

First, a couple of names that keep popping up as potential Lomachenko opponents are Orlando Salido and Guillermo Rigondeaux. These fights are not happening in the near term. The reason continues to be money. Both Salido and Rigondeaux are simply pricing themselves out at this time. Unless they come down on their monetary demands, which does not seem realistic right now, they are not fighting Lomachenko anytime soon.

The realistic options remaining at 130 for Lomachenko are not going to impress fight fans. Two other belt-holders in the division, Miguel Berchelt and Jezreel Corrales, seem on a collision course to face each other next. Gervonta Davis, a TMT promoted belt holder, is likely to be steered as far away from Lomachenko as possible. So what does that leave? Remember earlier this year Golden Boy signed Yuriorkis Gamboa with the intent of building him back up to face Lomachenko either later this year or early in 2018.

On the road to Lomachenko, Gamboa suffered a setback when he was stopped by Robinson Castellanos in May. That same Castellanos went on to give the aforementioned Corrales a heck of a fight two months later in nearly lifting a 130-pound belt. Castellanos may not have a glamorous record but he can flat out fight. His story is similar to that of Orlando Salido. Boxing fans are becoming very familiar with Castellanos and he would be somewhat marketable. He also won’t have near the financial demands of others. With limited options, Lomachenko’s team may turn to Castellanos should they stay at 130 and want another bout before the end of the year.

Lomachenko has talked openly about testing the waters at 135. Should Lomachenko move up, we probably will not see him fight for a belt immediately since he presents too high a risk for the belt holders at 135. Rather, he could turn to the aforementioned Raymundo Beltran who is also promoted by Top Rank. If Top Rank instead tries to get Beltran a crack at a belt holder either later this year or early next year, then another option for Lomachenko at 135 could be Denis Shafikov. Shafikov is coming off a hard fought loss to undefeated title holder Robert Easter in a fight where many thought Shafikov deserved to get the decision. Shafikov is at the point in his career where he needs big fights and would seemingly be more than willing to accept a fight with Lomachenko.

The names above are the realistic options for the next time we see Lomachenko in the ring. The bigger fights we all want to see may not happen in the near term but as Lomachenko’s brand grows, undoubtedly one day we will see him in the big events where he belongs.

Random Thoughts

It was a busy week in the sport both inside and outside the ring. Here are some random thoughts on some of the events of the past week.

We are often quick to criticize when bad matches are made. On the flip side, we also need to commend good matchmaking. Golden Boy Promotions and their matchmaker Robert Diaz have done a tremendous job so far with the fights produced on their new Golden Boy on ESPN series. This week’s fights featured a fight of the year contender in the war between Mauricio Herrera and Jesus Soto Karass, along with a very entertaining co-feature between Vyacheslav Shabranskyy and Todd Unthank-May. Golden Boy deserves credit for using their new television platform to produce great action fights by simply making competitive matches. What a philosophy.

Speaking of boxing on ESPN, glad to see that ESPN is live streaming the undercards of the Top Rank shows. We were able to see some solid prospects before the main Lomachenko-Marriaga card started on the regular network. Two of the prospects showcased were 130-pounders Andy Vences (19-0, 11 KO’s) and Erick De Leon (17-0, 10 KO’s). Both scored impressive victories and both are at a very similar point in their respective careers. Guess what Top Rank may be thinking? I can certainly see them matching Vences and De Leon on a future ESPN show later this year in what would be a high stakes battle of good looking prospects. The sport needs more of these types of fights and I sense Top Rank will deliver more of these types of bouts on their new ESPN series.

Timothy Bradley officially announced his retirement this past week. He had a tremendous career and I for one always appreciated the effort he gave in all his fights. With the announcement, many fans are wondering if we will see Bradley one day enshrined in Canastota. As much of a fan I am of Bradley’s, I don’t think he is a Hall of Famer. Just look at the resume Donald Curry, who was a 147-pound champion and compare that to the resume of Bradley. Curry is not in the Hall and, as such, neither should Bradley. This is not to diminish his career but the Hall of Fame is for the sport’s elite and Bradley falls just a bit short.

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