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The five best fights (so far) of Top Rank’s Summer Series

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OK, the return of boxing hasn’t exactly set the world ablaze with interest, but there have been some good fights.

Mikey Williams/Top Rank

Top Rank’s Summer Series hasn’t been perfect. It can’t be, frankly — not only are fights going on with no gate revenue, meaning it’s tough to put together big money type bouts for these shows, but a fan-less atmosphere naturally takes away some of what makes the fights great, which is drawing in the energy from the assembled crowd, be it 200 people at a ShoBox in Minnesota or 15,000 in Las Vegas or even 80,000 screaming fans at Wembley Stadium.

Add in the fact we’ve already seen a handful of fights postponed or canceled due to failed coronavirus tests, and yeah, it’s been a little choppy. No question there. And there’s reason to ask if they should even be out there at all right now.

But if you haven’t been watching — and judging by the viewership numbers, you haven’t — you should know that there have been some good fights in the first three weeks of the sport’s “soft re-opening,” as it were.

So let’s go over a few you might have missed and give some extra kudos to these fighters who have gone through an unusual and probably at times uncomfortable process to get out there and fight.

First, some honorable mentions:

And now to the BIG LIST!

5) Mike Plania MD-10 Joshua Greer Jr, June 16

We’ve had two truly notable upsets, and this one was the first, coming on the second Tuesday night show of the run. It wasn’t a great fight, but it was plenty interesting to watch unfold.

Plania, the underdog, saw late money come in the day before the show, tightening the lines somewhat. There was good reason for that. While Greer had made his way into the ESPN top 10 at bantamweight, that was hardly a universal feeling. He was just outside of the top 10 for me, because he’d struggled in his past two outings and shown a lot of vulnerability.

“Magic Mike” dropped Greer twice on basically the same fast lead left hook, once in the first round and again in the sixth, and largely kept Greer tentative. By the time Greer started looking to really apply pressure, it was a bit too late, and Plania took the calculated risk that he was, indeed, up on the cards, and he could play keepaway a bit down the stretch, which he did. One judge (Dave Moretti) scored it 94-94, which means he thought Greer won six rounds of the fight, which is ridiculous, but he was overruled by Tim Cheatham (96-92) and Patricia Morse Jarman (97-91).

4) Orlando Gonzalez UD-8 Luis Porozo, June 25

The big story of this fight was a possibly-true tale of a $192,000 bet put down on Gonzalez, a 24-year-old Puerto Rican featherweight who came in undefeated. The bet would have returned a $14,000 win. We saw this for Gabriel Flores Jr’s June 18 makeshift main event against Josec Ruiz, too. Basically the idea for a bet like this is that if you have the money to put down, you are getting free money in return, because the upset is so unlikely.

Personally, I think one of two things is true:

  1. Both stories were horseshit meant to draw some sort of attention to a card, OR
  2. Michael Jordan has been very, very bored with nothing to gamble on

The Chicago Bulls legend might well have been sweating this one out, though, as it didn’t come easy for Gonzalez, who got the win and made it clear with a pair of knockdowns, but the Ecuadorian underdog Porozo is an awkward, frankly weird fighter, and he won some rounds out there. He was often able to keep Gonzalez from building any real momentum, meaning Gonzalez never got on a big roll and made it clear that the fight was his. More tactical and occasionally explosive than thrilling, but it was good TV.

3) Clay Collard SD-6 David Kaminsky, June 18

Clay Collard is a 27-year-old scrapper and, clearly, an absolute nightmare for teenage prospects who have gotten ahead of themselves. Collard doesn’t just fight boxing, and he doesn’t just “dabble in” MMA on the side or whatever, either. Collard fought four times in UFC from 2014-15, and while he went 1-3 and wasn’t in HUGE fights himself, he’s seen the big stages, he’s been on them, he’s lost on them. He has zero fear of “the moment” or a 19-year-old.

We learned that in February when he stopped Raymond Guajardo in two rounds on a PBC show. We learned it again here, as he administered a legitimate beating to Kaminsky, an Israeli middleweight prospect Top Rank like quite a bit. This time, it was Patricia Morse Jarman who came back with the goofball score (58-56 Kaminsky), overruled by Lisa Giampa and Dave Moretti, who both saw it 58-56 Collard. Myself and ESPN’s Andre Ward didn’t even see it that close, both of us scoring it 59-55 for Collard. He clearly deserved the victory.

Collard doesn’t have the classic boxing technique and form, but he just absolutely comes at these guys, and prospects who haven’t been tested and have maybe had their egos stroked a bit too much, and maintain the confidence of youth, get a wake-up call fast from this guy. Even if you do plant your feet and hit him back, you’re first of all already playing into the game he wants and needs to win, and second of all you can’t keep him from continuing to come at you. He does not really get discouraged by taking shots. He’s as fun as it gets to watch as a prospect checker right now. This may be short-lived, but it’s been fun this year.

2) Joshua Franco UD-12 Andrew Moloney, June 23

The first “world title fight” of the series came last Tuesday, with Andrew Moloney defending the WBA’s secondary “world” junior bantamweight title against Joshua Franco. Like the Greer-Plania fight, there was reason to suspect an upset brewing. Like the Greer-Plania fight, we got one.

Moloney wound up perforating both eardrums, but he was relatively OK and back in the house on Thursday to support twin brother Jason in his Thursday night main event win over Leonardo Baez. And Andrew fought his guts out here, but Franco and trainer Robert Garcia had the right plan of attack, and Franco executed very well. There was some feeling, I think, that both Franco and Oscar Negrete would wind up most known for their trilogy against one another in 2018-19, which flew way under the mainstream radar but was a fun one for diehard fans. Instead, Franco can now claim a world title. Moloney is hoping to get a rematch, and is confident he can fight better. With the way things are for the foreseeable future, I’m fine with that. This was a good fight and Moloney may well be able to get some redemption, and if not, then Franco further establishes himself at 115.

1) Adam Lopez MD-10 Louie Coria, June 11

The clear No. 1 fight for me, and in what has obviously been a disaster of a year for, well, [gestures broadly] pretty much everything, an early Fight of the Year candidate, except it’s not that early in the year. Straight up, it’s about to be JULY, my dudes.

Lopez and Coria threw everything they had in these 10 rounds on June 11, the co-feature of the second show back, and the first reminder that oh, yeah, boxing can be really, really fun to watch. The 24-year-old Lopez was the “A-side” here, as much as there can be one, but the 21-year-old Coria was fighting to win, and nearly pulled it off. Coria is only 12-3 and Lopez is 15-2, these aren’t unblemished blue chip prospects, but they’re fighters, and the both of them are welcome back on my screen any time. These two straight up went to war. If anything we’ve seen since the return of boxing qualifies as “must-see,” it’s this fight.