We had a very busy weekend in boxing, no massive marquee fights, but a lot of interesting developments in various divisions, chiefly at heavyweight where two top 10 contenders picked up wins, one controversial and one not.
What could be on tap for the weekend’s winners?
Andy Ruiz Jr
Ruiz got a solid if not really spectacular win overChris Arreola, and now it should be on to the next. The FOX PBC broadcast team talking about a rematch is nonsense. It’s fine if Arreola wants to bark about one, but unless this sold way better than anyone — including PBC — expected, there’s no rematch reason here. It was not a controversial outcome, nobody questions that Ruiz (34-2, 22 KO) won the fight, and it wasn’t a great fight or anything.
This fight served its purpose, and hats (or “tops” if you’re Andy) off to Arreola for fighting an unexpected, patient fight, which was working well early and then didn’t work so well once Ruiz adjusted and Arreola never changed much at all in the fight. But it was always a fight meant to get Ruiz back with a win against a guy people know a little bit. Now it’s on to the next one. Ruiz should not be having a series of fights with a 40-year-old Arreola.
There are two obvious in-house options with PBC:
- Luis Ortiz, who was at the fight and believes he has the fight with Ruiz coming. He might. The “42-year-old” Cuban has never quite gotten over the hump, and beating Ruiz would be by far his best actual win, but he’s dangerous. People have mostly avoided him for a reason. Ortiz can bang, he’s got boxing skill. He’s old and a little slower than he used to be, but he knows how to fight, and Ruiz can be clipped by old, slow guys. We saw that Saturday. Ruiz could also get even better with another camp under Eddy Reynoso, but this wouldn’t be a bad fight to make, other than you have to try to sell it on pay-per-view, probably. (PBC just are not giving FOX good fights outside of PPV, which may be because FOX won’t pay what good fights cost.)
- Deontay Wilder. The FOX PBC Twitter account did throw it out there. A Wilder comeback against a Ruiz coming off of a win is a fight you can sell on PPV; not massive numbers, but most things are not designed to where they have to sell 500K or anything. It’s a possibly fascinating story to sell ahead of the fight, and you have dedicated fan bases on both sides. We really have no idea what Wilder is doing right now or wants to do for that matter, so who knows? But this really might be the fight for PBC to make at heavyweight — if Wilder doesn’t get a third fight with Tyson Fury first, which, look, until Fury-Joshua has a date and a venue and a broadcaster and everything, don’t write that off.
Joseph Parker was lucky to get the nod over Derek Chisora on Saturday. I don’t know if I’d quite go “robbery,” but I scored it 114-113 for Chisora, and I thought he took it in the 12th round, with the aid of an extra point for a first round knockdown.
Parker (29-2, 21 KO) could rematch Chisora, but honestly, from anything resembling a “business standpoint,” why would he? Unless that’s an eliminator order, I don’t know why Parker would want to spend another 12 rounds in the ring with the rugged veteran. The reward doesn’t equal the risk at that point. It’d be great and honorable and whatever if he gave Chisora a rematch, but that’s not often how boxing works.
That said, the belts are tied up with the ongoing Fury-Joshua saga. The WBO are waiting to make a possible interim fight between Oleksandr Usyk and Joe Joyce if Fury-Joshua actually happens next. The IBF have their eliminator idea and it’s Filip Hrgovic and Michael Hunter.
So what does Parker do in the meantime? He won’t want to sit around. I suppose he could rematch Junior Fa in New Zealand if there’s interest in that. He could, potentially, rematch Dillian Whyte, another guy who won’t want to just sit around, and was pretty steamed about the Chisora-Parker result.
No super obvious fight for Parker. Some good options potentially, but will depend on the level of risk he wants to take.
Another fight, another win for Katie Taylor. Judges had her victory over Natasha Jonas a bit closer than I did, but there’s really no controversy about the outcome.
Taylor (18-0, 6 KO) is the undisputed champion at lightweight. For those currently in the division, the options are really limited at this point. She fought once at 140, won a belt, but didn’t seem to like it much, vacating and moving back down.
A rematch with Jonas could headline in the UK or Ireland once fans are allowed back at shows, but Jonas is also 36 and it’s a question of how long she’ll want to wait for that. Not a bad fight to make, all things considered, but I don’t see Jonas suddenly being better than Taylor; she wasn’t in 2012 and isn’t now, which is no big knock on her. Katie’s a great fighter.
Estelle Mossely is at lightweight, but has shown no great inclination to go after Taylor despite being the woman who supplanted her at the top of their division in the amateurs in 2016. Mossely has the IBO title that almost nobody cares about besides IBO titleholders, and that seems plenty enough for her.
The titleholders at 130 all seem set on unification there, though Maiva Hamadouche isn’t doing anything at the moment and could maybe come up. Chantelle Cameron has wanted Taylor for a while, and could possible come down to 135 for that fight, another in-house fight Matchroom could make.
As for Amanda Serrano, that just doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen. They had an agreement for 2020, it fell apart, it got ugly, and Serrano seems focused on featherweight now. It’d be great if we got it, but I wouldn’t count on it.
- Dmitry Bivol retained his WBA light heavyweight title against Craig Richards; the win was expected, but Richards did put up a better fight than most probably figured he would. Bivol (18-0, 11 KO) sounds like he expects Top Rank to have WBC/IBF titlist Artur Beterbiev unify with WBO titlist Joe Smith Jr, and he might well be right. But Top Rank do love not making good, obvious fights — not that they never do, of course — and that one could “marinate,” even if it’s clear it’s the in-house fight they should make. That also doesn’t mean either would be fighting Bivol instead. Right now, Bivol’s top four contenders with the WBA are Robin Krasniqi, Joshua Buatsi, Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez, and Dominic Boesel. Let’s be real and say nobody wants to see Krasniqi or Boesel; solid fighters, but nah. Buatsi is also with Matchroom, and Ramirez is now with Golden Boy, another DAZN affiliated promoter. Eddie Hearn has said he wants to get Buatsi’s next fight on May 15 — opponent TBD, expect little — done and then “a big one.” So maybe. Ramirez may or may not be interested, he’s expected to make his Golden Boy debut this summer, possibly against Sullivan Barrera.
- Abel Ramos demolished Omar Figueroa Jr on the Ruiz-Arreola card, a fight that was really, really one-sided despite Brian Kenny and Lennox Lewis not picking up on it until the fourth round, opting instead to narrate the imaginary great defense of Figueroa, who was eating shots from the get-go. This was a WBA eliminator, so the 29-year-old Ramos (27-4-2, 21 KO) is now in line for — well, some sort of title fight, I guess. The WBA’s “world” (“regular”) title is currently held by Jamal James, who was bumped up after Yordenis Ugas was bumped to “super world” status, likely to make a three-belt unification with Errol Spence Jr this summer. So Ramos probably will fight James at some point. That’s really not a bad fight at all, it’s well-matched on paper and could be good TV. It’s a lot better than a lot of FOX main events.
- Speaking of dumb secondary WBA belts, Erislandy Lara was gifted the WBA’s “world” (“regular”) middleweight title for beating Thomas “Cornflake” Lamanna via first round slaughter. In theory, that could set up Lara (28-3-3, 16 KO) to fight Jermall Charlo, the WBC middleweight titleholder. Heaven knows Charlo needs credible opponents — he’s fighting Juan Macias Montiel on June 19 — but Lara has also proven perfectly happy to hang out with titles no one really takes all that seriously against vastly over-matched opponents. Ryota Murata holds the WBA’s “super world” title, for what it’s worth, but that probably won’t happen; the expectation most have is that Murata will fight IBF titlist Gennadiy Golovkin in Japan late this year. This might really just be, “Hey! It’s ‘middleweight champion’ Erislandy Lara in our FOX main event against, uh, Spike O’Sullivan or Kyrone Davis or Ronald Ellis, why not?” And those might be high-end options. “LennOx, this Spike O’Sullivan is IRISH, so...!” etc.
- Chris Eubank Jr is also at middleweight, won pretty handily over Marcus Morrison, and like Lara has never met a mismatch he wouldn’t be happy enough to kill time with while maybe, possibly taking a good fight. But let’s be fair here: Wasserman (the former Sauerland) are pushing that Eubank (30-2, 22 KO) wants a big fight this year. But if Golovkin and Murata are indeed going to tie up with one another, that’s two options out. They also mentioned Demetrius Andrade, and hey, if they’re working with Matchroom as they did Saturday, easy fight to make in theory. Andrade needs a credible opponent badly, too. And that’s a good fight.
- Sunny Edwards picked up the IBF flyweight title on Friday, beating Moruti Mthalane. It was kind of a nightmare matchup for the terrific veteran Mthalane in the end, as Edwards (16-0, 4 KO) moved and boxed and, as he put it, just simply made it very hard to beat him. And Edwards has the sort of game that is going to be very hard for anyone at flyweight to beat. I think a lot of people would love to see Sunny sort of try to avenge his brother Charlie against WBC titlist Julio Cesar Martinez, but that’s a Queensberry/Matchroom issue; not impossible, but would have to be ordered and won at purse bid, and it won’t be ordered because they both have belts. There’s certainly not so much money in it that they can’t avoid doing it. The IBF have vacant slots at their No. 1 and No. 2 rankings right now, but No. 5-ranked Sandoval is fighting No. 7-ranked Jay Harris on May 14 in an IBF eliminator, so Sunny could wait on the winner of that one for an opponent.