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Pacquiao vs Spence and the 10 best boxing fights of August 2021

Will we be saying goodbye to an icon? Pacquiao-Spence headlines a month that features some good matchups, many of them somewhat quiet.

Errol Spence Jr v Manny Pacquiao - Press Conference Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

10) Jason Moloney vs Joshua Greer Jr, Aug. 14 (ESPN)

Why to Watch: Moloney (21-2, 18 KO) and Greer (22-2-2, 12 KO) are relatively well-matched. Moloney is a back-end top 10 bantamweight, and the Aussie returns to America on his twin brother’s undercard again. He’s a good fighter, usually good to watch, obviously was no match for Naoya Inoue last October in his most recent outing, but almost no one at 118 is much match for Inoue, really.

Greer is kinda looking down the barrel. The Chicago native was lucky to get the cards against both Nikolai Potapov and Antonio Nieves in 2019 — not saying he was given gift decisions, but both of those fights could have gone the other way very easily. He was then dropped twice and beaten by Mike Plania before a hugely disappointing eight-round draw with club fighter Edwin Rodriguez last time out in November. Greer is only 27 but if he’s ever going to live up to the mild hype Top Rank had started to put on him, he has to win here.

9) Mark Magsayo vs Julio Ceja, Aug. 21 (FOX PPV)

Why to Watch: The unbeaten Magsayo (22-0, 15 KO) also got lucky to get some cards his way in a recent fight, about 10 months ago in a split decision win over Rigoberto Hermosillo. Hermosillo is a tough dude, better than his record will tell you, and it was mostly due to judge Rudy Barragan laughably giving Magsayo a 10-0 shutout win that Magsayo got through there; the other cards were 96-94, one each way. He did fight in April, stopping Pablo Cruz in four rounds.

Ceja (32-4-1, 28 KO) fights heavy at featherweight, but he’s always dangerous. He can punch, he battles like hell, tough as nails. He’s not the most complete all around fighter and his chin has let him down before, but he comes to fight and is usually quite fun to watch. He was the guy who dragged Guillermo Rigondeaux into a phone booth war in 2019, which Rigondeaux won via eighth round stoppage. He’s a live dog in this matchup.

8) Shavkat Rakhimov vs Kenichi Ogawa, Aug. 20 (ESPN+)

Why to Watch: The vacant IBF junior lightweight title will be on the line here. Rakhimov (15-0-1, 12 KO) fought an overweight JoJo Diaz to a draw in February for that belt, and gets an immediate chance to claim it now that Diaz has moved up to 135.

Ogawa (25-1-1, 18 KO) actually won this title back in 2017, winning a very controversial decision over Tevin Farmer when the belt was vacant then, only to hand it back over when he failed a post-fight drug test for PEDs. He’s gone 3-0-1 since, the one semi-blemish a techical draw with Joe Noynay in 2019. This could be a solid action fight in Dubai, and it’s nice to see it picked up by ESPN+.

7) Roger Gutierrez vs Rene Alvarado 3, Aug. 14 (DAZN)

Ryan Garcia v Luke Campbell Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Why to Watch: Sometimes trilogies aren’t epic tales of classic wars or whatever, or big-time pay-per-view main events. They can sneak up. This is one of those.

Alvarado (32-9, 21 KO) beat Gutierrez (25-3-1, 20 KO) back in 2017, winning six rounds before forcing a seventh round stoppage when Gutierrez’s corner threw the towel. But Gutierrez has rallied in his career, and beat Alvarado by extremely close decision — 113-112 cards across the board — back in January on the Garcia-Campbell card. It was a rough, dramatic fight where Alvarado went down three times but almost boxed his way to a win anyway. They’ll go again on the 14th.

6) Jake Paul vs Tyron Woodley, Aug. 29 (SHO PPV)

Why to Watch: I’m going to just start going ahead and accepting this all as a reality, and in all honesty, yes, I’m more interested to see what happens in this weirdo fight than I am in most fights this month. I’m not saying it’s better, certainly not from some technical standpoint, I am saying it’s different, and sometimes different is enough. I’m gonna see lots of fights like the other fights.

Paul (3-0, 3 KO) faces another faded MMA veteran here, but Woodley (19-7-1 in MMA) is at least a much better striker than Ben Askren ever was. They pretty much planted the seeds for this back in April at that event, and here we are, though now Paul has a big time deal with Showtime and isn’t likely to have Snoop Lion getting everyone so high that they can barely form coherent thoughts screaming over top of one another on commentary. There is the chance that Paul’s going to pick the wrong fight every time he does one of these. We’ll see what happens.

5) Joshua Franco vs Andrew Moloney 3, Aug. 14 (ESPN)

Why to Watch: Franco (17-1-2, 8 KO) seems to determined to fight as few opponents in his career as possible. The 25-year-old from San Antonio fought Oscar Negrete in back-to-back-to-back bouts in 2018-19, going 1-0-2 in their trilogy, and after one win over Jose Burgos in 2020, he now goes back-to-back-to-back with Moloney (21-1, 14 KO).

Forget the WBA’s bogus 115 lb belt here, nobody considers this a world championship fight unless they’re directly involved in it. It’s a good matchup and they’re both top 10 junior bantamweights. Franco out-gritted Moloney in their first meeting, a minor upset in June 2020, and then their second one was an all-timer boxing TV mess, as the Nevada commission took forever to figure out a ruling in November, ultimately ending on a no-decision with Franco’s eye cut from a clash of heads. Some bad blood has developed between these two because of that outcome, and the first fight was a damn good one.

4) Joshua Buatsi vs Ricards Bolotniks, Aug. 14 (DAZN)

BOXING: JUN 01 Joshua Buatsi v Marco Antonio Periban Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Why to Watch: I may be more psyched than anyone who isn’t British for this one, but I watched Bolotniks (18-5-1, 8 KO) make a surprising storm run through MTK’s Golden Contract tournament in 2019-20, beating Steven Ward, Hosea Burton, and Serge Michel. Not only is he damn fun to watch, a physical, tough fighter who brings action and is a better puncher than his KO percentage makes you think, but he’s an extremely likable character.

Buatsi (14-0, 12 KO) is a major hopeful for Matchroom Boxing, a 2016 Olympic bronze medalist they believe can win a world title as a professional light heavyweight. He hasn’t had all smooth sailing, as he had some somewhat worrisome moments against Marko Calic in particular last October, but he took the issues seriously and looked to get better, hiring Virgil Hunter as his new trainer. This will be the first real test for that partnership. Buatsi has a lot of advantages on paper, but Bolotniks is just one of those guys you cannot count out, at least below the very top level, and it’s still a question as to what Buatsi’s level really is.

3) Vergil Ortiz Jr vs Egidijus Kavaliauskas, Aug. 14 (DAZN)

Why to Watch: The 23-year-old Ortiz (17-0, 17 KO) is a serious welterweight contender, one of the best and most promising young fighters in boxing, and a key building block for what should be the next phase of Golden Boy Promotions’ existence post-Canelo Alvarez. He’s got some skills, good power, has stepped up nicely and kept smashing the opponents he stepped up against, and has been humble and easy to root for all the way.

Kavaliauskas (22-1-1, 18 KO) is another good step. The 33-year-old Lithuanian is a tough customer, and fought Terence Crawford about as well as anyone has, really, before he got stopped in nine in their 2019 title bout. He came back to stop Mikael Zewski, and also dominated David Avanesyan back in 2018. He did have one rough night, a draw with Ray Robinson in 2019, but below the elite level, Robinson is a spoiler who can bug the hell out of any opponent. Ortiz likes to bring fire, and Kavaliauskas never shies from contact. This one could have some great action.

2) Guillermo Rigondeaux vs John Riel Casimero, Aug. 14 (SHO)

Boxing in Birmingham Photo by Morgan Harlow/Getty Images

Why to Watch: YEAH, I’ve got a Guillermo Rigondeaux fight at No. 2, WHAT ABOUT IT? Rigondeaux (20-1, 13 KO) is an amateur legend who will probably never quite get that same respect as a pro, as good as he’s been in his career. He’s 40 now, so if it was gonna happen it probably would have, but the slim chance rests on this fight. If at his age, he beats Casimero and wins a legit bantamweight title (Casimero’s WBO is on the line), he might get some more praise. Lots of people appreciate how good he is, but I still think in a weird way Rigo has been underrated, part of which is he absolutely can be deadly boring to watch fight.

Casimero (30-4, 21 KO) has sort of quietly had a great career, and now at 32 he looks to keep on impressing. He brings action, and will have to try to force Rigondeaux into a brawl, because he’s not going to out-box the Cuban. The bad news is Rigondeaux’s not bad in a brawl, either, and has a laser left hand that has frozen up a lot of opponents, which is the most under-appreciated part of why his fights often get really boring.

You also have to kinda laugh with Rigondeaux here. This was the original fight signed for this date, then some people “did some magic” and it became Casimero against Nonito Donaire. Rigondeaux shrugged, accepted some money to step aside, and figured he’d fight the winner, maybe. When the Donaire and Casimero camps had their big social media battle — which was frankly rather embarrassing for a bunch of adults in their 30s — and Donaire dropped out, Rigondeaux shrugged and stepped back in. It was a good fight when it was signed, it’s still a good fight.

1) Manny Pacquiao vs Errol Spence Jr Yordenis Ugas, Aug. 21 (FOX PPV)

UPDATE (Aug. 10, 3:33 pm ET): Fuck. Still a pretty good fight though with Pacquiao against Yordenis Ugas.

Why to watch: Lots of reasons! For starters, it’s still a fight between two of the top three welterweights in the world, even with Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39 KO) now 42 years old and having not fought in 25 months, since beating Keith Thurman in 2019.

Spence (27-0, 21 KO) figures to be Manny’s toughest opponent since Floyd Mayweather back in 2015, and honestly, when you compare 2021 to 2015, maybe even tougher. Pacquiao isn’t now what he was then, he’s just not, he’s six years older. Spence is not Floyd in any way, but he is 31 and right in his prime, not the 38-year-old version of Mayweather, who was also no longer at his peak. (Also, I know Manny officially lost to Jeff Horn in 2017, but I don’t have to pretend Horn really won that fight just because Ramon Cerdan, Chris Flores, and Waleska Roldan did.)

Spence is bigger, younger, a fellow southpaw, a good technician — but while Pacquiao isn’t the 2009 Pacquiao and won’t be ever again, and isn’t even the 2015-16 or so version of Manny, he’s still a damn good fighter, great even. And he is a true legend. And he is still dangerous until proven otherwise.

As for proving otherwise, that’s another reason to watch: This really might be the last fight we ever see from a true icon in boxing, someone who has helped carry the sport’s relevance and viability as a superstar boxer for the last 15 years or so, and has been an elite fighter for the last 20, various bumps in the road and losses and all.

Superstar fighters often pass the torch, whether they mean to or not. Oscar De La Hoya did it twice, really, once to Floyd Mayweather in 2007, again to Pacquiao in 2008. Mayweather never did, because he didn’t feel like boxing until someone could beat him, and no one was beating him. Pacquiao might be passing it to Spence here, and helping to create a new, genuine star fighter.

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