By Tyson Bruce
*Note: the fights match Al Haymon fighters against boxers that either for promotional conflict or network conflicts cannot be matched together in today’s boxing climate:
Keith Thurman vs. Timothy Bradley
People love fights that involve highly athletic fighters. The Garry Russell-Vasyl Lomachenko fight was one of the most fascinating fights of the year not because it was a back alley brawl but rather a supremely technical face-off between two genuinely world class athletes. The Bradley-Thuman match-up would be great for the same reason. The bout would pit Thurman’s explosive punching power and youth against Bradley’s frenetic aggression and trademark will power. This fight would have moments of being a chess match intermingled with bursts of frantic exchanges.
Aside from being a fantastic style match-up, the bout would serve a clear purpose for both men. Too often in today’s boxing climate matches are made with no discernable purpose. The Garcia-Salka and Guerrero-Kamegi fights are the perfect examples of fights that did nothing to move forward the careers of either fighter. Bradley-Thurman would be a cross roads fight with massive consequences.
For Thurman it represents an audition for the big show that has so far proved elusive—the chance to confirm that he belongs with elite welterweights. For Bradley it’s an opportunity to reassert himself as one of boxing’s premier fighters by taking on a young gun that no one wants to fight. Maybe we will get lucky and a purse-bid will bring these two fighters together—don’t hold your breath though.
Lucas Matthysse vs. Ruslan Provodnikov
This fight would be pure unadulterated mayhem. Both guys are pure punchers that win fights by coming forward and breaking their opponents will. That both fighters reputations have taken a hit because of slip-ups in big fights—Matthysse against Garcia and Provodnikov against Algeiri—would only make this more of a blood bath. Boxing is the ‘what have you done for me lately’ sport and this fight, an almost certain fight of the year candidate, would go along way to repairing the reputations of both men.
Many fight fans would likely prefer the more makable slugfest between Provodnikov and Brandon Rios but that fight threatens to be non-competitive. Rios struggled mercilessly with Mike Alvarado, a guy Provodnikov thrashed like a hot knife through butter. Rios has clearly lost a step from all of the weight loss and wars and given how tailor made his style is for the “Siberian Rocky” it’s hard to imagine that fight being competitive for very long. Matthysse, on the other hand, has one punch knockout power and is a more proven fighter in the welterweights division.
Floyd Mayweather vs. Gennady Golovkin
This fight would be asking a lot of Mayweather—he has never been a big welterweight and Golovkin has a ‘high-risk-low-reward’ tag on him in the eyes mainstream fans. For boxing junkies, however, this fight is the wet dream of all wet dreams. If we can’t ever see Mayweather, 46-0-0-(26), in the ring with Manny Pacquiao, then it would be nice to see him take one massive risk before calling it quits.
The fight isn’t the pipe dream that many experts would have you believe. Sugar Ray Robinson started his career at lightweight and eventually challenged Joey Maxim, a damn good fighter, for the light heavyweight championship of the world. Ray Leonard was retired for over four years when he decided to challenge Marvin Hagler—one of the greatest middleweights in division history. Mayweather has already fought Canelo Alvarez, a junior middleweight that was a light heavyweight by the time he entered the ring on fight night. Is it that different to fight Golovkin at a catch-weight of lets say 156?
The fighters who go down in history as all time greats are defined not only by their records and wins but by the risks they were willing to take to be called great. Nobody would question Mayweather’s standing as a hall of fame caliber fighter but by not fighting his logical rival in Pacquiao his legacy will be forever burdened. Taking a massive and unexpected risk against a boogey-man like Golovkin would make a lot of people forgive him for not taking the Pacquiao fight, as well as an immeasurable boost for his legacy.
Adonis Stevenson vs. the winner of Hopkins-Kovalev
When Stevenson signed with Al Haymon I’m sure that he imagined a future filled with Bentleys and brief cases spilling over with cash. Reality bites though and a combination of greed and self-delusion has torpedoed fights with Sergey Kovalev and Bernard Hopkins.
Stevenson was originally scheduled to fight Kovalev on HBO but was lured to Showtime and Haymon for a hypothetically easier and more lucrative fight with Hopkins. Kovalev’s promoter Main Events sued Stevenson and company for breach of contract and his reputation took a massive hit. Lesson learned, right? Not quite. The negotiations with Hopkins stalled over the purse split and Hopkins, insulted and not wanting to waste his time, took his business to HBO and Kovalev where a deal was ironed out in what seemed like a blink of an eye.
Stevenson has become such a pariah that its caused many people to forget what a can’t miss fighter he is. Stevenson is a lights out puncher with a glass jaw—a combination that almost guarantees thrilling fights. A match-up with Kovalev remains one of the most tantalizing fights in all of boxing. Who wouldn’t want to witness those gunslingers find out who has the greater artillery?
A Stevenson-Hopkins fight is equally compelling because every time Hopkins’s steps in the ring history is made. Add 20,000 rabid fans at the Bell Center in Montreal and you’ve got one hell of an evening in the making. Let’s just hope that sense prevails and the winner of Kovalev-Hopkins can fight for the lineal title against Stevenson.
Manny Pacquiao vs. Danny Garcia
Despite as recent string of unwarranted fights against non-descript opposition, Garcia is one of the most accomplished young fighters in all of boxing. Garcia has struggled desperately, in his last several bouts, to make the 140-pound limit and a move up to welterweight is immanent. In a dream world his first challenge for a title would come against the legendary but aging Manny Pacquiao. The fight would be a no lose situation for Garcia—if he wins he puts a legend on his resume and boosts his profile immeasurably and even if he loses it’s to a great fighter.
Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach has already stated that aside from Mayweather, Garcia is the most desirable opponent. Pacquiao is so desperate for opponents that Bob Arum is actually having him box the little known Chris Algieri, in a fight that is almost guaranteed to tank at the box office and do little to enhance Pacquiao’s legacy. Garcia, on the other hand, would be chance for Pacquiao to supplant his legacy as one of this era’s most accomplished fighters.
The match-up itself would be fascinating. Pacquiao clearly has the edge in speed, talent and overall athleticism but his aggressive style could play into Garcia’s unique ability to counter punch with concussive consequences. Regardless, the fight pits two offensive-minded fighters in a crossroads bout. Also, given the fact that both men have solid fan bases, this fight would almost be guaranteed to make a profit at the box office. It’s a shame this fight will never happen.