Light Heavyweight Reloaded: Who will rule the division when the dust settles?
By Chris Carlson
The light heavyweight division has been very active over the last few years. Fighters, networks, and promoters found away to give boxing fans something they rarely get in the sports current state…clarity. With all 3 forces working together all hell broke loose with unforeseen upsets, draws, rematches, and the triangle theory once again got debunked. We got entertaining scraps that warranted rematch fights with Chad Dawson vs. Glenn Johnson and Bernard Hopkins vs. Jean Pascal. Jean Pascal may have drew and loss to BHop but was able to upset Chad Dawson, Dawson then rebounded from his first loss to beat the legend of longevity Hopkins only to get upset with a stunning 1st round one punch KO by Adonis Stevenson, in the most recent 175 division matchup. Some fresh faces have entered the ranks but will the HBO vs. Showtime cold war have an effect on what has the makings of another unofficial light heavyweight tourney?
When addressing the cold war between HBO vs. Showtime question one must get down to the brass tacks of the real issue. The real cold war is between Top Rank and Golden Boy Promotions, which unlike the cold war conflict between U.S.A and Russia, this war is being fought on the battlefield of boxing most coveted networks dates and has resulted in increased counter programming. The networks game of tug of war on the same night forces fans without a dvr to choose and at times attempts to split the same ethic fan base both promoters and networks covet.
Many fans of the sport were holding their breath assuming the Top Rank vs. Golden Boy would only make the current climate in boxing of the best fight the best even worst. After all, the boxing world never got the widely anticipated Mayweather vs. Pacquiao fight and most recently missed out on a possible matchup between Nonito Donaire and Abner Mares, which at the very least would have been please all the people who thought Donaire vs. Rigondeuax was a bore.
Competition has forced both promotional banners and networks to produce the best possible events, both have lowered ticket prices causing an uptick in fan attendance. Between the recent rise in ratings for Showtime, up 50% since 2011 and HBO cutting ties with Golden Boy, the drama has placed the companies and fans in a win-win at least for the time being.
Luckily for us boxingheads Top Rank doesn’t have a top light heavyweight and Golden Boy only has Bernard Hopkins, who may get blackballed due to his fighting style plus his connection in and out of the ring with Golden Boy Promotions. There is more than one reason why Kathy Duva and Main Events choose to fight Nathan Cleverly instead of Bernard Hopkins.
The beauty about this unofficial tourney at 175 is it won’t be fought exclusively in North America. Some of the names and places include WBO Nathan Cleverly who makes his HBO debut from Motorpoint Arena in his native Cardiff, Wales on August 17th. Cleverly looks the part sporting a perfect record of 26-0 and has been a champion since 2010. He is untested at the top level with the best names being Tony Bellow and Karo Murat on his resume.
Sergey Kovalev who hails from Chelyabinsk, Russia is Cleverly’s next opponent in a fight that should produce fireworks with both fighters possessing skill along with a tendency to let the hammers fly when push comes to shove. Kovalev, who made quick work of the usually sturdy Gabriel Campillo in a what could be seen as preliminary fight for this unofficial tournament, has been billed as an accurate power punching machine. The winner of this Cleverly vs. Kovalev fight could be placed on a fast track to face the newly crowded king of the division. Or at the very least receive more options from the HBO network to build a name big enough to fight the ruler.
Just outside the top echelon of the division there are some fighters with some experience and enough skill to be labeled as darkhorse’s, capable of making a fight tougher than expected or pulling off an unexpected upset. One loss fighters like WBA beltholder Beibut Shumenov, Tavoris Cloud, and Tony Bellew, with the right style matchup could give certain fighters some issues.
Jean Pascal has a Canadian Super fight scheduled with Lucian Bute on December 7. Assuming he gets through that challenge he will be in line for a variety of matchups. He could move right into a matchup that would have to be labeled as another super fight for Canadians with current kingpin Adonis Stevenson. The winner of Cleverly vs. Kovalev could be another option for an opportunity to regain a title. Having already given Chad Dawson his first defeat and holding his own in 2 entertaining fights with Hopkins, Pascal should not be taken lightly.
Andre Ward needs to be considered in this make believe tourney as a viable opponent that could add yet another super fight in this round robin of sorts in the eyes of North America fans. He may be busy in his current division with middleweight Chavez Jr. having Ward in his sights for a HBO PPV, along with Carl Froch in what would be a very lucrative rematch fight, if the fighters can come to terms which remains to be seen.
Ward has been out of the ring for what will be at least a year’s time since he last fought from an injury that required shoulder surgery. Promotional issues have delay the plan for a tune up of sorts but should be able to get a fight in which would set up a bigger fight in the 1st or 2nd quarter of 2014.
Even though there is money to be made one wonders how many fights he has left at 168. Froch and Chavez Jr. will be well deserved pay days but neither poses a great threat of dethroning him. He may sooner than later run out of names and with HBO possibly taken over as the lead distributer for the big names at 175 we could realistically see Ward vs. Stevenson in the near future.
Adonis Stevenson, who now sits on top of his throne at light heavyweight. After a stunning 1st round knockout over former lineal champion Chad Dawson, who had been in and out of the top 10 pound for pound rankings the last 4 plus years. Stevenson not a stranger to upsets, was TKO’d in the 2nd round by Darnell Boone in the spring of 2010. He worked his way back along the way avenging his only loss to Boone and now has become an overnight sensation with that one punch knockout in what many , including Dawson, thought was a bit of a mismatch or as he put it “a tune up”.
Stevenson has let it be known the he wants all the big names at 175 and 168. Superman has taken it a step further offering up comment to the media about a home and home series with the likes of Andre Ward, Carl Froch, or Bernard Hopkins.
HBO turned down a fight between Hopkins and Stevenson for similar but not the same reason why Showtime had no interest in Hopkins vs. Kovalev. The HBO and Golden Boy beef surely has something to do with HBO not wanting Stevenson to face Hopkins. The fight would be very lucative and produce strong rating, but it would come with the risk of Bhop upsetting Stevenson, who scored that KO punch on HBO, just to see Hopkins go back to Showtime. Much in the way Main Events and Kovalev, who’s brand has been built on the NBC Sports Network, could do to Showtime.
Stevenson puts butts in the seats and if signed for a few options from HBO, could be milked enough until 2014 for the possible arrival of Andre Ward.
The legend of longevity Bernard Hopkins has rebounded nicely from his loss to Chad Dawson and is positioned for another big fight. Only problem is he may very well be the odd man out at 175 due to his age, style and his relationship with Golden Boy. Fair or not this is the business of boxing. For a man that doesn’t have many fights left in his career it’s very unlikely that he will land a big fight at 175 outside of a rubber match with Jean Pascal. The winner of Cleverly and Kovalev will likely be offered money and exposure to good to resist.
His best chance to go out in style may be a previously discussed catchweight battle from the O2 Arena in London with Carl Froch, if HBO doesn’t get to him first. The only other fight that HBO would green light is Andre Ward someone who BHOP has made it clear he doesn’t want any part of.
Can Chad Dawson coming off back to back knockout losses somehow rebuild his career and pick up a win versus any of the top fighters at 175? Only time will tell. He is fully capable of beating the likes of Cloud, Shumenov, or even Cleverly. But, can he ever regain his stride enough to step foot in the ring with a big puncher like Kovalev or Stevenson? The only possible rematch that I can see is a fight with Jean Pascal if he were to stumble in his fight with Bute or lose to Stevenson.
The Light Heavyweight Division unofficial tournament has been reloaded this year and is stock full of new faces mixed with skilled veterans that can be matched round robin style for the next 2 years. Giving boxing fans all over the world something they crave for and rightfully deserve…clarity.
Written by Chris Carlson Owner and Host of Rope A Dope Radio at www.blogtalkradio.com/ropeadoperadioWatch Canelo Alvarez Make his return Saturday night against Rocky Fielding only on DAZN!