Where Do Philly Boxers Garcia, Cunningham and Hopkins Go From Here?
By: Ken Hissner
Starting with Danny “Swift” Garcia, 33-1 (19) the former super lightweight and welterweight champion who just lost to his toughest opponent in Keith “One Time” Thurman and his WBC belt. As a super lightweight Garcia he scored wins over Amir Kahn, 31-4 (19), in a shootout who gets to who first and gave overblown featherweight Erik Morales a rematch? How about Kahn? How about Herrera? How about Peterson? His win over Lucas Matthysse was possibly his biggest accomplishment.
Garcia took on Rod Salka a 132 lightweight and made him come in at over 140 in a non-title bout. When asked who made this choice he said “my manager.” Al Haymon? What about “The New” Ray Robinson or “Hammerin” Hank Lundy who have been calling him out since their sparring days with Garcia? Two Philly fighters who could have brought some fans out even in Philly.
As the No. 2 welterweight contender in the WBC Garcia won’t fight No. 1 Kahn so “he gets” No. 6 the over the hill Robert Guerrero in a vacant title fight? He finally steps up and takes on Thurman and we saw how that turned out in not a great fight but an interesting one. Where does Garcia go from here? No rematch I’m sure with Thurman. No. 5 Shawn Porter and No. 7 Andre Berto have “an elimination bout” coming up? Granted Kahn is No. 1 but is supposed to get a shot at WBO champion Manny “Pac Man” Pacquaio’s title though Kahn hasn’t fought since May of 2016 getting knocked out by Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and isn’t even in the WBO ratings. So where is Garcia going to land in the next WBC ratings? No. 1 is not automatic for former champs. Ask Sergey Kovalev about that.
Lamont Peterson, 35-3-1 (17), is now holding WBA World belt. IBF champion Kell “Special One” Brook, 36-1 (25), is tentatively going to defend against his No. 1 contender in Errol Spence, 21-0 (18), having not fought since September when Gennady “GGG” Golovkin injured his eye socket in an interesting fight.
Then there’s former 2-time IBF champion Steve “USS” Cunningham, 29-8-1 (13), who entered last Saturdays ring in Reading, PA, in a scheduled 8 round bout reduced to a 6 winning every round from overweight former light heavyweight Felipe “El Indio” Romero, 19-12-1 (13), so Cunningham can “get the rust off” after with a promise from his manager Al Haymon getting him a title fight. He isn’t ranked anymore and all four champs are from outside the US. Cunningham had to go to Europe to get those titles so it won’t be like a first time for him.
Starting with WBC champion Tony “The Bomber” Bellew, 29-2-1 (19), of the UK who just stopped former champion David Haye and whose No. 1 challenger is MairisBriedis, 21-0 (18), from Latvia who is scheduled to fight for the interim WBC title April 1st against former champion Marco Huck in Germany whom Cunningham stopped in 2007.
The WBA champion Denis Lebedev, 29-3 (22), only defended his IBF title in Russia against fellow Russian Murat “Iron” Gassiev, 24-0 (17), losing a split decision. There may be a rematch in that one. The IBF doesn’t have any challengers in the number one or two spot but have No. 3 Noel Gevor, 22-0 (10), an Armenian out of Germany who is also the No. 1 contender in the WBO where the champion if OleksandrUsyk, 11-0 (10), of the UKR. He is defending his title in Oxon Hill, MD, April 8th against Michael Hunter, 15-0. So Cunningham may be able to get the winner in the US. Gevor is scheduled to go to Poland to fight the former champion Krzysztof Wlodarczyk, on May 20th who split it two fights with Cunningham.
So it’s a matter of Cunningham getting ranked again which shouldn’t take much based on his record and being a former champion. Who knows he may not have to leave the US to get that shot. The man is always in tip top shape and though having fought at heavyweight a bit makes 200 easily.
This leaves us with 52 year-old Bernard “the Executioner” Hopkins, 55-8-2 (32), who is from Philly and was living in Hockessin, DE, but also I understand had a place in Philly and may be back there. After witnessing former 3-division champion another “ageless” boxer pack them in at the Chase Center in DE recently could there be a “rubber match” between Jones and Hopkins at the Chase Center? Jones is 48 but you would never know it in his win over Bobby Gunn in his last fight. Neither he nor Hopkins may never get another title fight but then who knows. Both are future IBHOF boxerswho don’t seem to go away.
I’m sure Hopkins would like to retire with a win in his last fight that seems to have been difficult to do since losing his last two fights to Sergey Kovlev and Joe Smith, Jr. Just prior to that he held the IBF and WBA titles defeating Shumenov but lost those titles to Kovalev who got robbed by Andre Ward losing all three titles and may never get a deserved rematch. Though both are no longer ranked don’t be surprised if their names appear in a title fight in the near future.
Philadelphia is again without a champion but has a ton of young prospects with “champion” written all over them such as 19 year-old Jaron “Boots” Ennis, 9-0 (8), who fights March 31st back in Philly. It will be ten fights in twelve months for this talented welterweight whom this writer calls “the best Philly prospect since 1984 Olympic champion Meldrick Taylor”. His brothers “Pooh” and Farah held USBA and NABF titles while their father “Bozy” is the best trainer in Philly and one of the best in the world.