By: Jonah Dylan
After a packed boxing schedule a weekend ago, it was only fair that this weekend was much more tame in the meaningful fights department. As for the next few weekends, well, whatever.
There was news, though! And lots of it regarding arguably boxing’s biggest star, Canelo Alvarez. The whole situation could’ve been avoided if he’d just agreed to fight Gennady Golovkin – the fight everyone wants to see – for a third time. Instead, he refused to do that, and Golden Boy ended up blowing their negotiation for a mandatory fight with Sergey Derevyanchenko. Now Alvarez, who finished his last fight with three alphabet belts, has only one.
So let’s unpack that and also take a look at the limited action from the weekend.
1. The situation is still very much salvageable, and here’s how.
Let’s just get this out of the way first: Canelo should just fight GGG. If he wins, we never have to talk about this again. Now, no matter what happens in his next fight, this is still going to hang over both guys for the foreseeable future, especially because John Skipper and DAZN have invested so much money in them fighting each other.
Ok. Golovkin is going to fight Derevyanchenko for the vacant IBF belt, and that’s that. Canelo still needs an opponent. There are two very good options.
The Canelo-Callum Smith hype seems to have stalled, but why? Smith is definitely the man at 168, and Canelo has always wanted to fight the best. He was willing to move all the way up to light heavyweight to fight Sergey Kovalev, so it’s not out of the question that he would move up one division to face Smith. The news that Billy Joe Saunders is likely to sign with Matchroom mean a Saunders-Smith unification could be next, but I’d rather see Canelo go fight Smith in England.
Smith is absolutely massive and would tower over Alvarez, who would probably employ the same game plan he used against Rocky Fielding of attacking the body nonstop. It would be a great clash of styles and would be a very intriguing fight for DAZN.
Then there’s Demetrius Andrade, who’s basically been chilling for the past year, cruising to wide decision victories while he waits for a big-name opponent to fight him. This didn’t seem like a fight Alvarez really wanted until recently, when his other options thinned out. This fight should be for the undisputed middleweight title, but sanctioning bodies had to get in the way of that.
Still, Alvarez against Andrade would be a big fight, and it would give Andrade the big opportunity he’s been waiting so long for. If Alvarez won this fight, there would really be nothing left for him to do at 160, and he could plausibly vacate his belts and go fight Smith or Kovalev. It’s enticing.
Still, give me Canelo-Smith, Andrade-Jermall Charlo and Golovkin-Derevyanchenko. Of course, it’s boxing, so dream scenarios rarely work out, but a guy can dream.
2. How good is Adam Kownacki?
I still don’t think we really have an answer to that question, but he’s taken solid step-ups in competition over the last year. He’s passing the tests, and Kownacki-Arreola didn’t lack in drama, but I’ll admit I have some difficulty finding a path for victory for him against the top heavyweights.
You can compare him to Andy Ruiz because of his body type, but Kownacki doesn’t have Ruiz’s hand speed. Yeah, I know he broke Compubox records for his output against Arreola, but I think Ruiz would overwhelm him anyways. His defense is suspect, which makes me doubt he’d survive 12 rounds with Deontay Wilder, and I don’t see how he’s better than Tyson Fury in any category. Maybe he could use Ruiz’s playbook against Anthony Joshua, but even in that fight I think he’d struggle with Joshua’s power.
But alas, he’s a fun fighter to watch, and he’s a good draw in Brooklyn. A Wilder-Kownacki fight at Barclays Center would do big business, and PBC knows that. If Wilder gets through his next two fights, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him facing Kownacki. I just don’t think Kownacki is ready for that.
3. Top Rank clearly has very different plans for Michael Conlan and Shakur Stevenson
And it’s hard to blame them. Conlan is a massive draw in Belfast, as we saw over the weekend. It doesn’t matter who he fights: if Conlan is on the card, fans will be there. He could never leave Belfast, fight guys you’ve never heard of, and probably draw 10,000 people for the rest of his career.
After the 2016 Olympics, Conlan and Stevenson were Top Rank’s two biggest signings, and the clock started ticking for a fight between them in, say, 10 years. Just a few years later, though, it’s very clear that Stevenson has progressed far quicker than Conlan, at least in the ring. Stevenson has dominated everyone thrown in front of him and will fight for a world title this year. You could make the case he’s ready to fight anybody in the featherweight division.s
We’re still waiting for a big Conlan step-up fight. He hasn’t been super impressive so far, but then again, he doesn’t really need to. He’s a star, no matter what. Top Rank knows they can move him along much slower than Stevenson, and why wouldn’t they? They’re selling tickets and people are happy. It’s just that before the hype train even left the station, Conlan-Stevenson is losing speed.
In terms of next steps, the Conlan-Vladimir Nikitin fight still makes sense to me, even if Nikitin isn’t all that great of a fighter. Top Rank signed Nikitin seemingly just for this fight, and it’s an easy one to sell. Unless Conlan is making a major step-up and really chasing a world title, this is a decent fight to make.
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