By Tyson Bruce
*In composing this fantasy list of match-ups I choose to ignore (although its briefly discussed throughout) the Golden Boy-Top Rank ‘Cold War’, as a mean to, if nothing else, highlight its negative effects on the sport. I also used each fighter only once, meaning they cannot appear in multiple matches:
1. Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao: this match has so much ink spilled over it that someday books will be written about why it never happened. I hate to even write about this because quite frankly it’s been a subject that’s been beat to death more times than a Jason movie. However, the fact remains that it’s still the biggest and most important fight in boxing—by far. In 2009, when both men were at their absolute zenith of physical perfection, the match was probably the most hotly anticipated since Hagler-Leonard in 1987.
But this is boxing and instead of getting it on and getting really rich, they chose to succumb to their own pride. Whether it was Olympic style drug testing, control over the promotion, or egomaniacal and greed driven spats over the percentage of the money split, they’ve always managed to find a way not to fight each other. Now that time has passed, the fight, if it were to happen, reminds one more and more of the Lewis-Tyson fight all the time. Like that fight, its years past it best (especially in the case of Pacquiao) yet, somewhat inexplicably, it remains the fight the world wants too see. If Saul Alvarez can generate 2.2 million PPV buys as Mayweather’s dance partner, just think about how much more he could do with Pacquaio, who is far and away the bigger global icon.
More than anything, I would like some closure to this bizarre and ridiculous saga. I don’t want to have to tell my kids about why this fight was never made. At the top of the sport they are one A and one B, and they have no more forks in the road to choose between, they only have one path left and it leads to each other.
2. Adonis Stevenson vs. Sergey Kovalev: this fight is pure mayhem and everyone knows it. Somebody is getting stretched in this one, and it’s only about whom, how, and when. Unlike many of the fights on this list there is very little business interference that would impede this fight from happening. Both men are affiliated with HBO and Gym Promotions and Main Events have shown an ability to do business in an amicable fashion. This match is pure adrenaline and the tension that would be present when those two guys first come at one another would be absolutely hair raising. This is Julian Jackson vs. Gerald McClellan at light heavyweight, in the sense that a devastating knockout is almost a certainty.
The bout also presents a dramatic style contrast as well as being a God’s honest pick’em fight. Stevenson has the kind of power that is generated through speed—something boxing people call “explosiveness”—and his style consists of a great deal of movement and athleticism. Kovalev, on the other hand, is like a semitrailer going downhill with no breaks. He has the kind of punching power that is generated through brute force, body mechanics, and forward momentum. I don’t have any idea who would win but I know that we have to see it.
3. Andre Ward vs. Gennady Golovkin: would provide a ‘super-fight’ for two of the most avoided boxer’s in the game. Everyone and their mother seem to be ducking and dodging these guys at their respective weight divisions. While potential opponents claim that it’s a lack of money (Sergio Martinez and Carl Froch come to mind) it’s really because they know that these two guys would flat out kick there ass. While Ward’s opponent predicament is largely the product of him beating everyone in his weight division, Golovkin’s big predicament is getting anyone to fight him period. Not since Mike Tyson has so many fighters been that intimidated of one guy. While Ward would almost certainly be the clear favorite in this fight, Golovkin represents the greatest threat to him, and that probably includes Stevenson and Kovalev at 175. To simply rule out Golovkin from having any chance at all in this fight is ridiculous and intellectually lazy. His technical poise, body attack, and murderous punching power would present a package that Ward has yet to see as a professional. If you are an advocate of the best fighting the best then this fight has to be on your list.
4. Saul Alvarez vs. Miguel Cotto: while some prefer the Cotto-Martinez match-up at middleweight, I feel that stylistically Alvarez-Cotto is the better bout. Next to a bout involving Mayweather and Pacquiao this also represents the most financially lucrative fight in all of boxing. Both Cotto and Alvarez are proven box office draws. This match is a can’t miss fight style wise, with both men having virtually equal hand speed, punching power, and skill sets. Now that Cotto appears to be returning to his old style of going forward and smashing the body, this fight only gets more tantalizing. It would provide an offensively fast paced fight with lots of combination punching and inside fighting. It would also be the newest chapter in the historic rivalry between Puerto Rico and Mexico and this fight features the two nations’ most glamorized and popular fighters. Throw this one in Las Vegas or New York and this dog will hunt—big time.
5. Adrien Broner vs. Danny Garcia: provided that Broner gets past Maidana, which will be no easy task, this match pits two of the games most intriguing fighters under the age of thirty. It would pit Adrien Broner’s speed and athleticism versus Garcia’s well-rounded skills and surprising punching power. Also, for a guy like Broner, who has just recently moved up from light weight, it would give him a chance to test his metal against another guy who would be moving up. Despite being around the same age and in their physical primes, Garcia has proven himself against a much higher grade of opposition and this would represent the ultimate litmus test for Broner. For once, he might actually have to fight like Mayweather and not just steal his one-liners to secure a victory.
Depending on what kind of person you are, the promotional build up for this fight could either be a tabloid smash hit or an epic new low for boxing. Can you imagine what an All Access show or a press conference with Adrien Broner and Angel Garcia would look like? It kind of scares me, but it could provide the ‘necessary nonsense’ that could get this fight the attention it would deserve.
6. Ruslan Provodnikov vs. Lucas Matthysee: how could this not be a brutal slugfest? This fight would be extremely complicated to make because Provodnikov’s affiliation with Top Rank/HBO and Matthysee’s Showtime/Golden Boy/Al Haymon connection. But, we can dream can’t we? Just a year ago Matthysee would have been a massive favorite to beat the “Siberian Rocky’ but since then Matthysee suffered a defeat in a flat performance against Danny Garcia and Provodnikov established himself as a world class fighter by taking Tim Bradley to the wire and absolutely annihilating the highly respected Mike Alvarado. Matthysee and Provodnikov are both essentially offensive fighters, who overwhelm opponents with brutal punching power and toughness. This would be two immovable objects colliding and it would be absolutely fascinating to see which man would gain the upper hand in an offensive shoot out.
7. Roman Gonzales vs. Giovani Segura: if you don’t think this fight should be on the list then you are just biased against little guys. This fight has the kind of ‘low cost but guaranteed high level product’ that dream undercard fights are made of. Roman Gonzales is quite simply one of the very best fighters in the world today, and if you don’t believe watch his sensation victory over Juan Francisco Estrada sometime. He is a like a 108 pound version of Julio Caesar Chavez Sr., with vicious two-handed punching power and fantastic subtle technical skills.
Fresh off his brutal knockout of Tyson Marquez, the resurgent Giovani Segura is pure two-handed mayhem inside the ring. He isn’t the most skilled guy in the world but he makes up for it and then some with freakish strength and punching power for flyweight. If this fight was featured on some high level undercard people wouldn’t recognize these guys, but by the end of the night they would be all anyone would be talking about.
8. Tyson Fury vs. Deontay Wilder: because isn’t heavyweight boxing just more fun without the Klitschko’s? While the Ukrainian brother duo remain by far the most talented and accomplished heavyweights in the world, watching their fights without getting bored out of your mind requires almost Monk like discipline. While Fury and Wilder are not on their talent level, a match between the two stands out as the most interesting in a weak division. As soon as Fury’s fight with David Haye fell through (again) and this matchup was proposed, my interest was immediately peaked. While many heavyweight bouts, like Klitschko vs. Haye, feature a traditional sized heavyweight against a ‘supersized’ modern heavyweight—this fight actually pits two offensively oriented giants against one another.
Both guys are outspoken, but in vastly different styles: Fury being the kind of cocky British loud mouth that you might meet and get dragged out of some seedy London pub by, and Wilder is a brash and flashy product of the American hip-hop culture. In the United Kingdom this fight would be a massive, massive box office hit.
9. Carl Froch vs. Julio Caesar Chavez Jr.: although not as meaningful as some other bouts on this list, this one would be fun. After his last bout against George Groves, a lot of people have speculated that Froch’s reign as a top fighter may be slowly nearing its end. If that were indeed the case then a mega fight with the popular Chavez Jr. would be the perfect next fight for him. There would be some logistical problems to be worked out if that fight were to be made, such as where it would take place, money split, and the issue of Chavez’s ever expanding ass size. However, if they could work it out then this fight is chin vs. chin, as both men are defensively flawed guys who have shown a real ability to take a shot on the button. Froch would have to be considered a massive favorite because of his superior resume and consistency, but a focused and motivated Chavez would not be an easy task. A fight between these two guys is as ‘macho’ as it gets.
10. Mikey Garcia vs. Guillermo Rigondeaux: I know the size difference would prevent this from ever happening right? Realistically speaking, yes. But with Rigondeaux being constantly criticized for being too boring, wouldn’t it make marketing sense for him to do something bold like challenge a bigger and respected guy? This fight would feature two of the most technically skilled fighters in the sport. This is the kind of fight that purists like Max Kellerman dream about. It would be interesting to see Garcia, who’s had it pretty much his own way as a pro, try and track down such a skillful and elusive fighter. On the flip side, could Rigondeaux get through twelve rounds without being tagged and knocked out by the bigger and more powerful Garcia? This would be an unorthodox and complicated fight. Although it will probably never happens it’s the kind of original and out of the box match making that is lacking in the sport.