Top Rank Loads Up Alvarez-Kovalev II Card On Super Bowl Weekend
By Jake Donovan
Cognizant of its placement on the eve of Super Bowl Sunday, the Top Rank staff have made significant additions to its super Saturday night of boxing.
A February 2 date long reserved for the light heavyweight title fight rematch between Eleider Alvarez and Sergey Kovalev has now turned into a live quadrupleheader spanning ESPN and its streaming platform ESPN+.
Alvarez-Kovalev II will now headline the ESPN+ portion of the evening (12:00am ET). That portion of the loaded card from The Star in Frisco, Texas will be accompanied by the quick return of unbeaten lightweight Teofimo Lopez, who is fresh off of a highlight reel 1st round knockout of Mason Menard earlier this month in New York City.
An opponent has yet to be announced for Lopez. Sources with knowledge of the show have informed BoxingInsider.com that it will be a step up in class, as the 2016 Honduras Olympian and fast-moving prospect is eager to transition to rising contender.
“I took over my last show, and I am going to do it again,” Lopez (11-0, 9KOs) said. “‘The Takeover’ is coming to Texas, and I can’t wait to get back in the ring.”
Preceding the livestream will be the awaited ring return of unbeaten featherweight Oscar Valdez. Sidelined while recovering from injuries sustained in an ESPN-aired 12-round win over Scott Quigg in March, the two-time Olympian for Mexico returns in a title defense versus unbeaten Carmine Tommasone, who represented Italy in the 2016 Rio Olymnpics.
The bout will headline a live doubleheader on ESPN (10:00pm ET). In chief support to Valdez’ return comes a vacant lightweight title fight between Ghana’s Richard Commey and Russia’s Isa Chaniev.
Moving the Alvarez-Kovalev rematch to ESPN’s live-streaming service was undoubtedly motivated by a desire to boost subscriptions. Top Rank and ESPN continue to search for the proper balance in what will air live on ESPN’s flagship network and what to dedicate exclusively to its subscription-based streaming service.
This particular show will actually provide the best of both worlds. With the ESPN linear platform preceded by ESPN+ live coverage of the preliminary undercard action (7:00 pm-10:00pm ET), boxing fans will get seven hours of live boxing between the services, including three title fights and the latest step in the career of a blue-chip prospect.
“It’s Super Saturday, and by syncing the ESPN linear and ESPN+ platforms for one night, fans have an incredible opportunity to watch a stacked show with many of the world’s best fighters and rising superstars,” said Todd duBoef, president of Top Rank in a statement released through the company’s press office in announcing the full show on Wednesday.
The addition of Valdez (24-0, 19KOs) comes in the wake of the decision to forego a planned January 12 showcase in his adopted hometown of Tucson, Arizona. He was originally due to face Spain’s Andoni Gago, but issues in getting a travel visa in time along with other unbuttoned issues with the remaining undercard prompted an outright cancellation.
It gives Valdez an additional three weeks to further enhance his craft under new trainer Eddy Reynoso, while also providing an upgrade in competition.
“The fans can expect the same Oscar Valdez as far as being an aggressive and exciting fighter,” said Valdez, who looks to make the fifth defense of his featherweight title. “They are also going to see a different side that nobody has seen, which is the boxing skills that I also have and that I’m perfecting and learning with my new trainer, Eddy Reynoso.”
Tommasone (19-0, 5KOs) has yet to make his full mark in the pro ranks. However, the unbeaten featherweight is in the history books as becoming the first pro boxer to participate in—and win—an Olympic boxing match, doing so in 2016 while representing his native Italy.
The 2016 Rio Olympics marked the first year in which pro boxers were able to participate in competition previously limited to amateur boxers. Tommasone joined former flyweight titlist Amnat Ruenroeng (Thailand) and Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam (representing his native Cameroon, but who lives in France) as the three to break ground, winning his opening round bout before being sent home in the Round of 16 by Cuba’s Lazaro Alvarez, who went on to capture the Bronze medal.
Tomassone—who was 15-0 prior to his 2016 Rio tour—has since won four bouts in his return to pro competition. All have come versus non-descript competition, as he steps way up in class while fighting outside of Italy as a pro for the first time in his eight-year career.
Still, he comes with greater appeal than Valdez’ originally selected opponent—not to mention it’s a great opportunity for Top Rank to showcase one of its brightest young stars for the third time on ESPN, the latest coming on a busy sports weekend.
“It will be great to see our little warrior, Oscar Valdez, back in action on Feb. 2 after his full recovery from a broken jaw and a courageous victory over Quigg,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. “Oscar always brings thrills and excitement to his fights.”
The ESPN-televised co-feature figures to serve as the perfect primer.
Ghana’s Commey (27-2, 24 KOs) has patiently waited for his crack at a lightweight title, which he originally believed would come versus Mikey Garcia. Those plans fell apart, however, after the unbeaten pound-for-pound entrant vacated his title in favor of a high-profile showdown versus unbeaten welterweight titlist Errol Spence.
The move left Commey as the highest-rated contender in his pursuit of winning a title on his second try. His previous effort came in a hard-fought split decision loss to Robert Easter Jr. in their Sept. ’16 vacant title fight, which was followed by an equally heartbreaking narrow defeat at the hands of Denis Shafikov just three months later.
Three straight wins have followed, including a six-round destruction of previously unbeaten Alejandro Luna this past March to earn his place as the mandatory challenger.
“When I started working with Richard in September 2016, our plan was to give him another chance to fulfill his dream of becoming a world champion,”said Lou DiBella , Commey’s promoter. “While Chaniev is a very tough Russian fighter, I’m confident that Richard has the skills, punching power and the mental toughness to come out victorious.”
DiBella’s efforts have not at all been lost on his lightweight client.
“I know how hard it is for Ghanaian fighters to get promoted by the top promoters, but Lou has consistently shown that if he thinks you’re the man, then he will be the man for you,” said Commey, who last fought in August in a 2nd round knockout of journeyman Yardley Cruz in Long Island, New York. “He has shown this by the investment DiBella Entertainment has put in me and by getting me this shot at the title and securing it in the United States.”
While it won’t be Commey’s first stateside appearance, his opponent stamps his passport for his first world title fight.
Chaniev (13-1, 6 KOs) has fought exclusively in Eastern Europe as he travels to the U.S. for the first time as a pro. The 26-year old Russian lightweight earned his place in the title mix after a strong showing in his career-best win, outpointing former titlist Ismael Barroso in his most recent bout this past May.
“I have the biggest motivation ever to win, and there is no other result that will satisfy me,” Chaniev said. “On Feb. 2, I will demonstrate all my skills and hard preparation. Some people don’t think I will win, but they will be shocked.”
Boxing’s Super Bowl
By: Kirk Jackson
We’re a few weeks removed from America’s most significant singular sporting event of the year (Popularity, revenue, viewership, etc.) – the Super Bowl.
The Super Bowl, revolving around the sport of football, uncharacteristically lived up to the hype and the glitz and glamour surrounding the event.
Question begs me to ponder, what would be boxing’s Super Bowl?
In recent history, Floyd Mayweather typically occupied the role as one of the participants or the main participant in the annual Super Bowl – or boxing’s Mega Event, if not sporting event of the year.
Dating back to the year 2007, as long as Mayweather was an active fighter, as there were stretches of inactivity (brief retirements), he was a key component in the major events of the year.
In 2007, Mayweather served as B-Side to Oscar De La Hoya in their “Dream Match,” and returned from brief retirement to face Juan Manuel Marquez as the A-Side in 2009.
Mayweather continued his trend of Mega Event Headliner in May of 2010, facing Shane Mosley and fighting the once thought of future torch bearer for boxing, Victor Ortiz in September of 2011.
Miguel Cotto, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, Marcos Maidana would follow in subsequent years, capped off with Manny Pacquiao in 2015 and against MMA star Conor McGregor in a crossover event in 2017.
It can be debated Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin was boxing’s Super Bowl of 2017 and it can be argued Alvarez participated in boxing’s Super Bowl for 2016, as he demolished Amir Khan in six rounds.
The match-ups featuring pound-for-pound fighters Sergey Kovalev and Andre Ward or top welterweights Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter from an entertainment and significance perspective can be considered for boxing Super Bowl contention for 2016, but lack the overall metric success for consumer awareness and revenue generated.
The reason Mayweather essentially participated in boxing’s Super Bowls over the course of this past decade is due to an assortment of factors.
The fights for one, in spite of the entertainment value for the casual fan, are an actual event. The fight is discussed across various brands and platforms of media sports and pop culture.
Much like Mike Tyson, more than a decade prior to Mayweather’s rise to prominence from a popularity standpoint, his fights or events are talked about by the common/casual person.
The fights drew large numbers viewership/Pay-Per-View wise, generated much revenue and made everyone involved from a fight/promotional/marketing/sponsorship standpoint a lot of money. The records Mayweather set from a financial perspective are well documented.
According to multiple reports, Mayweather generated approximately 23.8 million in PPV buys and $1.67 billion in revenue throughout his career while breaking and setting numerous records in the process.
Who will headline boxing’s Super Bowl for 2018?
Strong candidate and the obvious pick is the rematch between Alvarez and Golovkin. The first match resulted in what was considered a controversial draw; however the draw is a fair assessment of the fight due to varying factors.
Scoring a round can be subjective as each judge, each viewer, has their unique way of scoring. There is a 10 point scoring system; however with criteria such as ring generalship, defense, effective aggression, effective punching, actual punches landed, etc., scoring can be subjected as mentioned.
Their initial encounter provided much excitement, entertainment and was an excellent event from a purist’s standpoint as well. The event itself generated one of the highest gates in Nevada history and tallied excellent Pay-Per-View numbers.
Expect the same result from a numbers perspective for the rematch.
One of the biggest match-ups discussed within the boxing community is Errol Spence vs. Keith Thurman.
Widely regarded as one of boxing’s best prospects, Spence realized his dream last year capturing a world title by dethroning IBF welterweight champion Kell Brook in a compelling contest in Brook’s backyard in the United Kingdom.
Spence wants to unify the welterweight division, Thurman currently possesses the WBC and WBA titles and this is a fight between two undefeated champions in their physical primes.
According to Spence, the fight against Thurman is a bout he has envisioned for more than three years now. For his part, Thurman insists the eventual proposed bout will occur but when the time is right.
Thurman is recovering from an elbow injury and is scheduled to return in May for his comeback fight after more than a year of inactivity. The unified champ would like another bout towards the end of the year before taking on Spence – which would effectively push their potential match back to 2019.
Former unified two-division world champion Terence Crawford is also mentioned as a potential opponent for either Thurman or Spence, as he recently moved to welterweight, but the fight between Thurman and Spence must commence first.
Crawford for the last couple of years was mentioned with fighting the likes of Manny Pacquiao (who appears to be avoiding Crawford) and oddly enough, Crawford recently ranted about the constant, unbridled praise received by one of boxing’s best pound-for-pound fighters Vasyl Lomachenko.
Instead of Crawford landing either fighter, Pacquiao and Lomachenko are rumored to be on a collision course towards the end of this year.
Pacquiao and Lomachenko could potentially be a large event if properly promoted and dependent on upcoming performances from the pair in build up towards the rumored event towards the end of the year.
There could be much interest internationally as Lomachenko has a large Ukrainian and eastern European audience and Pacquiao has an obvious large following from his home country the Philippines. This pairing features a former pound-for-pound king vs. someone considered by many as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters today.
Another dark horse for Super Bowl is unification bout taking place in the heavyweight division between Deontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua.
Although unlikely to happen this year due to promotional issues and depending who you ask – unwillingness on the part of one party.
Both Wilder and Joshua have tough tests ahead of them that cannot be taken lightly. Wilder has to deal with arguably one of the most avoided fighters, undefeated Luis Ortiz. Joshua has to deal with another titlist in the division, Joseph Parker.
All four fighters are undefeated, highly skilled with their own definitive style, and as we say in boxing especially in the heavyweight division, one punch can change everything. There’s no telling with certainty what will happen.
If Mayweather is serious with his recent hints of entering the Octagon with the UFC then his probable rematch with McGregor or debut against former WWE star CM Punk could potentially steal the spot.
I know technically if either match-up were to occur, it’s not a boxing match, but it would involve one of boxing’s most accomplished and valued prizefighters and would undoubtedly be one of the biggest sporting events of the year.
Because love him or hate him, Mayweather draws attention, can be controversial and he knows what sells.
So who will feature in boxing’s Super Bowl of 2018?