For nearly a century, fistic prognosticators boldly predicted the demise of Boxing as we know it. Doom, gloom and more were opined; there was just no chance the sport could survive the retirement of Jack Dempsey or the end of Joe Louis' career, right? Surely, the game would never recover from the eras of Rocky Marciano or Muhammad Ali, right? As the clock on Mike Tyson's reign ticked away, taking mainstream recognition of the heavyweight division with it, the slow and painful death of prizefighting seemed to be inevitable, or so they said. At a time when UFC and mixed martial arts as a whole are gaining momentum, directly competing with the "Sweet Science" for combative sports dollars, the assumption is pure pugilism is on the verge of extinction.
Pugilism Co. is calling B.S.!
Boxing has and always will recycle, reinvent and replenish itself; in the “Star Wars” movies, when Luke Skywalker was thought to be the last hope for the Jedi's, Yoda chimed in, "No, there is another!" That's the fight game, in a nutshell. With naysayers standing in line, spewing off-base and unfounded thoughts on why our favorite sport is on its' last legs, Pugilism Co. will take the time to elaborate on reasons to be optimistic about Boxing's future.
Anthony Joshua (19-0, 19 KO's) - By virtue of British charm, a comic book characters physique and a picture perfect KO%, this 2012 Olympic gold medalist is on the precipice of becoming the first globally renown heavyweight since Mike Tyson. Joshua's thrilling 11th round war, with former longtime champion, Wladimir Klitschko, will be tough to unseat as 2017's "Fight of the Year". Only 27 years of age, Joshua has a strong eight to ten years of combat in front of him, and a handful of intriguing potential matchups with the likes of Tyson Fury (who unseated Klitschko in 2016), Deontay Wilder, Luis Ortiz and Joseph Parker, not to mention a possible rematch with Wladimir.
For better or worse, thru excitement or boredom, heavyweight will always be boxing's glamour division, and Anthony Joshua possesses a glamorous, fan friendly, aggressive style of fighting. He's making the big boys great again.
Andre Ward (31-0, 15 KO's) vs. Sergey Kovalev (30-1-1, 26 KO's) II - Ward hasn't lost a boxing match since sometime around elementary or middle school; no one is better at manufacturing wins. He was dropped hard in the 2nd round of his first fight with Kovalev, yet finagled a unanimous (albeit, hotly disputed) decision when all was said and done. It was the lone loss suffered by Kovalev, who's arguably the hardest single shot puncher in captivity. The rematch is set for June 17th and a Kovalev win would naturally usher in a trilogy. When fans complain about the best not fighting the best, they're not referring to Ward-Kovalev, who are far and away the two best light heavyweights, currently, and both among the top five best fighters on the planet, pound for pound.
Saul "Canelo Alvarez (49-1-1, 34 KO's) vs. Gennady "Triple G" Golovkin (37-0, 33 KO's) - Since 2015, this has been the best possible matchup to offer and it's coming to fruition September 16th of this year. "Canelo" has assumed the position of biggest name in all of prizefighting, post-Mayweather. Boxing's new "Golden Boy", promoted by the original article, Oscar Dela Hoya. "Canelo" fights at close range, has a good variety of shots, delivering rapid-fire combinations to the head/body, with an ability to hurt a man with either hand.
"Triple G" has been the most feared man in the hurt business for the better part of the last five years, carving a destructive, almost Tyson-like niche, based on a streak of 23 consecutive knockouts, dating back to 2008. A 2004 Olympic silver medalist, Golovkin is considerably more skillful than his record indicates. Yes, his objective is to tear your head off, but he's clinical in his execution, not reckless. Ramrod left jab, fight ending power in the right cross, left hook and body shots with either hand; "GGG" is a daunting task, to say the least.
"Canelo" and "Triple G" are firmly entrenched on all credible "best fighter" lists and a win could result in sole possession of the pound for pound penthouse suite. This is the most important fight of 2017, bar none.
The Welterweight Division - While there are weight classes with bigger names, no division offers up as many potentially intriguing matchups, and it's not even close. The likes of Manny Pacquiao, Keith Thurman, Kell Brook, Shawn Porter, Danny Garcia, Adrien Broner, Lamont Peterson and others occupy the upper echelons of this historically strong division, Terrance Crawford (a two-division world champion and current Jr. welterweight stud) will likely campaign in this class eventually, as well. Already, Shawn Porter has faced Brook, Broner, Thurman and even former champions, Andre Berto and Paulie Malignaggi. Keith Thurman's dealt with Porter and Danny Garcia; Kell Brook tangles with Errol Spence Saturday, May 27th, and has already shared the ring with Porter and "Triple G". Long story short, everybody's fighting everybody, and everybody is in their prime. Hard to bitch about what's going on at 147 pounds.
Vasyl Lomachenko (8-1, 6 KO’s) and Mikey Garcia (36-0, 30 KO’s) – With only 9 professional bouts to his credit, “Hi-Tech” Lomachenko is probably the best fighter alive, pound for pound. This two-time Olympic gold medalist had 395 amateur wins, with just 1 loss, which was avenged. He’s aiming to clear up the lone blemish on his punch for pay ledger, in a rematch with Orlando Salido, this summer. Lomachenko’s footwork is second to none, as is his combination punching. He truly is a joy to watch.
Much of the same could be said for Mikey Garcia, and if not for a two and a half year layoff, due to promotional issues, he’d likely be regarded as the top dog, pound for pound. Garcia’s as technically sound as they come and can end a fight with one or two well placed shots. For now, Lomachenko rules the roost at 130, with Garcia doing likewise at 135. If these two ever bump heads, it’ll be the highest aggregate level of skill and talent we’ve seen in one boxing ring, in quite some time.
Lower Divisions – I’d be remiss if I didn’t note the excellent combatants in the lower, less popular weight classes. Since Vasyl Lomachenko moved up, Gary Russell, Jr. (28-1, 17 KO’s) has asserted himself as “The Man” at featherweight. Russell’s fresh off a 7th round beat down of Oscar Escandon, last Saturday. He’s also looking to unify titles with Leo Santa Cruz (33-1, 18 KO’s), who just avenged the only loss of his career, to Carl Frampton (23-1, 14 KO’s). A rubber match is very likely, and promises to be every bit as entertaining as the first two Santa Cruz vs. Frampton affairs. Also in the mix at 126 pounds is 2004 Olympian, Abner Mares (30-2-1, 15 KO’s), who holds a title himself and certainly won’t shy away from unification.
After a lengthy and historic amateur career, Cuban legend, Guillermo Rigondeaux (17-0, 11 KO’s) has been a champion at 122 pounds for nearly seven years. In nearly 475 amateur bouts, Rigondeaux was defeated just 12 times, bringing home gold medals in the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games. This slick, skilled, hard punching, southpaw counterpuncher is rumored to be anywhere from 36 to his mid 40’s, but he’s shown little to no signs of slowing down.
How low can Pugilism go? How about Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez (46-1, 38 KO’s), who’s held world titles at 105, 108, 112 and just lost his 115 belt in his last fight, to Sor Rungvisai (43-4-1, 39 KO’s)? The bout was highly controversial and an immediate rematch should take place before the end of 2017. Until that loss, “Chocolatito” was regarding as Boxing’s best, pound for pound, and not only throws, but lands more power shots than any of his contemporaries.
Boxing has cheated death more times than a stunt man; fans just need to broaden their horizons a bit. Check out the lower weight classes and/or fighters from foreign countries because their skill set won’t lie to the eye. Peep up and comers like Gervonta “Tank” Davis (18-0, 17 KO’s), the youngest world champion in our sport, at 22 years of age. A couple of promising names came out of the 2016 Olympics as well, Claressa Shields (the only two-time gold medalist in U.S. Olympic boxing history) and silver medalist, Shakur Stevenson, who has a thousand watt smile and star quality written all over him.
Boxing has and always will recycle, reinvent and replenish itself.