Real or Not: Gauging the future of the Paul brothers; will Oscar De La Hoya win at 48?

Boxing

Welterweight champion Terence Crawford was hoping for a unification bout against Errol Spence Jr., or a superfight against the legendary Manny Pacquiao. But with Spence and Pacquiao already set to face off on Aug. 21, it seems Crawford could be facing Shawn Porter next, after the WBO ordered that title defense. Is Crawford-Porter a better matchup than the younger Spence against an older Pacquiao?

And speaking of older fighters, Oscar De La Hoya will return in a real boxing fight against former MMA star Vitor Belfort, who last fought over three years ago at 184 pounds. The fight will be contested at a catch weight of 180 pounds. De La Hoya is 48 years old, four years older than Belfort, and he has fought as high as 160 pounds only once, 17 years ago for a middleweight title against Felix Sturm. In his last professional bout in 2008, De La Hoya weighed 145 pounds in a loss to Pacquiao. Can De La Hoya beat Belfort at 185 pounds?

Another veteran MMA fighter-turned boxer, Anderson Silva, could be heading back to the ring to face Logan Paul. While the fight is not set just yet, conversations are ongoing. Silva, 46, looked great in upsetting former middleweight champion Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in June. Paul, 26, lost a decision to Floyd Mayweather in an exhibition also in June, but has shown progress in his boxing skills. Can Silva score another victory in the squared circle? And how about Logan’s brother, Jake Paul, who’s considered the better fighter of the two. Will he ever win a world title in boxing?

Finally, the 2020 Olympics are here and the US boxing team will be looking for some medals. Claressa Shields won gold in 2012 and 2016, but no male US fighter has won a gold medal since Andre Ward 17 years ago in 2004. Can anyone break that drought in Tokyo?

Mike Coppinger, Marc Raimondi and Ben Baby dig into each of these topics, and separate what’s real from what’s not.

Terence Crawford vs. Shawn Porter is a better matchup than Errol Spence Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao

Coppinger: Not real. It’s incredibly close, but the star power of Pacquiao and the likelihood this is the final fight of his hall of fame career gives the Aug. 21 matchup the edge. There’s also more uncertainty surrounding that matchup: Spence is only a slight favorite in Las Vegas. Pacquiao, of course, is an all-time great, but nearing 43, it’s impossible to truly know how much he has left until fight night.

If Pacquiao resembles the fighter who, in his most recent fight, toppled Keith Thurman in July 2019, he has a real shot at upsetting Spence. But that’s a long layoff; there’s no guarantee Pacquiao is the same fighter, especially at this advanced age.

Spence is one of the five best fighters in the world, regardless of weight. By his own admission, he wasn’t 100 percent when he outpointed Danny Garcia in December. That was the unified champ’s first bout since a horrific car crash in the fall of 2019. If he’s not back to full form, he could be in for the test of his lifetime.

When you examine the potential clash between Crawford and Porter, one factor stands out: it would be, by far, the best opponent of Crawford’s career. He’s faced one fighter who is arguably on the A-level in Viktor Postol, a fight in which Crawford won virtually every round. Porter is far more experienced against elite competition, with a win against Garcia, and close losses to Thurman and Spence.

His pressure style is a handful to deal with, but if anyone can take care of him in impressive fashion, it figures to be Crawford. The 33-year-old is the rare fighter who can box well going backward and forward, orthodox or southpaw.

It’s all good news, with two excellent matchups on the horizon in perhaps boxing’s best division. If the sport works the way it should, Crawford-Porter will be finalized and the winner will face off with the victor of the Aug. 21 bout between Pacquiao and Spence.


Oscar De La Hoya will lose to Vitor Belfort fighting at 180 pounds

Raimondi: This is a tough one, because I think part of the interest in this fight is the unknown. De La Hoya is a legendary name in boxing, but he’s 48 years old and has not competed in a pro fight since 2008. What will the “Golden Boy” look like pushing 50? Will he have any of the same fast-twitch tools that made him great? The mysteries are similar with Belfort, who is 44 years old and has not fought in MMA since 2018. Belfort has just one pro boxing match under his belt, back in 2006. Belfort was one of the most explosive knockout artists in UFC history, but will those abilities translate to boxing when he’s past his athletic prime? There is a laundry list of questions like these.

I’m going to say “not real” here. I’m not sure the weight matters too much, though it’s surely an advantage for Belfort, who fought in the UFC most recently at 185 pounds. De La Hoya will be the smaller man. I’m just not sure that will mean anything. De La Hoya has not fought in 13 years, but he was a seasoned, championship-level pro boxer. If we’ve learned anything about these boxing versus MMA matchups it’s that boxing in MMA is not exactly like boxing in boxing. They are similar, but different skill sets. Belfort has always had great hands; the technique and tactics will be different here. The age will be similar. So, the advantage has to go with the man who is competing in his own sport, not the fellow legend coming over from the cage. But then again, you never know when it comes to matchups like these, which is one of the reasons they are selling so well right now.


The USA Olympic boxing team will win a gold medal at Tokyo 2020

Coppinger: Real. The 17-year drought for the men in red, white and blue will conclude in Tokyo, and it’s going to be Keyshawn Davis who brings home the gold. That would be the first gold medal for men’s boxing on Team USA since Andre Ward won in 2004.

Davis has the added benefit of three pro fights under his belt — all wins — a rule change necessitated by the cancellation of the Olympic Qualifiers due to COVID-19. Davis is joined by fellow pros Duke Ragan and Troy Isley, also strong contenders to win gold.

Davis’ stiffest competition for the gold is Andy Cruz, the 25-year-old from Cuba who has already claimed two gold medals at the Pan American Games and two more at the AIBA World Championships. More so, Cruz has defeated Davis all three times they fought in the amateurs.

But Davis, 22, is confident that the fourth time will be the difference-maker. He’s also sure Cruz will be the man he faces in the lightweight finals.


Anderson Silva has no chance against Logan Paul in a boxing match

Raimondi: I mean, come on. I know Silva is a UFC legend coming over to boxing, but he did just beat Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. pretty comprehensively. Chavez Jr. is a shell of his former self and maybe was never all that great to begin with, but he’s a former world champion with 60 pro boxing matches on his record. He should have beaten Silva, who only fought in boxing professionally twice before and had been struggling even in MMA before his release request from the UFC was granted last November. Silva’s win over Chavez Jr. was impressive in that respect.

Meanwhile, Paul had some positive moments in an exhibition against Floyd Mayweather last month. But he’s 0-1 as a pro boxer, losing to fellow social-media influencer KSI. I’m certain Paul has gotten better since that 2019 fight. That’s all well and good. But you can’t tell me that KSI is a better boxer than Silva, who is a savant when it comes to fighting and showed flashes of that against Chavez Jr. Paul is likely to be bigger and stronger — maybe even more fundamentally sound in pro boxing. Silva is different, though. He’s 46 years old, but his mind and eyes remain sharp. “The Spider” certainly has a chance against Paul.


Jake Paul will win a boxing title

Baby: Not real — for now. It’s impossible to project Jake Paul’s title chances if he never faces an actual boxer. So far, Paul has fought either celebrities or MMA fighters, with Tyron Woodley being the latest opponent to partake in the Paul Bros. Circus.

However, Jake Paul is much better than people give him credit for. Yes, the natural reaction to reading that sentence might be to take a shower and go on YouTube to watch boxing highlights. But when you look through all of the hoopla surrounding Jake Paul, there does seem to be a fighter who is taking the sport seriously and is making sizable improvements from fight to fight.

Go back and actually watch what Paul did against Askren. He looked like an actual fighter. He worked behind the jab and was intent on doing solid body work. The first-round TKO was a result of good boxing. Paul’s southpaw jab set up a blinding overhand right that hurt Askren for good.

If Paul continues to show progress and beats Woodley, it might be time to put him against an actual boxer to see where he’s at in the sport. Who’s to say Paul can’t win a WBA “regular interim aluminum honorary” belt one day?

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