The calendar has turned over to August, a busy month in the boxing world and the gateway to what’s shaping up to be a big fall as well.
Canelo Alvarez was poised to be part of the busy schedule with a fight against Caleb Plant to unify boxing’s super middleweight division in September. But as negotiations fell apart at the finish line, Alvarez has turned his attention elsewhere as he looks to schedule a fight for Mexican Independence Day Weekend for the first time since 2018. Will he get across the finish line?
Our panel — which features Mike Coppinger, Ben Baby and Michael Rothstein — digs into the latest with Alvarez, as well as Ryan Garcia’s knockout power against JoJo Diaz and future title thoughts regarding Vergil Ortiz, Michael Conlan and Michael Hunter.
Canelo Alvarez will still fight on Sept. 18
Coppinger: Real. But time is running out to secure an opponent and platform.
Alvarez was on the verge of fighting Caleb Plant after agreeing with PBC on all the major deal points. All that was needed were the signatures. The prospect of that undisputed super middleweight title fight is now dead, and Alvarez is moving on.
About seven weeks out from Mexican Independence Day Weekend, Alvarez will need to lock down a deal over the next 10 days or so. He’s motivated to do it. The Mexican holiday is important to him, and it’s one of two annual weekends (along with Cinco de Mayo) reserved for boxing’s top attraction — dates Floyd Mayweather and Oscar De La Hoya owned before him.
When negotiations for a fight with Sergey Kovalev similarly dragged on in 2019, Alvarez missed out on the September date and wasn’t pleased. That fight was ultimately pushed to November.
Not fighting would also disrupt a busy run for Alvarez, who has been the most active superstar we’ve seen in some time with three fights since December.
Light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol is now the front-runner for the assignment, and it should be an easy enough fight to make. No other fighter appears poised for the challenge now that Plant is no longer an option.
After Alvarez missed out on the coveted date in 2019, and again in 2020 due to COVID, he’ll figure out a way to maintain it this time around, and star on the holiday for the first time since his second fight against Gennadiy Golovkin in 2018.
Michael Hunter is a legit heavyweight title contender in 2022
Coppinger: Real. Whether or not he receives a crack at the crown in that window is a different matter.
Hunter is a skilled boxer with excellent footwork and the kind of jab that wins world titles. With his speed and movement, he should be able to give other heavyweights fits. What Hunter is lacking, as a natural cruiserweight, is size and power.
The money is at heavyweight, of course, and Hunter should be able to make enough noise to establish himself as a title contender. He’s the best American heavyweight after Deontay Wilder and Andy Ruiz Jr., and the 33-year-old has the charisma to promote a fight.
His Aug. 3 matchup with Mike Wilson won’t show us much, but Hunter has earned his No. 8 spot in ESPN’s heavyweight rankings. The lone blemishes on Hunter’s ledger: a title-losing effort to Oleksandr Usyk at cruiserweight, and a draw with Alexander Povetkin at heavyweight.
The latter was controversial, as it appeared Hunter won the fight. He’s now well-positioned for a heavyweight title shot, but he’ll have to be patient. Anthony Joshua defends his three titles against Usyk on Sept. 25. Wilder fights Tyson Fury for a third time on Oct. 9. The potential of a unification bout is hard to ignore, too.
Dillian Whyte is waiting in the wings, and so, too, is Ruiz. But after those two fighters, it’s hard to argue anyone else is more primed for a shot than Hunter. The best way to secure that opportunity, then, would be to defeat Whyte or Ruiz.
Ryan Garcia will KO JoJo Diaz if they fight in the fall
Rothstein: Not quite real. If Ryan Garcia and JoJo Diaz fight in the fall, it’s a fight Garcia should win. But it’s a fight that would likely end in a decision. Diaz is an accomplished fighter and held the IBF super featherweight world title less than a year ago, before he lost it on the scale before his fight against Shavkat Rakhimov. He’s only lost once in his career — back in 2018 — and that was by unanimous decision. Seven of Diaz’s last eight fights have gone the distance. No reason to think this wouldn’t.
Plus, it’s been a reasonably long layoff for Garcia — he last fought in January — and while he’s on a five-fight knockout streak, several of those opponents weren’t even close to Diaz’s level. So while Garcia may not KO Diaz, he should certainly be favored in that fight.
Michael Conlan will win a title at junior featherweight
Baby: Not real. I’ve never been overly impressed with Conlan and what he’s done since turning pro. The 2016 Olympic bronze medalist has enjoyed a career filled with high-profile billing and medium-to-low-quality opponents. At 29, Conlan has yet to face a 122-pounder of consequence. In his last fight, Conlan squeezed past Ionut Baluta with a majority decision. On Friday, he is scheduled to face TJ Doheny, who lost to Baluta in March 2020.
At some point, Conlan must make some significant steps in his career and can’t coast on his affiliations. Becoming a true title contender requires a win over a good fighter.
Not only will a high-caliber opponent test his potential championship mettle, but it will also see if Conlan can hang in a strong division.
Vergil Ortiz Jr. will get Terence Crawford next if he beats Egidijus Kavaliauskas
Baby: Not real. This really hinges on Crawford’s contract situation once his deal expires with Top Rank. For years, Crawford’s logical next step has seemed to be with Premier Boxing Champions, which has all of the top welterweights Crawford has wanted to face since he won a title in the 147-pound division. Ortiz is currently promoted by Golden Boy Promotions, which doesn’t have the same welterweight depth — notice I didn’t say quality — as PBC.
If Crawford signs a deal with PBC, Ortiz presents a serious risk to spoiling Crawford’s future profitability and marketability, especially if PBC boss Al Haymon is eyeing the dream fight of Crawford vs. Errol Spence Jr.
But the 23-year-old Ortiz shouldn’t be too upset if he doesn’t get Crawford within the next six months. Ortiz is arguably the best young fighter who doesn’t hold a major belt, and might even have a higher ceiling than Teofimo Lopez, who is currently a champion at lightweight. Ortiz has the necessary skills and will soon have the fanbase to demand a fight against one of the best in the division.