Around the Curve with Abe: “Bonus Cuts”
As we closed out 2019, I put out the first of what is going to be a series of pieces surrounding the potential matchups that we will see throughout the boxing world and what moves are being made that could lead to these matchups becoming a reality.
There was so much to cover by division that I was only able to gloss over some of the weight classes. With this one, we will take a look at some of the ones that did not make the original cut but that are perhaps just as important, along with some of the big potential matchups in the women’s divisions.
Bantamweight through Super Bantamweight
Coming off an instant classic with Nonito Donaire (40-5), unified bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue (19-0; below, lifting Ali Trophy after win over Donaire) is preparing to making his Top Rank debut.
This move of acquiring Inoue was more about the potential matchups at super bantamweight more than anything else as Inoue has mentioned his days at bantamweight are very limited. When you look at the super bantamweight division, you cannot help to think that the intent will be to pit WBO Champion Emanuel Navarrete (30-1) against Inoue which would be an all action brawl while DAZN puts Rey Vargas (34-0) in with the winner between Daniel Roman (27-2-1) and Murodjon Akhmadaliev (7-0). You’re probably asking yourself, where is PBC in all of this?
Well, coincidentally, Guillermo Rigondeaux (19-1) will move down to bantamweight for one of the versions of the WBA title which means he will stick around to go for some of the titles once Inoue drops them. The PBC has plenty of prospects at the 118 lbs weight class to tourney amongst themselves in the future.
Light Heavyweight through Cruiserweight
The light heavyweight division sees unified champion Artur Beterbiev (15-0; below, landing on Oleksandr Gvozdyk) meeting Meng Fanlong. The winner of the Jesse Hart (26-2) versus Joe Smith (24-3) bout Saturday in AC would be curious to see how the Beterbiev-Fanlong scrap played out.
The cruiserweight division is unfortunately heading towards the direction of non-existence as it was prior to the WBSS starting their tournament. Today (Friday), we heard that the WBSS cruiserweight final pitting Latvia’s Mairis Briedis (26-1, 19 KOs) versus Cuba’s Yuniel Dorticos (24-1, 22 KOs) will unfold March 21, 2020, at the Arena Riga in Riga, Latvia.
WOMEN'S SCENE IS HEATING UP
The women in boxing saw their fights get more exposure and promotion this past year than any other year. We saw plenty make the DAZN streams and ESPN telecasts while some of the fights were shown on Facebook live by way of Fightnight Live, which is powered by Everlast.
Let’s take a look at some of the fights that are being discussed, which have the potential to really push the women in boxing to reach new heights.
Last year, although not billed as the main event, Amanda Serrano (37-1-1) versus Heather Hardy (22-1) was the fight that everyone filled the Hulu Theater at the Garden to see that night. The fight lived up to the hype and Serrano came out victorious. It was supposed to lead to Serrano facing the undisputed champion Katie Taylor (15-0), which would be considered a “super fight” in women’s boxing but as of now, the fight has yet to materialize. Recently, undisputed welterweight champion Cecilia Braekhus (36-0) signed a promotional deal with Matchroom/DAZN, which on the surface seems like a signing used as leverage in the negotiations with Serrano in case a deal could not be completed or to give Katie a bigger slice of the pie for that fight since there would be more than one option for a mega fight. Let’s just hope that either fight is made and we see that this year on DAZN.
The fighter that goes by “GWOAT” Claressa Shields (9-0), has a bout tonight (Friday night) while Alicia Napoleon-Espinoza (12-1) does as well on the same card. The early discussion is that if both successful, then they will face each other. Recently, Napoleon Espinoza went over to the powerhouse management company Split-T, which will provide the type of management muscle she needs to make that type of fight happen in the future.
If that fight doesn’t materialize, you have WBC super middleweight champion Franchon Crews-Dezurn (6-1), who can have a unification fight against Napolean-Espinoza, which would create a ton of interest for fans there in the North East region of the country. That would leave Shields without a dance partner and could mean that void is filled by WBA interim junior middleweight champion Raquel Miller (10-0), who would get what she has been desiring for a while now, and that is a shot at the “GWOAT”.
We are only nine days into the new year and there are many dominoes falling all over the place which will eventually lead into some of these scenarios playing out. Like any well thought out plan, speed bumps and roadblocks will come up forcing things to go into a different direction or being delayed… so stay tuned as I continue to monitor the boxing scene and give you my thoughts on future dealings and matchups.
Follow Abe Gonzalez on Twitter @abeg718 and @nyfights on Instagram.