I am about to tell you something. It will not be fluff, promotion, or hype from some boxing publicist looking to build up a fighter or a fight. This is from my heart and what I believe—the only way I know how to operate.
You and I are just hours away from watching what I believe will be a candidate—a leading candidate—for “Fight of the Year.”
In just the last month, we’ve seen two fights in separate divisions give us “F.O.Y.” candidates, they were Errol Spence v Shawn Porter to unify the welterweight crown and Gennady Golovkin v Sergei Derevyanchenko for the vacant IBF Middleweight Championship.
Back in May, we saw Julian Williams and Jarrett Hurd put on the same kind of battle for Jr. Middleweight honors. On Saturday, from the O2 Arena in London, two unbeaten 140-pounders—possibly and probably the two best at that weight in the world—will square off to unify the title. Their names are Regis Prograis and Josh Taylor. They will be fighting in the finals of the World Boxing Super Series. This fight may just be the best we’ve seen—or will see—in 2019.
Prograis v Taylor is the most compelling 140-lb title fight since November 12, 1982. That was the night three-division champion Alexis Arguello challenge undefeated WBA champion Aaron “The Hawk” Pryor for his title. It turned into a legendary classic, as Pryor stopped Arguello in the 14th round.
Prograis is the WBA champion, while Taylor holds the IBF title. Both are undefeated. Prograis is 24-0. He has stopped 20 of his opponents. Taylor is 15-0. Twelve of them haven’t been around to hear the final bell. The outcome of none of their 39 combined victories was ever in doubt during the course of each one. In fact, few of their fights were even competitive. And they’ve fought some tough hombres!
This is a battle for the ages.
It’s southpaw v southpaw. It’s boxer v boxer. It’s puncher v puncher. They can do it all. Prograis v Taylor is as good as it gets! The great thing is, it’s not going to be on PPV in exchange for a Benjamin Franklin. Or a Ulysses Grant. This one—as are so many of this year’s top fights, on DAZN. I jumped aboard at the beginning for $9.99 per month. In a two week span, I’ll have Prograis v Taylor and Sergei Kovalev v Canelo Alvarez—plus both undercards—for $9.99. I spent more than that this morning when I stopped into a local coffee chain and bought a Cold Brew and a bagel!
The undercard of Prograis v Taylor is interesting. In the co-feature, perennial heavyweight contender Derek Chisora (31-9, 22 KO’s) will face still-trying David Price 25-6, 20 KO’s). To me, this is boxing’s version of a “Loser Leaves Boxing” match. There will also be a lightweight matchup between Ricky Burns (43-7-1, 16 KO’s) and Lee Selby (27-2, 9 KO’s), and a very-intriguing fight for the EBU Cruiserweight Title between Lawrence Okolie (13-0, 10 KO’s) and Yves Ngabu (20-0, 14 KO’s)…For those who need even more boxing on Saturday, Showtime has a very interesting jr. middleweight main Event when Erickson Lubin (21-1, 16 KO’s) faces (21-3-1, 17 KO’s) Nate Gallimore.
Are they kidding?: Pre-Thanksgiving Turkeys are being served up on a November 27th boxing show in Windham, NH.
Here is some of the menu being served by Boston Boxing Promotions on a card they are billing as a “Thanksgiving Eve Boxing Spectacular.” The show, as of this writing, features up-and-coming heavyweight Cassius Chaney (17-0, 11 KO’s) against Nick Jones (7-2, but has lost his last two by KO); and unbeaten jr. middleweight LeShawn Rodriguez (11-0, 8 KO’s) against Francisco Castro (28-11), who has lost seven of his last eight contests. The undercard also has 25-5-1 Juan Carlos Abreu v 18-17-2 Jose Medina, a man who is 1-8-1 in his last 10 contests. One of the undercard bouts is a welterweight contest between popular Brandon Higgins and LaQuan Lewis. Promoters are trying to build this bout as something fight boxing fans should sit up and take notice of. Higgins, a 25-year-old out of Chelmsford, MA (some 24 miles from Windham), is 2-0 with one knockout. His first fight took place against an opponent who was 1-5. Higgins decisioned him. Higgins stopped his second opponent in the first round. The guy came in 0-3, having been stopped in two of the three contests! Now comes Lewis. Lewis is nothing more than an opponent for Higgins. He is 2-11. He has been stopped in six of his 11 losses. Nine of his opponents have had losing of .500 records. If nothing else, Lewis is a nice guy. He’s not a threat to beat Higgins.
It’s incredible how delectable promoters are making this dish sound to those in Windham who are hungry for boxing. We’ll keep an eye on how this show develops over the next month. I’m sure if there are any pullouts, quality opponents such as Willie Dive, Kenny Breathe, G. Howie Phartz, Juss Abum and Puffthe Malik Dragoon can step in and perform. As a “Thanksgiving Eve Spectacular,” I am sure this terrific meal will be served with stuffing, cranberry sauce and all the trimmings.
Now, this is nice!: Two interesting bouts have been added to the Andy Ruiz v Anthony Joshua undercard. One of those bouts is a heavyweight matchup between Alexander Povetkin (35-2, 24 KO’s) and Michael Hunter (18-1, 12 KO’s). Another is a featherweight matchup between Scott Quigg (35-2-2, 26 KO’s) and Jono Carroll (17-1-1, 3 KO’s). Carroll’s lone loss came on a decision last March when he challenged Tevin Farmer for his IBF Super Featherweight Title.
Recently, Bob Arum was a guest on the SiriusXM boxing show I co-host with Gerry Cooney—“At the Fights.” Arum was talking about one of the stars of his promotional stable, Vasily Lomachenko. Cooney asked the Hall-of-Fame promoter if he ever considered matching Lomachenko against future Hall-of-Famer Manny Pacquiao.
“You know, I never thought of that fight,” said Arum. “It’s a terrific matchup. I’ve gotta’ mention it to both guys.” Then he joked, “If the fight gets made, Gerry, I’ll send you a bonus for coming up with the fight.”
The fact is, Pacquiao v Lomachenko IS a compelling matchup. But at what weight?
“Lomachenko can’t really go much higher in weight,” Arum told us. “He has to eat a tremendous amount of calories per day just to make 135 pounds. Remember, he’s really a featherweight who has moved up. Perhaps the fight can be made at a catchweight of around 138 pounds. I will discuss it with both guys and keep you posted.” Then he thanked Cooney for the suggestion, adding, “Have you ever thought of being a matchmaker, Gerry?”
Tyson Fury is not shy about creating a buzz around things he says and does. He recently showed up at a WWE event featuring gargantuan Braun Strowman. Strowman, who weighs close to 400 pounds, also stands around 6‘9,” the same as Fury. The two got into a WWE-type skirmish, and you just knew what was going to happen next. Yep, on “Monday Night RAW,” last week, Fury and Strowman got into it, and “punches” flew. Security guards were “knocked out.” Nobody builds an event better than the WWE.
Now, it’s Fury v Strowman on October 31 in an event called “Crown Jewel” by the WWE, on PPV. The buildup for Wilder-Fury has begun. If nothing else, Fury v Strowman will be fun. Let’s hope nothing goes wrong in the upcoming theatre between Fury and Strowman—like Fury’s recently-repaired eye cuts, sustained against Otto Wallin on September 14, opening up. Those cuts are still raw and pink. That would definitely mess up an early 2020 rematch v Wilder. Despite this upcoming WWE event, which will be well-scripted, scripts often go wrong. Let’s hope for WWE theatre at its best, and that both men stick to the script.
In late August, my longtime SiriusXM producer, Josh Friedman called Gerry Cooney and me into his office on the day of a show and asked how we felt about having a writer for a small website come on as a guest. Why? He had just written a column entitled, “Boxing is Dead!”
He based his article on the fact that Errol Spence was not fighting Terence Crawford this year and Deontay Wilder wasn’t facing Tyson Fury this calendar year, either. Josh was curious if Gerry and I would be interested in having the columnist come on and debate us on the subject. Gerry and I turned to look at each other
“No way,” we said in unison.
“Boxing is more alive than ever!” exploded Gerry.
“This loser is looking for publicity,” I said. “This boxing-hater from an unheard of website is looking to come on the biggest radio show in the sport and get some publicity. Go tell him to write an article ‘Golf is the Most Exciting Sport in the World’ and talk about it on the Golf Channel.’”
Then, I added, “He’s not coming on the show!”
Boxing is dead? What a laugh! The sport is more alive now than it has been in years. Maybe decades. From the moment we heard about that asinine column (to which we will not give the honor of mentioning either the website or the author!), which was in late August, here are just some of the fights the sport has produced and will be producing over the next two months:
Sergei Kovalev TKO 11 Anthony Yarde
Vasily Lomachenko W 12 Luke Campbell
Tyson Fury W 12 Otto Wallin
Errol Spence W 12 Shawn Porter (F.O.Y. candidate)
David Benavidez. TKO Anthony Dirrell
GGG W 12 Sergei Derevyanchenko (F.O.Y. candidate)
Oleksandr Usyk TKO 7 Chazz Witherspoon (This was the heavyweight debut for 2018’s “Fighter of the Year”)
Oct. 26–Regis Prograis v Josh Taylor in the WBSS finals at 140 lbs. on DAZN (This is sure to be one of the best fights of the year!)
Nov. 7–Naoya Inoue v Nonito Donaire in the WBSS finals at 118 lbs. on DAZN
Nov. 23–Deontay Wilder v Luis Ortiz in a rematch of their March 2018 bout on FOX PPV
Dec. 7–Andy Ruiz v Anthony Joshua on DAZN
“Boxing is Dead,” wrote that columnist. Boxing is not dead. If anything, his column is dead!
Although the thuggish sneak-attack on trainer James Bashir Ali during the Claressa Shields–Ivana Habazin weigh-in was heavily reported and covered a few weeks ago, little was made over the apprehension of the assailant. That person has been captured and detained in prison, as authorities are now preparing charges against him. His name is Artis Mack, the brother of Claressa Shields. Ali, sucker-punched by Artis after arguing with Shields’ sister, suffered a broken jaw, knocked out teeth and a concussion. Hopefully, the assailant has a jail sentence awaiting him. A long one!
I keep looking at my watch. When you’ve been waiting for a year for a major title fight, that fight can’t get here soon enough!
Ring that bell for Regis Prograis v Josh Taylor!
PUBLISHER NOTE: I can heartily recommend Gordon’s book, “Glove Affair,” for its wealth of anecdotes, insight and opinion. Buy it here.