(photograph courtesy of sports.yahoo.com)
There were a number of reasons why 2015 marked a highly enthralling year in boxing. Floyd Mayweather finished his glistening career with a momentous victory over arch-rival Manny Pacquiao and a signature win over Andre Berto. Tyson Fury overcame all the odds with an astonishingly comfortable win over future Hall of Famer Wladimir Klitschko in Germany, to become the Lineal, WBA (Super), IBF, IBO, WBO and The Ring Magazine Heavyweight champion. In the latest chapter of the storied Puerto Rico-Mexican rivalry, Canelo Alvarez unanimously outpointed four-weight divison champion Miguel Cotto to claim the Lineal, Ring and WBC Middleweight belts. And the year concluded with Anthony Joshua overcoming the spirited effort of Dillian Whyte in a pulsating encounter to become the British and Commonwealth Heavyweight champion, and settling their bitter rivalry for now at least.
Now into 2016, three big fights take place over the next couple of months:
Danny Garcia vs Robert Guerrero – 23rd January 2016
This fight takes places place at the Staples Centre in Los Angles, California and will be Danny Garcia’s second at welterweight following his stoppage victory over Paulie Malignaggi last August. Despite boasting a 31-fight unbeaten record with 18 of those wins coming by way of knockout – and holding impressive wins over former world champions Erik Morales, Zab Judah, Amir Khan and Lamont Peterson (as well as fabulous unanimous points victory over the hard-hitting Argentinian Lucas Matthyse), the native Philadelphian still remains somewhat of a chasm in terms of support in the U.S. – perhaps, and rather unfairly, due to his rather reserved personality and, with all the greatest respect, solid but not exceptional boxing style.
Garcia comes up against Robert Guerrero who at 32-years old, and having recently come off a very disappointing and lacklustre loss to WBA Welterweight champion Keith Thurman, surely cannot afford another loss to Garcia. One gets the impression that Guerrero’s career as a top-end fighter at 147 pounds has gradually declined since losing overwhelmingly to Floyd Mayweather in May 2012. Inactivity in the ring (Guerrero has only fought four times sine the Mayweather fight) as well as uninspiring wins over Yoshihiro Kamegai and Aaron Martinez has made Guerrero almost a forgotten force in the division.
A Guerrero loss will surely bring an end to the Californian’s time as a ‘top rank’ fighter- a win for Garcia will open up possible fights with Shawn Porter, Kell Brook, Thurman or a rematch with previous nemesis Amir Khan.
Prediction – Garcia win on points
Sergey Kovalev vs Jean Pascal rematch – 30th January 2016
Towards the end of the first month of 2016, Kovalev will be defending his WBA (Super), IBF and WBO Light Hevyweight titles against experienced the former WBC Light-Heavyweight champion Jean Pascal, a rematch at the Bell Centre, Montreal, Quebec. The first fight which took place in the same venue last March arguable represented Kovalev’s toughest test since becoming world champion in the summer of 2013. Despite taking control of the fight in the early rounds and knocking down Pascal in front of his home crowd in the fourth, Pascal fought valiantly in rounds five and six utilising his quicker hands to come on-top in exchanges. Kovalev reasserted control from then on however, and after a minor wobble in the seventh round, followed by a major wobble in the eight, the referee Luis Pabon stopped the fight – Pascal had taken too much punishment.
It is almost common acceptance in the boxing world that after Middleweight kingpin Gennady Golovkin, there is no other pugilist as frighteningly menacing in the ring as Sergey Kovalev. The Russian’s 86 percent knockout rate, stopping 25 of his 27 victims in the process, is the second highest in boxing – only Golovkin at 91 per cent stands higher. In his 2011 bout against Roman Simakov, Kovalev knocked down his fellow compatriot in the sixth round. The bout was brought to an end one round later and Kovalev was awarded a TKO victory. Sadly, Simakov was taken to the hospital, where he lapsed into a coma and died three days later. Kovalev’s dominant win over ring legend Bernard Hopkins in August 2014 also showed that he also has the capability to box intelligently and demonstrate his admirable boxing skills.
It is really hard to look beyond a Kovalev win via stoppage in this forthcoming rematch. Kovalev followed the win in the first contest with another TKO victory over Frenchman Nadjib Mohammedi in Round 3. Pascal, on the other hand, is now training with legendary boxing trainer Freddie Roach having moved on from his idol, the boxing great, Roy Jones Jr. It will be very interesting to find out how Roach will look to take advantage of Pascal’s handspeed and athleticism against such a ferocious fighter in Kovalev. The former’s last outing was a controversial and insipid performance against the underrated Cuban Yunieski Gonzalez, winning unanimously in a 10-round fight. A win for Kovalev, and lucrative bouts with Andre Ward, and a lonng and eagerly-anticipated clash against the other Light-Heavyweight titlist Adonis Stevenson beckons in the summer.
Prediction – Kovalev TKO win (Round 7)
Carl Frampton vs Scott Quigg – IBF and WBA Super Bantamweight titles – 27th February 2016
Arguably the pick of the three fights of early 2016 is this domestic clash in the Manchester Arena between two of Britain’s current twelve world champions – the IBF Super-Bantamweight Champion Carl Frampton of Belfast comes up against Bury’s Scott Quigg who holds the WBA title in the 122-pound division. Both fighters have yet to taste defeat and their wins over former IBF champion Kiko Martinez represent career highs to date for Frampton and Quigg.
This fight is a compliment to the upward trajectory of the previously understated Quigg, whom prior to his fantastic win over Martinez in July had been overlooked as a true champion due to the nature in which he became world champion – assuming the vacant WBA title without a fight and his two draws against journeyman Rendall Munroe and Yoandris Salinas. Conversely, Frampton’s record is unblemished, holds two wins over Martinez, winning the IBF strap with a convincing win over the latter in their second fight.
After continuous trading of insults on social media between Quigg and Frampton and months of negotiations between the fighters promoters Barry McGuigan and Eddie Hearn, the mega fight was confirmed on 2nd November 2015 and the winner will not only unify the Super-Bantamweight division, but also set up exciting fights against conceivably the pound-for-pound most technically-accomplished fighter in the sport, Guillermo Rigondeaux; four-weight world champion Nonito Donaire or even a domestic bout with Doncaster’s Gavin McDonnell who recently relinquished his European title in order to challenge for world honours.
Quigg, the bigger of the two, is a harder puncher and must use his bigger frame and higher work rate to out-power and out-hustle the slicker Frampton if he is to emerge victorious. Alternatively, for Frampton to win, surely staying in the centre of the ring and avoid getting involved in a brawl surely stands as his best chance of being successful that night. Irrespective of the outcome, this fight promises to be one of the spectacles of this new year.
Prediction – Frampton win on points
With these three fights taking place over the next couple of months, as well as other compelling fights that have been more-or-less agreed such as WBC Heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder making the third defence of his title against Poland’s Artur Szpilka; Fury and Klitschko set to fight again later in the year; the outspoken Adrien Broner confirming his fight with Ashley Theophane for the is WBC Super-Lightweight championship; as well as former two-weight world champion David Haye and eight-weight division titlist Manny Pacquiao making their returns – 2016 promises to be another mouth-watering year in boxing.