It was an eventful week in the world of boxing. Canelo Alvarez claimed the vast majority of headlines as he became the undisputed super middleweight champion of the world by knocking out Caleb Plant on Saturday. So naturally, attention immediately turned toward what’s next for boxing’s pound-for-pound No. 1 fighter.
In the postfight news conference, Alvarez said that after a busy 2021 he wanted to give his body a break and that he’d return in May. That just so happens to line up with a window in which Gennadiy Golovkin could fight, provided he wins his bout in Japan against Ryota Murata in late December. So if Alvarez and GGG finally realize their trilogy fight, up at 168 pounds following two clashes at 160, would Canelo finally get the decisive victory that eluded him the first two times?
Another direction Alvarez could theoretically go in would be a fight against undefeated super middleweight titleholder David Benavidez. But with no title, and a late replacement opponent rather than a true resume builder, can Benavidez claim to be the best super middleweight not named Canelo Alvarez?
Mikaela Mayer made a big leap in her career on Friday, becoming a unified junior lightweight champion with her victory over Maiva Hamadouche. Is she ready to fight fellow junior lightweight titleholder Terri Harper?
Finally, Jake Paul is getting set to fight Tommy Fury — the half-brother of heavyweight world titleholder Tyson Fury — and Paul has attached another stipulation to one of his fights — a temporary name change for Fury if he loses. Has this gone too far?
Our panel, which features Mike Coppinger, Marc Raimondi, Ben Baby and Michael Rothstein, breaks down the latest in boxing news and separates what’s real from what’s not.
Real or Not: Canelo Alvarez will beat GGG at 168
Coppinger: Twenty-four rounds couldn’t separate them, but if they meet a third time, we’ll finally get a definitive winner. And it’ll be Canelo who comes out on top, via decision. Alvarez is peaking (and active), while GGG fought only once last year and will fight once in 2021, too.
Assuming Golovin takes care of Murata on Dec. 29 as expected, it makes all the sense in the world for GGG to finally leave middleweight behind and move to 168, where Alvarez is the undisputed champion.
Golovkin is now 39 and past his best days, but he proved in two fights that he has the right style to contend with Alvarez. He also has a granite chin, one Canelo hasn’t been able to chip away at.
Alvarez would be a decided favorite this time around, and with good reason. His relentless pressure style was far too much for Billy Joe Saunders and Plant, and he has won world titles at light heavyweight, too. But if GGG has one great fight left in him, he has a chance to test Alvarez one more time. Still, it won’t be enough, and Alvarez will have some clarity in his only true rivalry.
Real or Not: Is Jake Paul taking it too far with the nickname bet against Tommy Fury?
Raimondi: Too far? Nah. The whole thing is pretty juvenile, but also entirely harmless. It’s reminiscent of a stipulation in a pro wrestling match and it seems like these types of things have become part of Paul’s brand as a boxer. Remember the Tyron Woodley tattoo bet? That didn’t work out exactly as expected, but Woodley got the “I love Jake Paul” tattoo on his finger and the whole thing got a lot of publicity. Obviously, purists will roll their eyes at stuff like this. But isn’t that the case with much of what Paul is doing? He comes from the world of social-media publicity stunts, so this falls right in line.
The wager in this case is this: If Paul wins, Fury has to change his name (temporarily) to Tommy “Fumbles,” and if Fury wins, Paul will send $500,000 of his fight purse to Fury. To be honest, you can see why that might be alluring for Fury. That’s not a small amount of money and surely he and his team are confident Fury will win and collect on that dollar figure. Will Fury actually change his name if he loses? He’s not contractually obligated to do so, per his promoter, Frank Warren. But he did agree to it verbally with Paul’s team. Besides, this wasn’t even Paul’s idea — Fury’s older half-brother, Tyson, the undefeated heavyweight world champion, was the first one to say Tommy should change his name if he loses to Paul.
Personally, this name bet doesn’t do a whole lot for me. I’m interested in this as a fight and, taking a look at the bigger picture, how the business of combat sports continues to evolve. But we’re covering this Tommy Fumbles bet and giving it attention, so Paul and his team have already won. Again. Next time, I hope Paul goes full pro wrestling and challenges his opponent to a hair-versus-hair match.
Real or Not: After a big win over Maiva Hamadouche, Mikaela Mayer is ready for Terri Harper
Rothstein: Yes, Mayer is ready for Harper. How soon that happens remains to be seen, because there’s more unifying to do in the division and Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn said he sees Mayer-Harper as a fight for the undisputed title in the division. That Hearn sees this as a future fight bodes well for it happening.
But Mayer, in standing with and beating Maiva Hamadouche, showed a level to her fighting skills she hadn’t yet displayed. She proved she can hang in a brawl, in addition to her previously known technical skills. It was a clear step forward in what was her most difficult fight. There’s little question Mayer would like to continue to unify the division — that has been her long-stated goal — and it would seem like there is a real path forward for that to happen now.
Harper would be another step up in competition. And if it happens, the winner of that fight would be set up for potential superfights down the road with Katie Taylor or Amanda Serrano. But as big as Friday night was for Mayer, and there’s no question it was a massive deal for her, it was also a big deal for the sport. She delivered — really, the whole fight delivered — in a main event that was scheduled as such, rather than a last-minute switch.
It was an action-packed, exciting fight that even had judging nonsense thrown in, and if there’s one thing in boxing that’s a constant, it’s the questionable decision-making of judges. Fights like Friday can make people take notice, both of individual fighters like the emerging star Mayer is and of a sport still trying to find more of a footing in the consciousness of both fight fans and the general population. Scheduling more fights like this can only increase exposure and visibility.
So yes, Mayer is ready for Harper. The entirety of the sport is likely ready for that fight, too.
Real or Not: Is David Benavidez the best super middleweight fighter without a title?
Baby: This one is pretty real. Benavidez is easily the No. 2 fighter in the division behind Alvarez, as evidenced by the ESPN rankings.
Benavidez was on the verge of adding a strong win to his resume against Jose Uzcategui before Uzcategui was removed from the fixture following a positive performance-enhancing drug test.
Kyrone Davis won’t give Benavidez that boost he’s looking for. And Benavidez doesn’t have nearly enough leverage to face Canelo. Canelo is at the point where he can pick the best fights after fulfilling his quest to become the undisputed super middleweight champion.
Benavidez needs better wins on his resume to match what the eye test tells us. He has all the tools to be a true 168-pound champion. But right now, he represents all the risk with little reward for someone at the peak like Canelo.
Real or Not: Gabriel Rosado will score another big upset against Jaime Munguia
Coppinger: Not real. Rosado is easily Munguia’s toughest test yet, and he’s coming off a career-best victory in an upset KO of Bektemir Melikuziev. He might have upended Munguia even a year ago, but the 25-year-old from Mexico has improved plenty over his past few fights, and he figures to score another stoppage.
It should be a brutal fight while it lasts. Munguia uses brute force, size and strength to overwhelm foes; Rosado, too, applies nonstop pressure.
With a win over Rosado, a genuine gatekeeper, Rosado should be on the brink of a title shot. A fight with GGG is a natural fit, if GGG doesn’t fight Canelo next.