What was going to be the biggest fight of the year and perhaps the biggest rematch in the past several years now turned into a black eye for the sport of boxing in a time it desperately did not need one. After Canelo Alvarez tested positive for traces of clenbuterol in February, a press conference was held on April 3 to announce that Alvarez would be withdrawing from his May 5 fight against Gennady Golovkin.
The announcement was not exactly a major surprise, given that Alvarez is looking at a likely suspension from the Nevada State Athletic Commission that could go between six to 12 months. The commission will evaluate Alvarez's case on April 18 and determine the length of his suspension, should he receive any, determining whether or not the much-demanded rematch for the unified middleweight titles is still a go for 2018 or be put off until 2019 at the earliest.
Elsewhere across the pond, Anthony Joshua became the first man to hold three major world heavyweight titles since Tyson Fury in 2015 after Joshua defeated now-former WBO heavyweight champion Joseph Parker in front of approximately 80,000 people at Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. The fight itself was underwhelming, with neither boxer making the bout a brawl as many had hoped and predicted, given both men's power and knockout rates. Still, Joshua did just enough to secure the win as it went the distance for the first time in Joshua's professional career.
But the bigger takeaway from Cardiff is that there is essentially no roadblocks remaining for a potential superfight between Joshua, the WBA "super," WBO and IBF heavyweight champion and Deontay Wilder, the WBC heavyweight champion, to determine the sport's next undisputed world heavyweight champion. The next few months are going to be very interesting as negotiations between Wilder's camp, managed by Al Haymon and Shelly Finkel, and Eddie Hearn, Joshua's promoter, have been on and off for almost a year. With both men winning their respective fights in March on Showtime, the timing is finally perfect to have the two heavyweight champions fight in one of the most highly-anticipated heavyweight boxing matches in several decades.
All this and more is covered on this week's edition of the Fightful Boxing Newsletter. Fightful Boxing Newsletter (4/5) Table Of Contents:
- Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin 2 Canceled (Pages 2-3)
- Anthony Joshua vs. Joseph Parker Review, What's Next For Joshua? (Page 4)
- Manny Pacquiao vs. Lucas Matthysse A Done Deal (Page 5)
- Jorge Linares vs. Vasyl Lomachenko Announced (Page 6)
- Japanese Boxing Roundup (Page 7)
- British Boxing Roundup (Page 8)
- United States Boxing Roundup (Page 9)
- Erislanda Lara vs. Jarrett Hurd, Caleb Truax vs. James DeGale 2 Preview (Page 10)
Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin 2 Canceled:
The planned May 5 superfight between Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez has been canceled after Alvarez withdrew from the fight, testing positive for traces of clenbuterol on two tests in February.
The announcement came during a press conference Golden Boy Promotions and Alvarez had in California. Golden Boy Promotions President Eric Gomez said Alvarez would withdraw from the fight, canceling what likely would have been the biggest boxing fight of 2018.
Alvarez is temporarily suspended by the Nevada State Athletic Commission and is likely looking at a suspension of at least six months when the commission holds a meeting on April 18 to decide on Alvarez’s suspension.
The maelstrom of controversy started on March 5 when Golden Boy Promotions issued a press release announcing that Alvarez had failed a drug test in February for traces of clenbuterol. The test that produced a positive result took place in Alvarez’s hometown of Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico and was administered by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA). When it was revealed that Alvarez had tested positive for clenbuterol, Alvarez claimed the positive test came from tainted meat he consumed in Mexico. But at the time of the announcement, the public had only known about one failed test at an unspecified time, which later was revealed to be February 17. A few days later, Bob Bennett, the executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, called me to notify me that the commission is not only investigating the matter, but that there was a second positive result on February 20 with that test also taking place in Guadalajara.
In a letter sent by VADA, Alvarez’s February 17 sample came back with 0.6-0.8 ng/ml of clenbuterol, and the February 20 sample came back with 0.06-0.08 ng/ml of clenbuterol, an amount that is in range of someone consuming contaminated meat, according to experts as well as Dr. Daniel Eichner, Director of SMRTL, the lab accredited by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). Since failing those two drug tests in February, Alvarez has passed all of his drug tests since the two failed tests. The Nevada State Athletic Commission is still investigating the positive tests from February, but did tell me that he passed two tests on March 3 and 5. Since that conversation, Alvarez did in fact pass another test.
"I am an athlete who respects the sport and this surprises me and bothers me because it had never happened to me," Alvarez said in the March 5 press release. "I will submit to all the tests that require me to clarify this embarrassing situation, and I trust that at the end the truth will prevail."
It should be noted that once the initial announcement came last month Alvarez and his camp immediately moved to the United States to continue his training camp so he was not in danger of failing another test for clenbuterol if in fact, he had simply eaten contaminated meat.
The April 3 press conference went into detail certain specifics of the failed test including how Alvarez first knew about the first test result. Alvarez said it was Gomez who told him of the first test by phone, but assured the boxer that the people who looked at the test result were about “95 percent” certain the positive result came from contaminated meat.
Clenbuterol is listed on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Prohibited List and according to the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) official website, the substance is classified under the category of other "Anabolic Agents." It is currently banned in the United States, but not in Mexico, where food regulations are not as strict. Multiple Mexican boxers, including Francisco Vargas and Erik Morales, have also tested positive for clenbuterol due to what they claim was from consuming contaminated meat.
In the case of Vargas and Morales, both boxers tested positive with fights in California and New York, respectively, although both never really faced any severe consequences. Vargas tested positive on April 2016 ahead of a world title fight against Orlando Salido and the fight went on as planned, with the bout ending in a draw. Morales failed numerous pre-fight tests for clenbuterol before his fight against Danny Garcia in New York. Morales would go on to fight Garcia, getting knocked out in the fourth round and retiring afterwards.
In Mexico, tainted meat has been kind of an epidemic for years, especially with high profile athletes. Back in 2011, five members of the Mexican national soccer team tested positive for clenbuterol and were not allowed to take part in the Gold Cup later that year. The ruling of that case was that contaminated meat played a role in the positive tests and the players were not punished any further. Also in 2011 in the Under-17 FIFA World Cup competition in Mexico, a majority of players, more specifically players from 19 of the 24 teams in the tournament, tested had traces of clenbuterol in their systems due to tainted meat. FIFA medical officer Jiri Dvorak revealed that 109 of the 208 urine samples from the tournament tested positive for traces of clenbuterol, but said this was not a case of players cheating. FIFA and WADA did not pursue any prosecution because they believed it was contaminated meat that caused the positive results.
But the issue of clenbuterol in athletes systems does extend to boxers outside of the United States. In 2016, when Lucas Browne knocked out Ruslan Chagaev to win the WBA “regular” heavyweight title, Browne tested positive for clenbuterol and he said he believed it may have come from tainted meat. Browne was not only stripped of the title, but also suspended by the WBA Championships Committee for six months. Browne returned to competition in 2017 and has a 1-1 record since the suspension.
A number of other athletes from other sports also tested positive for clenbuterol, but the ranges for those tests also show tainted meat was a likely culprit. WADA has stated that tests revealing clenbuterol levels below 1 ng/ml are within the range of contaminated food. Below are just a number of different athletes and their clenbuterol levels when they first tested positive for the banned substance.
- Chinese cyclist Fuyu Li: .005-.01 ng/ml
- Italian cyclist Alessandro Colo: 0.2 ng/ml
- Spanish cyclist Alberto Contador: .005 ng/ml
- German table tennis player Dimitrij Ovtcharov: .0075 ng/ml
- Canelo Alvarez: 0.6-0.8 ng/ml
Alvarez continued to plead innocence and does not believe he is a dirty fighter. Alvarez and his team said at the press conference that they have cooperated with the NSAC from that point onwards. They have said they have given the commission credit card and bank statements dating back to the days leading to February 17 and 20. People who defend Alvarez can point to that and say that Alvarez has been compliant and showing proof that he has not cheated, but those who are more skeptical will say that those statements do not prove anything as those statements presumably do not show any cash payments or purchases that would not show up on credit card statements.
Perhaps the most head-scratching moment of the entire press conference came when Alvarez got defensive on the subject of Golovkin’s comments in the past few weeks. Alvarez said, “What Golovkin or his team say does not bother me at all… It sounds more to like an excuse of not wanting to fight me, like he’s scared, to be honest.”
While it is true that Golovkin has been extremely critical of Alvarez, highly uncharacteristic of a boxer who never says anything controversial in the public eye, it’s hard to really put any fault on Golovkin for feeling this way.
"Again with Mexican meat? Come on," Golovkin said last month in front of media. "I told you, it's not Mexican meat. This is Canelo. This is his team. This is his promotion. Canelo is cheating. They're using these drugs, and everybody is just trying to pretend it's not happening. This guy, he knows. This is not his first day in boxing. He proves he gets benefits from everyone and he can get away with it. Check him on a lie detector and then we can find out everything."
Golovkin’s frustrations also extend to the Nevada State Athletic Commission. The first fight, which took place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and generated the third-highest live gate in the history of Nevada for a boxing event, ended in a controversial split draw. The main source of criticism was deeply rooted in the NSAC for selecting Adalaide Byrd as one of the three judges for the bout and Byrd actually scoring the fight 118-110 in favor of Alvarez. Most pundits believe Golovkin won the fight and considered the 118-110 scorecard to be a complete travesty and embarrassment for a sport that already has an extensive past regarding rogue judges and extremely faulty scoring.
"I think it is silly to blame the meat because an athlete at this level should not be caught on the meat. I eat Mexican food all the time and I've never had that problem. If nobody from the commission will cancel it, I will do my job… What did he inject in his belly? What are the marks on his belly? Look at the photos. These questions should be asked of the commission. It was pretty obvious when [Alvarez's] muscles were all [enlarged] ... and with the traces of injections, which were visible," Golovkin told ESPN. "Before the first fight, I knew he was not clean. I can talk about Oscar De La Hoya too. He is also not clean. He's dirty."
But then again, Alvarez’s comments should not be considered a complete surprise. He is echoing sentiments expressed by Gomez last month when he was informed about Golovkin’s comments.
"[Golovkin] doesn't sound like a confident fighter. It sounds like he wants to try to find a way out of the fight," Gomez said. "If that's what he wants, he should just say so. Just last week he said the opposite. The remarks about the needle marks, the remarks about Oscar, the defamatory things he said, we'll deal with them appropriately.”
An exceptional article by Iain Caid debunks certain misconceptions people had regarding clenbuterol and drug testing for the substance. According to the article, the tests that VADA conducted is not able to tell the difference between tainted meat and intentional ingestion of clenbuterol, but then also points out that no other scientifically-validated test could accomplish what the VADA test could not.
The test also isn’t able to distinguish between someone who ingested a lot of clenbuterol a week ago, and a small amount of clenbuterol a day ago.
The amount of clenbuterol in the body decreases over time, which is why Canelo’s results decreased by a factor of 10 over three days. When you ingest clenbuterol, it doesn’t stay in your body forever. Some gets used and some is excreted in urine. Over time, the amount that gets excreted decreases, since the amount in the body also decreases. This might sound obvious, but there are a lot of people who believe that one test being lower than a previous test somehow indicates doping. It doesn’t.
At this moment, there are only two important dates remaining. April 5 and April 18. April 5 is when the commission will meet to decide whether or not it approves a request made by GGG Promotions, LLC for a conditional program permit to promote a boxing event on May at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas in case the rematch against Alvarez is canceled. This would guarantee Golovkin would have a venue to host the fight.
In the aftermath of Alvarez’s press conference on April 3, he released a short statement simply saying:
“I am looking forward to returning to Las Vegas for my 20th title defense and headlining my first Cinco De Mayo event on May 5. It is time for less drama and more fighting.”
To answer the question as to why Golovkin would request a change in venue if the T-Mobile Arena is already reserved for a fight involving the unified middleweight champion, MGM Resorts International had already offered full refunds for those that had bought a ticket to the bout. The change in venue would allow Golovkin a place to market and sell tickets and fight without the worry of the T-Mobile Arena refunding tickets.
The MGM Grand Garden Arena has been one of several venues in Las Vegas synonymous with world championship boxing events in the city. The last world notable event the venue had was in 2016 when Manny Pacquiao defeated Timothy Bradley and Ramirez retained his WBO middleweight title on an HBO pay-per-view event. The venue has a max capacity 17,157, down from the 22,358 attendants the first fight between Golovkin and Alvarez drew last year.
It is expected, but not a guarantee, that the commission will approve Golovkin’s request and from then, it is expected that Golovkin would announce who would be his replacement opponent for May 5 in the days after April 5. There are a number of different boxers that have stepped up to accept a fight with Golovkin if they would get offered the fight and others who have been linked to a fight with Golovkin.
Let’s get the latter of the two categories out of the way. The two biggest names in the middleweight division not named Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin are WBO middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders and former WBA “regular” middleweight champion Daniel Jacobs. Fans had been clamoring for both fighters to fight Golovkin on May 5, but at this point and juncture, neither of those two boxers will fight Golovkin on May 5.
Saunders was originally supposed to defend his world title against Martin Murray in England on April 14, but Saunders suffered an injury and the fight has since then been moved to June. The injury is not considered serious, but it is doubtful Saunders would consider changing opponents with a month’s notice all the while being not at 100 percent. There’s also the fact that Saunders has promised Murray that Saunders’ next fight is against Murray.
As for Jacobs, the former middleweight champion has a fight on April 28 against Maciej Sulecki at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. That fight is scheduled to headline an HBO Boxing After Dark live broadcast and Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn, the main promoter of that card, wants to keep the card intact and not have Jacobs change opponents with so little time to market what is considered the second biggest middleweight rematch in the world behind Alvarez vs. Golovkin 2.
Jacobs fought Golovkin in an extremely close fight at Madison Square Garden back in March 2017, but ultimately lost by unanimous decision. Many felt that Jacobs was Golovkin’s toughest fight up to that point and that a rematch between the two must happen at some point down the road. Jacobs’ fight against Sulecki was recently elevated to a WBA middleweight title eliminator, meaning a Jacobs win would put him on the short list of boxers who have the right to challenge for Golovkin’s titles.
As for the boxers who had been offered to fight Golovkin, a number of middleweights and super middleweights are linked to a May 5 fight. Perhaps the favorite to fight Golovkin is Gary “Spike” O’Sullivan. O’Sullivan scored an upset win over Antoine Douglas to win the WBA-NABA and vacant WBO Intercontinental middleweight titles. O’Sullivan has stated for weeks that he has signed on to be Alvarez’s opponent after May 5, regardless of Alvarez defeating or losing to Golovkin. O’Sullivan said he’s already prepared to face Golovkin and would accept a fight with Golovkin.
Undefeated middleweight contender Demetrius Andrade was one of the first to announce he would accept a fight against Golovkin. Andrade last fought on October 21, 2017 when he scored a unanimous decision win over previously unbeaten Alantez Fox. Top Rank promoter Bob Arum recently tweeted that WBO super middleweight champion Gilberto Ramirez would more than welcome a fight against Golovkin so long as Golovkin moved up in weight to challenge for Ramirez’s titles. New York promoter Lou DiBella also said Sergiy Derevyanchenko, the mandatory challenger for the IBF middleweight title currently held by Golovkin, would be ready to fight Golovkin on May 5.
The only other notable boxers that have said they would be accept a fight against Golovkin at the MGM Grand are Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., who got dominated by Alvarez nearly a year ago on pay-per-view in his last fight, and unbeaten rising prospect Yamaguchi Falcao. Those two names, especially Chavez Jr., are extremely unlikely to even be considered for the fight.
The one wild card is perhaps Jaime Munguia, the 21-year-old Mexican prospect who is 28-0 and has been mentioned by Hispanic media to be someone the Golovkin camp is seriously considering. The reasoning from the Hispanic media is that since the fight is on Cinco De Mayo, a popular Mexican holiday for Mexican boxers to fight in big boxing events, Golovkin fighting one of the top Mexican boxers at 154 pounds would be a decent enough of a replacement for Alvarez. But that logic is somewhat flawed because Golovkin is already extremely popular among Mexicans and a Mexican opponent is not really necessary to have a good turnout on May 5 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
The second question regarding a Golovkin May 5 fight against someone that isn’t Alvarez would be whether or not the fight will remain a pay-per-view event. At this point, none of the names outside of Saunders and Jacobs seem like a viable B side on a pay-per-view event. HBO could be planning to keep Golovkin as a pay-per-view headliner for May, but outside of the fight against Alvarez last year, Golovkin has flopped as a pay-per-view headliner, failing to achieve even 200,000 buys for his two HBO pay-per-view fights against David Lemieux in 2015 and Daniel Jacobs in 2017.
HBO could simply chalk it up to fan interest being low because it wasn’t a fight against Alvarez and the network can argue that Golovkin’s name brand is the highest it has ever been and that they feel comfortable putting Golovkin on pay-per-view and still produce a decent buyrate. If we’re talking what makes the most amount of sense for the May 5 card, it would be hard to argue Golovkin fighting Derevyanchenko on HBO television wouldn’t be the most logical plan for the fight. Derevyanchenko is a mandatory challenger and the IBF is perhaps the stingiest when it comes to champions fighting their mandatory challengers. There’s also the fact that HBO is started to lag behind Showtime when it comes to their boxing television schedule and overall success. Showtime has produced numerous successful events that has produced positive results for fans and pundits throughout 2018, while HBO can only lay claim to one very successful event so far: the “Superfly 2” event from February 24.
But with the May 5 event at the MGM Grand seemingly looking like it will happen, HBO will immediately scramble to fill the undercard. Remember, the Alvarez vs. Golovkin fight may have been set since January, but there were no other fights announced for that card, despite numerous names being thrown around. It’s still possible for those fights planned for the T-Mobile Arena card to simply move over to the MGM Grand card.
Assuming that is the case, with about four weeks remaining before May 5, there are a number of names that could still fight on the undercard that were originally linked to a fight on the now-scrapped T-Mobile Arena event. We’ve known for quite some time that former super flyweight world champion Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez has figured to be in the plans to fight in the co-main event, at least according to what his manager have said. At this point in time, there are a few boxers who could be his opponent. Those boxers include Luis Concepcion, and Rau’shee Warren but of course, there could be other names that could be considered for Gonzalez’s opponent.
Depending on who he picks as his opponent, the WBO could make the fight for the super flyweight title. Naoya Inoue held the title until recently when he announced he would move up in weight in order to challenge for Jamie McDonnell’s WBA “regular” bantamweight world title. Some of the top boxers in the WBO rankings wouldn’t be ready for May 5, mainly top ranked Rex Tso, who wrote on social media a few months ago that he would be taking a break from boxing for at least the first half of 2018, and No. 4 ranked Jose Martinez, who fought in the March 24 Golden Boy Boxing on ESPN main event in Puerto Rico and wouldn’t be ready to fight on May 5. Martinez did tell me back in February he would love to fight Gonzalez but only if the fight were to take place beyond May.
As for the other fights on the undercard, word was spreading around in the last few weeks that WBA super featherweight champion Alberto Machado could be defending his belt on that Alvarez vs. Golovkin. He is due to fight mandatory challenger Rafael Mensah, but the fight is currently on pace to go to purse bids. Golden Boy Promotions and Don King, Mensah’s promoter, are still negotiating with the hope the fight gets to take place on the original May 5 event. With the change, it’s hard to tell if that is the plan moving forward.
Moving on to the Alvarez case, April 18, the other important date remaining before May 5, will be when the Nevada State Athletic Commission decides what type of suspension Alvarez will face. Right now, Alvarez is looking at a one-year suspension by the NSAC per regulations that were ratified in late 2016.
Those same regulations do allow the commission to cut the suspension by as much as 50 percent (6 months in this case). Any kind of suspension handed to Alvarez would be retroactive to February 17, the date of Alvarez’s first positive drug test. A six-month suspension would mean Alvarez would be eligible to fight starting August 17. But the suspension’s length largely lies on the commission evaluating how Alvarez and Golden Boy Promotions have complied throughout the investigation and if Alvarez decides to own up and accept responsibility for negligence and testing positive.
It’s a definite change in tone as to how the commission has investigated this matter. One would have thought the Nevada State Athletic Commission, who stands to gain a lot from hosting the biggest boxing fight in the United States in 2018, would seemingly look the other way and allow the fight to continue with Alvarez’s positive tests being from tainted meat as a justifiable excuse. Many thought the money was too great to allow a positive drug test for clenbuterol cancel the fight altogether.
So what exactly changed in the last weeks?
Nothing, in all honesty. With the change in rules over the years, the commission would be making an example out of Alvarez by upholding its rules and not allow money sway them to let Alvarez fight on May 5.
Golden Boy Promotions and HBO started to realize this days after the announcement of Alvarez’s first positive drug test. The network stopped showing commercials for the fight and promotion for the event stopped altogether. HBO did not want to showcase a fight involving a fighter currently suspended by the commission and that the fight was up in the air. But by then, the network had already known Alvarez was going to be suspended past May 5.
Originally, the commission would have a preliminary hearing on March 30 that quickly changed to April 10 and then the commission further delayed it to April 18. One reason for the delays that has been theorized is that the commission hopes to goad Alvarez and Golden Boy Promotions into withdrawing from the fight on their own.
Golden Boy Promotions’ minds were made up as soon as the hearing got delayed to April 18. There was simply not enough time to properly market a fight that was expected to pull in at least 1.5 million buys on pay-per-view. Golden Boy Promotions then immediately went to work on trying to do damage control and work on a defense that would guarantee the shortest suspension possible for Alvarez.
The plan is to still have Alvarez fight Golovkin, perhaps on Mexican Independence Day weekend, similar to the first fight between the two which took place on September 16, 2017. That weekend would work for all sides since Alvarez’s suspension would be over by then if it was a six-month suspension and Golovkin would be ready to fight if he only fought on May 5.
Now what will Alvarez’s legacy be when it is all said and done? Alvarez is only 27 years old and probably has another 10 years as a pro boxer, so time and more fights will get some people to forget or overlook the clenbuterol tests, but his reputation is tarnished. It’s not completely unfixable, but for now, Alvarez will be looked at as a villain for quite some time.
While yes, fans are deprived of the fight that could decide the sport’s top boxer, this suspension will have ripple effects across boxing. For starters, we could see an influx of top Mexican fighters potentially holding camp outside of Mexico to avoid the risk of potentially eating contaminated meat and popping a positive drug test. With the NSAC firmly taking action against arguably the biggest name in boxing in Canelo Alvarez, who’s to say the Nevada commission, or any other commission in the United States, wouldn’t do the same thing to other boxers who use the age old excuse of tainted meat.
Those same Mexican boxers could also avoid Nevada from this point forward because they do not want to face potential repercussions if they end up testing positive for clenbuterol. With New York making a huge comeback on the global boxing scene and California still remaining a hotbed for Mexican boxers south of the border, it’s possible we could see more fights take place in those two states.
As far as the rematch between Alvarez and Golovkin is concerned, only time will tell if the public interest will still be as high as it was in the past few months once August and September comes. The last month or so has been a black eye to the sport as Alvarez is considered by many to be the top boxing star in the world today. With boxing enjoying a successful past 15 months, this type of controversy will have skeptics continue to say that boxing will never return to its former glory.
Anthony Joshua vs. Deontay Wilder Review, What’s Next For Joshua:
Anthony Joshua became one step closer to calling himself the undefeated and undisputed world heavyweight champion after defeating Joseph Parker to unify the WBA “super,” WBO and IBF heavyweight titles on March 31.
Joshua defeated Parker by unanimous decision (118-110, 118-110, 119-109) in Joshua’s first professional fight to go the distance. The fight itself was extremely lackluster and notable for two reasons: the referee and scorecards, both widely panned by pundits.
For the referee, Giuseppe Quartarone, who was referring his fourth world title fight, constantly stopped the fight whenever both fighters would take the fight up close before the two could even clinch.
As for the scorecards, many pundits believe the fight was too wide in favor of Joshua, saying that Parker won somewhere between three and five rounds. I did score the fight 118-110 in favor of Joshua, but a lot of the rounds in the bout were close, so a strong argument could be made that Parker deserved more credit in the scorecard.
There’s no denying that Parker wasn’t completely dominated by Joshua, but the simple matter of the fact is that, throughout the fight, Parker never really fired on all cylinders and simply looked lackadaisical against Joshua. Joshua didn’t have a tremendous performance, but he did do enough on most rounds to warrant a 118-110 score in my eyes, but that’s about as high as one should go for Joshua and still make it a reasonable scorecard.
The fight headlined a Showtime Championship Boxing telecast live from Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. The historic heavyweight title unification averaged 346,000 viewers on Showtime on the live March 31 telecast, peaking at 379,000 viewers. The fight was televised in the United States live in the afternoon and was in direct competition with the first of the two men's college basketball semifinal games, which drew more than 10 million viewers.
The replay of that fight, which took place later that evening, averaged 430,000 viewers, peaking at 483,000, for a combined average of 776,000 viewers on March 31. The live broadcast was slightly higher than Showtime’s viewership for Joshua’s previous fight, a TKO win over Carlos Takam back on October 28. That fight averaged 334,000 for the live airing and 309,000 for the prime time replay, good for a combined total of 643,000 viewers.
On April 5, Hearn and Joshua will meet to plan out Joshua’s rest of 2018 and see what they can do to make an offer to Wilder to have the WBA, WBC, WBO and IBF titles unified in what will be the biggest boxing fight of the year not counting Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin 2.
As it stands, there are a couple of options for both Joshua and Wilder. The first would obviously be the two of them fighting each other in the four-belt unification. It would be safe to assume that the IBO title that Joshua holds and the vacant Ring Magazine title would also be in play for that fight. If a fight deal were to get struck, then the fight would happen likely between August and October in the United Kingdom. It would be hard to imagine the fight take place anywhere else other than Wembley Stadium, where 90,000 people went to see Joshua defeat Wladimir Klitschko last year. Joshua vs. Wilder would be a guarantee sellout on any venue in the United Kingdom, however.
Now there is also the very real possibility that the heavyweight superfight does not happen next for both fighters and they hold it off for the end of 2018 or early 2019. In that case, both boxers will be looking at various opponents to fill those roles.
For Wilder, the likeliest candidate would be Dominic Breazeale, who won a title eliminator in his last fight and is the highest-ranked contender that doesn’t have a fight lined up for him. Dillian Whyte, the WBC’s No. 1 ranked heavyweight and Silver champion, was recently ordered by the IBF to fight Kubrat Pulev in a final eliminator to decide Joshua’s next mandatory challenger for the IBF title he holds.
What’s strange for Wilder is that he was supposed to host a media conference call on April 3. There was no specific reason mentioned as to why Wilder would be hosting a conference call, but hours before the media call was set to take place, the call got postponed for no apparent reason. The only thing members of the media were given was a statement by Wilder congratulating Joshua on the win over Parker and that he accepts Joshua’s challenge to go to the United Kingdom and fight for the undisputed heavyweight championship.
Over on the Joshua side, he really has only two realistic options: Alexander Povetkin and the winner of the Jarrell Miller vs. Johann Duhaupas fight taking place on the April 28 Matchroom Boxing card at the Barclays Center that will be televised on HBO.
Povetkin is technically the mandatory challenger after being named as such by the WBA late last year when he defeated Christian Hammer to walk away with the WBA Intercontinental and WBO International heavyweight titles last December. Povetkin fighting in the co-main event of Joshua’s fight against Parker is a clear sign that he’s being considered the Plan B or C in case the fight against Wilder doesn’t happen next for Joshua.
The April 28 fight between Miller and Duhaupas should see Miller come out as the winner of the fight. That fight is a title eliminator for the WBA title, meaning the winner could also be considered Joshua’s next opponent in August if talks between Wilder and Joshua fall through.
Principality Stadium March 31 Top Fight Results:
- Anthony Joshua defeats Joseph Parker to unify the WBA “super,” WBO and IBF heavyweight titles by unanimous decision: The fight started off with Joshua and Parker being extremely cautious with one another. Parker technically threw more punches because he threw more jabs but those punches were thrown to create some distance, but Parker never capitalized on outjabbing Joshua in the early going. The fight had only a few moments of excitement with Joshua outboxing Parker and turning the bout into a chess match instead of a straight brawl as many fans had hoped for. Joshua’s straight right caused a minor cut near Parker’s left eye, but neither fighter was in danger of getting knocked down. Parker seemed hesitant throughout the entire fight, thanks in part to a bad referee stopping the action every the bout got exciting and physical. Joshua now looks to be in position to fight Wilder later this year to unify all four major world titles in the heavyweight division.
- Alexander Povetkin defeats David Price to retain the WBA Intercontinental and WBO International heavyweight titles by knockout: The type of fight most people hoped to see in Joshua vs. Parker was present in Povetkin vs. Price. The fight was a slugfest almost from the start of the bout, with both men landing haymakers at certain moments in the fight. The third round was perhaps the most compelling one as both men were knocked down, with Price getting hit with a left hook and Povetkin going down by a right hand from Price. Povetkin did manage to score the win in the fifth round, retaining the WBA Intercontinental and WBO International heavyweight titles. Povetkin is now on the short list of boxers in the running for a shot at Joshua in case the fight against Wilder does not materialize.
- Ryan Burnett defeats Yonfrez Parejo to retain the WBA “super” bantamweight title by unanimous decision: Out of the top three fights on the March 31 card, Burnett’s had the most dominant performance. The first couple of rounds were not much to write home about, but Burnett quickly unleashed a flurry of combinations in the third round, but it came with a price. Burnett believed he may have broken his right hand on the round when he landed a punch with it at the start of the round. Parejo looked to find his footing for a bit about midway through the fight, but couldn’t really make the fight all that competitive when it was all said in done. Burnett retained the title with scores of 120-108, 120-108 and 116-112.
Manny Pacquiao vs. Lucas Matthysse A Done Deal:
Manny Pacquiao will indeed get his welterweight title fight against Lucas Matthysse with the help of a promoter other than Top Rank.
Golden Boy Promotions founder Oscar De La Hoya, whose company promotes Matthysse, wrote on social media that Pacquiao will challenge for Matthysse's WBA "regular" welterweight title on July 14 in Malaysia. According to Lance Pugmire of the LA Times, the fight will be broadcast on ESPN pay-per-view, but there is room for the possibility of moving the fight to July 21, pending talks with DirecTV that is expected to be finalized on April 3.
Pacquiao had been hoping to fight Matthysse ever since Matthysse won the WBA title in January against previously unbeaten Tewa Kiram on HBO. Pacquiao, who has not fought since losing his WBO welterweight title to Jeff Horn last year, was offered by Top Rank a fight against Mike Alvarado on the undercard of the Jeff Horn vs. Terence Crawford fight on April 14 in Las Vegas. Pacquiao rejected that fight and instead elected to go to Malaysia for a fight in the summer, trying to secure a fight against Matthysse.
According to Philstar.com, Pacquiao's camp has stated that Pacquiao's deal with Top Rank Boxing has expired and no longer under obligation to accept fights offered to him. Pacquiao’s lawyer Eldibrando Viernesto has confirmed the report, confirming that Pacquiao's contract with Top Rank ended last year when he faced Horn.
“I reviewed the contract and I found out that Bob Arum has no more say even in the rematch, should there be any, between Manny Pacquiao and Australian boxer Jeff Horn,” Viernesto said.
A rematch between Pacquiao and Horn had been explored before Pacquiao withdrew from the fight due to schedule conflicts with his other job as a senator. This wouldn't be the first time Pacquiao tried to find an opponent by himself when Top Rank already had an opponent in place for him. After Arum had already announced that Pacquiao would face Horn last year, Pacquiao tried to set up a fight between him and Amir Khan in the United Arab Emirates until Arum shut down the fight.
One thing that is yet to be seen is whether or not Pacquiao will have longtime trainer Freddie Roach in his corner for this bout. Roach has been instrumental to Pacquiao's success and numerous world title wins.
Should Pacquiao pick up the win over Matthysse, manager Michael Koncz told the LA Times that Pacquiao is looking for a potential superfight at junior welterweight against Vasyl Lomachenko, who is challenging for Jorge Linares' WBA lightweight title on ESPN on May 12 at Madison Square Garden.
Jorge Linares vs. Vasyl Lomachenko Announced:
Jorge Linares will be fighting the biggest fight of his career on May 12 at Madison Square Garden when he faces Vasyl Lomachenko in Linares’ third WBA lightweight title defense. The title fight will headline a Top Rank Boxing on ESPN at Madison Square Garden, marking the second straight fight for Lomachenko at the venue and the second boxing card on ESPN at Madison Square Garden as well.
Both Linares’ WBA title and Ring Magazine title will be on the line in the fight, which will be televised on ESPN and on ESPN Deportes. The television card is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. ET and the online stream, which will feature undercard fights that will not be televised on ESPN, is scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. ET.
The fight was made official on March 21, but the fight had been agreed upon about a week ago, ending weeks of speculation on whether or not one of the strangest matchups in boxing was actually going to happen.
I say the word strangest not because of the fight or the fighters. In fact, this is probably the best lightweight fight on paper for 2018 and could end up being a “Fight of the Year” candidate. The reason I say strange is because of the circumstances and people involved in making this happen.
It’s been long known that Top Rank, who promotes Lomachenko, and Golden Boy Promotions, who promote Linares alongside Teiken Promotions in Japan, have a long history of pseudo-animosity with one another. Part of the reason Top Rank left HBO for ESPN in 2017 is because of numerous issues between the network and Arum, some of which was Golden Boy’s own fault.
There’s also the issue of competing television networks HBO and ESPN, who wanted to do boxing telecasts on May 12. Usually, when competing networks have boxing cards on the same night, they usually air those events directly against each other, which hurts ratings and viewership for both networks. In this case, that can’t be the case because HBO’s May 12 boxing card, Sadam Ali vs. Liam Smith for Ali’s WBO junior middleweight title, is a Golden Boy Promotions event and the HBO is paying the company millions of dollars to provide events and to have a top GBP fighter on ESPN would only spell bad news for the company’s relationship with HBO.
The only way to work around this dilemma is to somehow have ESPN, Golden Boy Promotions, Teiken Promotions, HBO and Top Rank all agree upon a plan that would have ESPN start the time of their boxing card earlier so that it ends as the HBO boxing card starts all the while ESPN would have to make an agreement with the NCAA Southeastern Conference to make a slight alteration to a nationally-televised college softball game.
When you look at that solution on paper, one would think that it would be highly unlikely, perhaps almost impossible for this fight to happen under all those stipulations, but it actually happened.
This fight is not just a win for boxing, but it’s a major win for both Top Rank and ESPN. Should Lomachenko win the lightweight title on May 12, he would become a triple champion, having won a world title in three different weight classes. The mystique surrounding Lomachenko as a boxing killer that takes away his opponent’s will to fight and force them to give up has been growing for the past year and perhaps reached its apex with Lomachenko’s latest win last December.
Lomachenko’s win over former super bantamweight world champion Guillermo Rigondeaux solidified Lomachenko as a superstar in the sport and placed him atop of many pundits’ pound-for-pound lists. Lomachenko is quickly becoming one of the top television boxing stars in the United States and with the uncertainty of certain boxers’ future in Top Rank, Lomachenko could become the face of the network and company, especially in the lightweight division, where he will have a number of new challenges and intriguing matchups for ESPN to carry out.
Now that the fight is official, Top Rank is quickly trying to fill up the undercard. That is actually a relatively simple task. As it stands, the plan is to have at least seven fights take place on the entire card, with two world title fights taking place on the main television card with perhaps one television swing fight most likely involving Irish boxer Michael Conlan. Conlan served as the television main event of the March 17 Top Rank Boxing on ESPN card, easily winning his bout in the second round by TKO. It’s smart business putting Conlan on the card since he is starting to become a draw for Irish boxing fans in New York.
At the moment, the undercard will feature several top prospects in Top Rank’s roster. Teofimo Lopez, Fazliddin Gaibnazarov, Carlos Adames and Shakur Stevenson all fight in separate bouts on that card. The co-main event has not been set, but it is expected to be a world title fight of some sort. No one knows yet which world title fight would take place in that spot, but the most likely fight would be the IBF super flyweight title fight between champion Jerwin Ancajas and mandatory challenger Jonas Sultan. That fight was supposed to take place on the April 14 Top Rank Boxing card in Las Vegas, but Terence Crawford, who suffered an injury during training, and forced Arum to call off that entire April 14 card.
As for the HBO card, the aforementioned Ali vs. Smith fight is the main event, but as far as the undercard is concerned, it’s potentially looking it could be a two-fight television card.
Japanese Boxing Roundup
1. The focus on the April 15 boxing card in Japan is on the two world title fights: Ryota Murata vs. Emanuele Felice Blandamura for the WBA "regular" middleweight title and Daigo Higa vs. Cristofer Rosales for the WBC flyweight title. Now the third top fight on the card will see Japanese Youth flyweight champion Junto Nakatani fight the biggest fight of his career. He'll be taking on Mario Andrade, who is ranked in the WBC's top 15 in the division. Although it appears that the fight will not be televised on either Japanese or international television, a win for Nakatani could put him in line to potentially challenge for either a full Japanese or OPBF title later this year. Nakatini still would need to get a few more wins, likely a win in the 2019 Champion Carnival, to really start considering challenging for a world title. ESPN is set to televise the Murata vs. Blandamura fight in the early morning on April 15 in the United States.
2. Former WBO super flyweight champion Naoya Inoue is moving up in weight to challenge for Jamie McDonnell's WBA "regular" bantamweight title on May 25. Former world title challenger Genesis Servania has been sparring with Inoue and noted that he noticed his style has not changed but that his power has improved. It's worth noting that McDonnell has been planning on moving up in weight for some time and Inoue moving up in weight where he feels more comfortable could spell the end of both McDonnell's reign as champion and his time in the bantamweight division.
3. In the past few years, there has been an increase in fighters missing weight in Japan, with the most recent notable case being Luis Nery being massively overweight a couple of months ago against Shinsuke Yamanaka. Fights on March 25, 27 and April 1 have been scrapped due to fighters missing weight and now the Japanese Boxing Commission (JBC) will look to impose heavy sanctions from now on for fighters missing weight. A recent commission meeting did not set any penalties, but have put plans in place to organize punishments with the JBC going forward and look to prevent a repeat of the issue. One decision that was made at the board meeting was the financial payments made to fighters who sadly get injured, or pass away after a fighter. The amount paid to a fighters family in case of a fatality will increase from ¥17,000,000 (about $159,000) to ¥24,000,000 (about $224,880) while a payment for a craniotomy has increased from ¥3,500,000 (about $32,795) to ¥5,000,000 (about $46,850). Other payments for injuries will also be increased going forward.
4. As previously reported on Fightful, former world champions Koki Kameda and Pongsaklek Wonjongkam will come out of retirement for one more fight against each other on May 5 at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo. The fight is set to take place at bantamweight, but from the looks of it, the Japanese Boxing Commission will not give Wonjongkam a boxing license for this fight. Under the current rules, the commission does not grant boxing licenses to those who are over the age of 37 years old and have not professionally in more than three years. No one is certain what will happen to the fight, but it appears one of three things will happen: the fight continues as an exhibition bout, Kameda fights a replacement opponent or Kameda and Wonjongkam do not fight at all on the May 5 Korakuen Hall show. The only fight confirmed for that event is Masaru Sueyoshi vs. Tsuyoshi Tojo for the Japanese super featherweight title.
5. Former WBO Female flyweight champion Nana Yoshikawa has officially announced her retirement after nearly two decades in the sport as both a professional and amateur fighter. Yoshikawa spent 14 years as an amateur, claiming an amateur title in three different weight classes in 77 fights. When she turned professional in 2013, she was quickly put on the OPBF title picture. In her third professional fight in less than eight months, she captured the OPBF Female light flyweight title and got put on the world title picture 13 months later. Yoshikawa's reign as world champion only lasted six months from 2016-2017, but did win the interim WBC Female flyweight title in her last fight last December. Yoshikawa retires with an 8-2 (4 KO) professional record.
British Boxing Roundup
1. IBF European cruiserweight champion Stephen Simmons has announced his retirement from the sport at 33 years old. Simmons won the title last October when he defeated Simon Barclay, but his last fight ended in defeat when he unsuccessfully challenged for the British Boxing Board of Control cruiserweight title to Matty Askin by second-round TKO. Simmons once challenged for the WBO International cruiserweight title in 2016, losing to Noel Gevor by split decision. Simmons, WBC International Silver and BBBofC Celtic cruiserweight champion, retired with a professional career of 18-3 (7 KO).
2. Top British welterweight prospect Josh Kelly will return to the ring on the June 16 Matchroom Boxing card in Newcastle, according to promoter Eddie Hearn. Kelly is coming off the biggest win of his pro career when he won the vacant WBA International welterweight title after defeating Carlos Molina by unanimous decision on the March 31 Principality Stadium card headlined by the WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight world title unification bout between Anthony Joshua and Joseph Parker.
3. As we quickly approach the April 21 bout between Carl Frampton and Nonito Donaire, there is still no U.S. television deal announced for the fight taking place at the SSE Arena in Belfast, Northern Ireland. It's been long rumored that Showtime is very interested in broadcasting the bout, whether that would be on television or on the Showtime YouTube channel, as has been the case for a couple of European fights in the past year. Stephen Espinoza, the head of Showtime Sports, confirmed that the network is aggressively pursuing the bout and hopes to reach a deal soon.
4. With a win over David Price, Alexander Povetkin is in prime position to challenge for the heavyweight titles currently being held by Anthony Joshua. With Joshua looking at a potential superfight against Deontay Wilder, it's not likely that Povetkin will get his world title shot sometime soon. Povetkin's promoter has stated that he has talked with Eddie Hearn, Joshua's promoter, in the hopes a fight deal can be reached. The absolute best case scenario would be for Povetkin to fight Joshua sometime in the fall. The worst case scenario for the WBA Intercontinental and WBO International champion is that he'll have to wait until 2019 to get his world title opportunity.
United States Boxing Roundup
1. Let's Get It On Promotions announced it will hold a boxing card on May 4 at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center in Reno, Nevada. The main event will see once-beaten Oscar Vazquez face off against Ricardo Sandoval in an eight-round super flyweight fight. Unbeaten prospects Diego Elizondo, Ricardo Lucio-Galvan and Blake McKernan will all see action on the card in separate bouts.
2. Boxing trainer Tony Blanco and Michael Tran have officially announced the formation of Hartford Boxing Promotions. The two have formed the company alongside unbeaten light heavyweight prospect Richard Rivera and they already have plans to have their first event at the Xfinity Theater in Hartford, Connecticut pending the approval of the Connecticut Boxing Commission. The purpose of the company is to bring back top boxing events into the city of Hartford, a town that has featured fights by the likes of Willie Pep and Christopher Battalino.
3. Kaila Crews, the woman who claimed Adrien Broner allegedly sexually assaulted her back in February, has now filed a lawsuit against Broner. Crews claims she suffered emotional distress from the incident and says Broner needs to pay up for any injuries she experienced, along with pain and suffering. As for the criminal case, investigators are still collecting evidence. Broner is still expected to fight Jessie Vargas on April 21 at the Barclays Center in the main event of a Showtime Championship Boxing telecast that features Gervonta Davis vs. Jesus Cuellar and Jermall Charlo vs. Hugo Centeno Jr.
4. Speaking of that April 21 Barclays Center boxing event, U.S. women's boxing star and Bellator MMA fighter Heather Hardy has been added to the undercard. She will face former world title challenger Paola Torres in an eight-round featherweight bout. Hardy has not fought in a boxing fight since May 18, 2017 when she scored a unanimous decision win over Edina Kiss to retain her WBC International Female featherweight title. Since that fight, she has fought three times for Bellator MMA, winning two of her three MMA bouts, most recently getting a unanimous decision win over former boxing world champion Ana Julaton at Bellator 194.
5. Golden Boy Boxing on ESPN will return to Puerto Rico on April 19 with a television event at the Coliseo de Puerto Rico in San Juan, the capital of the small island nation. The main event of that fight will have Lamont Roach Jr. face off against former world title challenger Orlando Cruz in a 10-round super featherweight fight. This event comes after the successful March 24 Golden Boy Boxing on ESPN telecast in the town of Ponce, Puerto Rico, where the viewership for that event reached more than 400,000 people, an extremely solid number for a Golden Boy Boxing card on the network.
6. One thing to note about the May 12 Madison Square Garden boxing main event between Vasyl Lomachenko and Jorge Linares is that Linares will not have his head trainer throughout training camp and for the fight. Ismael Salas, who trains Linares, will be busy training David Haye for his fight on May 5 against Tony Bellew. Linares is defending his WBA lightweight title against Lomachenko as the headliner for the Top Rank Boxing on ESPN card taking place there. Rudy Hernandez will be part of the team that is training and preparing Linares for the fight in New York.
Erislanda Lara vs. Jarrett Hurd, Caleb Truax vs. James DeGale 2 Preview
Showtime Championship Boxing returns to Las Vegas on April 7 with two very exciting world title fights: Caleb Truax vs. James DeGale for the IBF super middleweight title and Erislandy Lara vs. Jarrett Hurd in a WBA/IBF junior middleweight title unification.
The co-main event (Traux vs. DeGale) is a rematch from their first fight last December, where Truax scored one of the biggest boxing upsets of the year and defeated DeGale to win his first world title. DeGale was fighting in his first fight since he had to heal multiple injuries from his previous fight against Badou Jack in an attempt to unify the WBC and IBF titles at 168 pounds back in January 2017.
DeGale did not look like the fighter many thought was the best in the division at that point, having never fully recovered mentally and physically from the fight against Jack and it cost him the title. Questions about a possible retirement loomed for the British former champion and it could be coming soon if DeGale loses to Truax once more.
- Record: 29-3-2 (18 KO)
- Height: 6’0”
- Reach: 75”
- Notable Fights: James DeGale, Anthony Dirrell, Daniel Jacobs, Jermain Taylor
- Record: 23-2-1 (14 KO)
- Height: 6’0”
- Reach: 74”
- Notable Fights: Caleb Truax, Badou Jack, Lucian Bute, Andre Dirrell, George Groves, Paul Smith
The main event (Lara vs. Hurd) is the first step in unifying all the world titles at 154 pounds with Lara perhaps facing his toughest test since losing to Canelo Alvarez back in 2014. Lara’s reign as the WBA champion has been less than stellar to say the least, with most of title defense going up against fringe contenders at best and his latest fight against Terrell Gausha was perhaps one of the most lackluster world title fights to headline a television boxing card in several years. There’s no doubt that Lara is arguably the best boxer at 154 pounds, but he has yet to be tested by anyone since that close contest against Alvarez.
Hurd, on the hand, is coming off one of the most impressive performances of his career in his last fight, surviving a war against former world champion Austin Trout last October in what was a “Fight of the Year” candidate. Hurd won the IBF title a little more than a year ago after Jermall Charlo vacated it in order to move up in weight and win a world title at middleweight.
Hurd possess a unique mix of speed, power and incredible size for a 154-pound boxer that will surely keep Lara, a skillful, tactical boxer who’s mastered the Cuban style of boxing. The fight does figure to be a potential “Fight of the Year” candidate with the clash of styles making for one of the more unique main events Showtime has put out this year so far. The winner of this fight not only walks away as the unified junior middleweight world champion, but could also see themselves face off against WBC champion Jermell Charlo, the other boxer in the conversation for best junior middleweight boxer today.
Tale of the Tape:
- Record: 25-2-2 (14 KO)
- Height: 5’9”
- Reach: 74”
- Notable Fights: Delvin Rodriguez, Ishe Smith, Canelo Alvarez, Austin Trout, Paul Williams
- Record: 21-0 (15 KO)
- Height: 6’1”
- Reach: 76.5”
- Notable Fights: Austin Trout, Tony Harrison