With only two months left in 2014, the major premium cable networks, HBO and Showtime, should be busy finalizing star-studded lineups to close out the year with a bang. They should be doing that, but are they?
In stark contrast to 2013, this year Showtime’s boxing lineup didn’t greatly outshine HBO. In fact, until now, not only has HBO matched the star power of Showtime’s fight cards, but often it has put together matches that resulted in much more exciting fights. ESPN boxing analyst Dan Rafael has gone as far as calling Showtime’s lineup for the year “abysmal.”
In the remaining weeks of 2014, things don’t seem to have improved much for Showtime. Over at HBO, however, there seems to be a concerted effort to finish up the year strong. Here is what the rest of the boxing year looks like.
Bernard Hopkins v. Sergey Kovalev
Manny Pacquiao v. Chris Algieri
Terence Crawford v. Raymundo Beltran
Evgeny Gradovich v. Jayson Velez
|November 29||Nothing Scheduled|
David Lemieux v. Gabriel Rosado
Thomas Dulorme vs. Hank Lundy
Timothy Bradley Jr. v. Diego Chaves
Matt Korobov v. Andy Lee
Mauricio Herrera v. Jose Benavidez Jr,
Devon Alexander v. Amir Khan
Keith Thurman v. Leonard Bundu
Demetrius Andrade v. Jermell Charlo
Abner Mares vs. TBA
Victor Ortiz vs. TBA
Adonis Stevenson v. Dmitry Sukhotsky
With only a quick glance at the list it’s easy to see which network planned more carefully for the holiday season. So as you’re gearing up to spend a lot of cash on gifts and plane tickets, here is a quick breakdown of the fights that might be getting in the way of family time and which ones are really worth a little ruckus in the homestead to watch.
November 8: Bernard Hopkins vs. Sergey Kovalev (HBO)
The oldest man to ever win a title in the sweet science faces off against one of the most devastating punchers in recent years. Yeah, this is must-watch boxing. If you’re a fan of the sport at all, you need to watch this so 10 years down the line (when Hopkins might be retired) you aren’t the only one among your friends who didn’t watch either when Hopkins definitively stamped his all-time great punch card or the night that Hopkins was finally put to sleep.
November 22: Manny Pacquiao vs. Chris Algieri (HBO PPV)
It’s not the fight everyone in the world wanted, but it will definitely be a lot better than the naysayers think it will be. Pacquiao is a first ballot Hall-of-Famer with certified legendary status, but he’s lost more than a hair’s worth of speed, pop and aggression in recent years. Combined with Algieri’s height, length, jab, speed and footwork, the much shorter legend has a fight on his hands that is more dangerous than what he faced against bigger men like Antonio Margarito.
November 29: Terence Crawford vs. Raymundo Beltran; Evgeny Gradovich vs. Jayson Velez (HBO)
Crawford put on one of the greatest performances this year against Yuriorkis Gamboa. He damn near exploded the top off of the CenturyLink Center in Omaha when he knocked out Gamboa. Now he’s facing a former Pacquiao sparring partner who’s shown he’s got the chops and heart to be a champion. Fireworks expected.
The co-main event features a fourth title defense by “The Mexican Russian” Gradovich against fellow undefeated fighter Jayson Velez. Gradovich doesn’t know how to fight without excitement. Neither man knows how to lose. This is will be a fantastic prelude to the Crawford-Beltran matchup.
You might still be in a food coma by fight time, but there’s no doubt that these fights will get your adrenaline pumping.
December 6: David Lemieux vs. Gabriel Rosado; Thomas Dulorme vs. Hank Lundy
This was originally going to be my sleeper fight card of the holiday season, but that was before James “The Mandingo Warrior” Kirkland decided to make yet another bizarre business decision by pulling out of the fight against Gabe Rosado. The replacement, however, is still a lot better than many other big-name fights (cough … Adonis Stevenson vs. Dmitry Sukhotsky … cough). Lemieux is on a seven-fight win streak, and Rosado is one of the most game fighters out there, who always shows up with an intelligent mix of brawler and boxer that consistently delivers exciting fights. Check out his recent foray into Big Knockout Boxing for a great example:
While the main event will almost assuredly deliver a fan-friendly fight, there is much less certainty with Dulorme and Lundy. Dolorme won an unsatisfying victory against Karim Mayfield in March, and Lundy knocked out a journeyman in two rounds in his last outing. But with only two fights on this card, the spotlight will be especially bright on these two men. Maybe one of these junior welterweight prospects will be launched in to a big-money fight, if they’re willing and able to impress under the hot lights.
December 13: Battle of the Networks
The two networks are only slated to go head-to-head once before the New Year, on December 13. The matchup of fight cards is intriguing and follows a pattern that we’ve seen throughout the year. While Showtime’s card arguably has the bigger names, HBO might deliver the better fights.
The Amir Khan vs. Devon Alexander and Demetrius Andrade vs. Jermell Charlo matchups on Showtime are meaningful fights that have serious implications in the welterweight and junior middleweight divisions in 2015. Keith Thurman returns to the ring after a long, injury-motivated layoff against an undefeated Italian fighter who might offer a decent scrap. If Thurman has real hopes of becoming the next “it name” in boxing, the fight can’t/shouldn’t last that long. The remaining fights include Abner Mares and Victor Ortiz against unnamed opponents you can be sure won’t offer much opposition.
Over at HBO, Tim Bradley returns after losing to Pacquiao against Diego Chaves, who worked hard to disqualify himself against Brandon Rios in August.
Bradley wants to make a statement, and Chaves is likely to be as dirty as ever. The combination is likely to deliver a gritty fight you’ll want to see.
Matt Korobov, originally scheduled to fight Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin for his WBO belt, will now face Andy Lee. This fight is a perfect blend of flawed fighters that will lead to excitement. Lee has shown he’s got great determination, decent pop and a middling chin. This might be the only chance Korobov has to wear a belt. These guys are going to scrap to the contentment of all viewers.
With James Kirkland deciding to withdraw from a fight with Gabe Rosado, the Mauricio Herrera vs. Jose Benavidez Jr. matchup has become my sleeper fight pick of the season. Herrera did everything he needed to do to win a belt against Danny Garcia but was cheated out of a victory. He’ll now face a boxing prodigy, one of the most successful amateur U.S. boxers ever, Jose Benavidez Jr. It’s hard to pick a winner between the two, but rest assured that Herrera will fight to the bitter end not to lose his interim junior welterweight title and Benavidez needs a name like Herrera’s to propel him into the next level of prizefights.
So which card should you watch? I’m sticking mostly with HBO and switching over to catch some of the Thurman and Khan fights. What about you?
December 19: Adonis Stevenson vs. Dmitry Sukhotsky (Showtime)
This fight is what happens when a fighter drags his feet in negotiations and has a greater view of himself than the market does. Instead of fighting Bernard Hopkins or Jean Pascal for big money, Stevenson slowly but surely worked his way toward a fight with an unknown pug for a drastically smaller reward. Make sense? It doesn’t to me either. Stevenson is a big puncher and people love to see knockouts, but when KOs come against someone who can’t fight back or offer a credible threat, the concussive ending loses its appeal. Tune in if you don’t have much planned that night; otherwise, catch the recap and highlights the morning after.
A former college wrestler, Taekwondo black-belt, and wannabe boxer, Paul Navarro (aka Fight Like Sugar) is now a full-time lawyer, part-time fight scribe, and high school wrestling coach.