Where Is The Hype For Andre Ward – Sergey Kovalev II?

To put it bluntly, the first half of 2017 has been absolutely brilliant for boxing.  We have had massive fights (Joshua-Klitschko), fights with huge implications (Brook-Spence, Thurman-Garcia), entertaining rematches (Frampton-Santa Cruz) and a whole host of fights that seemed to truly embody the notion of the “best fighting the best”.  Hell, we even got the confirmation of perhaps the biggest fight post-Mayweather and Pacquaio announced (Canelo-Golovkin).

So there is nothing to blame if you forgot about a few.  James DeGale vs. Badou Jack was one of the best fights of the year but its hard to believe that was in 2017.  Same goes for Takashi Miura vs. Miguel Roman.  Even the embarrassing bouts were still big enough spectacles that ate up a lot of attention (Canelo-Chavez Jr., and this ongoing Mayweather-McGregor bullshit) and wonder.

Yet, perhaps the most important fight of them all might be taking place this upcoming weekend.  It even checks all the boxes off in terms of massive fights, implications, and entertaining rematch that signifies the best fighting the best.  Hell it could lead to one of the most entertaining trilogies of the new millennia.

Where is the hype for the light heavyweight showdown between Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev?  If you forgot or just aren’t that pumped up, I guess I could see that.  HBO has had a 24/7 for it but the Face/Off with Max Kellerman was cancelled.  Ward isn’t the most charismatic fighter and Kovalev does/says enough racist shit to be ignored.  An elite American boxer versus a degrading Russian should particularly sell well due to today’s political climate.

Yet, that hasn’t been there.  The first fight has pretty much been debated since the close but controversial unanimous decision for Andre Ward was announced back in November.  There is a very large and prominent portion of the boxing community who thinks Kovalev’s early round dominance (including knocking Ward down in round 2) was just enough to clinch the fight.  Kovalev immediately exercised his rematch clause and while Ward floated retirement, negotiations did not take too long to finalize.

The peculiarity that is the mainstream ignorance of this fight has struck a chord with myself.  Where is Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman bloviating on First Take?  Where’s the commercials touting and demanding you buy this can’t miss pay-per-view special?  Is HBO’s noted drifting from the sport that pronounced where they aren’t even bothering, sans a 24/7, to really push for this?  Did Canelo-Golovkin basically take all the juice out of the promotion for this?

Throughout the week I hope to cover this fight a bit more because well, I have been thinking about this fight for a couple months now.  The undercard features the dominant but inactive Guillermo Rigondeaux, who can often toe the line between boxing brilliance and sleep-inducing, against a game and undefeated Moises Flores.  A potential showcase fight for future LHW contender Dmitry Bivol should also entertain.

At first blush, I lean Ward to take the rematch.  While I believe Kovalev is a top ten pound-for-pound contender, I do think he has shown definite problems with his stamina and issues with fighting on the inside.  Ward easily exploited that once he figured out Krusher’s timing and while it was ugly, Ward took advantage of clinching and using a quick jab.

But while Kovalev is no brawling brute, he still has the big equalizer and that’s the power in both his hands.  Kovalev has made mincemeat out of enough contenders, and while his two batterings of Jean Pascal haven’t aged well (thanks to Pascal’s slide); they still were absolutely dominating a genuine contender.  Ward’s power isn’t anywhere near Paulie Malignaggi levels but he hasn’t shown the ability to pulverize opponents in a way Kovalev has had.

But hey, let’s kick up this hype machine a bit shall we?

I don’t always tweet about boxing, in fact its usually just stupid bullshit, jokes and the Phillies but feel free to follow @TheJoekes


Errol Spence Jr. Has Arrived

In boxing, at times, your record is probably the best and worst way to argue your current legacy.  Those in support will point out the gaudy stats to prove a boxer’s dominance while a detractor can find the flaw in every single opponent faced.

Gennady Golovkin has beaten everyone placed in front of him, but some say he has beaten nobody.  Floyd Mayweather Jr. basically picked apart every single person who mattered in or around his weight class, but maybe not all at their respective peaks.  Darnell Boone has given tough fights to nearly everyone he has faced, including TKO’ing Adonis Stevenson and knocking down Andre Ward, but has also lost over twenty times.

So every time you hear someone hype up a knockout streak or an undefeated record, you must look at it with a side-eye.  Errol Spence Jr., the new IBF welterweight champion of the world, was someone who previously could be looked at with slight suspicion.  Sure, he passed the eye test and the talent was clearly there.  But when your marquee win is a shot Chris Algieri, you can understand why some were skeptical to anoint Spence Jr.

I’m as big of a believer in Kell Brook, and even though he has suffered two separate broken orbitals in less than ten months, I still hold truth to that.  Brook has power, technical ability, skill, a chin and a prominent size advantage over most in the 147 pound ranks.  All of those were on display in last weekend’s showdown between the two.

Brook landed some of the most significant shots Spence Jr. has ever faced, including a mini rally in the halfway point of penultimate 10th round that seemed more of a last stand than substantial flurry.  Brook was able to impose his size at times, trying to drown Spence Jr. on the inside (who smartly kept attacking the body).  He made Spence Jr. miss.

But dammit, did Brook take some shots.  He did the same when he went up two weight divisions against Golovkin.  The man behind those blows though, was a younger man who has evolved from future potential star to the big time.

Errol Spence Jr. is here to stay.  Maybe that 0 won’t be forever, very few things are, but how do you know a fighter is special?  When you immediately think of all the other fights that can be made and you almost wait to circle the dates.

A Keith Thurman unification fight needs to happen and it seems like the seeds are being planted to start chasing down that path.  However, Thurman is recovering from a recent elbow surgery and will be out for the short-term.  Manny Pacquiao is fun to think about, but at this point the money is not there with Errol Spence Jr. to make that fight possible.  Same goes for Miguel Cotto.  Timothy Bradley’s next step hasn’t been announced yet, but it certainly won’t be facing a terror after a year-plus layoff.

So then you start thinking of the fantasies.  A future showdown against Terence Crawford could be one of the best fights in recent boxing history….and that includes about four huge ones we’ve seen in the past few months (and two coming on HBO PPV soon).  Could Spence Jr. go up to 154 and beyond?  Will Canelo Alvarez be waiting?  Hell, could Mikey Garcia rise up to 147?  Dare we even suggest Vasyl Lomachenko?

At this point, no one knows really.  We might have to see some boring mandatory battles, which the IBF is known to be more than ready to order.  Errol Spence Jr. may not be a mainstream name now, but you sure as hell be ready to tune in to what is next.

I know I will.

Kell Brook vs. Errol Spence Jr. Preview

In terms of the current boxing landscape, you will be hard pressed to find a more exciting and important match than tonight’s welterweight showdown between IBF champion Kell Brook and challenger Errol Spence Jr.

Brook, who memorably neutralized Shawn Porter in 2014, has been considered one of the better talents in the division.  However, besides Porter, Brook’s resume is lacking with his second best performance being a tough, but ultimately unsuccessful TKO loss against Gennady Golovkin.  Brook, who had been linked to Jesse Vargas and a lucrative domestic duel against Amir Khan, is taking on his best challenger to date in Spence.

For Errol Spence Jr., this fight is a true chance to break out as a champion and to make the next leap forward in the quest for superstardom.  Spence Jr., a successful amateur who has been heavily pushed by Premier Boxing Champions, is facing by far his greatest opponent yet.

What has made Spence seemingly so special is everything about him.  He passes the eye tests, as his battering of veterans Chris Algieri and Leonard Bundu show off his power and incredible stalking skills.  Spence has also been rumored to have caused severe issues to Floyd Mayweather and Adrien Broner in sparring sessions and the gym stories have only grown since then.

Brook on the other hand, has some solid scalps on his resume but again…a lot of his name is based on the eye test.  An impressively sized welterweight, Brook has a great jab and has a habit of throwing good and precise combinations.  Brook’s power has been seen and his value has only exploded after his performance against Golovkin that saw Brook add thirteen pounds in weight to face GGG.  While Brook was done in by a broken orbital bone and was seemingly tiring out, his ability to hold off the pressure of Golovkin for a few rounds helped earn high praise for his bravery.

Now, I have been going back and forth in regards to this fight.  Both fighters are great at range and Spence has shown the ability to go inside as well.  Spence has been a menacing stalker while Brook has been able to successfully impose his size on smaller welterweights.  Both men are in impressive shape and have great power.  Both are elite talents at their weight class.

Brook needs to jab and pivot and see if he can take Spence into the deep end.  While Brook tired out and nearly was TKO’d against journeyman Carson Jones, his stamina has appeared to improve mightily.  Spence Jr., for all of his praise has never been tested and Brook needs to establish his presence early or it could be a disastrous night for him.

Spence Jr. on the other hand needs to stalk and test Brook’s eye socket to see if it can take a punch.  He needs to keep the fight at mid range, where he excels best and not let Brook try to tie up.

Prediction:  Spence by UD

What Is Next For Terence Crawford?

In another edition of the quickly diminishing “World Championship Boxing” series from HBO came a bout between 140-pound king Terence Crawford against 2008 Olympic gold medalist Felix Diaz of the Dominican Republic.  While Crawford was the overwhelming favorite, there was some hope that Diaz could cause some trouble for the son of Omaha.  Diaz, who last notably defeated Sammy Vazquez Jr. had only one loss; a controversial one against the tough Lamont Peterson.

However quickly, those thoughts faded as Diaz basically looked like if Shawn Porter decided to fight without arms.  Crawford was openly toying and mocking Diaz, who valiantly tried to fight back, and really the corner stopping the fight after the 10th round was probably a round or two too late.  Diaz, for what its worth, did find Crawford’s chin a couple of times which is a lot more than what could’ve been said by previous contenders John Molina Jr. and Viktor Postol.

Regardless of who is fighting whom, part of me is always convinced that there is a chance an upset can occur.  It is a lottery ticket thought, more often unrealized than anything, but boxing has taught us before that anything can be possible.  However, usually there comes a point where you realize that the other person in that ring is just too better than the other one.

A prime example was before this month’s sacrifice of Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. at the hands of Canelo Alvarez, I thought that the upset was possible until the camera zoomed in on Jr.’s face after the third or fourth round.  There you saw an overmatched boxer against just an a fighter who is not only better than them but on a whole different level.

In the case of “Bud” Crawford versus Felix Diaz, that moment almost felt like it came instantly.  Much like David Lemieux’s defeat against Gennady Golovkin, Diaz had no answer for just the jab of Crawford.  Diaz would sometimes swing wildly and find a target but otherwise it was just wide punches met with crisp, accurate and powerful responses from Crawford.

Terence Crawford has been great for a while, pretty much you can point to his outclassing of Yuriorkis Gamboa in 2014.  But this was the first time, I felt that a star was quickly approaching.  Crawford is not even one of the bigger names in boxing yet but you started to feel the energy, even watching on TV, that he might be on the cusp of breaking through a bit more.

Since his 2016 knockout of Hammerin’ Hank Lundy, Crawford has maybe lost two of his last 35 rounds.  While he hasn’t exactly faced a murderer’s row, do not fall for what hindsight tells you.  Viktor Postol was the consensus #2 fighter at the time, after his dismantling of Lucas Matthyse, in the 140 pound weight class.  Crawford battered him across the ring.  John Molina Jr. was basically a fill-in for Diaz, but did beat the rugged Ruslan Provodnikov beforehand.  They might not be pound-for-pound threats, but they have all been in the ring and held their own against good fighters.

At this point you have to wonder what is next for Bud?  A showdown with Manny Pacquiao would be better now than it will ever be but will Pacquiao be up for the challenge or will this barnstorming tour just be a cash out with Pac going to the highest bidder?  A move up to welterweight to face the likes of Keith Thurman, Danny Garcia or the winner of Kell Brook and Errol Spence Jr. could be appealing.  The possibility of being the full unified champion at 140 pounds would be fascinating, and Julius Indongo of Nambia has really earned a shot.  Hell, I would even love to see Mikey Garcia though he seems to be groomed for an Adrien Broner bout and the marinating of a showdown with Vasyl Lomachenko seems to have begun.

The thing is, Crawford is very close to being the best boxer on the planet.  It is not his fault if no one will fight him, and he shouldn’t be having to chase opponents.  We all know that dollars run boxing and its just as possible Crawford faces Amir Imam on a TopRank PPV rather than a big name on HBO.  With Bob Arum’s diehard belief that he wants Crawford fighting more than twice a year (something we can all agree on), and that his next fight might not even be on HBO…that Imam fight possibility should be prepared for.

Regardless, Crawford is a star even if he has not crossed over yet.  This is a fighter who has the power, accumulation, speed, defense, athleticism, mean streak and brash competitiveness that separates the elite from the all-time greats.  Maybe I am getting ahead of myself, but while Canelo Alvarez and Anthony Joshua might be the top of the food chain financially; Crawford is soon to be the alpha of the pound-for-pound ratings.




Hello all,

I am one of those people who constantly like to blog and then I sort of lose interest and move on.  However, when I have a new passion I greatly enjoy talking to as many people as possible about it until they get sick of me.

Unified Champ is my foray into boxing coverage.  I have been a fan of the sport, casually, for most of my life but over the past few years I have become obsessed with it.  I do not know many other people who share that interest but I thought…well, I like to write and I like boxing so why not?