We're at the point where we're starting to get some of the flavor of whether 2014 will follow on the example of a strong 2013 for boxing — not that we ought to read too much into it based on the early-year calendar, which tends to start slowly for the sport. The returns so far are… OK, I'd say. Some promising/good options, nothing that knocks the socks off the feet.
Besides the dudes in the headline, we have word about fights in the works or not in the works or under discussion for Abner Mares, Terence Crawford, Lucas Matthysse and yet other professional punchers.
Round And Round
Miguel Cotto has just about made his mind up about fighting middleweight champion Sergio Martinez. With as much money as was on the table to fight Canelo Alvarez, it's a little surprising — but then, Cotto hasn't always taken the route of the quickest buck or the more numerous bucks. That said, his argument was that he wouldn't be available by March for Canelo, and Top Rank's Bob Arum has declared that because the fight will be on HBO pay-per-view, Cotto would still do better financially fighting Martinez. But we'll have to wait until June 7 for this one, sheesh.
Canelo, meanwhile, has turned his attention to either Alfredo Angulo or Carlos Molina, both acceptable choices for the popular junior middleweight. Angulo, of course, would offer the most fun, but Molina applies pressure too. The issue is that Canelo's promoter and his management want different things. Golden Boy wants to do Canelo-Angulo so it can do an Erislandy Lara-Carlos Molina rematch. I'm siding with Golden Boy on this one.
Junior featherweight Kiko Martinez notched a second straight impressive win this weekend, over Jeffrey Mathebula, and he's just about as perfect an opponent for champion Guillermo Rigondeaux as could be — he comes forward and he's not shy about getting hit, which means he'd be diametrically opposite that performance from Joseph Agbeko. Rigo needs cooperative opponents to look good and Kiko will press the action, plus Rigo can be wobbled and Kiko hits hard, so Kiko stands a shot at being competitive, too. Double-plus, it would be fun to say "Rigo-Kiko" a lot. Rigo's manager tweeted out the suggestion after Kiko's win. Vasyl Lomachenko, mentioned as a potential Rigo foe soon, also said he'd be down to fight Evgeny Gradovich. This dude is plain crazy to go pro and after one fight talk about challenging someone like Gradovich, but I like it.
With Vitali Klitschko officially stepping away from his boxing career at least for a while, Bermane Stiverne and Chris Arreola will rematch for the belt he's leaving behind. Stiverne-Arreola I was a solid heavyweight scrap, a definitive win for Stiverne but not so much that a rematch doesn't interest me. Date hasn't been settled yet.
Terence Crawford vs. Ricky Burns is still going to happen, but with Burns still recovering from the jaw injury he suffered against Raymundo Beltran, the two lightweights probably won't do it until March now. Another solid fight with a date set — the Jhonny Gonzalez-Abner Mares featherweight rematch is going Feb. 15, which is very nearly romantic!
Friday Night Fights is getting off to a very good start on ESPN2 in January: Argenis Mendez-Rances Barthelemy (junior lightweight) is a match-up of quality junior lightweights, and Caleb Truax-Derrick Ennis (super middlerweight) ain't a bad accompanying bout. It'll go down Jan. 3. FNF isn't forgetting Arash Usmanee two big efforts on ESPN2 last year against Mendez and Barthelemy, either, spotlighting him the next weekend.
Lamont Peterson-Dierry Jean is a solid junior welterweight bout on its own on Showtime Jan. 25, but another solid bout is accompanying it in my hometown: Gabriel Rosado-Jermell Charlo at 154. Charlo needs a test and Rosado has proven quite a difficult one above his natural division at middleweight, so we're talking about a very serious challenge, here.
We need Lucas Matthysse back and soon. The junior welterweight's team is talking about lining him up for the winner of Viktor Postol-Selcuk Aydin should Danny Garcia drop his belt. Works for me. But with Postol-Aydin due in April, why not bring back Matthysse before then? Just a request, for all I know they already plan it.
James DeGale-Marco Antonio Periban is an option at super middleweight for the chance to face Sakio Bika. DeGale-Periban is just right; DeGale has talent, but he needs a push and Periban has shown he can give one against Bika, in fact.
With Felix Sturm back in the mix at middleweight, he'll have challengers lining up for some of that sweet German cash soon should Darren Barker be unable to exercise a rematch clause, and one of them is Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam. I'm down for seeing N'Jikam get back in there and mix it up with a top-10 middle.
Heavyweight Bryant Jennings has needed an opponent for his HBO date on Jan. 25 and it's going to be Artur Szpilka. Makes sense. Szpilka is a warrior, as we've seen from his two bouts with Mike Mollo, although he'll probably be outclassed by Jennings. It's another progressive scrap for Jennings, though.
(Round And Round sources: news releases; BoxingScene; ESPN)