Normally, we only do these roundtables as a way to collectively discuss the biggest fights, but given all the givens of the last 18 months, we decided to sit down and hash it out last summer, so we’re going to do it again. Quite a few things have changed in that time. Hedtke hatched an egg, I lost my excuse to never have to speak to people, Langendorf won the 17th annual Harry Henderson lookalike contest and chili cook off (12 years running baby!), and Starks made the inscrutable decision to let me keep editing this website.
So, with no further ado, and fully unguilded lilies, let’s talk shop.
1. Have the first six months of this year felt like a slow transition from last year or just a return to normalcy?
Hedtke: For me there were numerous personal distractions requiring my attention that allowed me the luxury of not having to give too much of a shit about boxing these past seven months. When I did get the chance to tune in and focus it was a mixed bag of fun fights, bad announcing and promotional ass-eating which, for boxing, is about as normal as it gets.
Langendorf: Over the first half of 2021, we’ve had some good fights, some shit fights and untold amounts of actionable shit-talking between fighters that went nowhere. So, y’know, I’d say we’re pretty much up to speed.
Starks: That all sounds about right, with a side of “rise of celebrity boxing matches that consume far too much oxygen.” That’s not normal, although it’s something of a “slow transition from last year,” with Mike Tyson vs Roy Jones Jr. ostensibly re-starting the trend. (Yeah, they were boxers once. Now they’re celebrities.)
Swain: If I had to answer this in March, I’d likely have said slow transition, but by this point, it all feels pretty normal. Including online discourse being dominated by ridiculous hypotheticals in place of actual fights.
2. Your picks for Fight of the year, Round of the year, and Knockout of the year to date?
Hedtke: Juan Franciso Estrada-Roman “Chocolatio” Gonzalez 2 for fight and round of the year so far. I’m not even gonna single out a particular round. Close your eyes and pick a number one through twelve. That’s the round of the year. That’s how good that fight was.
Knockout is easily Oscar Valdez-Miguel Berchelt. How Berchelt’s head stayed connected to his neck after that uppercut is a mystery we currently lack to technology to solve. Maybe we can ask Berchelt about it if he ever wakes up.
Langendorf: El Gallo-Chocolatito 2 is the clear midpoint FOY winner for all the reasons you’d expect. Round? Aw, hell. Entire fights escape my addled mind these days, so asking me to pluck the best round from a six-month stretch is like expecting for instant recall of the new math they taught us 40 years ago. But I’ll say this: Round 8 of Canelo Alvarez-Billy Joe Saunders was my favorite. Watching all the unfounded confidence of Saunders, an indisputable hard-on of a human being, drain away after a pinpoint Canelo uppercut broke his face was pure joy.
I can’t dispute Valdez-Berchelt for KO. But for just a sec, I want to spotlight Gabe Rosado, who, at 35 years old and coming off a 2-4-1 stretch, face-flopped rising prospect Bektemir Melikuziev with a career-saving right cross in June. If only we could strike Rosado’s back tattoo and Todd Grisham’s yelping from all records of the fight.
Starks: Oh man, Swain. I spend hours and hours doing this at the end of the year each year, just narrowing down these “best of” thingies. And I gave up on “Round of the Year” well, years ago. But there are two clear choices so far for Fight/KO, and both have been said. Not that Rosado’s improbable-to-the-point-of-
Swain: KO has to be Valdez-Berchelt. The fight itself was a shock in terms of Valdez’s dominance, but that final punch was some brujeria shit from ancient times. There have been quite a few very good fights so far, but Estrada-Gonzalez was on an totally different level. Two masters at work, and I’ll pick the 12th round as ROTY. You could pick many of the rounds in the fight, but going into it, most of us thought they both needed it to win. That was special.
Hedtke: You guys are gonna think I’m being a wise-ass but the most fun I’ve had watching fights this year was the Shannon Courtenay/Ebanie Bridges fight from this past April. All the shit I like about boxing wrapped up into a nice, neat 30 minute package. Blood, shit-talking, swollen faces and sustained action from bell to bell. The scores were a little wide to pick it as FOTY but for pure entertain value nothing really came close to this one for me.
Langendorf: The making of the Manny Pacquiao-Errol Spence fight. If Pacquiao isn’t quite the fighter he once was, it only makes his continued fearlessness in seeking out dangerous opponents all the more impressive. It also stands in stark contrast to Spence’s light-touch/undersized/over-
Starks: As a long-time Nonito Donaire fan, it was a real joy watching him score a big win to further cement his legacy. Maybe, also, I relate too much to seeing a guy who should be too old to have much left proving he’s still got it. Anyway, let’s not ruin the moment with moping. Donaire is a legend and his career has been delightful as all get-out.
Swain: In terms of purely sadistic glee, Mauricio Lara beating the sweet jesus dog shit out of Josh Warrington, Jeremias Ponce stopping Lewis Ritson, and Canelo Alvarez turning Billy Joe Saunders into a capon cyclops. There may or may not be a theme delevoping there.
4. What fights are you looking forward to over the next six months?
Hedtke: I was as geared up as everyone was for Tyson Fury-Deontay Wilder 3 but as of a few hours ago it sounds like that’s going on the shelf for a bit so hopefully they find another home for the bottom half of that card because Robert Helenius-Adam Kownacki 2 is a thing I very much need in my life. I’m an easy lay for big stupid heavyweights and they don’t come much bigger and stupider than those two. The first one in February of 2020 was just a fun little slop fest and I could really go for another helping.
Langendorf: Frankly, there isn’t much on the books for the back half of 2021. But beyond Pacquiao-Spence, I can say I’m intrigued by Anthony Joshua-Oleksandr Usyk and – sweet baby Jesus, bless us all – impossibly jacked at the prospect of a Nayoa Inoue-Donaire rematch.
Starks: Jason’s picks are good. Brent’s… maybe not so much. How are we leaving out the likely October rubber match that is Gonzalez-Estrada? Maybe y’all lack confidence in it happening, which, can’t blame you: nine years between 1 and 2 and plenty of talk in between.
Swain: Whether it’s Estrada-Rat King 3 or Estrada-Gonzalez 3, there are no wrong answers in the rubber match sweepstakes. I will be fully torqued if either of them happen. I’m actually pretty into Helenius-Kownacki 2. I was high on Helenius when he was a prospect and have never thought anything of Kownacki. Seeing him get knocked squirrelly was wonderful and I hope it happens again.
5. If you were made emperor of boxing tomorrow, what’s your first act?
Hedtke: The obvious answer is to establish a central commission and rankings board that would abolish the sanctioning bodies but that’s never going to fucking happen so I’m going to go even more meta here. My first act as emperor of boxing would be to shut down twitter. Forever. My enjoyment of, and interest in, boxing has decreased precipitously over the past decade and I can trace that decline almost directly back to the exact moment I logged on to that shithole for the first time.
Whether it’s coming up with dream fights or just kicking back and remembering some guys, half the fun of boxing was always just sitting around and shooting the shit with the homies. Now, though, you can’t even express fondness for a fight or fighter without it turning into a digital cross burning. Seriously, mention that you like Fighter A or B or whatever and just wait for ten nameless, faceless shitheads to tell you exactly how many cocks your dead father should suck in hell. It’s stupid and boring and I hate it and I can’t wait to log on and do it all again tomorrow.
Langendorf: I’m on board with Brent’s plan to dynamite the alphabet idiots to hell, but I suppose that goes without saying. So my first distinctive move as emperor: reduce the number of rounds in every fight. Now, don’t all rush to Twitter at once to shitpost me. We did this once a few decades back, and the sky did not fall. Let’s do it again: 12-rounders become nine-rounders, ten become seven, and so on. Make fights shorter and you’ll squeeze more urgency from the fighters. Make the rounds an odd number and you’ll increase the likelihood of something resembling a definitive outcome. Scaling back might even translate into fighters climbing into the ring more often. More exciting fights, more paydays for fighters, more weekends featuring fight cards brimming with real action. Look, not to brag, but this is why you made me emperor.
Starks: (shines apple on shirt) Wouldn’t want to get ahead of ourselves on this “dynamite the belts” thing, as what the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board I co-founded has done is more like spend years trying to get a bit of spark and smoke going, but… yeah. We did this, at least. Still, a central commission would be even better. Maybe it could solve an especially big headache of mine of late, which is having to have a special section at the end of each fight write-up where I talk about what’s next for each men, and nine times out of 10 it’s “best option probably won’t happen” because of promoter/manager/TV network discord.