stick fight

2021-06-03

¡¡¡¡Saturday was an eventful night for boxing, with WBC title fights on Showtime and DAZN that both delivered in different ways.

¡¡¡¡On Showtime, Nonito Donaire crushed Nordine Oubaali with his signature left hook as a featured weapon again, winning a fourth round stoppage to claim the WBC bantamweight title, becoming the oldest recognized major champion in the history of the 118 lb division.

¡¡¡¡On DAZN, Devin Haney escaped a late scare against the veteran Jorge Linares, picking up his best career win and keeping the WBC belt at lightweight.

¡¡¡¡Let¡¯s look at what¡¯s next for those guys and others we saw in action.

¡¡¡¡Donaire (41-6, 27 KO) has a clear target for himself, as he said post-fight that what he wants is a rematch with Naoya Inoue, with whom Donaire competed in the clear 2019 Fight of the Year, a modern and instant classic that took place in Saitama, Japan.

¡¡¡¡It¡¯s a bigger fight now than it was then, probably. You could do it in Japan again if things clear up enough to reliably put on a show with fans, but there¡¯s far more U.S. appeal now than there was 18 months ago, too. Donaire is still Donaire, and he brings a lot more interest to his fights than some might realize, and now he¡¯s coming off of a triumphant win over a very legitimate titlist.

¡¡¡¡WBA and IBF titleholder Inoue (20-0, 17 KO), meanwhile, has upped his stock considerably with the American audience, signing with Top Rank, who along with ESPN have promoted the Japanese star very well as a must-see fighter, which is fairly easy to do because he actually is one.

¡¡¡¡The 28-year-old Inoue has a fight coming on June 19, when he faces mandatory challenger Michael Dasmarinas, who is not expected to be much of a challenge. Top Rank have talked about him possibly moving up to 122 lbs in the near future, but they don¡¯t really have anyone for him to fight at that weight, and while they¡¯re running out of options at 118, too, Donaire would be a good one.

¡¡¡¡Naoya Inoue v Nonito Donaire - WBSS Bantamweight Final

¡¡¡¡Photo by Toru Hanai/Getty Images

¡¡¡¡There is the fact that Donaire was formerly promoted by Top Rank, and while it¡¯s not quite a Mikey Garcia situation, there could be some old wounds there. But Donaire is generally very well-liked, too, and he¡¯s a mature fighter and man who knows very well that Inoue is promoted by Top Rank. If he weren¡¯t totally willing to work with Bob Arum on the fight, he wouldn¡¯t even be bringing it up. Donaire does work with Richard Schaefer, an old Arum adversary, but those two have worked together when they had to, and most of the issues between them are from a long time ago now.

¡¡¡¡In short, there¡¯s no glaring political reason that Inoue-Donaire 2 can¡¯t happen this year. It¡¯d be a great fight, people will want to see it, and it¡¯d be Nonito taking the swing at what he sees as the one thing he¡¯s not accomplished in boxing, an undisputed championship. He¡¯d still have to fight the Casimero-Rigondeaux winner (Casimero has the WBO title) if he upset Inoue to go undisputed, but the big hurdle ¡ª and the guy who will be available to fight in the fall ¡ª is Inoue. It¡¯s also the biggest fight at the weight.

¡¡¡¡If he doesn¡¯t get the Inoue bout, he probably won¡¯t want to sit and wait for the Casimero-Rigondeaux winner as his next fight, unless that winner would be ready to go in November, and you can never count on that given how many things can happen, right down to simple cuts.

¡¡¡¡There is a WBC interim champ in Reymart Gaballo, who is expected to rematch Emmanuel Rodriguez at some point. That was ordered by the WBC in January but hasn¡¯t taken shape officially.

¡¡¡¡At 22, Haney¡¯s win was much different from Donaire¡¯s in basically every way. He didn¡¯t run over his opponent, didn¡¯t get a stoppage, found himself in trouble late, but still at the end of the day, got a deserved points win over a still very good fighter in Jorge Linares.

¡¡¡¡Haney (26-0, 15 KO) is not going to be an easy ¡°superstar¡± to create. He doesn¡¯t have the outlandish personality to kick down doors, and he¡¯s very skilled. Yes, he got caught and rocked by Linares, but he made it through that however he could. That speaks to a ring intelligence and a willingness to do what needs to be done to win. And at 22, we should expect Haney to keep getting better for a while. This is a very young pro fighter.

¡¡¡¡Personally, I¡¯m a big believer in Haney¡¯s ability if not what I¡¯d call a huge fan of watching him fight. He¡¯s not and never will be Mr. Excitement, at least not until he¡¯s old and his legs are gone, which might force him into some post-prime firefights.

¡¡¡¡And that¡¯s not going to be easy to market while he¡¯s in his best years. So without the big charisma or personality, without a very exciting style, what do you have?

¡¡¡¡Devin Haney v Jorge Linares

¡¡¡¡Photo by David Becker/Getty Images

¡¡¡¡Frankly, you have the sort of guy who gets avoided. And for as much as Ryan Garcia might talk now about he¡¯d ¡°have slept¡± Haney if they¡¯d fought last night, they didn¡¯t fight last night, and that was Ryan Garcia¡¯s decision. When Garcia beat Luke Campbell, it triggered an order from the WBC to fight Haney. Garcia passed.

¡¡¡¡Garcia would obviously still be a big fight, and easy to make in theory. The other big fights at 135 would be Teofimo Lopez, who faces George Kambosos Jr on June 19, and Vasiliy Lomachenko, who faces Masayoshi Nakatani on June 26.

¡¡¡¡Like Garcia, Lomachenko has already avoided an order to fight Haney (however you want to slice it or whatever excuse there is to make for it, that¡¯s what happened, and that¡¯s why the WBC title situation is a disaster at 135), and Lopez hasn¡¯t shown much interest in truly legitimizing his disputed ¡°undisputed¡± claim by just fighting Haney and making sure there¡¯s no argument out there.

¡¡¡¡There¡¯s also Gervonta Davis, but Davis is with Mayweather Promotions and PBC, and isn¡¯t going to fight any of these guys any time soon, unless something dramatic changes with one or more of them.

¡¡¡¡Though Lopez is fighting with Triller for his next outing, he¡¯s still under contract to Top Rank, as is Lomachenko, and there is a new, serious issue between Top Rank and Matchroom Boxing, Haney¡¯s promoter. That could get ironed out, sure, but spats and tantrums take a while to die out usually.

¡¡¡¡I wouldn¡¯t expect any of the other ¡°big four,¡± with the most likely being Garcia. So then we look at any mandatory situation. The winner of the July 9 fight between Joseph Diaz Jr and Javier Fortuna will be interim champ and probably get an order to fight Haney if Haney doesn¡¯t have something else in the works by then, and that¡¯s in six weeks so unless Garcia gets in there quick, probably nothing will be happening yet.

¡¡¡¡BOX-US-LIGHTWEIGHT-MATIAS-JUKEMBAEV

¡¡¡¡Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images

¡¡¡¡For junior welterweight Subriel Matias (17-1, 17 KO), the road is clear. His win over Batyr Jukembayev was an IBF semi-final eliminator, and now he waits on the winner of the June 12 fight between Lewis Ritson and Jeremias Ponce. Matias vs Ritson/Ponce could also wind up being for the vacant IBF title when it¡¯s all said and done. Right now, Josh Taylor is undisputed champ at 140, and he¡¯s expected to make a July defense against WBO mandatory Jack Catterall, after which he may move up to 147 and fight Terence ¡°Bud¡± Crawford. He could stick and fight Teofimo Lopez, too, but either way Matias has moved a step closer to a title shot, whomever it¡¯s against.

¡¡¡¡Chantelle Cameron (14-0, 9 KO) is a good fighter without much of anybody to fight at 140 lbs. That¡¯s why she¡¯s fighting old featherweights and calling out bantamweights of all the people in the world. Her win over Melissa Hernandez went about as I expected it would. Hernandez knows her way around a ring and was a good fighter years ago at 126, but this was a physical mismatch. The obvious biggest fight ¡ª and Chantelle still wants it ¡ª is Katie Taylor, the undisputed lightweight champion. Cameron may have to move down for that rather than Taylor coming back up to 140, where she fought once and didn¡¯t love how she felt. Cameron may not be able to do 135. The best fight for Cameron among the current 140 crop is either Christina Linardatou or Kali Reis, probably. This problem is not unusual among top women¡¯s fighters.

¡¡¡¡Rising junior welterweight prospect Gary Antuanne Russell (14-0, 14 KO) blitzed through Jovanie Santiago, just totally dominating, and called out Adrien Broner, a guy who did not dominate Santiago back in February. Unless Broner finds himself in need of another payday, I wouldn¡¯t be out here expecting him to fight anyone any time soon. His return didn¡¯t attract anywhere near the old interest he used to drum up for basically any fight, and the bloom may be off the rose even for marketing with him. In-ring, the rose has been wilted for years. It¡¯d still be tough for some to pick the soon to be 25-year-old Russell over Broner, but that¡¯s all old name value talking. He¡¯s got an energy Broner would struggle terribly to match anymore, and he¡¯s not some complete nobody judges will nick close (or ridiculously scored) rounds to Broner against. Russell chuckled when asked if he thought Broner would actually fight him, and that¡¯s probably the right approach to have.

¡¡¡¡Azinga Fuzile (15-1, 9 KO) also has a pretty clear path forward, as he won an IBF eliminator at 130 over Martin J. Ward, and will now presumably await the winner of Shavkat Rakhimov vs Kenichi Ogawa, which has been ordered by the IBF to fill the vacancy. If for whatever reason one of them declined to make that fight happen, Fuzile would get the order to face the other one. He fought Rakhimov in a controversial fight back in 2019, losing a TKO-8.

¡¡¡¡Jason Quigley (19-1, 14 KO) won a hard-fought decision over Shane Mosley Jr (17-4, 10 KO), and the two 30-year-old middleweights ¡ª who are also the same height, which makes a great fight ¡ª could well be lined up for a rematch. Unless Quigley gets a shot at Demetrius Andrade¡¯s WBO title (he was ranked No. 14 coming in, but rankings change fast with sanctioning bodies) or a fight with, say, Jaime Munguia, a Quigley-Mosley repeat might make sense for the time being. It was a pretty good fight and easy to make and stick on any Golden Boy card down the line this year. Quigley would surely rather move on, but what if there¡¯s nothing better to do? And there¡¯s no guarantee there will be.

¡¡¡¡And what of the two men who came up short in the main events, Jorge Linares (47-6, 29 KO) and Nordine Oubaali (17-1, 12 KO)? I would count either of them out as contenders just yet. And if Haney can¡¯t find a good fight to do ¡ª like, what if Diaz-Fortuna is a draw and he doesn¡¯t even get an order out of that? ¡ª a rematch with Linares wouldn¡¯t be the worst idea. Like Linares, Oubaali is in his mid-30s, though with less miles on his body as a pro. He¡¯s a good fighter, and if he doesn¡¯t fade quickly, should be able to work his way back into contention.