Best fights to make at welterweight

August, 19, 2014
Aug 19

There was a certain refreshing nature to the way England’s Kell Brook soundly defeated Shawn Porter on Saturday to capture his welterweight title.

It wasn’t just the convincing nature of Brook’s performance or the fact that his victory announced -- somewhat unexpectedly -- a new player at 147 pounds in boxing’s undisputed glamour division.

The victory by Brook, 28, was extra sweet because it came within the grounds of a disturbingly rare meeting between unbeaten titlist and unbeaten challenger.

Brook (33-0, 22 KOs), who saw his shot against then-titleholder Devon Alexander fall apart three times due to injuries sustained to both fighters in the past two years, was able to challenge for the belt held by Porter (24-1-1, 15 KOs) because he was the mandatory. Without that distinction, it’s fair to question whether Brook would have had that chance in this spot.

After an almost dream-like 2013 for boxing, the first eight months of 2014 has seen the sport devolve back into a state of slow-play matchmaking and promoters not working together. Outside of an unforeseen surprise like Bernard Hopkins-Sergey Kovalev, fights like Porter-Brook have been few and far between in a year dominated by high-profile mismatches and too many pay-per-views.

Brook’s victory over Porter, however, reminded us of how important it is to get the kind of fights whose sole purpose are to give us answers regarding which fighter is truly for real.

With that thought in mind, here are the top five fights that can realistically be made in the welterweight division. Forget the idea of a Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao bout or anything else directly blocked by network exclusive deals or promoters and advisers who don’t play nicely. If those restrictions weren’t already painfully in place, one could quickly concoct 10 matchups better than any you will see below.

But these are the five best matchups at 147 pounds that not only could happen in the next 12 months but really should. So let the involuntary shadowboxing begin:

5. Kell Brook-Keith Thurman

While an all-England showdown between Brook and Amir Khan would be a major superfight across the pond, this pairing would do a better job definitively answering which fighter truly is “next” in the welterweight division. Both fighters are unbeaten, poised and well-rounded. Where do I sign up?

4. Ruslan Provodnikov-Brandon Rios

There’s certainly a bit of guilty pleasure associated with this fight between the two most unapologetically fearsome brawlers in the game. Yes, there would be blood. This would be one of those fights that you would tell three friends to tell three friends to tune in for. Violence and dramatic entertainment wouldn’t just be a hopeful expectation in this case but a guarantee.

3. Danny Garcia-Amir Khan II

Garcia, the unbeaten recognized champion at 140 pounds, has plenty of big fight possibilities in front of him at junior welterweight against the likes of Lamont Peterson, Adrien Broner and a possible rematch with Lucas Matthysse. But with the weight cut becoming increasingly harder for him, a move up to welterweight is inevitable. What better way to make a debut than in a high-profile rematch against the exciting and vulnerable Khan, who had plenty of success in the early parts of their first meeting before eating a flush left hook from Garcia that he never recovered from.

2. Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Keith Thurman

The obvious reactions regarding whether Thurman is ready for a fight of this nature or if his résumé deserves it quickly fade when you look at Mayweather’s current pool of prospective opponents within the division. We know we aren’t going to see “Money” against the likes of Pacquiao or Timothy Bradley Jr., so when you factor in Thurman’s game-changing power, balanced skill and bustling personality, the unbeaten interim titlist’s unanswered questions only add to the prospective intrigue of the fight. While you are much more likely to see Mayweather, should he defeat Marcos Maidana in their Sept. 13 rematch, in lower-risk/higher-reward fights, a showdown with Thurman is not only easy to make but also the most interesting for Floyd on paper at 147.

1. Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez V

I don’t want to hear about customer fatigue or the fact that the two fighters would be a combined age of 77 by the time this fight would be makeable again in 2015. This pairing, between top-five pound-for-pound fighters, still means something. Not only would the victor have a legitimate claim to having won this generation’s greatest rivalry, but all four fights have been dramatic, action classics. In fact, their most recent bout -- Marquez’s vicious one-punch knockout of Pacquiao in December 2012 -- was the best fight the sport has produced since Diego Corrales-Jose Luis Castillo I in 2005. This fight doesn’t just make sense because, thanks to boxing politics, both fighters are without a better or more lucrative opponent in waiting. It’s the best fight you could currently make in the division because it involves two all-time great fighters who bring out the best in each other like no one else can.

Things we learned on Saturday

August, 17, 2014
Aug 17

For a split second, Kell Brook must have felt like he was in the ring with Sakio Bika. Moments after his majority decision over Shawn Porter was announced, his promoter, Eddie Hearn, wrapped him in a joyous embrace as both rolled around on the canvas. But Brook survived his post-fight spill and will return to England a conquering hero, a nick over his left eye the only visible sign he’d been in a fight.

The Brook-Porter bout capped a long evening at the StubHub Center that also featured Anthony Dirrell’s ugly decision over Bika and Omar Figueroa's sizzling TKO of Daniel Estrada. Brook’s win was the most significant, Figueroa’s shootout with Estrada the most exciting and Dirrell’s MMA-style rumble with Bika the one we’d like to forget. Each bout told us something about the combatants. Let’s see if we can figure out what.

1.Brook is almost ready: Brook is now a player in the talent-rich welterweight division, and seems eager to take on all comers. A match with Keith Thurman would be excellent, but Kell is not yet ready for the likes of Floyd Mayweather Jr., Manny Pacquiao or Juan Manuel Marquez.

The logical next step would be a bout with fellow Brit Amir Khan, which would surely be a box-office bonanza in the U.K. Khan, of course, is still hoping for a fight with Mayweather, and has also expressed an interest in taking on Pacquiao. But it doesn’t seem that either of those are going to happen anytime soon, and Brook is clearly his best alternative.

2. Porter enthusiasm wasn't enough: Porter was as hyper as a kid who had overdosed on Halloween candy, while Brook was cool, composed and focused, just like an unflappable Englishman is supposed to be. His savvy movement, spearing jab, straight-as-an-arrow rights and judicious clinching blunted Porter’s flailing attacks. And although he never stopped trying, Porter’s enthusiasm and one-dimensional approach just weren’t enough. Maybe he’ll learn from his first defeat, but don’t count on it.

3. Porter is not special: We have at tendency to jump to conclusions and prematurely anoint a fighter as the next big thing, which is what happened with Porter, a likeable jumping bean of a slugger with a big smile and an aggressive attitude. His victories over Paulie Malignaggi and Devon Alexander -- a faded veteran and a reluctant dragon -- fooled a lot of people into thinking he was something special. But after the thumping he took from Brook, we know better. But that doesn’t mean we won’t make the same mistake again the next time a young fighter comes along and scores a couple of good wins. We believe because we want to believe.

[+] EnlargeAnthony Dirrell
AP Photo/Chris CarlsonAnthony Dirrell won a super middleweight title by outslugging Sakio Bika.
4. Who knew Dirrell could fight dirty? That’s exactly what he did in his rematch with notorious brawler Bika. In their first bout, the slick-boxing Dirrell allowed “The Scorpion” to bully him just enough for the Australian tough guy to hold onto his super middleweight belt with a draw. But this time Dirrell almost matched Bika foul-for-foul in a rough and tumble affair, winning a unanimous decision in a fight that had harried referee Jack Reiss running around like the Mad Hatter.

5. Omar Figueroa is fun to watch, but for how long? It wasn’t quite as sensational as Figueroa’s amazing decision over Nihito Arakawa in July 2013, but the way the Texas lightweight produced a thunderous right hand in the ninth round that ended Daniel Estrada’s brave bid to take the title was reminiscent of some of Arturo Gatti’s spectacular finishes. Figueroa’s dramatic victory underlined his status as a must-see fighter, but how long he can keep winning vicious slugging matches remains to be seen. Let’s appreciate him while we can.

Things we learned on Saturday

August, 10, 2014
Aug 10
Danny Garcia, Rod SalkaEd Mulholland/Getty ImagesUnbeaten Danny Garcia made quick work of Rod Salka in a brutal second-round knockout on Saturday.
NEW YORK -- After a tripleheader of action at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, here are five things we learned about victories from Danny Garcia, Lamont Peterson and Danny Jacobs on Saturday night.

1. Absolutely nothing

In one of the most one-sided premium cable fight cards on paper in recent history, the favorites dominated in a way that validated the overwhelming negative response from fans the day the fights were announced.

Stay-busy or showcase fights involving big names are fine when packaged with compelling content. But Saturday’s card, headlined by junior welterweight titlists Garcia and Peterson in separate bouts, failed to answer any questions boxing fans had coming in, including the most important one: What's the point of seeing Garcia and Peterson in a pair of noncompetitive fights when they should have been facing each other?

2. Danny Garcia was right

Garcia, the recognized champion at 140 pounds, admitted during fight week he was in a no-win situation against such a heavy underdog in unranked lightweight Rod Salka.

He was right.

Not only did the unheralded Salka enter the ring with just three knockouts in 22 pro fights, he was as a 50-1 underdog for a fight so ill matched that even the much-maligned sanctioning bodies refused to clear it as a title fight. To make matters worse, the fight was Garcia's second straight of the showcase variety; he struggled to a debated majority-decision win over Mauricio Herrera in March.

If Garcia, who took home a purse of $700,000, had looked bad in any way against Salka, his critics would have had a field day. Instead, the opposite took place in the ring. Only the criticism still came immediately after on social media. And it was justified.

Garcia demolished the smaller, light-hitting Salka to the tune of three knockdowns in a second-round knockout win. The final knockdown was the most brutal of all, as Salka trainer Paul Spadafora tried unsuccessfully to get the referee's attention in order to stop the bout just before Garcia followed through on a flush left hook that violently ended the bout.

It's a highlight-reel knockout that exhilarated the crowd of 7,012 and will likely run in sizzle reels previewing Garcia's fights for years to come. But it came against an opponent clearly not fit to face a fighter the class of Garcia, who sits on the outskirts of most pound-for-pound lists. Garcia pounded his chest to the crowd after the fight and provided quotes like, "No matter who I fought tonight, they were going to get beat. I was going to purge. I was out for the kill." But this was a fight that ultimately did nothing for the unbeaten champion, or the sport.

3. Don't hold your breath on a payoff

Even though the card was set up as a possible preview toward a future title unification bout between Garcia and Peterson, a major criticism leading up to Saturday was that it wasn't a matchup that deserved this level of marinating.

Even though Peterson is a titlist and a skilled fighter with a flair for action, he was knocked out in a 2013 nontitle bout against Lucas Matthysse, the man whom Garcia defeated four months later. While getting the payoff of a Garcia-Peterson fight later this year could help ease the lingering discomfort caused by the card, the noncommittal comments from both fighters in the aftermath of their victories was far from reassuring.

Both Peterson, who defended his title by stopping Edgar Santana in Round 10, and Garcia said during fight week they would have preferred facing each other this weekend. But both fighters are at the mercy of the man who holds all of the cards, powerful advisor Al Haymon. And while 2013 was a great year for fans getting a chance to see big-name Haymon fighters in the ring against each other, 2014 hasn't been so kind, making a Garcia-Peterson fight far from a guarantee.

4. Good things do happen to good people

Middleweight Danny Jacobs is simply one of the nicest people in and around the sport of boxing. Coming back so heroically from a 2012 battle with osteosarcoma (a rare form of bone cancer) that nearly killed him, Jacobs' story has become an inspiration to many.

It's hard not to cheer for a guy so humble and passionate, and one you almost never see without a smile on his face. Jacobs, who floored and nearly finished Jarrod Fletcher in the opening round on Saturday, rebounded from a poor start in Round 5 to rally and stop him moments later, becoming the first cancer survivor in boxing history to win a world title.

Appropriately nicknamed "The Miracle Man," Jacobs addressed his hometown fans by saying, "The journey is a long one but I am blessed to have had the opportunity to perform in front of Brooklyn. We did it."

In a sport often overrun by negative headlines, this was a great story. And it couldn't have happened to a more deserving guy.

5. But let's not get too carried away

Jacobs' storybook victory is more than deserving of praise. But the full story, however, does need to be told.

Jacobs is not the middleweight champion of the world, despite what a ring announcer or fight poster might tell you. In fact, he's not even one of the four fully accredited titlists recognized by the major sanctioning bodies. With the WBA's insistence on creating as many as three titles per division, Jacobs captured its vacant "regular" title.

It's a belt not to be confused with the real WBA title owned by unbeaten Gennady Golovkin, or the WBA interim belt held by Dmitry Chudinov. Sound confused? You should be. The premise behind it is absurd. And even though Jacobs appears to have a bright future, which could include a showdown with unbeaten WBO titlist Peter Quillin, whom Jacobs called out after Saturday's victory, his new "world title" is merely a secondary one for now.

Nelson squares off with Grajeda on FNF

August, 7, 2014
Aug 7
Exciting junior middleweight Willie Nelson makes his return to ESPN's "Friday Night Fights" when he headlines a card from Fallon, Nevada.

Nelson (22-1-1, 13 KOs) will face Mexico's Luis Grajeda (17-2-2, 13 KOs) in a 10-round bout (ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET) at the Churchill County Fairgrounds.

Out of action for nearly a year because of left elbow surgery, Nelson, of Cleveland, Ohio, returned in June on the Miguel Cotto-Sergio Martinez undercard at Madison Square Garden in New York to drill Darryl Cunningham in the first round.

The victory over Cunningham was Nelson's sixth straight dating back to the lone loss of his career, in 2011 by majority decision against Vincent Arroyo. Nelson rebounded from that loss to score victories over name fighters such as Cuba's Yudel Johnson, John Jackson, Michael Medina and Luciano Cuello of Argentina.

"Willie [Nelson] is knocking on the door to a world title opportunity and an impressive performance against the hard-punching Grajeda moves him in that direction," promoter Lou DiBella said.

With a victory on Friday, a title fight could be in Nelson's future in the second half of 2014.

Nelson was forced to pull out of a December HBO date against Matthew Macklin due to his injured elbow. He also missed an opportunity to face James Kirkland.

Grajeda represents a hard-hitting and dangerous opponent for Nelson. Grajeda has good size and wingspan and has never been down in his career despite two defeats, including a 2010 loss to unbeaten Jermell Charlo.

He usually sets the distance with his jab and fights behind a high guard. While attacking, Grajeda looks to exploit his long wingspan and launch combinations with long hooks.

But if Grajeda has good height and wingspan for the division, Nelson surpasses him in both areas. At 6-foot-3 with a wingspan of 81 inches, Nelson gives off comparisons to Paul Williams for his size and fighting style as a junior middleweight.

Nelson's style of constant pressure makes the most of natural advantages by constantly using jabs and overhand rights from a distance. But when he enters close range, he often doubles up his hooks with both hands. Nelson has power, but he sometimes gets in trouble when quicker opponents close the distance.

In the co-feature battle, unbeaten Hungarian super middleweight Norbert Nemesapati (14-0, 13 KOs), 18, makes his U.S. debut against dangerous puncher Jason Escalera (14-2-1, 12 KOs) of Union City, New Jersey.

The opening bout of the card will showcase the professional debut of touted Chinese heavyweight Zhang Zhilei, an Olympic silver medalist in 2008, who will face American Curtis Lee Tate (7-4, 6 KOs) in a four-round bout.

Things we learned this weekend

August, 3, 2014
Aug 3

After a wild, split-site telecast of boxing Saturday featuring a light heavyweight title bout in Atlantic City and a pair of controversial endings in Las Vegas, here are five things we learned.

1. If you try, sometimes, you get what you need

Boxing hasn’t been kind to fans when it comes to consistently finding competitive match-ups on pay cable in 2014. Light heavyweight titlist Sergey Kovalev’s bout with unbeaten yet unheralded Australian Blake Caparello was, on paper, par for the course. But a stunning announcement the day before the fight drastically changed the bout’s meaning. With a victory guaranteeing “Krusher” a November title unification bout against Bernard Hopkins, Kovalev carried out his end of the bargain at the Revel Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey, with a second-round TKO of Caparello. Not only does this guarantee an interesting fight no one saw coming, but it also provides fans with an intriguing style matchup for Kovalev when his opponent pool appeared all but dried up. Hopkins, the ageless wonder whose story doesn’t get the credit it deserves on a mainstream level, surely doesn’t need to go out of his way to make a fight against arguably the sport's most dangerous puncher. But his willingness to dare to be great -- while pushing 50 -- is a credit to his truly special makeup and a gift to fight fans.

2. Kovalev aims to please

The reaction of promoter Kathy Duva of Main Events from ringside as her star fighter, Kovalev, fell to the canvas in the opening round on a flash knockdown was priceless. With her hands separated on either side of her face like Macauley Culkin in “Home Alone,” Duva wasn’t alone, considering what the impact of a Kovalev upset loss would have been. But with the super-fight against Hopkins hanging in the balance for a matter of seconds, Kovalev never wavered. The Russian native dusted himself off and stalked his opponent with the same fury that has led him to to a frightening 88 percent knockout rate. One round later, after a vicious trio of knockdowns led referee Sparkle Lee to mercifully save Caparello from any more punishment, Kovalev added another victim to his growing list of exciting finishes. He’s about as honest, inside the ring and out, as fans could hope for and a knockout fighter who truly wants to test himself against the very best. Following the disaster of seeing his 175-pound summit with recognized champion Adonis Stevenson fall apart in such a back-breaking manner, it’s only right that one of boxing’s most exciting fighters -- and the perfect candidate to be avoided -- finds himself on the doorstep of such a major fight.

3. Referee to blame in Rios-Chaves

The bizarre ending in the welterweight bout between Brandon Rios and Diego Chaves at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas ruined what had the potential to be a memorable action bout. With Chaves ahead on two of three scorecards in Round 9, referee Vic Drakulich, who took away a total of three points to both fighters (including two from Chaves) disqualified Chaves at 1:26 after roughhousing from both. The fight opened with enough toe-to-toe action in a rousing first round that caused an instant stir on Twitter, but it came unraveled round by round thanks to a constant stream of fouling as Drakulich simply lost control and was inconsistent in his policing. He set a bad precedent by taking a point away from Chaves after very little warning for holding in Round 3 while ignoring a steady stream of head-first spearing attempts by Rios. He also began to lose his cool and wasn’t clear or consistent in his addressing of the constant violations. But the timing in which he called the fight off and gave the decision to Rios was the most questionable. Both fighters were dirty throughout, but to single out just Chaves instead of both (or, preferably, none at all) when it came to a disqualification didn’t seem justified. By doing so, Drakulich inserted himself into the storyline and overshadowed what could have been a great fight.

4. The jury is still out on Rios

In his first fight since he dropped a near-shutout decision to Manny Pacquiao this past November in Macau, Rios entered his second fight at welterweight in need of snapping a two-fight skid. While he was able to pull out the much-needed win in unusual fashion, Rios failed to fight off fears that his best days are well behind him. Possessing possibly the sport’s best chin, Rios was able to take Chaves’ best shots while continuing to come forward. But in what has become a recurring theme throughout his all-action run in recent years, Rios continues to take far too many clean punches. It’s a result of his exciting style that was less dangerous at 135 pounds. But now, as a welterweight and a veteran of one memorable brawl after another, lingering doubt remains whether Rios has a bright future ahead of him.

5. Judges way off on Vargas-Novikov

Unbeaten Jessie Vargas seems to have a knack for pulling out contentious decisions in his hometown of Las Vegas, and Saturday was no different. One fight after winning a secondary 140-pound title from Khabib Allakhverdiev in a unanimous decision many felt should have gone the other way, Vargas edged Russian southpaw Anton Novikov in similar fashion. The fight, with Vargas getting out to a quick start and Novikov rallying late as Vargas slowly faded, gave the feeling that it could go either way after 12 rounds. But unlike the relatively close decision he got against Allakhverdiev, this time Vargas took home a much wider one against Novikov by scores of 118-111 (twice) and 117-111. The scores, without question, failed to match the reality of what most fans and media on social media saw at home. It has become almost cliché to expect a bad decision in these spots of late, and more often than not our cynicism is rewarded.

Rios: Fight 'is do-or-die for me'

August, 1, 2014
Aug 1
After a stunning loss to Manny Pacquiao in November, Brandon Rios is ready to get back on the horse Saturday against Argentina's Diego Chaves in Las Vegas.

Rios (31-2-1, 23 KOs), a former lightweight titlist who is coming from two tough losses in 2013 --to Pacquiao and Mike Alvarado in March -- faces Chaves (23-1, 19 KOs) at The Cosmopolitan Casino in Las Vegas (HBO, 9:45 p.m. ET).

Looking to be reborn with his longtime trainer Robert Garcia, Rios, 28, feels that this is the right time -- and the right opponent -- to start his comeback.

In his own words, Rios talks about returning to the ring and looking for a much-needed victory.

"When you are on top of the world, there are people who always want to be with you. I didn't really know some of them, but they wanted to be close to me. But when you are at the lowest point in [your] career, no one comes around. No one seems to care.

"This is why my fight against Diego Chaves is do-or-die for me. And I want to make it a 'do' and not the 'die' part.

"I promised Robert [Garcia, chief trainer] I would follow his instructions in the gym and do whatever it takes. I told Robert I want to be the old 'Bam Bam' again.

"I don't need that strength and conditioning stuff. It drained me, actually. I am naturally a strong person, and I won a lot of fights before without it.

"They tell me Chaves is real rough and strong. That he can punch hard. That's OK with me. I want to come back and against a strong, tough fighter.

"The old Bam Bam -- the one who everyone knows -- will be back in the ring on Aug. 2."

Robert Garcia

"After the Pacquiao fight, Brandon got rid of a lot of people. He was quiet and doing family stuff. We traded texts, and that was about it for a long time.

"When Brandon got back to the gym, we went back to old-school training. Rough stuff. Brandon is much more dedicated and, more importantly, is listening to everything I say and executing my instructions.

"Brandon is ready to fight. Bam Bam is back."

Unbeaten Williams faces Campillo on FNF

July, 30, 2014
Jul 30
WilliamsAl Bello/Getty ImagesUnbeaten light heavyweight Thomas Williams Jr. looks to move closer toward a shot at a world title.
Unbeaten light heavyweight Thomas Williams Jr. steps up to face veteran Gabriel Campillo in a 12-round main event headlining ESPN's "Friday Night Fights."

Williams (17-0, 12 KOs), nicknamed "Top Dog," enters the fight from the Little Creek Casino Resort in Shelton, Washington, (ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET) as a highly ranked prospect. Meanwhile, his opponent Campillo (23-6-1, 10 KOs) is a former titlist looking to get back on track after losing three of his last five.

A native of Fort Washington, Maryland, Williams will undoubtedly be the fighter to watch closely considering the great expectations his career has drawn and his position in the rankings of three major sanctioning bodies. At 26, Williams enters the bout coming off two spectacular performances in 2014.

On Jan. 24, he got up off the canvas in the first round to finish Cornelius White before the round ended. In his most recent bout on April 24, he stopped Enrique Ornelas in the third round.

Campillo, 35, a native of Spain, who is managed by former world middleweight champion Sergio Martinez, held a light heavyweight title from 2009 until losing it the following year by split decision in his rematch with Beibut Shumenov. He lost another controversial title bout by split decision against then-titlist Tavoris Cloud in 2012.

In 2013, Campillo suffered a pair of stoppage losses to future titlist Sergey Kovalev and Andrzej Fonfara. He bounced back in May with a stoppage win against Ricky Dennis Pow in Spain.

The co-main event offers a second pairing of southpaws as former world title challenger Andre Dirrell (21-1, 14 KOs) returns to action after 18 months in a 10-round super middleweight bout against Vladine Biosse (15-4-2, 7 KOs).

Dirrell, 30, hasn't fought since a unanimous-decision win over Michael Gbenga in February 2013 in Texas. He is best remembered for his participation in the Super Six super middleweight tournament, where he suffered his lone career defeat at the hands of Carl Froch by split decision in 2009.

Biosse, 32, a former football player from the University of Rhode Island, enters the bout fresh off a pair of defeats. He lost to Britain's Callum Smith in Liverpool, England, on July 12 after a February defeat against J'Leon Love.

Things we learned from Golovkin-Geale

July, 27, 2014
Jul 27

NEW YORK -- After another thrilling middleweight title defense for unbeaten Gennady Golovkin ends in -- what else? -- another devastating knockout, here are five things we learned from his triumph over Daniel Geale on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.

1. Golovkin is everything we thought he was (and more)

The only conceivable knock against Golovkin throughout his devastating run of 10 straight title defenses and 16 consecutive knockouts entering Saturday’s bout was a lack of proof he could do the same thing against elite competition.

Enter former titlist Geale of Australia, a volume puncher with a backbone who, along with being awkward, has showed a history of versatility as both a boxer and puncher.

Golovkin (30-0, 27 KOs) didn’t just answer the questions his few remaining critics had about him, he punched a hole in them the same way he did to Geale in a pulverizing third-round TKO.

Few of Golovkin’s fights have failed to entertain or provide at least one shake-your-head moment of surprise. His finish of Geale fit that category completely as Golovkin ate his opponent’s best shot flush on the chin and followed through simultaneously on a heinous counter right hand that floored Geale and led to his exit.

With a frightening level of poise and craft to match his other-worldly power, Golovkin isn’t just the class of the middleweight division (Geale’s promoter, Gary Shaw, called Golovin the best 160-pounder he has ever seen after the fight); he has stamped his spot among the sport’s pound-for-pound best.

The only remaining question about Golovkin, who hasn’t seen a fight go the distance since 2008, is simple: Who is going to be able to stand up to that kind of heat?

2. GGG’s becoming a big draw, too

Along with being such a dangerous opponent due to his power and amateur pedigree, a major reason Golovkin was one of boxing’s most avoided fighters was due to his small fan base in America.

The tide, however, is beginning to turn in a big way, as evidenced by Golovkin's drawing an attendance of 8,572 for his first appearance at the big arena at Madison Square Garden.

Golovkin’s star is growing quickly due to the combination of his aggressive style, humble demeanor and boyish charm. He’s also taking to English at a much more rapid pace and is willing to fight anyone over the span of three different weight classes, which is almost unheard of for an elite fighter.

But what separates Golovkin from just about any other fighter with crossover potential is the game-changing power he possesses in both hands. GGG’s power is not only the great equalizer in the ring, it’s the unquestioned key to the hearts of the casual fan.

And that’s where the true money is in the sport.

3. Don’t hold your breath on a middleweight summit

By virtue of his June stoppage over longtime lineal champion Sergio Martinez in the same building as Golovkin’s 11th straight title defense on Saturday, Puerto Rican star Miguel Cotto grabbed the mantle as the division’s king.

But that doesn’t mean most would regard Cotto as the best middleweight in the world. And as optimistic as fans might want to be regarding a potential showdown between the division’s top two fighters to close 2014, the smart money would be against holding out too much hope.

While Cotto-Golovkin would be one of the biggest fights you could make in the sport, and in some ways, a crossroads meeting between MSG’s highest-profile tenants, logic would likely lead Cotto toward more lucrative -- and less dangerous -- options.

There was some thought that if Golovkin looked relatively human against Geale it might help him draw a big opponent. Instead he looked like a superhero.

Cotto’s history of daring to be great and taking on the toughest challenges available might be enough for some to hold out partial hope. But Cotto’s status as a promotional free agent allow him too much flexibility to make the richest fight available to him.

As much as a middleweight summit against Golovkin makes a ton of sense, a fight with Mexican star Canelo Alvarez, for example, makes a lot more cents (and many more dollars) for Cotto. And money always talks.

4. Jennings-Perez fails to impress

With a mandatory heavyweight title shot at stake and the opportunity for the winner to announce himself as the next big thing in the division, the co-main event between unbeaten Bryant Jennings and Mike Perez had tremendous potential for an all-action affair.

But the fight failed to live up to expectations -- both in terms of entertainment, and in the sense that neither fighter came out of it with their stock elevated thanks to how the fight played out.

Jennings (19-0, 10 KOs) claimed a split-decision victory thanks in part to a 12th-round point deduction against Perez for hitting on the break by referee Harvey Dock. Without the deduction, the fight would have been a draw.

Perez (20-1-1, 12 KOs), a native of Cuba who fights out of Ireland, saw most of his success countering Jennings in the early rounds go to waste thanks to poor conditioning (he weighed in 11 pounds heavier than his last fight in January).

What Perez’s late fade also did was lower the shine on Jennings’ comeback over the second half of the fight, when he stepped up the pace considerably.

The victory puts Jennings in position to face the winner of a fall meeting between titlist Bermane Stiverne and unbeaten challenger Deontay Wilder. Yet the fight failed in its purpose of giving fans of the often dormant division something to be excited over.

5. New York is back

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when New York City, and specifically The Garden, was the center of the universe for big-time boxing

And even though the majority of major fights still consistently finds a comfortable home at the major casinos in Las Vegas, the city that never sleeps is making a noted comeback.

Cotto saw his brand rejuvenated with his victory over Martinez and Golovkin has made an effort to follow in his footsteps by becoming a house fighter at MSG. But the emergence of the Barclays Center in Brooklyn has also helped New York grab a strong run of high-profile fights over the past two years.

Attending a major fight in Las Vegas is an experience unto itself. But nothing quite compares to the buzz in the streets before and after a blockbuster fight in the Big Apple.

Garcia, Prescott set for showdown on FNF

July, 24, 2014
Jul 24
videoExpect plenty of action when Roberto Garcia puts his seven-fight win streak on the line against rugged veteran Breidis Prescott in the main event of ESPN's "Friday Night Fights" from Chicago's UIC Pavilion.

Garcia (35-3, 23 KOs) enters the 10-round welterweight bout (ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET) unbeaten since his 2010 decision loss to Antonio Margarito at junior middleweight. A native of Mexico who fights out of Texas, Garcia enters just his second fight at welterweight in the last seven years.

He enters Friday's bout fresh off an impressive sixth-round TKO win over Victor Cayo in May on FNF. Before that, Garcia, 34, claimed a split decision over Norberto Gonzalez despite taking the fight on short notice.

Prescott (27-5, 20 KOs), a native of Colombia based in Miami, first made a name for himself in the elite of professional boxing when he knocked out then-unbeaten Amir Khan in the first round of their 2008 bout. Prescott also owns a 2008 victory over current lightweight titlist Richar Abril and came up empty in a fight-of-the-year candidate against Mike Alvarado in 2011.

Friday night's fight features two veterans who appear to be going in different directions in their careers, yet both are desperate for a big win. For Garcia, it would be his ticket to a title shot. For Prescott, who has lost three of his last six bouts, a victory would be the boost he needs to land another big fight.

Garcia will surely be the more aggressive fighter, looking to apply pressure from the start of the fight. Look for him to set the pace by using lateral movements and a high volume of punches with both hands.

Prescott is quicker and more elusive, relying on his jab to establish control. He's also not adverse to trading power shots with either hand.

This has the potential to be an emotional fight with a high volume of punches, and it isn't likely to go the distance. Both boxers have knockout power, although Garcia, given his impressive win streak, is without question the favorite coming in.

In the co-main event, middleweight contender Caleb Truax (23-1-2, 14 KOs) faces Derek Ennis (24-4-1, 13 KOs).

Johnson faces Gavronski on FNF

July, 11, 2014
Jul 11

A promising battle between Tureano Johnson and unbeaten Mike Gavronski headlines an ESPN "Friday Night Fights" card from the Little Creek Casino Resort in Shelton, Washington.

There is plenty at stake for the future of both fighters in this 10-round middleweight bout (ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET) considering a win likely opens the door to bigger fights against elite opponents.

Johnson (14-1, 10 KOs) enters the bout fresh off his first professional defeat in an April fight he was winning from start to finish before former world title challenger Curtis Stevens rallied for a controversial stoppage in the final round.

Gavronski (14-0-1, 10 KOs), 28, will fight the 10-round distance for the first time in his career. The Tacoma, Washington, native, who will be fighting in front of his home fans, is coming off an April win by majority decision against Kevin Hand.

"I'm happy to be fighting at home in front of all my family and friends," Gavronski said. "Johnson is a very tough fighter and is coming off a tough loss against Stevens. I'm looking forward to the challenge and I'm sure I can beat him."

Johnson, 30, was born in Nassau, Bahamas, and fights out of Georgia. He is looking to erase the sting of his loss to Stevens after referee Gary Rosato called an end to the bout in a move many felt was premature.

"In my last fight, the referee stopped the fight early, and I suffered my first loss," Johnson said. "It was a very disappointing moment in my career, but I'm ready to move on and show the world that I am one of the best fighters in the middleweight division. I'll prove it against Gavronski. Nothing will prevent me from getting this victory."

Friday's bout offers a clear contrast in styles with Johnson, the more aggressive fighter, looking to apply pressure from the start. He is no stranger to exchanging heavy shots in close space with both hands.

Gavronski is the more technical fighter who employs movement and sets the distance with his jab and accurate combinations.

The pressure of fighting in his home state, and the challenge of Johnson's unyielding pressure will be tough challenges for Gavronski to overcome.

In the co-main event, Armenian native Art Hovhannisyan (17-1-2, 9 KOs), who fights out of Glendale, California, takes on Peru's Jonathan Maicelo (20-1, 12 KOs), who fights out of New Jersey, in a lightweight bout.

Davis squares off with Farenas on 'FNF'

July, 1, 2014
Jul 1
In a special Wednesday edition of ESPN's "Friday Night Fights," a pair of talented junior lightweights will square off to celebrate the 38th birthday of rapper-turned-promoter Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, whose SMS Promotions is presenting the event.

Unbeaten Mark "Too Sharp" Davis (18-0, 5 KOs) and Filipino puncher Michael Farenas (38-4-4, 30 KOs) will meet in a 12-round bout headlining the card at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut (ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET).

The fighters enter a crucial test that serves as a 130-pound title eliminator. The winner will be the mandatory challenger to the July 10 title rematch between Argenis Mendez and Rances Barthelemy.

Davis, 27, of Columbus, Ohio, was an outstanding amateur boxer with over 200 fights and was a gold medal winner at the national championships in 2005. As a professional, he is unbeaten yet relatively untested. In his last bout in September 2013, he won a comfortable points decision over Carlos Vivan.

Meanwhile, Farenas, 30, of the Phillipines, is a veteran of 47 fights and has never been stopped. He enters the bout having won his last four fights by knockout, each time in under three rounds.

Farenas is best known for knocking down Yuriorkis Gamboa in their junior lightweight interim title bout in December 2012 before going on to lose by decision. Before that fight, Farenas fought to a draw in Japan against titlist Takashi Uchiyama.

In his last fight in March, Farenas defeated Mexican veteran Hector Velazquez by second-round TKO in Manila, an opponent best remembered for his losses against Edwin Valero and Manny Pacquiao.

Farenas is a quick, aggressive southpaw with very good footwork who is always moving his body to find the right position to unleash his combinations. He hits very hard with both hands, and his favorite punch is the hook to the body. That is how he knocked out Filipino Just Bornilla in the fourth round in 2004 and how he dominated Mexico's Fernando Beltran in July 2011.

Under the guidance of former world champion Gerry Penalosa, and after finishing his preparation in Freddie Roach's acclaimed Wild Card Gym, Farenas is ready for what his team considers the big jump forward in his career.

In order to secure the mandatory title challenge, Farenas will need to deal with the technically sound Davis, who moves quickly and surprises opponents with his combinations. When he defends, Davis relies on moving his body to dodge punches, and at times he leans back against the ropes and lifts his left shoulder, similar to Floyd Mayweather Jr., to keep punches away.

Davis throws a lot of punches in each round and relies on volume to sway the judges' eyes. The main ingredient he has lacked up until now is power behind his punches, which explains his five knockouts in 18 pro fights.

In the co-main event, former featherweight titlist Billy Dib (36-3, 21 KOs) of Australia moves up in weight to face former title challenger Alberto Garza (26-7-1, 21 KOs) of Mexico.

Redkach looks to close in on title shot

June, 26, 2014
Jun 26
RedkachDiBella EntertainmentUnbeaten lightweight Ivan Redkach, left, faces off with Sergey Gulyakevich on "Friday Night Fights."
Hard-hitting Ivan Redkach has his eyes set on a world title shot entering this week's edition of "Friday Night Fights" from the Ameristar Casino in St. Charles, Missouri.

Redkach (16-0, 13 KOs) headlines the card in a scheduled 10-round bout against Sergey Gulyakevich (41-2, 17 KOs) of Belarus (9 p.m. ET, ESPN2/WatchESPN).

A former member of the 2008 Ukrainian Olympic team, Redkach will undoubtedly be the fighter to watch in this one as one of boxing's hottest prospects with good height and dynamite in both hands. The southpaw is coming off an exciting win over Tony Luis in January in which Redkach fought 10 full rounds for the first time in his career.

Redkach's run up the ranks has been impressive, including 14 knockouts inside of four rounds and six first-round stoppages. The 28-year-old, who lives in Los Angeles, appears ready for his first world title opportunity. He must first, however, deal with Gulyakevich, 33, an experienced and dangerous former world title challenger.

"Gulykevich is a very talented fighter with a lot of experience," Redkach said. "I think both of us are going to try to impress the audience and test each other from the opening bell. I am hoping for an exciting fight for the fans."

Gulyakevich, who will be making his U.S. debut, should provide a stern test for Redkach. The Belarusian enters the fight on a 15-bout win streak and hasn't lost since a controversial 2009 majority-decision defeat to Humberto Mauro Gutierrez.

The Minsk resident has good height for the division and has never been knocked down in his career. But he will be facing a bigger fighter in the 5-foot-11 Redkach, who often looks to take control of the pace early on in a fight with his jab.

Gulyakevich's jab will also be key in order to create distance and set up shots from the outside. When he closes in on his opponents, Gulyakevich often looks to surprise with quick combinations.

The fight promises to be an even one. Look for Redkach, true to form, to put the pressure on early and look for a stoppage. Gulyakevich will try to weather the first flurry and work the fight round by round in order to take advantage of his technical strengths.

"Every time I fight, I am trying to make a statement," Redkach said. "I want to fight for a world championship and the only way that will happen is to impress the audience and continue to win."

In the co-main bout, unbeaten junior lightweight Ryan Kielczweski (19-0, 4 KOs) faces Ramsey Luna (12-1, 4 KOs).

Geale the right opponent in GGG's rise

June, 12, 2014
Jun 12
NEW YORK -- In the life of an avoided fighter like unbeaten middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin, you’ll often take what you can get when it comes to the balance between accepting an opponent who will further your brand or one who will test your abilities.

Ideally, of course, a single opponent would provide both, but that's not always the case.

So as disappointing as it was for Golovkin and his team to see a July 19 pay-per-view bout against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. fall apart in the 11th hour, the fall-back plan could prove to be a more valuable test at this stage in his rise. It also could end up being a better fight.

Golovkin (29-0, 26 KOs) will defend his belt against former titlist Daniel Geale of Australia on July 26 in GGG's debut at the big arena inside New York’s Madison Square Garden (HBO, 9:30 p.m. ET).

Despite losing a lucrative headlining opportunity against a proven brand in Chavez, in a super middleweight fight with tremendous potential for fireworks, Golovkin's replacement bout could answer more of the immediate questions he faces.

Golovkin, 32, is widely considered the top middleweight in the world based upon his destructive run of 10 title defenses and 16 consecutive knockouts overall. He shatters the eye test in the same violent manner in which he smashes his opponents thanks to a dangerous combination of power, technique and relentless -- yet efficient -- pressure.

But for all of the superlatives one could heap upon the native of Kazakhstan, there's still only so much we know about Golovkin until we see him matched against the very best in his division. That, of course, hasn't come from a lack of trying, as Golovkin has regularly offered himself up to just about anyone between 154 and 168 pounds.

Enter Geale (30-2, 16 KOs), a savvy pressure fighter who can alternate between boxer and puncher on the fly while possessing the kind of toughness that won't crack under the intimidation of Golovkin's power.

"I've been watching his fights and seeing what he does," Geale said before a news conference last week in Manhattan to announce the fight. "He has been knocking a lot of guys out because they are in positions for him to do what he does best.

"It changes everything if you're not confident and [are] changing your style before you even get in there. You're going to be in trouble."

Geale, 33, is well aware that Golovkin has pushed as far as the 10th round just once in his career (against Kassim Ouma in 2011). Despite losing his title to Darren Barker by split decision in August 2013 in a fight of the year candidate, Geale has legit top-end experience and has gone 12 rounds in 13 of his 32 pro fights.

"I don't think he has fought too many guys like me before, so that excites me," Geale said. "I'm going to take him to places that he hasn't been before. I'll show him something different, like what it's like to go late in a fight."

Golovkin's lack of experience in the championship rounds often comes with the territory for a devastating puncher who is rising up the ranks. And while both detractors and believers are clamoring to find out what happens when GGG finally faces someone who can push him, they aren't alone.

"It will be interesting for me, too," Golovkin said. "Good question."

Despite his ever-growing fan base and the mythology that is often associated with his name, Golovkin has remained humble. He credits his trainer, Abel Sanchez, with a great deal of his success, and although he adores the attention of his fans, he is quick to remind, "I'm not a superhero at all."

Golovkin is also respectful of the challenge he faces in Geale, saying, "He's a great fighter. He's a good boxer. It will be a great fight."

The fight with Chavez might have been the perfect chance for Golovkin to make his long-awaited leap into the consciousness of a larger audience while furthering his personal brand. But even though, at 32, there's more of an urgency to see those goals come to fruition, the fight against Geale -- the most accomplished and talented opponent of his career -- offers GGG something just as important: critical respect.

And as long as Golovkin can continue to knock down everyone placed in front of him, the rewards of fame and fortune won’t soon be far behind.

Provodnikov enjoys face-first style

June, 11, 2014
Jun 11

NEW YORK -- There’s a certain raw element to the way Ruslan Provodnikov fights -- call it unrefined brutality soaked in honesty -- that has made him such an attractive draw for fight fans since his arrival on the big stage.

The junior welterweight titlist is also the exact same way when it comes to fielding questions about his life, career and the difficult upbringing he endured in the tiny, remote Siberian village of Beryozovo.

So when Provodnikov (23-2, 16 KOs) was asked during a media luncheon in Manhattan to promote Saturday’s title defense against unbeaten Chris Algieri about where he would be today had he not found boxing, “the Siberian Rocky” was not about to pull punches.

“I think I would be in jail. That is 100 percent,” Provodnikov said. “It was going towards that. I was on the way. All my friends that I was growing up with, I don’t know where they are. Most of them are in jail. I was drinking, I was sniffing glue, I was stealing -- I was doing everything that leads a person to get to jail when I was a kid.”

Provodnikov, 30, credits amateur trainer Evgeniy Vakuev for helping provide the structure and discipline through boxing that has him “redirecting my life toward being a productive person.”

Despite being a changed man, it’s clear the realities of a desperate and impoverished youth under the backdrop of such an unforgiving climate have gone a long way in creating the devastating force fans have grown to adore.

Even in a barbaric sport overrun with tough guys who openly ignore the risks in front of them, it’s clear that Provodnikov is cut from a different cloth altogether.

He’s not a fighter who produces memorable sound bites in order to market himself or add gloss to his indomitable image. What you see is incredibly what you get, with Provodnikov the rare athlete whose motivation to simply compete overrides the obsession for typical vain rewards like titles, riches and fame.

The brutality of Provodnikov’s face-first style is derived from his longing to produce memorable fights while earning the respect of his fans. And he’s willing to literally leave it all in the ring as a means to protect that.

The question, however, is at what price? It’s a topic that continues to confront Provodnikov before each fight. With the potential for rapid decline and a short prime due, is there any concern about throwing more caution to the wind in regard to his damaging style?

“I haven’t given that much thought,” Provodnikov said. “But a lot of people have been asking me this question, so now I’m beginning to worry about that and think that there is a part of truth to it.

“In a way, I’ve always thought it’s better to have a short and very standout type of career instead of a long one. That’s kind of what I am focusing on. I would rather get into the big fights sooner and get through that.”

[+] EnlargeRuslan Provodnikov
Chris Farina/Top RankRuslan Provodnikov's all-or-nothing style is entertaining for the fans but damaging for "the Siberian Rocky."
It’s that same willingness to persevere through an unthinkable amount of punishment that makes it equally hard to properly gauge his ceiling as a fighter. Despite having more skill than he’s often credited with as a puncher, he’s open about the fact that he doesn’t look at a fight through the mindset of X’s and O’s as much as one man breaking another man’s will.

It’s the mindset that helped Provodnikov win his first world title last October, when he forced all-action tough guy Mike Alvarado to throw in the towel after 10 rounds.

“I’m not one of the most talented boxers, and I think that I have to work double as hard as boxers who are talented to get into shape and win these fights,” Provodnikov said. “And my training camp is very difficult. That’s part of my character and that’s part of my life and what I have to go through to get to where I am.”

Provodnikov, who will have a talented boxer in front of him in Algieri (19-0, 8 KOs) on Saturday, is well aware of the belief that slick fighters have the potential to be his kryptonite. But the Russian says he’s never had an issue with this type of opponent, having defeated a litany of taller boxers throughout his run in the amateurs.

That doesn’t mean he enjoys these kinds of fights.

“I don’t get excited for fights like this because these fights are not exciting,” Provodnikov said. “I don’t like when the fighter is running away. It’s not part of my style. I am always very excited for a real toe-to-toe fight.

“If I have to chase and run after him it’s not as motivating. It makes for a boring fight. But it’s not true that it’s hard for me to fight these guys. For them, it’s hard to fight me, that’s why they are running away. They are trying to get away from me. I can do what I do best. I’ve been able to catch other guys, and you can’t run forever. I’ll be able to get there.”

One thing Provodnikov has proved in a short time is that he’s a man of his word. It’s that brutal honesty -- in spirit, word and performance -- that makes him so difficult to keep off of you and so addictively compelling to watch.

Miguel Cotto still has it

June, 8, 2014
Jun 8

NEW YORK -- After a surprising, dramatic and one-sided bout in front of a rapturous Madison Square Garden crowd in which Miguel Cotto captured the world middleweight championship from Sergio Martinez, here are five things we learned:

1. Miguel Cotto still has it
We knew an inspired Cotto under trainer Freddie Roach had the potential to be competitive with Martinez despite giving away size, speed and power. But could any of us have predicted an absolute drubbing from start to finish? Not likely. While the impact of Martinez’s age and injuries certainly played a factor, that wasn’t the prevailing storyline. This was simply a different Miguel Cotto, who entered the ring with a renewed level of confidence that he wielded like an ax to the tune of three stunning knockdowns in Round 1. Cotto set the tone for his workmanlike dismantling of Martinez by his stealth ring entrance -- set to silence with the house lights dimmed -- and put on a vintage performance at age 33.

2. The Cotto-Freddie Roach marriage is a success
Cotto has never been immune to allowing outside-the-ring drama affect his performance inside of it. He also has never been afraid to switch things up in his corner at any time. Yet throughout his career, a happy Cotto has often meant a successful one, and there’s undoubtedly a unique comfort level between him and Roach -- a “player’s coach” who has gained Cotto's respect and focus.

Not only was Roach successful at resurrecting the Cotto of old, he appears to have melded the attacking style of Cotto’s younger dyes with the more refined boxer he became in recent years under the tutelage of Cuban trainer Pedro Diaz. The result was a version of Cotto who was equally adept at using his footwork to avoid Martinez -- never allowing him to develop his swagger by getting into a rhythm -- as he was able to stand and trade with him to destructive results. Cotto landed an astonishing 54 percent of his punches and did much of his damage with a looping left hook to the head that repeatedly exploited Martinez’s tendency to keep his hands too low. Roach’s preparation in terms of conditioning also prevented Cotto from the kind of late-fight fade that played a factor in each of his four defeats.

3. The end is very near for Sergio Martinez
Martinez showed tremendous heart to survive the storm of three first-round knockdowns and keep coming until his corner had seen enough before the start of Round 10. But this simply wasn’t the same fighter whose speed and elusiveness defied his advancing age in recent years. With his twice surgically repaired right knee compromising his mobility, Martinez looked every bit of his 39 years of age. The end is often abrupt for fighters such as Martinez, who rely on athleticism and a Houdini-like style above sound technique (see Roy Jones Jr.). Roach’s postfight comments were a harsh yet accurate summation of his growing vulnerability: “[Martinez] is a great athlete, yes. But I never thought he was a great boxer. You can’t fight with your hands down and think you’re going to be able to win fights.”

With one fight remaining on his lucrative deal with HBO, you can expect to see Martinez at least once more in some form of an orchestrated farewell. Martinez stayed true to form as a stand-up champion and person by offering no excuses in defeat, but his brief and memorable run as an unlikely middleweight king and one of the sport’s true elite has come to an end.

4. The Garden is still the mecca of boxing
After taking more than a year off for renovations, Madison Square Garden made an epic return to big-time boxing as Cotto once again headlined the big arena on the night before New York’s Puerto Rican Day parade. There’s still a certain level of electricity about a big fight between two stars at “The World’s Most Famous Arena” that can't quite be duplicated in Las Vegas or beyond. And with Cotto, the arena’s No. 1 tenant, able to reawaken his career at the highest level -- along with the rise of a potential replacement and possible future opponent in middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin -- one can expect to see MSG pick up where it had left off. Cotto’s raucous welcoming committee, fueled on by his unexpected trio of early knockdowns, provided the soundtrack for an intoxicating atmosphere that was boxing at its very best.

5. Boxing is simply better with Cotto in the mix
Boxing is a sport whose potential for crossover appeal relies almost exclusively on the dynamic qualities of its stars and their ability to make marquee fights. And with the majority of the biggest names pushing closer to 40 than their absolute prime, the arrival of a resurgent Cotto on Saturday can only be viewed as a positive for the sport. Fresh off a historic victory and armed with one of boxing’s few remaining glamour titles as the lineal middleweight king, Cotto has plenty of attractive options moving forward. Not only does his status as a promotional free agent make it easier for fights to get made, the Puerto Rican star brings with him one of the sport’s most passionate fan bases. Whether it be a crossroads showdown with rising star Canelo Alvarez in another chapter of the epic Mexico vs. Puerto Rico rivalry or a marquee rematch with pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr., Cotto will satisfy fans' desire for the kind of significant fights between stars that attract a casual following. And with a new division of potential opponents in his future, his willingness to dare to be great and take on the very best provides Cotto with a throwback quality that fans covet.