Sports

Boxing in 2021: Jake and Logan Paul continue to rise while mega fights hit roadblocks in wild summer


As spring was ready to turn to summer, boxing’s future looked brighter than it had in years. Big fights littered the schedule and titles were set to be unified across many divisions, chipping away at the sport’s longstanding issues with championship clarity. As the dust settles and the final days of summer tick away into fall, the season played out in very different ways from what was expected.

The biggest fights on the calendar fell through, issues with judging popped up as they often do in the sport and circus fights may have hit their lowest point. Still, there were good moments for the sport, with some of boxing’s elite cementing their place as the best in the world.

Let’s take a look at the highs and lows of boxing’s 2021 summer.

Low: Triller drags the sport to the depths

The final “big event of the summer” was Triller’s brand of promotion hitting a low they may not be able to recover from. After an already-questionable fight featuring Oscar De La Hoya back in the ring for the first time since 2007 to face former UFC champion Vitor Belfort fell through when De La Hoya tested positive for COVID-19, Triller called in Evander Holyfield. Days short of turning 59, Holyfield had no business in a boxing ring, which the California State Athletic Commission knew, sending Triller scrambling to Florida where Holyfield was not only cleared to fight but given until bell time to decide if he’d like the fight with Belfort to proceed as a professional bout or exhibition.

Holyfield was trounced, getting stopped in the first round after falling down throwing a punch, suffering a clean knockdown from a Belfort barrage and covering up as more blows continued to land. The fight was ultimately held as an exhibition, as were two of the other three fights on the card, though you’d have never known from Triller’s promotion for or broadcast of the event. The fact that David Haye’s glorified sparring session with longtime friend Joe Fournier or Anderson Silva’s demolition of Tito Ortiz were exhibitions was hidden completely from the public despite betting lines being offered on the fights. Say what you will of the fight between Logan Paul and Floyd Mayweather, but Mayweather spent the entire build to the event reminding everyone it was an exhibition and not a “real fight.”

Triller’s most recent effort was an ugly card presented in unethical ways and capped off with the dangerous exploitation of a nearly-60-year-old man. Boxing is a sport that often has no shame and still, Triller managed to leave everyone embarrassed.

High: Gervonta Davis passes another test

Gervonta Davis is one of the most exciting young fighters in the sport. In late June, Davis took a risk in moving up to 140 pounds to take on Mario Barrios. The bigger fighter used his height and range to give Davis fits in the early part of the fight, but Davis proved that his power can easily travel up in weight. Davis scored multiple knockdowns to take control of the fight before getting the stoppage in Round 11.

Davis won a paper title, taking home the “regular” WBA junior welterweight championship to go with his “regular” WBA lightweight title. Davis is clearly not “the man” in those divisions but big fights are there for the taking and there’s no reason to think Davis can’t succeed against the best in the world at 135 or 140.

Low: Big fights fall through or hit roadblocks

Tyson Fury went from a planned heavyweight unification bout with Anthony Joshua in August to a planned July trilogy fight with Deontay Wilder to no summer fight at all in very short order. Wilder was able to use arbitration to force his way into the fight with Fury after Fury dominated him in their rematch, but Fury tested positive for COVID-19 shortly before the bout. It was a terrible situation that significantly slowed down a sizzling heavyweight division. Fury and Wilder should finally sort things out on their new Oct. 9 date, but there’s now no chance boxing ends 2021 with an undisputed heavyweight champion.

Errol Spence Jr. was supposed to step into the ring to face Manny Pacquiao in August. It was not necessarily the toughest fight in the division for welterweight champ Spence, but it was a big name in a big fight, which could have continued to raise Spence’s profile. Unfortunately, an eye injury forced Spence out days before the fight and Pacquiao was moved into a fight with WBA champion Yordenis Ugas, who already was scheduled to be a part of the card. Pacquiao had little to offer Ugas and lost a clear decision. There will still be a market for Pacquiao’s next fight, should he choose to box again, but the era of Pacquiao as a top fighter is over.

In the weirdest situation of the summer, a huge and exciting bantamweight title unification between Nonito Donaire and John Riel Casimero was set for Aug. 14 only to crumble over disputes involving drug testing and Casimero’s comments about Donaire’s wife, Rachel. In addition to the drug testing and misogynistic comments toward his wife, Donaire also took issue with Casimero sending a tweet with the hashtag “RealFilipino.” All in all, a strange way to see a potentially thrilling fight between two of the best fighters at bantamweight fall apart. Casimero went on to defeat Guillermo Rigonedeaux via controversial decision in one of the most dreadful fights of the year.

High and Low: The continued rise of the Paul brothers

To call Jake and Logan Paul “polarizing personalities” would be an understatement. They are loud, frequently controversial and often immature while being massive stars for their social media antics. Both brothers have also made an oddly serious commitment to boxing. That hasn’t suited everyone, with Jake being criticized for his level of opposition and Logan not finding much actual success in the ring. Both men had reasonably successful summers, making big money on blockbuster events.

Logan faced off with Floyd Mayweather in an exhibition fight, clearly losing to the much smaller man, though there is no winner declared in an exhibition. Despite Mayweather not going all-out in his attack, it was something of a moral victory for Logan as well as an event that was sold by Mayweather in a very honest way as “entertainment” more than fight. Jake ran his pro record to 4-0 with a decision over former UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley. It was the first tough fight of Jake’s career and seemed to take some of the wind out of Paul’s sails in regards to the future of his boxing career, but he showed that he has it in him to survive some bad moments and gut out a win. There are still plenty of questions, especially regarding Jake’s ability to handle a man his size or an established boxer, but the reality of boxing is that Woodley is a better fighter than most boxers face in their fourth professional bout.

The bad news, however, is that the Pauls remain bigger draws than all but the absolute top stars in boxing. That the novelty factor can so badly outsell almost everything in the sport does speak to larger issues with boxing’s overall health.

High: Impressive performances from top stars set up big fights

Vasiliy Lomachenko rebounded beautifully from his loss to Teofimo Lopez, easily handling Masayoshi Nakatani in their lightweight battle in June. That win should put Lomachenko in line for a rematch with Lopez. The biggest hurdle may be Lopez ever finally getting to face mandatory opponent George Kambosos. Lopez vs. Kambosos has been another Triller-related disaster as they’ve struggled to put together a fight they badly overpaid for. The two are currently slated for a Monday night PPV event on Oct. 4. Still, Lomachenko vs. Lopez II would be a blockbuster rematch.

Vergil Ortiz has spent years as one of the top prospects in the sport and faced a real test in Egidijus Kavaliauskas in August. Ortiz had to survive being badly hurt and came back to score five knockdowns and the TKO win. After the fight, Ortiz called for a fight with Terence Crawford or any other top welterweight in the world. There are plenty of big names for Ortiz to face and Crawford is now tied up with a fight with Shawn Porter later this year. But Ortiz’s emergence as someone ready for championship-level opposition is a great thing for the sport.

July saw a fantastic fight between Jermell Charlo and Brian Castano. The result was a draw — including an absurd 117-11 Charlo card in a fight Castano deserved to win — which led to no first-ever four-belt champion at 154 pounds. Still, the idea of a rematch of a fantastic fight should get everyone excited. Though boxing’s bad habit of forcing mandatory contenders could stand in the way.

All told, there are plenty of reasons to be excited about boxing’s future with plenty of big fights lining up for fall and winter. Of course, that was the case heading into the summer and unpredictability followed as it always does in boxing.



Source link: https://www.cbssports.com/boxing/news/boxing-in-2021-jake-and-logan-paul-continue-to-rise-while-mega-fights-hit-roadblocks-in-wild-summer/
Back to top button