The Hottest Boxing Storylines for the Week of March 3

Kevin McRae@@McRaeWritesFeatured ColumnistMarch 2, 2014

The Hottest Boxing Storylines for the Week of March 3

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    Isaac Brekken/Associated Press

    It's fight week, and we just had a great weekend of fights, so there's a lot to do!

    This week, we discuss Saul "Canelo" Alvarez's upcoming return to the ring. He takes on the rugged, dangerous "El Perro" Alfredo Angulo on Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

    Can he return to the top of boxing with a win? And will his first stand-alone pay-per-view event be a success?

    Did Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. answer all his critics with a dominant rematch win over Brian Vera on Saturday night? And on the same card, did Vasyl Lomachenko prove he was out of his depth, unsuccessfully challenging for a world title in just his second fight?

    Finally, after his big win in Scotland on Saturday night, how far can Terence Crawford go as the new WBO lightweight champion? Is he a threat to Mikey Garcia?

    We answer all those questions and more in this week's edition of the hottest storylines in boxing.

How Will Canelo Fare in His Return to the Ring?

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    September 14, 2013, was easily the worst single day of Canelo Alvarez's professional boxing career. 

    Entering the ring at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, with a hotly pro-Mexican crowd behind him, Canelo was thoroughly dominated by pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather over 12 lopsided rounds. There was nothing close about the contest—regardless of the ludicrous scorecards—and Canelo left the ring looking visibly dejected. 

    Six months after that devastating result, he returns to that same ring on Saturday. He'll face the tough and dangerous Alfredo Angulo with a chance to get his promising career back on track. 

    But it won't be a walk in the park.

    Canelo will see a completely different style in the ring on Saturday. In his last two fights—against Mayweather and Austin Trout—he faced slick boxers who were content to fight him from the outside and make him work for scoring opportunities.

    Angulo won't be hard to find. He's going to come forward all night, look to slug and land something decisive. El Perro comes into the ring with one goal in mind; he wants to hit you harder than you hit him.

    He went toe-to-toe with the awkward Erislandy Lara in his last contest, dropping the Cuban twice before being stopped with a grotesque injury above his left eye. But Angulo was in the fight, showing he can fight at this level. You can bet that he’ll come at Canelo guns blazing on Saturday night, looking for a statement victory.

    Canelo should have many opportunities to let his hands go and connect—something he couldn't do against Mayweather. That could make this one of the most exciting and compelling fights of the year. 

    Both men badly need this win—Canelo perhaps more—and have made little secret, per Rick Reeno of Boxing Scene, of their disdain for each other. 

    Whenever you have two tough, all-action Mexican warriors in the ring, you can almost guarantee fireworks. And this fight should deliver.

Is Chavez Jr. a Factor Again; Was Lomachenko out of His Depth?

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    It was a night of redemption and disappointment on Saturday at the Alamodome in Houston. 

    Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., the famed son of the Mexican legend bearing the same name, returned from back-to-back subpar performances. He defeated—legitimately—Brian Vera by a clear unanimous decision.

    The result represented a stunning reversal from their first fight, which Chavez won under highly controversial circumstances, despite being outworked by Vera for most of the fight. 

    The rematch took on a similar feel to the first fight, with Vera attempting to throw more punches but Chavez slinging the heavier artillery. Unlike the initial contest, Chavez was visibly better conditioned and determined to take the initiative from his foe. He wasn’t content to let Vera’s rallies go unanswered, and he battered him at every opportunity.

    You can praise Vera for his heart all day long—he was taking some serious leather, particularly in the final few rounds, with a smile on his face—but it's clear that he's just a step or so below this level. 

    With the win, Chavez immediately places his name back into the running for some significant fights. Gennady Golovkin, the WBA middleweight champion, remains the primary name on the lips of many observers, and Chavez expressed a desire for that fight in the ring in post-fight comments to HBO's Max Kellerman.

    On the undercard, Vasyl Lomachenko failed in his attempt to become the boxer to win a world championship the fastest since turning pro. In just his second professional fight, he was battered by Orlando Salido. The clear decision proved that the jump from amateur to professional is rife with pitfalls.

    Right at the outset, it seemed clear that Lomachenko had bitten off more than he could chew. Salido ruthlessly worked him to the body, peppering him with a mix of legal and illegal blows and making it uncomfortable for the Ukrainian challenger.  

    Salido, who dropped his title on the scales Friday by failing to make the 126-pound limit, was the clearly bigger man. He stepped through the ropes, unofficially according to HBO, at 147 pounds, which made him a full-blown welterweight. 

    Lomachenko's punches seemed to have no effect on Salido until the final round. With the fight seemingly slipping away, the Ukrainian battered his foe for the full three minutes, nearly turning the fight on its head. 

    But the judges got this one right, as Salido was the stronger, better fighter—even if he did land about a hundred uncalled low blows.

    That means it's back to the drawing board for Lomachenko, who has a lot to learnand back to the pack of top contenders—once again—for the rugged, underrated Salido.

Can Terence Crawford Be a Threat to Mikey Garcia?

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    Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

    For the first three rounds in Glasgow, Scotland on Saturday night, it appeared that Terence Crawford was well on the way to dooming himself to a disappointing result in his first championship fight. 

    Crawford—which is often the knock on him—was simply too inactive and indecisive to give defending champion Ricky Burns much trouble. The Scot wasn't doing anything particularly impressive, but he was outworking the American challenger and seemed to have built a decent lead over the first quarter of the fight.

    But then in the fourth, Crawford turned it all around. He used his dominant hand speed, footwork and combination punching to pummel Burns along the ropes with startling frequency. The hometown favorite had no answers when the American attacked, choosing instead to fall into a tight defensive posture along the ropes, in the hopes that his foe would punch himself out.

    That never happened, and from about Round 4 on, the fight was lopsided in favor of the challenger. Even the notoriously sketchy judges across the pond—Burns got a ludicrous draw against Ray Beltran in his last fight—couldn't miss this one, and Crawford earned a deserved unanimous-decision win and his first world title.

    Crawford is obviously a talented boxer. You don't become the first Nebraska-born world champion by not being a solid fighter.

    At lightweight, he has a ton of attractive options going forward.

    Yuriorkis Gamboa is already there, Mikey Garcia could be on his way, and there's always Beltran, should he get by Rocky Martinez on the Pacquiao vs. Bradley II undercard.

    It's just a good time to be Crawford, who has his first title and lucrative challenges all around him.

    Now it's up to HBO to make some of those high-profile, potentially entertaining fights happen. In particular, a Crawford vs. Garcia match is intriguing. 

    Garcia is known as a devastating counterpuncher, but he's susceptible to a boxer who can fight at a controlled pace and distance all night, blunting his offense. Crawford could be exactly that, and it would be interesting to see how each would handle the other's strengths. 

Will Floyd Mayweather Draw Against Marcos Maidana?

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    Eric Jamison/Associated Press

    You had to expect that there would be a bit of a letdown when Floyd Mayweather announced his next fight.

    After all the hype, promotional might and anticipation surrounding his showdown with Canelo Alvarez last September, he had nowhere to go but down. 

    But how far down will we go? 

    Boxing fans and media ate Canelo up as a foil for Mayweather—mostly due to his youth, good looks and significant physical advantages—but the reception for Marcos Maidana has been much more subdued. 

    Most of that can be chalked up to the perception that Maidana simply isn't on the level worthy of this type of event—despite him earning the fight by peaking at the right time.

    When it comes to Mayweather, most observers of the sport are at the point where they'll believe he can be beaten when it actually happens. He's so good, and so untouchable, that most dismiss any future foe out of hand.

    That's what made Canelo so special. People viewed him as a big, menacing threat. For the first time in years, it seemed Mayweather could be in some significant danger of losing a fight. 

    Obviously that didn't happen, but the perception was enough to drive a massive number of pay-per-view buys and a huge pool of revenue for everyone involved in “The One” event to share. 

    Is that likely to happen against a foe the caliber of Maidana?

    Don't bet on it. 

    Make no mistake about it: The Argentine is rugged, tough and determined. But he's sure to be given virtually no chance of beating Mayweather by the mainstream audience. 

    He seems like the perfect type of opponent for Mayweather to ply his craft. He’s slow and a tad plodding and doesn’t present anything close to the acute level of threat that was presented by Canelo.

    And that's going to hurt the bottom line.

    You can't fault Mayweather for picking this fight. The cupboard is largely bare.

    Short of someone like a Danny Garcia or Manny Pacquiao, boxing fans were destined for a disappointment. 

    The question remains: How big a disappointment will it be?

Can a Strong Undercard Propel Canelo vs. Angulo to Box Office Success?

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Canelo vs. Angulo is sure to be an exciting, all-action fight, but it has a ton of question marks heading into fight night. 

    Most fundamentally, is it worthy of being a pay-per-view main event?

    Is it worth $60 bucks to watch?

    Had Canelo upset Floyd Mayweather last September, he would be in a position to sell a PPV fight against a cab driver from Tijuana. But there is little doubt that his star took a sizable hit when he was handed a lopsided loss. 

    That’s not to say he’s no longer a star. But it might be time to ease off the gas just a bit.

    It would seem, given all the fallout from the Mayweather performance, that it might have been a good idea to slowly allow Canelo to tiptoe back into the deep end of the pool before shunting him back to the often unforgiving world of PPV. 

    There was a fair amount of fan angst when this bout was announced as a PPV attraction, and Showtime is hoping that a stacked undercard will help draw in some additional buys to avoid a flop at the box office. 

    Two world titles will be defended on the undercard, featuring Leo Santa Cruz and Carlos Molina in separate bouts. 

    Santa Cruz, a dynamo and candidate for Fight of the Year every time he climbs through the ropes, will defend his WBC Super Bantamweight Championship against former champion Cristian Mijares. 

    Molina, the oft-maligned junior middleweight titleholder, will put his share of the 154-pound crown on the line against undefeated Jermall Charlo. 

    Omar Figueroa was also supposed to appear on the card, but his defense of the WBC Lightweight Championship against Ricardo Alvarez was postponed, per ESPN's Dan Rafael, due to a wrist injury suffered by the champion during sparring.

    It will be replaced on the PPV by an exciting clash between Jorge Linares and Nihito Arakawa.

    This is a very strong card top to bottom, but it remains to be seen whether or not the fans will shell out cash for an event they—perhaps rightly—may feel belongs on Showtime’s network and not on PPV.