The Hottest Boxing Storylines for the Week of April 21

Kevin McRae@@McRaeWritesFeatured ColumnistApril 20, 2014

The Hottest Boxing Storylines for the Week of April 21

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    Boxing is in one of its busy seasons, and there's a lot to do and talk about.

    Now that he's become the oldest man in boxing history to unify world titles—not content to simply be the oldest man to win a world title—we entertain the question of whether Bernard Hopkins is really an alien. That may seem like a dash of hyperbole, but would it really surprise anyone at this point?

    Also, how far can Shawn Porter go after demolishing Paulie Malignaggi on Saturday night?

    Then we move to upcoming action.

    Saul "Canelo" Alvarez has a new pay-per-view foe. Is he taking the risky path to stardom?

    Why is Keith Thurman facing Julio Diaz this coming weekend? And will Lucas Matthysse be able to recover from his defeat at the hands of Danny Garcia?

    We pose the questions and even give a couple answers.

    These are the hottest boxing storylines for the coming week.

Is Bernard Hopkins Really an Alien?

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Is there anyone else out there who is beginning to wonder whether there's something to this whole Bernard Hopkins-alien thing?

    The 49-year-old wonder did it again on Saturday night, dominating a foe 19 years his junior to become the oldest man in boxing history to unify world titles.

    Making history has become the norm for Hopkins—now the IBF/WBA light heavyweight champion—and he completely dominated Beibut Shumenov, putting him through a master clinic in the sweet science and having absolutely no reason to have been forced to sweat through a ludicrous split-decision verdict.

    Hopkins forced Shumenov to fight at his pace, controlling the distance and countering with the same precision that he did when he was a young buck dominating the likes of Kelly Pavlik and Jean Pascal.

    He showed precious few signs of age, and he even scored a knockdown in Round 11—his first since dropping Joe Calzaghe in Round 1 of their 2008 bout—to cap off yet another incredible performance.

    With the win, Hopkins has now done his part to move toward an exciting unification clash with WBC titilist Adonis Stevenson, possibly later in the year.

    The 36-year-old Stevenson, who recently spurned HBO by signing with adviser Al Haymon and moving to Showtime, will defend his title against Andrzej Fonfara on May 24. Should he win—he's a heavy favorite—that's all but certain to lead to a three-belt unification fight with Hopkins later in the year.

    And, if it happens, don't be surprised if the man—who spent a quarter-century calling himself "The Executioner"—called "The Alien" takes another younger man to school. And if he does, he’ll be celebrating his 50th birthday in January as the closest thing to an undisputed light heavyweight champion we’ve got.

    Maybe he’s on to something after all. Maybe he really isn’t of this world.

How Far Can Shawn Porter Go?

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    There were two schools of thought heading into Shawn Porter's first defense of his IBF Welterweight Championship on Saturday night against Paulie Malignaggi.

    Either he was a young fighter, just coming into his prime, who would take the next step by disposing of the former champion, or he was going to be exposed by a wily veteran who's made a career out of proving his critics wrong.

    Nowhere, in either of those possibilities, was it considered that Porter would absolutely blitz Malignaggi, dominate him and stop him in stunningly brutal fashion in the first third of the fight. But that's exactly what happened.

    Porter was just too strong, too physical and too dominant inside. He attacked from the opening bell, and he didn't give the former champion any room to operate. Malignaggi was cut in Round 1, dropped twice and stopped in Round 4, and then taken to the hospital as a precaution.

    It wasn't the first time that the "Magic Man" has been stopped—Ricky Hatton and Amir Khan also pulled off the feat—but this was far more quick and brutal.

    Porter has now beaten Devon Alexander and Malignaggi back-to-back, and in the process, he's burst on the scene as one of the top young 147-pound fighters in the world.

    With his speed, physicality and in-your-face style that doesn't give an opponent time to breathe, Porter has a ton of upside. The upset of Alexander was certainly impressive, but demolishing the tough-as-nails and usually durable Malignaggi was something else.

    Porter, per Boxing Scene, will be ordered by the IBF to defend his title against Kell Brook in his next fight, and that bout presents a fair amount of intrigue.

    "Showtime" has plenty of salivating potential opponents for him fighting on Showtime—no pun intended—so he'll have plenty of opportunities to continue climbing the ranks.

Is Canelo Alvarez Biting off More Than He Can Chew?

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    Canelo Alvarez isn't taking the easy road to reclaiming his lofty perch as boxing's top young star.

    The cinnamon-haired former champion was schooled by pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather last September in boxing's biggest event in years, but he successfully returned, showing no loss of confidence, dominating and stopping the rugged Alfredo Angulo in March.

    But the competition level is about to go up—way up.

    Canelo will meet Erislandy Lara on July 12 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, per ESPN.com's Dan Rafael, and the event will be televised on Showtime pay-per-view. The bout will take place at a maximum weight of 155 pounds—one above the junior middleweight limit—and no titles will be on the line.

    Many felt that the 23-year-old Alvarez would avoid Lara, a tricky Cuban southpaw who has been calling him out for years, in favor of more lucrative and less dangerous fights.

    Lara has been one of boxing's best kept secrets for the past couple of years. He's a tremendous technical boxer, with good power and an ability to frustrate and pick apart his opponents. His lone career defeat—a 2011 majority decision at the hands of Paul Williams—was absolutely bogus.

    People can, and certainly will, debate whether or not this belongs on PPV.

    But Canelo proved in his bout with Angulo that he can get people to fork over some extra cash to see him fight. That bout drew well over 350,000 buys, according to Rafael, and cemented Canelo's status as a box-office draw.

    By facing Lara, Canelo is definitely choosing to take the risky path back to the top. The winner of this fight will be the man to beat at 154 pounds—seeing as Mayweather has dropped back down to welterweight—and regardless of its PPV worthiness, it's the fight that fans want to see.

Why Is Keith Thurman Fighting Julio Diaz?

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    Keith "One Time" Thurman is one of the most exciting welterweight prospects to come along in quite some time. He has massive punching power—with 20 knockouts in 22 career wins—and has shown improved technical proficiency in his last few fights.

    Thurman can knock you out with one big shot, but he can also box pretty effectively, keeping an opponent on the defensive, wary of his punching power while he sets something up.

    His level of competition has risen steadily—he's fought Jan Zaveck, Diego Chaves and Jesus Soto Karass in his last three fights—and he'll defend his WBA Interim Welterweight Championship on Saturday night against veteran former champion Julio Diaz.

    Diaz was a credible opponent a few years back, but this fight has to be viewed as something of a step back for Thurman. The 34-year-old Mexican is 0-2-1 in his last three fights and has dropped back-to-back decisions to Amir Khan and Shawn Porter.

    That's not to the type of resume that earns you another big fight, and really, it's not what "One Time" needs right now.

    Should he win? Yes.

    Should he look good in doing it? Also yes.

    But this fight really doesn't prove anything.

Will Lucas Matthysse Rebound?

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    Lucas Matthysse walked into the MGM Grand Garden Arena last September as a heavy favorite to use his massive punching power to unseat Danny Garcia as the legitimate junior welterweight champion. 

    But that's why the fights happen in the ring and not on paper.

    Garcia stunned Matthysse, knocked him down and captured a deserved unanimous-decision victory to retain his titles. 

    The 31-year-old Argentine bomber returns to action on Saturday night, facing John Molina for the useless WBC Continental Americans Junior Welterweight Championship on Showtime. More importantly, he's looking for a big victory to get back on track after a pretty significant setback.

    Molina will once again be looking to play the spoiler—he scored a stunning final-round knockout of Mickey Bey after losing virtually every round back in July of last year—but in 2012 he got blown out of the ring in one round by Antonio DeMarco, who isn't near Matthysse's level in terms of power.

    But it's boxing, and as always, anything can happen.

    Matthysse should win this fight. But Molina has some guts, and he's upset well-laid plans in the past. So, who knows?

    One thing seems pretty certain: This one shouldn't go the distance.