The Hottest Boxing Storylines for the Week of June 23

Kevin McRae@@McRaeWritesFeatured ColumnistJune 22, 2014

The Hottest Boxing Storylines for the Week of June 23

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    This past weekend in boxing we saw yet another war at the StubHub Center in Carson, California, the crowning of a historic world champion and the possible exposure of another one of boxing’s young, undefeated prospects.

    We’ll take a look at all the fallout and future implications from Showtime’s boxing tripleheader this past weekend, and then we’ll turn our gaze forward to the top stories that are likely to dominate the week ahead.

    That includes big-time boxing’s return to Omaha, Nebraska, and whether or not pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather needs Golden Boy Promotions more than he thinks.

    All that and more in this week’s edition of the top storylines in boxing.

Is Guerrero vs. Kamegai the Early Favorite for Fight of the Year?

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    Robert Guerrero made a successful return to the ring on Saturday night at the StubHub Center in Carson, California, going to war and emerging victorious over the tougher-than-advertised Yoshihiro Kamegai.

    Guerrero, who hadn’t fought since dropping a wide unanimous decision to Floyd Mayweather last May, didn’t show any signs of rust in the early going, attacking Kamegai with crisp combinations and showing no willingness to back down from his return fire.

    After 12 scintillating rounds of action, both men were badly marked up and bruised, but it was Guerrero who appeared the worse for wear, sporting a nasty gash over a left eye that was completely swollen shut.

    For a fight that was billed as little more than a comeback attempt by a former world champion with a still recognizable name, Guerrero vs. Kamegai quickly established itself as a Fight of the Year candidate at the midway point of the 2014 boxing calendar.

    Both men showed tremendous heart and grit, contesting the fight in a phone booth and giving and taking huge power shot after huge power shot without backing up.

    This was the type of fight that takes a pound of flesh from both men, but neither man loses anything as a result, at least in terms of the public perception.

    Guerrero and Kamegai both proved they were warriors in the truest sense of the word, and they should have the opportunity for significant fights later in the year or in early 2015.

How High Is Vasyl Lomachenko's Ceiling?

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    Vasyl Lomachenko walked into the StubHub Center on Saturday night with just two professional fights under his belt, but by the end of the night, he had tied a boxing record.

    The 26-year-old Ukrainian—who compiled a stunning 396-1 record in the amateurs and has a legitimate claim as being the best amateur fighter of all time—was simply more prepared than his previously unbeaten opponent, and it showed.

    He landed the harder, crisper shots against Gary Russell Jr., using the experience he gained against Orlando Salido earlier in the year to take the fight to his younger and—despite having more professional fights—less experienced foe.

    His body attack and poise, in particular, were impressive, and despite settling into occasional lulls of inactivity, the result was never truly in doubt.

    Unless of course you were judge Lisa Giampa, who somehow found a way to score the contest a draw, despite Russell only connecting on 10 percent of his shots for the fight.

    Lomachenko now moves his professional record to 2-1, tying the late Saensak Muangsurin for the fewest number of fights before winning a world championship and establishing himself as a legitimate contender for the title of best 126-pound fighter in the world.

    If he continues to grow and get better—he was clearly more comfortable and acclimated to the pro game than he looked against Salido—Lomachenko could prove to be something truly special.

Was Gary Russell Jr. out of His Depth?

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    Gary Russell Jr. began the first round against Vasyl Lomachenko as an undefeated super prospect who remained completely untested despite having 24 professional victories under his belt.

    The 26-year-old Maryland native was frequently criticized for facing—let’s be honest—atrocious opposition on his way to undefeated, prospect status, and that lack of challenges showed up in a big way on Saturday night.

    He looked completely unprepared for a fighter with Lomachenko’s movement and ring smarts. Russell Jr. was relegated, in almost all of the rounds, to shadowboxing jabs that didn’t connect and—even had they—had very little pop on them.

    The word exposed gets thrown around a lot when a fighter loses his first bout, but that’s not an overstatement here. He was exposed by Lomachenko.

    Does that mean that he’s not talented? Does it mean he's a bust?

    Not necessarily.

    But it means that he wasn’t ready, and a lot of that has to do with poor matchmaking and a lack of true challenges on his way to his first world title attempt.

    Russell will certainly be back, and he has the talent to make a name for himself. But he needs to get back to the drawing board, hard, and figure out what went wrong and how to fix it.

    And much of that has to do with whom he's been fighting.

Will Floyd Mayweather Have No Choice but to Work with Golden Boy Promotions?

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    It didn’t take long for Mayweather to announce that he was joining Richard Schaefer in jettisoning his relationship with Golden Boy Promotions, and that decision left the pound-for-pound king in something of a tricky spot in regard to his next fight.

    The following day, Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe backtracked a bit, qualifying Mayweather’s position to mean that he wasn’t willing to work with Golden Boy for his next fight, but that he would be willing to revisit their relationship in the future if the right fight presented itself.

    But there might be a problem even with that position.

    Steve Kim of reported on Twitter last week that Golden Boy Promotions’ hold on the MGM Grand for September 13 could force Mayweather’s hand in the very near term.

    Mayweather and the MGM Grand have long enjoyed a close and lucrative relationship—his last nine fights have been held at the MGM Grand Garden Arena—but Golden Boy having a hold on that date means one of two things.

    Either Mayweather bends and works with Golden Boy for his next fight, or he finds somewhere else to fight.

    It’s highly unlikely, if not unthinkable, that Oscar De La Hoya—who has always had a rocky relationship with the pound-for-pound king—would just cede the date to Mayweather.

    So what happens next?

    Does Floyd bend? Or does he take his show on the road?

    The Barclays Center made an aggressive pitch for his contest against Marcos Maidana, only to miss out to the MGM.

    Could Brooklyn, New York, hit the lottery this time around?

    This might be its best shot.

WIll Yuriorkis Gamboa Ruin Terence Crawford's Homecoming?

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    Terence Crawford went on the road to one of boxing’s most hostile environments for a road fighter in March, taking the WBO Lightweight Championship from Ricky Burns in his home country of Scotland.

    The result was crystal clear, but given Burns’ history of escaping with some shaky verdicts on home soil in the past, Crawford still had to be a little nervous when the scorecards were read.

    The undefeated 26-year-old will get a homecoming of his own on Saturday night, making the first defense of his new title in his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, against the also unbeaten Yuriorkis Gamboa.

    Gamboa, who fought only twice in the past two years, was once considered one of boxing’s fastest rising stars, but promotional issues and the resulting inactivity have forced him from that spot. This will be his first fight in more than a year, and he’s never been in there with—at least as a professional—as slick a technical boxer as Crawford.

    Still, Gamboa remains a must-see attraction for his willingness to engage in all-action fights. He has great power, but he doesn’t have a great chin. That makes him almost equally likely to taste the canvas as deposit his opponent there, and it provides a certain intriguing quality to all his fights.

    Crawford, the first Nebraska-born fighter to capture a world championship, will have the benefit of fighting at home. But that’s not always a blessing. It adds pressure and expectations. Just ask Mike Alvarado.

    Crawford will need to remain at the top of his game, box effectively and stay away from Gamboa’s power if he hopes to avoid becoming the first Cornhusker to lose a championship.