Opening Bell: Summer break
There have been several excellent and important fights in the first half of 2018.
A few that come to mind are unification bouts between heavyweights Anthony Joshua and Joseph Parker and junior middleweights Jarrett Hurd and Erislandy Lara, not to mention Deontay Wilder-Luis Ortiz, Vasiliy Lomachenko-Jorge Linares, Leo Santa Cruz-Abner Mares II, Terence Crawford-Jeff Horn, Adonis Stevenson-Badou Jack, Oscar Valdez-Scott Quigg and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai-Juan Francisco Estrada.
Now we are headed to the dog days of summer, when the boxing world still has plenty of fights scheduled but things do slow down as it pertains to legitimately major bouts until we get to the really big one on Sept. 15: GGG-Canelo II.
But there are still a few fights to be interested in over the next 2½ months. There's the Manny Pacquiao-Lucas Matthysse fight on July 14 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, but who knows if it will really come off given the financial issues the event faces.
One terrific fight on the summer schedule is the final of the World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight tournament final for the undisputed title between Oleksandr Usyk and Murat Gassiev, penciled in for July 21 in Moscow, but there is no American television for the fight yet and there may not be.
HBO has a solid doubleheader on Aug. 4 as significant boxing returns to Atlantic City, New Jersey, for the first time since November 2014 when Sergey Kovalev defeated Bernard Hopkins in a light heavyweight unification fight. On the upcoming card Kovalev defends his title against Eleider "Storm" Alvarez in the main event, with Dmitry Bivol defending his version of the light heavyweight title against Isaac Chilemba in the co-feature.
But the biggest date of the summer schedule, one fans should circle on their calendar, is July 28 when Mikey Garcia and Robert Easter Jr. meet in a lightweight title unification fight in Los Angeles. Yes, Garcia will be the big favorite but it matches young, undefeated titleholders and is about as good a fight as can be made in the division while Vasiliy Lomachenko is sidelined by injury.
On the same day in London, there's a good heavyweight scrap between Dillian Whyte and Parker, both Joshua victims looking for a big win. Though there is no U.S. broadcast deal, I'd imagine there eventually will be one, at least of the streaming variety.
So while the boxing schedule will remain active with fight cards virtually every week through the summer, the big ones are few and far between until we hit the fall with the biggest of them all.
Fight of the weekend: Taylor-Postol
It was a crossroads fight with big stakes between rising junior welterweight star Josh Taylor, a 27-year-old southpaw from Scotland, and former world titleholder Viktor Postol, 34, of Ukraine, and they produced a dandy on Saturday in front of Taylor's crowd in Glasgow. In the end it was Taylor, taking a big step up in competition, who got the nod by decision, 119-108, 118-110, 117-110, in a title eliminator to put himself in position for an eventual mandatory shot at the belt held by Jose Ramirez. However, the fight was much closer than the surprisingly wide scores made it seem.
There was very good action in several rounds, including when Taylor (13-0, 11 KOs) rocked Postol (29-2, 12 KOs) with a left hand in the third and an uppercut in the sixth. Postol had his own big moments, including when he hurt Taylor with a right hand and cut him over his right eye in the seventh round. Late in the 10th round, Taylor dropped Postol with a left hand. It was a very hard-fought victory for Taylor, who is clearly ready for a world title fight even with so little pro experience.
The next step: Taylor may be in position for a title fight against Ramirez but it likely is still at least a couple of fights off. There is also the possibility of Taylor entering the World Boxing Super Series 140-pound tournament this fall, which could give him a shot at another of the belts. Regardless, Taylor has shown he's a man to be reckoned with.
Prospect watch I: Vergil Ortiz Jr.
Dallas junior welterweight Vergil Ortiz Jr. (10-0, 10 KOs) is just 20 but is very poised and polished as he goes about his business of knocking opponents out, which is just what he did on Saturday. In the main event of the Golden Boy Boxing on ESPN card in Los Angeles, Ortiz impressively took out former junior lightweight world titlist Juan Carlos Salgado (27-9-1, 16 KOs), 33, of Mexico, with a right hand to the body at 1 minute, 52 seconds of the third round. Although Salgado dropped to 1-8 in his last nine fights, he was by far the best opponent of Ortiz's career. Ortiz, who was in his first fight with trainer Robert Garcia after splitting with Joel Diaz (who served as the analyst on the ESPN broadcast), has yet to go past three rounds but he is an exciting prospect who seems to have a bright future. Along with junior lightweight Ryan Garcia, he is the most promising of the many young fighters on the Golden Boy roster.
Prospect watch II: Daniel Dubois
Daniel Dubois (8-0, 8 KOs), 20, of England, may be the best heavyweight prospect in the world and he did nothing to dissuade anyone of that notion Saturday in London on the undercard of middleweight contender Martin Murray's decision win over Roberto Garcia. Tom Little (10-6, 3 KOs), 30, of England, became the first opponent to extend Dubois past the third round, but Dubois dropped him in the fourth with a left to the body; and then, as he was blitzing him with clean shots in the fifth round, referee Terry O'Connor stopped it at 58 seconds.
Upset of the week
Former lightweight world titlist Dejan Zlaticanin (23-2, 16 KOs), 34, of Montenegro, who lost his belt by highlight-reel third-round knockout to Mikey Garcia in January 2017, won his comeback fight in December and was aiming for another win Thursday on promoter Lou DiBella's "Broadway Boxing" card in New York, when he faced underdog Roberto Ramirez (18-2-1, 13 KOs), 25, of Mexico. Ramirez, however, scored a huge upset when he took Zlaticanin out in the second round. He dropped him twice, including for the second time with a three-punch combination punctuated by a wicked right uppercut that sent him to his knees as referee Al LoBianco stopped it at 2 minutes, 32 seconds.
The next step: Zlaticanin suffered a broken jaw and broken nose and has lost two of his last three by rough KO. He'll probably never reach the top again. But Ramirez won his fifth fight in a row and could at least get a chance for a bigger fight. His only previous losses were by knockout to then-unbeaten Abel Ramos in 2015 and a 2013 split decision to Carlos Ocampo, the guy Errol Spence Jr. KO'd in the first round June 16.
Fight you might have missed
Saturday at Paris
Heavyweight Tony Yoka (5-0, 4 KOs) TKO10 Dave Allen (13-4-2, 10 KOs)
In easily the biggest test of his career, France's Yoka, 26, the 2016 Olympic super heavyweight gold medalist, got by Dave Allen, 26, of England, who extended Yoka past the sixth round for the first time but got stopped in the final round. Allen gave a quality effort as he pressed forward but he took shots in return against the more refined Yoka, who broke him down as the fight moved along. In the 10th round, Yoka pounded Allen, landing numerous unanswered punches, including several clean right hands and uppercuts, until referee Christophe Fernandez intervened at 43 seconds.
Saturday at Ciudad Juarez, Mexico
Junior lightweight Miguel "Mickey" Roman (60-12, 47 KOs) KO2 Michel Marcano (17-1-1, 14 KOs)
Roman, 32, of Mexico, is the mandatory challenger for world titlist Miguel Berchelt, but with Berchelt allowed an optional defense first, Roman had to defeat Marcano, 28, of Venezuela, to maintain his position, which he did with ease in front of a hometown crowd. In the second round, Roman connected with a clean left hook to the body that dropped Marcano to his knees, where he appeared in agony as he took the full count from referee Edward Collantes at 1 minute, 35 seconds. Marcano was taking a massive step up in competition after having never previously faced an opponent with a winning record.
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