With the announcement Thursday of the deal between ESPN and Golden Boy Promotions to launch the new live boxing series “Golden Boy Boxing on ESPN” -- which airs on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes -- the question is what fights will we see on the minimum 42 cards that will air between the kickoff show March 23 and the end of 2018?
Golden Boy CEO Oscar De La Hoya said that he intends for the series to be more than just showcase fights. In fact, he promised, “You will definitely see competitive fights and fighters who are ready to be tested.”
The Golden Boy himself added that fight fans would see “top prospects going up against ex-world champions or prospects against prospects and contenders against contenders. This is not going to be by any means a series for us to use for fighters who just want to get a win. It’ll be a series where our young fighters are ready to take on tougher challenges.”
While none of the matches are set for the series yet, I went over the list of fighters in Golden Boy’s stable and came up with a few fights I’d like to see.
No, we’re not going to see Canelo Alvarez or even Jorge Linares on these cards; they don’t come close to fitting the budget. So I tried to come up with a few fights that I think are doable, would interest fans and would prove something about the fighters involved:
David Lemieux vs. Tureano Johnson: This might be pushing the bounds of the budget for the series but, hey, if De La Hoya really wants to make an impression and show he’s serious about making serious fights, this middleweight match would do the trick. Yes, they both have fights scheduled so, no, I don’t expect it to happen right away, but why not throw it out there? Former titleholder Lemieux (36-3, 32 KOs) is a big banger who has won two in a row against relatively soft opposition since getting smashed by Gennady Golovkin in a unification fight in 2015. He has a fight with Curtis Stevens coming March 11 but after that why not Johnson if he can’t land a title shot? Johnson (19-1, 13 KOs), a crowd-pleaser like Lemieux, earned a title shot against Golovkin with a win in an eliminator on the Golovkin-Lemieux undercard but didn’t get the shot because of a shoulder injury and surgery. He’s due back against Antonio Gutierrez on Jan. 28. If he and Lemieux win how about a summer fight?
Sadam Ali vs. Rashidi Ellis: This would be a crossroads fight between entertaining fighters with deep amateur backgrounds and good skills. Ali (23-1, 13 KOs), a 2012 U.S. Olympian, got knocked out by Jessie Vargas fighting for a vacant welterweight world title 10 months ago and has won his only fight since, but it was a low-level bout. He could use a win against an opponent such as Ellis (17-0, 12 KOs), a talented boxer on the rise after scoring his biggest win last month, a sensational first-round knockout of Eddie Gomez. An Ali wins puts him back in the title hunt. An Ellis win secures his place as a legit contender.
Lucas Matthysse vs. Antonio Orozco: This is another crossroads kind of fight that would be all-out action. Both are known to most as junior welterweights but this would be at welterweight. Matthysse (37-4, 34 KOs) has not fought since getting stopped by Viktor Postol for a vacant junior welterweight world title in October 2015 because he suffered injuries in the bout. He plans to return in the spring and is moving up in weight. Orozco would be a very credible opponent to face after he gets a tune-up under his belt. Orozco (25-0, 16 KOs) is a mandatory challenger for junior welterweight champion Terence Crawford but has already turned down the fight once and did not look good in his last fight, a decision over journeyman Abner Lopez in July. He needs a signature win and Matthysse would provide that if he beat him. Besides, he seems unlikely to face Crawford because he was ruled out of a recent fight because he passed out while trying to make weight and is probably headed to welterweight, where Matthysse would be a great opponent against whom he could announce his arrival in the division.
Humberto Soto vs. Mauricio Herrera: This would be a junior welterweight fight between battle-tested warhorses looking to get themselves into a bigger fight. Nothing like a little desperation to make things interesting. Soto (66-9-2, 36 KOs), a former lightweight and junior lightweight titlist, won his last fight, but it was against a pedestrian opponent. He lost the fight before that when he faced good contender Antonio Orozco. Herrera (22-7, 7 KOs) has lost two fights in a row, to Frankie Gomez and Pablo Cesar Cano. He looked particularly bad against Cano and needs a good win. A fight with Soto would probably be quite entertaining and would put the winner in a good spot.
Diego De La Hoya vs. Randy Caballero: De La Hoya (16-0, 9 KOs), Oscar’s cousin, is a fast-rising junior featherweight prospect ready to step up against a better level of opponent. It’s always nice for a prospect the caliber of De La Hoya to get a chance to put the name of a former world titleholder on his record, and Oscar De La Hoya made it clear that the series would feature prospects stepping up for a chance to face a former titleholder. That is Caballero (23-0, 14 KOs). He’s a former bantamweight titlist who lost his belt because he missed weight and then moved up, although he has not fought in 11 months. A De La Hoya victory would be the best of his career. A Caballero win would show the division he’s for real at his new weight.