Opening Bell: Middleweight mayhem
When Canelo Alvarez had his hand raised in victory after claiming the unified middleweight world title in a huge rematch with Gennady Golovkin on Sept. 15, it brought some clarity to the 160-pound division. But not entirely.
Yes, he was the new champion, but there were still many who thought nothing had been settled because they believed it should have been scored a draw (as opposed to the massively controversial draw in their first fight a year earlier) or that GGG deserved the win. The rematch was close enough on the scorecards that an Alvarez victory wasn't necessarily viewed as controversial, but it still left a few doubts. So a third fight probably looms somewhere down the road.
But in just the few short weeks since that big night for boxing -- about 1.1 million pay-per-view buys for the biggest fight of the year -- so much has changed in the middleweight division.
With HBO announcing that it will exit boxing at the end of the year after 45 years -- with Canelo-GGG II as its last mega-event -- it meant Canelo and GGG were broadcast free agents.
Andrade rolls to lopsided decision
Demetrius Andrade knocks down Walter Kautondokwa multiple times en route to victory by unanimous decision.
Alvarez, promoter Golden Boy and new streaming service DAZN shook things up last week when they announced that DAZN had signed Alvarez to a record contract: $365 million over five years and 11 fights.
The next shoe to drop is where Golovkin will wind up. ESPN/Top Rank and DAZN are openly after him. A DAZN official told me this past weekend, when I was in Boston for the streaming service's boxing event, that the company was ready to back up the truck to land GGG. It would also be no shock if Showtime were very interested in his services.
Canelo and GGG are easily the two biggest names in the division -- in all of boxing, really. But there are other players at middleweight after a busy weekend.
Demetrius Andrade put himself in play on Saturday night as he rolled to a four-knockdown, virtual shutout of Walter Kautondokwa -- 120-104, 120-104 and 119-105 -- to win a vacant middleweight world title at the TD Garden in Boston in the DAZN main event. He looked great for four rounds and then hurt his left shoulder, which had already been giving him problems in training camp. So he was content to just make sure he got the win.
Whatever one might have thought of his performance, Andrade is firmly in the picture at middleweight. He is undefeated, he is good, he has a big personality and -- most significantly -- he is also signed to DAZN as part Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn's long-term deal with the broadcaster that kicked off last month.
The point is that with Alvarez at DAZN for 11 fights, it would be, as Hearn rightfully pointed out after Andrade's victory, almost impossible for an Alvarez-Andrade fight not to happen as long as each man continues to win.
On the other side of the country, at the Park MGM in Las Vegas, at about the same time Andrade was doing his thing, Rob Brant announced his arrival as a middleweight to be reckoned with when he surprisingly -- and easily -- outclassed Japanese superstar Ryota Murata to claim a secondary world title in the ESPN+ main event, winning by blowout scores of 119-109, 119-109 and 118-110.
Brant's win not only killed the prospect of a fight between Murata and GGG in Tokyo on ESPN in the spring, which Top Rank and GGG promoter Tom Loeffler had been discussing, but it also put Brant in the picture for bigger fights and made him a mandatory challenger for Alvarez.
Brant could wind up facing Murata again if Murata exercises his contractual rematch clause, but Murata got beaten so badly it remains to be seen if he will want more of that. Other than an immediate rematch with Murata on an ESPN platform, Brant is a broadcast free agent.
And this Saturday in New York, Daniel Jacobs and Sergiy Derevyanchenko will vie for a vacant title in one of the final HBO main events. Jacobs is with Hearn and headed for DAZN after the fight, win, lose or draw. Derevyanchenko is with promoter Lou DiBella and is a broadcast free agent.
The talk is that if Jacobs wins and Alvarez beats Rocky Fielding on Dec. 15, we'll see Canelo-Jacobs in May in Canelo's second DAZN fight. But what if Derevyanchenko wins? And where will GGG sign? Will he go his own way or head to DAZN if he wants a third fight with Canelo? And what about Jermall Charlo, an interim titlist and a major figure in the division, who is with the Showtime- and Fox-aligned Premier Boxing Champions but not signed to an official promoter? Will Murata want the Brant rematch?
There remains much intrigue in the middleweight division in terms of interesting fights to be made as well as the on the business side. It begins with Canelo, the central figure, and his landmark mega-money deal. Some of his potential opponents during the 11-fight deal are obvious, in Jacobs and Andrade. But where GGG will wind up -- not to mention Charlo, Derevyanchenko and Brant -- is significant. Only when that shakes out will we know which big fights we can expect -- or not expect -- in the exciting middleweight division.
WBSS rolls on
The quarterfinals of the second season of the World Boxing Super Series continued on Saturday with two bouts at the CFE Arena in Orlando, Florida.
In bantamweight tournament, Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-0, 12 KOs), 26, of Puerto Rico, retained his world title for the first time with a split-decision victory over mandatory challenger Jason Moloney (17-1, 14 KOs), 27, who was fighting outside of Australia for the first time. Rodriguez got two scores of 115-113, while Moloney got one of 115-113.
It was a indeed a close fight, as the scores suggested. Rodriguez opened a comfortable lead before Moloney, filled with desire and urgency, stormed back in the later rounds to take control. But it was just a little too late to secure the win.
"It was a tough and close fight, but I saw myself winning," Rodriguez said. "Thanks to Moloney for bringing out the best in me."
Moloney was obviously disappointed to lose his first chance for a world title, saying, "I am devastated. After the fifth round, I came on very strong and I believe I won most, if not all, of the remaining rounds. I hope I can achieve my dream and become world champion very soon."
In the cruiserweight tournament, former world titlist Yunier Dorticos (23-1, 21 KOs), 32, a Cuban defector fighting out of Miami, Florida, reached the semifinals, as he had in the first season's tournament. The more powerful Dorticos outpointed Mateusz Masternak (41-5, 28 KOs), 31, of Poland, by scores of 116-112, 115-113 and 115-113 in a hard-fought world title elimination bout.
"The fight was very hard, but I am happy with the result," Dorticos said.
The next step: Rodriguez advanced to semifinals to face Japanese star Naoya Inoue (17-0, 15 KOs), an extremely talented and dangerous secondary titlist, who was ringside. "Congratulations to Rodriguez. I am looking forward to a spectacular semifinal," said Inoue, who blasted his way into the semifinals on Oct. 7 with a sensational first-round knockout of former titlist Juan Carlos Payano.
Dorticos advanced to the semifinals to face Floyd Mayweather-promoted contender Andrew Tabiti (17-0, 13 KOs), who secured his place in the fight with a decision over Ruslan Fayfer on Oct. 13. "Andre Tabiti better be ready, because 'The KO Doctor' is back," Dorticos said. "This season we will win the [Muhammad] Ali Trophy and bring it back to Miami."
Fights you might have missed
Saturday at Marseille, France
Cruiserweight Arsen Goulamirian (24-0, 16 KOs) TKO9 Mark Flanagan (24-6, 17 KOs), retains an interim title.
Goulamirian, 31, of Armenia, who fights out of France, knocked out Ryad Merhy in the 11th round in March to claim a vacant interim belt -- one of the ridiculous four the WBA sanctions in the same weight class -- and made his first defense against Flanagan, 28, of Australia, who had previously challenged Denis Lebedev for a full title in July 2017 and lost a lopsided decision. Flanagan then won two fights in a row and was matched with Goulamirian, who is trained by Abel Sanchez. Goulamirian scored two knockdowns in the ninth round before Flanagan's corner threw in the towel, causing referee Roberto Ramirez to stop the fight with 36 seconds left in the round.
Saturday at Brentwood, England
Light heavyweight Anthony Yarde (17-0, 16 KOs) TKO4 Walter Gabriel Sequeira (21-5, 15 KOs).
Rising contender Yarde, 27, of England, easily took apart the overmatched Sequeira, 31, of Argentina, in the main event of the Frank Warren-promoted card that streamed live on ESPN+ in the United States. Yarde scored three knockdowns in the fourth round, all with right hands, before referee Phil Edwards waved it off at 2 minutes, 14 seconds, giving Yarde another win against a less-than-stellar opponent. It would be nice to see Yarde take at least a decent step up in competition.