Pacquiao-Thurman, Lee-Plant Official for July 20
While expected, it was still nice to see that this week that the fight between Manny Pacquiao and Keith “One Time” Thurman was made official for July 20 in Las Vegas, to air on PPV. Pacquiao may not be what he once was (and is definitely not good enough to beat Spence or Crawford at welterweight) but he is still good enough that most people view this as a 50-50 fight, and still famous enough that this fight should sell well. This will also mark the first time in four years that Thurman will fight more than once in a calendar year, a fact that led to an ironic mocking of his “one time” nickname on boxing message boards. If that fight doesn’t excite you, it’s being reported Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. will be on the undercard.
As part of a PBC lead-in show for that fight (not to be shown on the PPV portion) Caleb Plant will defend his IBF super middleweight title against Mike Lee. There are a couple of intriguing storylines about this fight. First, Plant lost his mother to a police shooting when she (allegedly) rushed a Tennessee deputy with a knife in March. This will be his first fight since that incident, and with police shootings being such a hot button issue in America expect it to come up often in pre-fight interviews. For Lee, it has been six years since his appearance in a Subway commercial that aired during the Super Bowl. That commercial had boxing fans crying foul over his being undeserving of the promotion, with some going as far as to imply a racial aspect to the decision. In the years since, Lee has done nothing to prove those doubters wrong. This will be his first real test against an elite professional. We’ll see how he does.
Boxing Loses Harold Lederman and Bert Cooper on the Same Day
This week boxing lost one of its most recognizable broadcast voices and one of the 90s’ most recognizable faces in the heavyweight division. First, “Smokin” Bert Cooper passed away at the age of 53 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. Cooper was trained by Joe Frazier until they had a falling out after Cooper claimed Frazier made him move up to heavyweight, where he was stopped by Carl Williams. Still, as a 5-foot-11 heavyweight that extensively used the cross armed guard, it was never hard to see the Joe Frazier influence. But Bert Cooper was no Joe Frazier.
Saddled with a horrific drug problem, Cooper consistently failed when he came against the best heavyweights in the world, but usually put up a great fight. He knocked down Evander Holyfield (WBA and IBF) and Michael Moorer (WBO) in title fights that he easily could have won if a few things had broken his way, and his resume is a who’s who of great heavyweights of the 1990s including Riddick Bowe, Holyfield, Moorer and George Foreman. But it’s his fight against George Foreman that best illustrates why “Smokin Bert” would never be like “Smokin Joe.” Bert Cooper quit on his stool in the third round against an old and fat George Foreman, while Joe Frazier put himself through hell twice, getting knocked down a total of eight times in two fights against a prime “Big George.” That is telling.
Cooper kept fighting long after he should’ve stopped, facing such 2000’s heavyweight stalwarts as Chris Byrd, Corrie Sanders, and Luis Ortiz. Still, his career will always be defined by the chance he had against Evander Holyfield in the third round and the unrealized potential that drugs and his falling out with Frazier cost him.
Harold Lederman, on the other hand was HBO’s unofficial ringside scorer for 32 years after judging over 100 title fights as an official judge. While known for his catchphrases like “Jim, I gotta tell ya,” the truth is he played a hugely important role in how prizefights were viewed. It is very rare (increasingly so in the cell phone era) that fans will use a pen and paper to score fights themselves. Instead, most fans simply trust the unofficial ringside scorer to tell them what the score should be and cry “robbery” when the official cards don’t match those numbers. So, while obituary after obituary spoke of how kind Lederman was and how well he treated fans, it should be noted that Lederman was far more influential in how people viewed certain fights in boxing history than most people will ever realize. And for the record, he had Castillo beating Mayweather 115-111.
Commey-Beltran Made Official for June 28
Another long expected fight was made official this week when it was announced Ghana’s Richard Commey and Mexico’s Rey Beltran would be meeting on June 28th in Temecula Callifornia, on a card to be aired on ESPN. It’s widely believed the winner of this fight will face Vasiliy Lomachenko, assuming Lomachenko gets by Campbell. Either way, it should be an exciting one.
Conlan Gets Chance for Olympic Redemption against Nikitin Aug. 3rd in Belfast
Mick Conlan was introduced to the world when he gave Olympic judges the middle finger after they screwed him out of a win over Russia’s Vladimir Nikitin. Now, as a professional Conlan will get a chance to redeem himself by beating Nikitin in an outdoor park in Conlan’s hometown of Belfast, Ireland on Aug. 3 on a card to be aired on ESPN+ . Nikitin has said that he views the fight as a way to cement the two official wins he held over Conlan in the amateurs. Given where the fight is being held and the personal animosity of the fight, that crowd will be electric, and that fight will be something to see.
Callum Smith Likely to Fight Hassan Ndam with Saunders Possibly Waiting in the Wings
It looks like Callum Smith will be fighting Hassan Ndam on the undercard of the June 1st Joshua-Ruiz card at Madison Square Garden. Ndam was being considered as an opponent for GGG but will instead fight Smith for the WBA (super) super middleweight title. Smith has been talking about fighting Canelo, but there are no signs that is likely. What is more likely is Smith fighting Billy Joe Saunders, who has been calling for that fight after he beats Isufi for the WBO super middleweight title (Gilberto Ramirez officially vacated it, after hesitating about whether he would do so for weeks).
Danny Garcia- Mikey Garcia in Talks for Aug. 31 Fight
Apparently unable to find a good opponent at 140, rumors have Mikey Garcia staying at 147 to face Danny Garcia Aug. 31 on PPV. Mikey Garcia obviously didn’t look good at 147 against Errol Spence Jr., so the fact that he’s taking on another elite welterweight is certainly interesting. It also mean that anyone still holding out hope for Lomachenko-Garcia needs to let it go.
Deontay Wilder Breaks Stock Exchange Gavel
And finally, this week Deontay Wilder was invited to ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange, so he hit the thing unnecessarily hard, broke the gavel, then made the absurd statement “It’s not every day you get to do that. It’s not every day that someone breaks the gavel at the closing bell. But I’m the heavyweight champion of the world and when I hit something it breaks. So that gavel was just like my opponents. Once I hit them right, they break and they’re never the same.” Heavyweight champion or not, Deontay Wilder’s hardo routine has become cringeworthy.