It’s Sunday morning, we had fights on the weekend, so you know what that means: Mandatory wild speculation!
OK, a lot of it isn’t wild speculation, but some of it is!
What’s next for some of the weekend’s biggest names we saw in action? Let’s rap about it. You and me. Let’s both turn our chairs around.
Juan Francisco Estrada and Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez
Estrada (42-3, 28 KO) and Gonzalez (50-3, 41 KO) both want a third fight, with Estrada saying he feels Chocolatito deserves it, and Gonzalez believing he really has won their first two meetings, though obviously the judges disagreed in the Saturday rematch — one of them to pretty disastrous result in the court of public opinion.
The 30-year-old Estrada sounded frankly far more interested in facing the 33-year-old Chocolatito a third time than he does in what’s likely actually next: a third bout with WBC mandatory challenger Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, who also won on the weekend although in a fight that sucked way more. (I’m tired of saying it was “less impressive”; that fight sucked in every way.)
Rungvisai (50-5-1, 43 KO) hasn’t exactly been lighting it up in his last three wins in August, October, and now this past Friday. He struggled with Amnat Ruenroeng last August, though he was fighting at 120 pounds in that one, heavier than he normally is. He has looked a bit lumbering, but that fight on Friday was such a joke that there’s really not much you can take away from it.
So while the Thai standout — “GLOBAL BOXING SUPERSTAR!” — and former champ may seem like he has far less career momentum than either Estrada or Gonzalez, it has to be said yet again: Styles make fights, and Rungvisai’s style has repeatedly been hell for other junior bantamweights, including both Estrada and Chocolatito.
Rungvisai, of course, controversially took the “0” from Gonzalez back in 2017, but their rematch that same year had no controversy; he fully used his thudding power and durability to just smash through Chocolatito the second time around. He then edged a majority decision win over Estrada in 2018, before having one of the great tactical brain farts of all time in their 2019 rematch, losing a decision he might have won if he hadn’t spent so long fighting in the wrong stance.
Srisaket is still dangerous until proven otherwise. Frankly, there may be a reason that Estrada would much rather fight Chocolatito. A fight with the Nicaraguan legend will never be easy for him, but at his best, Srisaket has Terminator-style qualities. He just marches forward with his heavy hands.
Estrada absolutely has the right to not fight Srisaket, he’s a grown man and can do what he wants here. But he probably would have to give up the WBC title unless the WBC are going to go back on their word to Rungvisai. And Matchroom basically promoted the weekend as Rungvisai fighting the winner, too.
If Gonzalez doesn’t get an immediate third fight with Estrada, how about a fight with WBO titleholder Kazuto Ioka? Ioka (26-2, 15 KO) is sort of the quiet “other” man in the division, but he’s been a great fighter in his career, winning titles at 105, 108, 112, and 115. Both of his losses were controversial. All in all, he may be one of the most underrated fighters of his generation, across the entire sport.
Chocolatito just had the loss, yes, but I don’t think anyone would groan at Ioka-Chocolatito. And Gonzalez is also very well-known in Japan — he’s fought there 10 times in his career, going 10-0, including world title fight wins over Japanese fighters Akira Yaegashi, Katsunari Takayama, Yutaka Niida. If and when boxing can really get going again in Japan, that really might be a great fight to make, and very marketable.
If you were to do Estrada-Rungvisai 3 and Ioka-Chocolatito, you could have the winners meet for three belts.
That leaves out IBF titleholder Jerwin Ancajas, but let’s be honest, Jerwin Ancajas may as well not exist right now. He hasn’t fought since Dec. 2019, and he and Top Rank have shown no sincere interest in having him mix it up with the other guys since his 2018 draw with Alejandro Santiago. If he wants to get in here with the top dogs, that’s great, but I won’t be holding my breath, personally.
Benavidez went to 24-0 (21 KO) with a pretty casual beatdown win over Ronald Ellis Saturday on Showtime, a fight that frankly nobody much paid attention to because it was going head-to-head with a much better event.
The 24-year-old Benavidez is a really good fighter, a serious danger to anyone at 168 pounds. And he has a lot of fans who will champion his cause, which I get because like them, I think Benavidez has the goods in the ring.
But facts are facts, and right now, Benavidez just doesn’t have a big fight on the horizon, more likely than not. He could have, probably, but he was stripped of the WBC title (for a second time) last August when he missed weight for a defense against Roamer Alexis Angulo. That opened up an order for Canelo Alvarez to fight the WBC’s mandatory challenger Avni Yildirim, which instead turned into Canelo facing Callum Smith with the vacant WBC title on the line, because fuck it, the WBC just does what they want at the end of the day.
Anyway, now Canelo has the WBC and WBA titles. Billy Joe Saunders, WBO titleholder, is up next for Canelo, and then IBF titleholder Caleb Plant is expected in September if Canelo beats Saunders.
Plant-Benavidez could be a great fight to make, I think everyone agrees. But from a business standpoint, no, Caleb Plant has no incentive to risk his spot in line to fight the biggest name in boxing to instead face David Benavidez.
Benavdiez has also called out WBC middleweight titleholder Jermall Charlo, who also has no real incentive to move up and fight Benavidez. What, for an interim title? A “silver” title or “diamond” title? I mean, I’m sure the WBC would gladly take their money for something, but come on.
Benavidez is in a tough spot. Truthfully, it’s his own fault. I’m not trying to be a scold or anything, it’s just how it is. If he hadn’t lost that belt on the scales, he’s not in this position. It’s not like Angulo or Avni Yildirim — who, again, was mandatory and planned as Benavidez’s post-Angulo opponent to get it over with — were going to beat him.
Much as it sucks, Benavidez is going to stay in a holding pattern. The win over Ellis was an eliminator, so he’ll have a WBC mandatory order eventually, but not for at least a year. So a fight with someone like Lionell Thompson or Kyrone Davis, or a rematch with Anthony Dirrell, might be as good as it gets, and he’ll return in another under-the-radar sort of fight that does nothing for his career immediately, but would at least keep him active and waiting for that big fight he probably will get in 2022 if he can stay patient.
McCaskill (10-2, 3 KO) cemented her status as the undisputed welterweight champion in a rematch win over Cecilia Braekhus (highlights here), so now she’s in a spot where there are a couple of big fights available, and if she doesn’t get one of those, uh, well, I dunno, because the lack of depth in women’s boxing is still a sincere issue in maintaining momentum.
Braekhus (36-2, 9 KO) is still pretty clearly the second-best welterweight in the world, but there’s nothing to do with a third fight between them right now. I thought Braekhus won the first fight, and thought the second was way closer than the official judges in Texas did, but she’s 0-2 against McCaskill and has shown some legitimate decline. McCaskill’s ferocity and tenacity gives the aged Braekhus real trouble, and it’s not likely to get better if they fight again.
Being honest, there ain’t much of any real interest at 147 right now. Layla McCarter is 41 years old and has been fighting closer to 140 anyway. Zambia’s Lolita Muzeya (16-0, 8 KO) might be a real threat, but has never fought outside of Africa, and never faced a contender.
Let’s put it another way. On BoxRec’s mathematical type ranking system, as of this writing right this moment, McCaskill has 113.9 points. Braekhus has 56.13. Nobody else is higher than 2.206 (McCarter).
The big fights are Katie Taylor, a lightweight, and Claressa Shields, a junior middleweight. Taylor beat McCaskill back in 2017, but I do have interest in that fight. Taylor (17-0, 6 KO) has since had legitimate issues twice with the rugged aggression of Delfine Persoon, and she didn’t exactly dominate Christina Linardatou when she fought at 140 in Nov. 2019 before moving back down.
Taylor-McCaskill 2 would pit a pair of undisputed champions. Most likely they’d do a low catchweight in the 140s, maybe even right at 140, where McCaskill went on to win two belts after losing to Taylor at 135. Plus, McCaskill has gotten better since then, period. She’s learned what she does well and she fully leans on it. Taylor is still a top fighter — you can argue her No. 1 pound-for-pound — but she has not improved since fighting McCaskill.
The other idea, Shields, is less likely, but there is some intrigue there. Shields (11-0, 2 KO) is heading to MMA to do a fight in June for PFL, and has said she would consider going down to 147 if the money is right. I don’t know that she’s going to see the offer for McCaskill as enough, in all honesty, but Claressa really might be keen on the idea of going from undisputed at 160 to undisputed at 154 to undisputed at 147.
Other than them, I don’t know. Maybe Chantelle Cameron would be interested in coming up from 140, but she just won her first world title. Maybe Christina Linardatou would consider coming up, she has a title at 140 again. Kali Reis has won belts at 160 and 140 and might be interested, she’s usually to fight anyone.
The depth is a legitimate issue in sustaining interest in women’s boxing in a lot of divisions and there’s no good reason to pretend it isn’t. But surely Hearn will find someone for McCaskill, and I wouldn’t bet against the Taylor rematch happening.
Kyoguchi’s fight with Axel Aragon Vega was shaping up to be a barnburner when Vega broke his hand in the fifth round and had to take the loss. That means Kyoguchi (15-0, 10 KO) still has the WBA belt, still is unbeaten, still in the mix at the top of the 108-pound division.
Kyoguchi, 27, was making his Matchroom debut in the fight, and his signing with the company indicates a desire to make unification fights. Golden Boy — another DAZN associate — have WBO titleholder Elwin Soto (18-1, 12 KO) and IBF titleholder Felix Alvarado (36-2, 31 KO). Either fight would be good. Golden Boy could do Soto-Alvarado themselves, of course, and then the winner against Kyoguchi, maybe.
Looking at the WBA rankings, they do have a secondary “world” champion in Carlos Canizales; it’s rare the WBA makes or even asks a “world” champion to fight a “super world” champion, but it’s a good fight. The No. 1 contender and interim champ (yes, they need an interim champ apparently) is Daniel Matellon, a 33-year-old Cuban based in Panama (obv) with a record of 11-0-2 (6 KO). Jose Argumedo, Jesse Rodriguez, Agustin Mauro Gauto, and Katsunari Takayama round out the top five contenders.