Thanks to those pesky PED tests, a couple of really good bouts have fallen by the wayside. For a couple of weeks, the summer boxing schedule, which usually isn't the busiest time in the sport anyway, was starting to look positively barren.
Lo and behold, the announcements started coming. Some guys found new dance partners, while others paired off in interesting and sometimes surprising ways. Things are now looking up.
Everyone defines the summer in different ways: some like Memorial Day weekend, the movie industry prefers the first Saturday in May, and the calendar tells us it's late June in the U.S. For the purposes of this article, though, I'm going to begin with the next time Manny Pacquiao hits the ring and run through mid-September for a look at the newly revitalized summer schedule of major televised cards:
June 9 - Manny Pacquiao vs. Timothy Bradley (HBO PPV)
Since most everyone thinks the chances of Pac-Man facing Floyd Mayweather are as slim now as they've ever been, this could be the closest we get to answering questions about how Manny would fare against a foe who can come close to matching his quickness while perhaps surpassing him in the fundamentals. Bradley is also tireless, and if Pacquiao doesn't figure out a way to stop him, he's going to be a handful for the whole 12 rounds.
There's a meta aspect to this one too, as Mayweather's most recent fight did extremely well on pay-per-view. Bob Arum says it doesn't matter if Pacquiao-Bradley can do the same number of buys, but you know the boxing world will be buzzing if it comes up well short. The presence of Jorge Arce, Mike Jones and Guillermo Rigondeaux on the undercard means the whole broadcast is worth watching
June 16 - Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. vs. Andy Lee (HBO)
Any time a fight features two boxers who represent the toughest competition the other has faced so far, it's a good thing, and a case can certainly be made for that here. JCC Junior has continued to improve to the point where even his biggest detractors (of which this writer has been one) have had to come around on him a bit. He's still a little too brave at times for his own good, and Lee might be able to take advantage of that.
June 23 - Victor Ortiz vs. Joselito Lopez, Lucas Matthysse vs. Humberto Soto (Showtime)
Andre Berto's loss is Lopez's gain. His shot seems to be if Ortiz doesn't take him seriously. The Matthysse-Soto match-up could honestly be dynamite, so even if the main event bombs, this card should entertain. Speaking of bombs, Chris Arreola is also scheduled to fight... someone, so expect to see some of the punch and "f" variety.
June 30 - Cornelius Bundrage vs. Cory Spinks (Showtime)
Well, it's boxing. Bundrage has been one of the more under the radar top 10 types (in his weight class, not pound-for-pound!) for a while, so it's good to see him get some shine. And Spinks used to be one of Max's favorites in his younger days. Other than that, I can't think of anything nice to say about this one. Let's move on.
July 7 - Nonito Donaire vs. Jeffrey Mathebula (HBO); Wladmir Klitschko vs. Tony Thompson II (Epix)
Just recently announced, the Filipino Flash will headline on HBO against the taller but much lesser known Mathebula in a title unification bout. Donaire continues to win, which is the point of the exercise after all, but it definitely feels like he's lost a little bit of the buzz he had a year or two ago. He could use a spectacular win. Brandon Rios is also supposed to fight on this card, and he, too, could use a stoppage to restore a bit of lost luster.
Is there a compelling reason to watch the Klitschko-Thompson rematch? It's hard to think of one without straining. The best I can do is simply to support Epix, because the more the merrier when it comes to premium channels that want to showcase the sweet science.
July 14 - Amir Khan vs. Danny Garcia (HBO)
In some ways, this is better than seeing the Khan rematch with Lamont Peterson that was canceled thanks to Peterson's positive test for synthetic testosterone. These are two young, talented boxers who should put on a pretty good scrap. I like Khan to win, but if Danny Swift comes out on top, it may force a re-evaluation of his ceiling.
July 28 - Robert Guerrero vs. Selcuk Aydin (Showtime)
The Ghost tries calling out a bunch of top names, supposedly turned down some other fights, and eventually ended up with Aydin. That's not good. He's a quality fighter and a good guy, by all accounts, so I'm willing to cut him a little bit of slack. Unless he loses to Aydin. Then, all bets are off.
September 15 - Saul "Canelo" Alvarez vs. Paul Williams (PPV)
This was the fight whose announcement truly restored my hope for the summer schedule (and yeah, it just barely qualifies). It pits one of the sport's brightest young stars against a guy who is not far removed from top 10 pound-for-pound status, and it's the rare headlining bout where there are still some pretty big questions about both men.
In Canelo's case, it's whether his vicious and hard-punching but relatively straightforward attack will translate against truly top notch opposition. And please don't tell me that the past-his-prime version of Shane Mosley he just fought qualifies. Just don't.
For Williams, the question is whether he can even be included in that category at this point, despite the fact that he's only 30. The Punisher never learned defense, and he is what he is. Unless he really is shot, though, he should have a chance in this one, and if nothing else, putting Williams and Canelo together almost guarantees the summer will go out with a bang.
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