By Michael Rosenthal
Let’s look forward instead of backward this weekend.
I’ve wanted to introduce a COMING UP section to the WEEKEND REVIEW column for some time and this is the perfect week to do it, as there were no major fights the past few days but several on deck.
The plan is to focus on the most interesting, most-talked-about matchups of the coming weekend. So here goes.
Jeff Horn vs. Terence Crawford: Let’s start with the best fighter in action this weekend, Crawford, who challenges WBO welterweight titleholder Horn on Saturday in Las Vegas.
I understand the frustration of Horn, who has bemoaned a perceived lack of respect going into the second title defense of the belt he took from Manny Pacquiao last July in Brisbane, Horn’s hometown.
The fact is this is a mismatch.
Horn (18-0-1, 12 knockouts) used mauling tactics to make his fight with Pacquiao competitive but he received a gift decision. I had the much-more-active Pacquiao winning eight of the 12 rounds, which was in line with the consensus.
And that version of Pacquiao wasn’t the dynamo of the past. Horn was outboxed by a famous, but faded opponent.
By comparison, Crawford (32-0, 23 KOs) is a sublimely talented all-around fighter at the peak of his abilities. Bob Arum, his promoter, said Crawford is on the level of Sugar Ray Leonard. That’s a stretch but I understand the sentiment: He might be the best fighter in the world.
Horn is naturally bigger than his challenger. And the Aussie’s physical style could give Crawford some minor problems, as it did Pacquiao. That said, you should expect a one-sided fight. Horn is in over his head.
Leo Santa Cruz vs. Abner Mares II: I believe Mares (31-2-1, 15 KOs) when he says he feels rejuvenated under new trainer Robert Garcia and that he’ll be a better fighter in his rematch with WBA featherweight titleholder Santa Cruz (34-1-1, 19 KOs) on Saturday at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Still, I don’t see how he can reverse the outcome of their first meeting, a majority-decision victory for Santa Cruz that should’ve been unanimous.
Mares fought hard and well – about as well as he could – but still came up well short on the two cards that reflected what happened in the ring, both of which had Santa Cruz winning nine rounds. I thought the winner outboxed and outslugged Mares in the biggest test of Santa Cruz’s career, one that demonstrated that Santa Cruz could compete against anyone.
Mares remains a very good fighter at 32. Santa, 29, is simply better.
Tyson Fury vs. Sefer Seferi: It’s about time.
Fury will have been out of the ring since November 28, 2015, the night he stunned the boxing world by outpointing seemingly unbeatable Wladimir Klitschko to win the heavyweight championship.
Can he regain that form after blowing up in weight and then trimming back down during such a long period of inactivity?
Fury (25-0, 18 KOs) starts the process Saturday in Manchester against an opponent who poses a limited threat, a 39-year-old Switzerland-based Albanian with no significant victories. We’ll get an idea of where Fury stands but, as he pointed out, the goal is merely to get some rounds under his belt.
I expect Fury to fairly easily outbox Seferi (23-1, 21 KOs) but one never knows. Fury put his body through hell, he has been away a long time. The Fury who befuddled Klitschko might be gone forever.
Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder and the rest of us will be watching with great interest.
Other fights: Jermell Charlo (30-0, 15 KOs) defends his WBC junior middleweight title against veteran Austin Trout (31-4, 17 KOs) on the Santa Cruz-Mares card. This could be challenge for Charlo, whose technical skills have been questioned, but I think he’ll prevail.
Trout attributed recent losses to Jermall Charlo and Jarrett Hurd in part to his opponents’ unusual size – his way to saying Jermell is a bit smaller – but he hasn’t won an important fight since he outpointed Miguel Cotto in 2012. He is only 5-4 in his last nine fights, with additional losses against Canelo Alvarez and Erislandy Lara.
I doubt Trout, 32, has enough left against Charlo, a big puncher in his prime.
Terry Flanagan (33-0, 13 KOs) fights Maurice Hooker (23-0-3, 16 KOs) for the vacant WBO junior welterweight on the Fury-Seferi card. Interesting fight between two very good boxers.
Flanagan is the more accomplished of the two but is moving up in weight to face a tall, capable opponent. I think Flanagan is the more complete fighter but don’t count out Hooker, whose only recent slip up was a draw with Darleys Perez. …
The International Boxing Hall of Fame inducts its class of 2018 this coming weekend. The inductees include Erik Morales, Vitali Klitschko and Winky Wright. I’ll take a look at them and others next weekend.
Michael Rosenthal is the most-recent winner of the Boxing Writers Association of America’s Nat Fleischer Award for excellence in boxing journalism. He has covered boxing for almost three decades.