IT would appear the only thing stopping Sergey Kovalev and Anthony Yarde fighting for the WBO light-heavyweight title on August 24 in Russia is a Mexican, Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez.
According to The Athletic, Kovalev’s promoter Bob Arum has signalled it’s all systems go for a Kovalev vs. Yarde fight to take place next month somewhere in Russia, which would presumably explain why purse bids for the fight were first delayed then scrapped altogether.
That said, best not to get too carried away. Last weekend there was talk of Alvarez, a world champion at super-welterweight, middleweight and super-middleweight, quite fancying the idea of advancing to light-heavyweight in order to bag a world title in a fourth weight class, with Kovalev his go-to guy.
If this proposition appeals more to Kovalev than a fight with Yarde – and, let’s face it, for monetary reasons, it certainly will – the plan is for the undefeated Briton to be paid step-aside money and fight Gilberto Ramirez, the former WBO champion at super-middleweight, instead. That, according to Arum, would be a WBO title final eliminator, with the winner in line to finally fight either Kovalev or Alvarez, a possible new (and lucrative) addition to the weight class, in the not-too-distant future.
Also set for August is a featherweight matchup between Ireland’s former world champion Carl Frampton and Emmanuel Dominguez.
This one takes place on August 10 at the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia and will be promoted by Top Rank and televised by ESPN+.
Very much a tune-up fight for Frampton, Dominguez is a 25-year-old Mexican with a 26-8-2 professional record who earlier this year was stopped inside three rounds by England’s Jordan Gill.
That result aside, ‘Veneno’ is usually durable, accustomed to going the distance, and should, if nothing else, provide a dress rehearsal ahead of Frampton’s proposed WBO title challenge against Oscar Valdez, another Mexican, later in the year.
“Dominguez is a tall, young, hungry featherweight, so I’ll need to be on my game,” said Frampton.
“The promise of an Oscar Valdez fight is dangling in front of me, so I want to go out and show the world that I’ve still got what it takes to be a world champion.
“Winning is always the most important thing, but I want to do it in style. It’s great to be boxing Stateside again. And Philly, in particular, has so much boxing history.”
Given the quality of opponent, and the clear emphasis placed on Frampton not slipping up, it’s safe to presume a Valdez fight is all but signed and sealed.
It remains to be seen whether American Bryant Jennings is the man to bring Joe Joyce down to earth with an almighty thud but clearly, based on previous exploits and current ambition, he represents the sternest test of the 2016 Olympic bronze medallist’s career.
Since losing to Wladimir Klitschko in a world heavyweight title fight in 2015, Jennings, known as ‘By-By’, has won five of seven fights and lost only against Luis Ortiz and, last time out, unbeaten Colombian Oscar Rivas. He boasts victories over Alexander Dimitrenko and Joey Dawejko and, at 34 years of age, presumably aspires to one day again challenging for a world heavyweight title.
Even so, Jennings’ fight against Joyce in London next Saturday (July 13) will see him on opponent duty, the B-side to Joyce’s A-side, well aware it’s his job to teach the nine-fight pro novice a lesson and his aim to get his own career back on track.
“He’s gonna have shots coming right back at him and, the last time I checked, his defence is not as good,” said Jennings, 24-3. “He can catch every punch – with his jaw!”
Joyce certainly shows no aversion to being nailed clean on the button. In fact, one could argue his ability to keep marching forward in spite of this danger is one of the things that makes him such a handful – or, indeed, ‘The Juggernaut’.
So far, the approach has paid dividends. Folding the unfit, those who are unable to match his pace, and terrifying the hesitant, those who cower as he charges forward, Joyce has hardly put a foot wrong since turning professional in October 2017. His progress, Jennings admits, hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“I was aware of him and I am aware of everyone in my division, at least at a certain level,” he said. “Once you get to a certain level, I know who you are and I may have seen you. He is somebody I was aware of – and was made aware of – based on the noise he was making on Twitter and stuff like that, rather than in the actual boxing ring.
“He came with the accolades and it kind of matched up, so he was just letting himself be known and that is how I knew about him.”
What we know about Jennings and his recent form is this: In January, the American gave Rivas plenty to think about and contend with before relenting in the twelfth and final round. It wasn’t the result he was looking for, no, but it wasn’t the performance of a man on the slide, either.
“Personally, that was just an obstacle that I understood I had to get over,” he said. “Against it being a failed mission, I didn’t necessarily fail the plan. A lot of these guys had hundreds of amateur fights and they lost plenty of them. That was their way of gaining experience and gaining something from those losses they had.
“So, when I lost, it was just a case of putting it behind me. Done deal. Was I going to sit there and cry about it or get up and move on? That is what I chose to do: get up and move on.
“The fight with Rivas does nothing to me mentally but, in the boxing game, it knocks you down and you lose position. People still love me, and I am still that guy. I can live with myself. I’m good.”
Rivas will next be seen sharing a ring against another Brit, Dillian Whyte, a top contender on the verge of a world title shot for some time now, all the while Joyce, just two years into their pro career, will settle for Jennings, someone who gave Rivas all he could handle earlier this year. If that’s not a sign of ambitious yet shrewd matchmaking, I don’t know what is.