Looking back at July actionThe first significant bout of the month hits July 14, when New Orleans-born and current Houston resident Regis Prograis returned to “The Big Easy” and defended his junior welterweight title with a convincing TKO victory over previously unbeaten Juan Jose Velasco. It was yet another rise up the elite ladder for Prograis, who’s showing that he has the goods to compete with anyone –and the the charisma to charm any crowd. On July 21 in Moscow, we saw cruiserweight Oleksandr Usyk unify the division titles and jump to instant pound-for-pound status. So many were of the opinion that he didn’t have what it takes to defeat Murat Gassiev. Since the unanimous decision victory, many now are considering Usyk as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters and are now even weighing his chances on going up and fighting for the heavyweight crown. He certainly has the size to compete at heavyweight. Middleweight champion Jaime Munguia is getting a second opinion after his TKO victory in Las Vegas over Liam Smith. When Canelo was out in May against Triple G, Munguia was declined by the Athletic Commission as a replacement. After his title-winning effort over Sadam Ali, many questioned why he wasn’t approved. It appeared with his 6-foot, 2-inch frame and the way he dethroned the champion that Munguia certainly would have a great shot against Golovkin. After the less than stellar title defense against Smith, now the critics are rethinking, and the majority opinion is that he needs more seasoning before fighting the elite stars. How quickly opinions change in this sport.
Pac Man: Return of the legendOn July 15 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, legend Manny Pacquiao returned with a dominant TKO victory over former world champion Lucas Matthysse (who has since announced his retirement). Pacquiao, 39, earned the 60th victory in his Hall of Fame career and fought for the first time in more than 15 years without trainer Freddie Roach in his corner. Now, before you call me a hater, look at my track record. I was one of the few that gave Manny a chance against Mayweather when everyone else was overwhelmingly favoring Mayweather — and I’m a long time fan of “Pac Man.” But I wouldn’t be doing justice if I didn’t touch on the subject of PEDs. For all of the “can’t you just be happy for the man and congratulate him on his victory” blog threads: Manny did show his skills and power in the Matthysse bout. But for all of the “he’s back” notions that his loyal fan base is excited about, we do have to point to a reluctant history of avoiding PED testing. He is an aged fighter who showed power that has seemingly been missing in recent fights and without the trainer that guided most of his championship era. It should be pointed out that he fought in Malaysia, where they don’t require any testing for performance enhancing drugs. Manny is Hall of Fame bound and is a legend, but like many athletes of this era, he is performing at a high level when the physics tell us he should have a decline. When we see this in other sports, questions arise. Yet in boxing, where it is a head rather than a ball that is being hit, we dismiss and avoid that kind of talk.
Looking forward to August actionAs the boxing world awaits the September showdowns I mentioned earlier, there will be plenty of action in August. It starts with Saturday’s card of welterweights Andre Berto facing Devon Alexander in a battle of two former world champions. On the undercard, former middleweight champion “Kid Chocolate” Peter Quillin makes his long awaited return to the ring. Locally, Quillin is known as the fighter who retired Yerington’s Jesse Brinkley. WBC Super Lightweight Champion Jose Ramirez was set last month to come home to Fresno and defend his WBC lightweight title. But the the bout was cancelled when a dehydrated Danny O’Connor collapsed in the sauna while trying to make weight in the hour before the official weigh-in. On that subject, it is part of the sport and while unhealthy to do so, if a title fight is offered, one will attempt whatever it takes to make the weight. This is a subject for another day, because I can fill a whole column with just the weight issue in boxing. Nonetheless, Ramirez will be getting his chance later in the month to come home as he defends against Antonio Orozco. On Aug. 25 in Arizona, there will be another homecoming as Raymundo Beltran, who won the lightweight belt in Reno earlier this year, defends against the very dangerous Jose “Sniper” Pedraza. It should be the month’s most exciting bout, as both fighters hit and aren’t afraid to get hit. This tasty sandwich also has the added spice of a Mexico vs. Puerto Rico rivalry, one of the richest in boxing.
— Simon Ruvalcaba