The heated lightweight matchup between WBA beltholder Brandon Rios (left) and top-contender Urbano Antillon is one of three significant matchups between RING-rated fighters in the month of July. Photo / Chris Farina-Top Rank.
The past weekend did not feature the caliber of ring action to cause any significant movement within THE RING’s ratings but there could be major changes in a number of divisions over the next several weeks.
That’s because five of the next six Saturdays feature high-profile showdowns between RING-ranked fighters.
The action begins this Saturday, June 18, when Saul Alvarez defends his WBC 154-pound title against British veteran Ryan Rhodes in his native Guadalajara, Mexico. The unbeaten 20-year-old is THE RING’s No. 9-ranked junior middleweight. Rhodes, who has won his last 10 bouts, including an impressive seventh-round TKO of highly regarded Jamie Moore in 2009, is rated No. 4 by the magazine.
The following Saturday, June 25, former beltholder Devon Alexander, THE RING’s No. 4-rated junior welterweight, takes on No. 9-rated Lucas Matthysse in Alexander's hometown of St. Louis, Mo. Both 140-pound standouts are looking to get back to their winning ways after suffering the first losses of their careers in their last bout. The talented Alexander lost an uneventful technical decision to No. 1-rated Timothy Bradley in January. The hard-punching Matthysse dropped a close split-decision to current beltholder Zab Judah last November.
The Alvarez-Rhodes and Alexander-Matthysse bouts are solid matchups that should produce entertaining fights, but they pale in comparison to the significant showdowns that take place in July.
On July 2, Wladimir Klitschko defends his RING heavyweight title against the magazine’s No. 2-rated contender (and WBA beltholder) David Haye in Hamburg, Germany. The on-and-off-and-on-again grudge match between the European stars is arguably the most anticipated heavyweight match since Lennox Lewis fought Mike Tyson.
Nigel Collins, Editor-in-Chief of THE RING magazine, believes Klitschko-Haye is just what the stagnant heavyweight division (as well as the sport) needs.
“The bout between world heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko and WBA titleholder David Haye is clearly the most significant heavyweight fight in years,” said Collins. “The most important thing for the health of the sport is that it is a good, competitive contest with a definitive conclusion. Of course, a great fight would be even better, while a bad fight would further erode interest in the division.
“Let's say for discussion's sake that it is a good fight and examine what a win for either fighter would mean for the sport: A victory for Klitschko, especially in a give-and-take fight, would enhance his legacy. How much it would elevate his box-office appeal outside of Europe, however, is difficult to say. If, on the other hand, Haye wins, it might very well invigorate interest elsewhere, and, at the very least, set up an intriguing match with Vitali Klitschko.”
On July 9, Brandon Rios, THE RING’s No. 1-rated lightweight, defends his WBA title against No. 8-rated Urbano Antillon in a guaranteed slugfest in Carson, Calif. The Southern California-based pressure fighters are coming off fight-of-the year candidates. Unbeaten Rios won his title with a dramatic come-from-behind stoppage of respected Miguel Acosta in February. Hard-charging Antillon gave classy WBC beltholder Humberto Soto all he could handle for 12 thrilling rounds in a close unanimous decision loss last December.
“The Brandon Rios-Urbano Antillon fight should be a fan-friendly affair with plenty of bristling action,” said Collins. “But from what I’ve seen of both men, Rios is a notch or two above Antillon in terms of talent and ability. Unless I miss my guess, Rios should win and enhance his status as the leading contender for the lightweight championship, currently held by Juan Manuel Marquez.”
On July 23, 140-pound beltholders Amir Khan and Zab Judah meet in a fascinating partial unification bout in Las Vegas. Khan, the once-beaten WBA titleholder, is THE RING’s No. 2-rated junior welterweight. Judah, a 15-year veteran who has won his last five bouts, including the decision over Matthysse and an IBF title-regaining TKO over Kaizer Mabuza in March, is the magazine’s No. 6-rated 140 pounder.
Collins is less excited about this bout than the other July matchups, but he concedes that an upset, which isn’t inconceivable given Judah’s power and Khan’s questionable whiskers, would shakeup one of the sport’s hottest divisions.
“While the Amir Khan-Zab Judah bout pits THE RING's No. 2 and No. 6 contenders, respectively, it's a bit of a comedown when so many were expecting a match between Khan and Tim Bradley, which would have filled THE RING championship vacancy at 140-pounds,” said Collins. “Judah is a worthy opponent, but we already know his ceiling, and in some respects it’s a marking-time fight for Khan. If, however, Judah wins, it would be a massive surprise and warrant a reevaluation of him and the entire junior welterweight division.”
Ring ratings update:
David Lopez (No. 9 last week) departs after losing to Austin Trout at junior middleweight. Lopez' departure boosts Nassan N'Dam N'jikam (No. 10 last week) to No. 9 and makes room for Marco Antonio Rubio to return at No. 10.
Junior flyweights: Juan Carlos Reveco (No. 7 last week) exits because he is now fighting at flyweight. This allows Roman Gonzalez (No. 8 last week), Luis Alberto Lazarte (No. 9 last week), and Ramon Hirales (No. 10 last week) to climb one rung each. Masayuki Kuroda debuts at No. 10.