Oscar Talks Up Two Big Bouts

Earlier this week, Ring Magazine hinted at the possibility of two high-profile bouts getting signed before the year is done. First, WBC junior featherweight titlist Leo Santa Cruz could potentially move up in weight to face a resurging Abner Mares at the featherweight limit. The second bout, in the welterweight division, would see Brit attraction Amir Khan trade punches with multiple-division champ Robert Guerrero. Given the level of detail Golden Boy President Oscar De La Hoya provided, one can’t help but conclude the chances are good both matches will come to fruition.

De La Hoya mentioned that Mares vs. Santa-Cruz could happen at the Staples Center sometime early next year. The choice of venue makes much sense: it’s easy to see this fight doing brisk business in the Los Angeles area given both fighters’ popularity within the Latino community and their crowd-pleasing styles. The encounter also poses a resonant narrative: Mares—on the comeback trail after his crushing one-round KO loss to Johnny Gonzalez last year—would face off against a young, strong human windmill aching for recognition in Leo Santa Cruz.

It's time for Santa Cruz to step up.
It’s time for Santa Cruz to step up.

Notwithstanding the above-mentioned defeat, there’s no doubt Mares’ resume is the better of the two; his victories over highly-regarded fighters like Vic Darchinyan, Joseph Agbeko, Anselmo Moreno and Daniel Ponce de Leon speak for themselves. But what Leo Santa Cruz lacks in credentials he more than makes up for with his relentless offensive pace inside the ring and his affable and humble demeanor outside of it. It goes without mention both pugilists stand much to win: Mares would add the scalp of a young lion on the rise to his trophy case and would validate again his case as a top talent; Santa Cruz, on the other hand, would finally get the signature win over an elite prizefighter that his career so loudly has been calling for. For all these reasons, fans are well-advised to keep their fingers crossed.

The potential matchup between Amir Khan and Robert Guerrero would also be an interesting one, but for different reasons. The thing that stuck out the most from De La Hoya’s comments regarding this fight was his suggested venue: Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY, where neither Guerrero nor Khan have ever fought before. But look a little closer and you can sense De La Hoya may be trying to make it as easy as possible for Khan’s British fans to trek across the pond and cheer him on.

amir-khan
Khan needs a big win at 147.

And this matters greatly if Amir Khan is to realize his dream of getting a showdown with Floyd Mayweather Jr. sometime next year, as he needs to clearly state his case as an attraction in North America first. Seen in this light, Oscar’s choice of venue for Khan’s possible meeting with Guerrero makes much more sense than initially thought. Additionally, by defeating Guerrero, Khan would add a recognized 147 lb. contender to his record, which is paltry when it comes to the welterweight class.

So going after Guerrero in Brooklyn is a very calculated move from Amir Khan in his quest for a May-date. Should the fight get signed, expect Golden Boy’s PR machine to go into overdrive, extolling Guerrero’s virtues and reminding everyone of what a job he did on Andre Berto. But what will be missing from that picture is not only that Guerrero is Mayweather’s leftovers—as the tweeterers would say—but also that if Khan really wanted to prove he’s the top-rated challenger at welterweight, there are more dangerous opponents than Guerrero whom he is conveniently side-stepping, namely Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter, and even his countryman Kell Brook.

Since being humbled by Floyd, "The Ghost" has rarely been seen.
Since being humbled by Floyd, “The Ghost” has rarely been seen.

However, if we take Khan vs. Guerrero at face value, the contest is an intriguing match in itself. Both fighters are hungry to move their careers forward: Khan wants to prove he’s a legitimate threat at welterweight, while Guerrero wants to show he still has what it takes to compete after his demoralizing, one-sided loss to Mayweather. Their clash of styles will be another point of interest: Amir Khan is a quintessential stick-and-move guy, while Guerrero can play the counter-punching game against average boxers and take the lead when the occasion calls for it. Khan has a brittle chin, but he holds a definite edge on hand-speed; Guerrero is durable and adaptable, and powerful at the weight. Taking all this into consideration, Khan vs. Guerrero would be close to an even fight.

So there it is: two quality matchups could be signed soon and be ready to go for December or early next year, if we’re to believe Oscar De La Hoya. Let’s hope the involved parties get busy and deliver what on paper look like quality, competitive fights. God knows we haven’t seen nearly enough of those in 2014.              –Rafael García

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