Canelo Alvarez vs. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. set for May 6 on HBO PPV

Photos: Will Hart

In a historic showdown that will rival the biggest fights in the history of Mexico’s proud boxing lineage, two-division world champion Canelo Álvarez (48-1-1, 34 KOs) will take on former WBC World Middleweight champion Julio César Chávez Jr. (50-2-1, 32 KOs) on Cinco de Mayo weekend, Saturday, May 6, in a 12-round battle to be contested at a maximum 164.5 pounds. The event will be produced and distributed live by HBO Pay-Per-View.

Details regarding venue and an international press tour will be announced soon.

“I’m excited to announce my fight against Julio César Chávez Jr. and confirm that I will be prepared, like I’ve been throughout my career, to give a great fight,” said Álvarez. “I want to remind you that when two Mexican fighters face-off, a spectacular show is guaranteed, and I can assure you that May 6 will be no exception especially during the Cinco de Mayo festivities.
 
“Cinco de Mayo and Mexican Independence Day in September are important dates for us Mexicans, and I’m expecting a great night for boxing and the whole world,” Canelo continued. 
 
“I dedicate this fight to Mexico,” said Chávez Jr. “I’m going to win, but my country will too because this is the fight that boxing needs.”

Álvarez was last seen in the ring Sept. 17, 2016, knocking out the previously undefeated WBO junior middleweight champion Liam Smith in front of more than 51,000 fans in Dallas. Chávez was last in action Dec. 10, 2016, when he secured a unanimous decision victory over highly regarded German fighter Dominik Britsch in Monterrey, Mexico.

“Boxing has been searching for a fight to draw the casual fan back to our sport, and Canelo versus Chávez Jr. is just that fight,” said Oscar De La Hoya, CEO and Chairman of Golden Boy Promotions. “Canelo, the biggest star in boxing, will take on not only a former world champion in Julio César Chávez Jr., but the son of the biggest star in the history of boxing in Mexico. Add in 98 victories and 66 knockouts between these two superstars along with a Cinco de Mayo fight date, and you have a can’t-miss battle.”

Podcast: Roundtable Discussion with Rafe Bartholomew and Brian Campbell

HBO Boxing Insider Eric Raskin is joined by journalist Rafe Bartholomew and ESPN's Brian Campbell in a freewheeling discussion of what's going on in the sport, including Gennady Golovkin's outlook, what's next for Canelo Alvarez, a potential Sergey Kovalev vs. Andre Ward rematch and more.

Golovkin, Jacobs Primed for Pivotal Fight on March 18

Photos: Ed Mulholland/K2 Promotions

By Matt Draper

NEW YORK -- For top middleweights Gennady “GGG” Golovkin and Daniel “The Miracle Man” Jacobs, who on March 18 will step into the ring at Madison Square Garden to battle for the unified middleweight title on HBO pay-per-view, facing off at the “World’s Most Famous Arena” for division supremacy represents the biggest and most difficult fight of their impressive careers.

“[This is] the best matchup … the best opponent … the best place,” said Golovkin (36-0, 33 KOs) at Tuesday’s press conference at MSG, standing at a podium in front of a lowered jumbotron flashing his fight highlights. “I promise you’ll have an amazing show.”

Golovkin, who will put his four middleweight titles on the line, is no stranger to MSG. The 34-year-old knockout artist from Kazakhstan has fought in the building four times since 2013, using The Garden to build his KO streak (23 and counting) and develop into one of the most dangerous boxers in the world.

But fighting Jacobs (32-1, 29 KOs), who is widely viewed as both a skilled boxer and fighter, will likely be the toughest test of GGG’s career thus far.

“I believe Daniel is ready for this fight,” Golovkin said. “[It’s the] biggest step for us.”

Golovkin trainer Abel Sanchez also recognized the challenge that Jacobs presents.

“I would say he’s probably the best fighter we will have fought to date,” Sanchez told reporters on Tuesday. “A better amateur, great right hand, good boxing IQ. Danny is smart. He’s going to be a big threat to us.”

For Brooklyn’s Jacobs, 29, the hometown showdown versus one of boxing's best has been a lifetime in the making. Jacobs captured New York Golden Gloves titles at MSG as an amateur, climbed the pro ranks with multiple fights in the New York metro area and, despite being forced to take a 19-month hiatus from the sport in 2011 to overcome bone cancer, has steadily continued his ascent to the top tier of the middleweight division.

“This is the fight I’ve always wanted,” Jacobs said. “This is the pinnacle as far as opponents. I have to shock the world and I have to let them know that I am the best.

“If I’m 100 percent mentally and physically prepared, there’s going to be a new undisputed middleweight champion of the world,” continued Jacobs. “My fists are really going to do the talking inside that ring.”

While the outcome of the fight is far from certain, it stands to reason that it will involve big blows and may not go the distance; Golovkin and Jacobs have a combined 35 consecutive knockouts, with both coming off fights that ended by the fifth round.

“With two guys going into the ring with a 90 percent KO ratio,” said Sanchez, “it’s fair to say that someone is going out.” 

Watch Live: Golovkin vs. Jacobs NYC Press Conference at MSG

Watch the kick off press conference for Gennady Golovkin vs. Daniel Jacobs live from Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, Jan. 10 beginning at Noon ET/9 a.m. PT.

Golovkin vs. Jacobs airs Saturday, March 18 live at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT on HBO Pay-Per-View.

Watch: Vargas vs. Berchelt Promo

Watch a preview of the super featherweight fight between Francisco Vargas vs. Miguel Berchelt. 

Vargas vs. Berchelt happens Saturday, Jan. 28 live beginning at 10 p.m. ET/PT on HBO Boxing After Dark.

Cotto, Kirkland Ready to Return to Ring for Feb. 25 Showdown

Photos: Hector Santos Guia/Miguel Cotto Promotions/Roc Nation Sports

By Matt Draper

NEW YORK -- The Feb. 25 junior middleweight showdown between Miguel Cotto and James Kirkland in Frisco, Texas on HBO pay-per-view has been billed "The Return" -- a nod to Cotto's first fight following a year-plus hiatus -- and it was clear from Wednesday's media event at Le Parker Meridien in Manhattan that both boxers are eager to show they're still among the most dangerous in the division after lengthy layoffs.

“I knew I wanted to come back and this is the way that I want to do it,” said five-time world champ Cotto (40-5, 33 KOs), who added that he was starting training camp later in the day to ensure he was in top condition. “It’s going to be a great fight. I know that James always comes with a winning attitude. And I’m going to do the same.”

The 36-year-old Puerto Rican also announced that 2017 would be his final year in boxing and that he was aiming for “two or three” fights to finish his career. "I’m here for the best fights and the best fighters out there,” continued Cotto, adding that if the opportunity presented itself, he was ready to avenge his unanimous decision loss to Canelo Alvarez in November 2015, Cotto's most recent fight.

“He has a lot left," Cotto trainer Freddie Roach said. "If he didn’t I wouldn’t be here. He’s great in the gym, he’s always in shape and he keeps himself close to weight all the time."

Beyond getting into peak physical condition, both Cotto and Roach said defeating former WBC Continental Americas and WBO NABO champ Kirkland won’t be an easy task.

“We’re going in there against a bigger opponent," said Roach. “[Kirkland] lets his hands go. He’s a strong guy who comes forward.”

Kirkland (32-2, 28 KOs), a heavy handed southpaw who like Cotto is coming off a long layoff following a loss to Alvarez (KO, May 2015), said he looks forward to getting back in the ring and going against one of boxing’s best. 

“This is an opportunity for me to bounce back,” said the 32-year-old Texan. “I’m putting everything on the table.”

 

HBO Boxing Insiders' 2016 Year-End Picks: Favorite Moments

Photo: Ed Mulholland

With the end of the year approaching and Boxing's Best airing, HBO Boxing Insiders take a look back at the fights that aired on HBO and HBO PPV in 2016. Here, they share their favorite -- and in some cases most memorable -- moments from the year in boxing. 

More: Fighter of the Year | Fight of the Year | Round of the Year | KO of the Year | Best Blow | Best Corner | Breakthrough Fighter

Eric Raskin:

I could take the easy/snarky route here and say the moment the Luis Ortiz-Malik Scott fight ended. Or I could take the personal route and say watching my podcast partner Kieran Mulvaney on my TV screen interviewing Sergey Kovalev and Isaac Chilemba in Russia. But instead I’ll go with that bizarre interview with Amir Khan and his trainer Virgil Hunter that followed Khan’s knockout loss at the hands of Canelo Alvarez. Why should it matter to Hunter whom Canelo fights next? It shouldn’t. But he went out of his way to challenge Canelo to take on Gennady Golovkin, and Khan got in on the double-dog dare as well. To me, Hunter was in that moment a boxing fan fighting for his sport, a man who’d seen the toll five years of Mayweather-Pacquiao teases took. So he told the man who’d just decimated his fighter what to do next, even if it wasn’t his place to do so and he didn’t stand to benefit directly. It was something I’d never seen before in nearly two decades covering boxing, and it was equal parts unusual and refreshing.

Kieran Mulvaney:

On a personal level, it’s been a year packed full of them. Back-to-back trips to London and Dallas rank high on the list. For the first time I got to witness first-hand a British fight crowd for Gennady Golovkin’s hard-fought win over Kell Brook, and 50,000 fans doing the wave at Cowboys Stadium as they waited for Canelo Alvarez to come out and whup Liam Smith. Spending a day with Bernard Hopkins during the final fight week of his career is up there, too; I’m pretty sure neither photographer Ed Mulholland nor I will ever look at beets quite the same way again. Being in StubHub for the extraordinary Francisco Vargas-Orlando Salido bout on a night that was raw with emotion over the death of Muhammad Ali is a night I’ll not soon forget. 

But for me, the unquestioned highlight was traveling to Yekaterinburg, Russia – where the days were long and the nights were lively – to be a part of the broadcast for Sergey Kovalev’s win over Isaac Chilemba. One moment in particular I’ll always remember was when production manager Ken Clausen and I sat at the airport bar before we flew back home. Very few people in Yekaterinburg spoke English (it isn’t exactly on the tourist route), but our bartender did, and he looked at us and asked, incredulously, “Why are you here?” We made fists, and said “Sergey Kovalev. American TV. HBO.” At which the bartender gasped and, wide-eyed, exclaimed, “HBO! Game of Thrones!”

In Russia, winter is always coming.

Diego Morilla:

The words “favorite” or “best” certainly do not apply to this unforgettable HBO moment, but that doesn’t make it less memorable. The legendary Bernard Hopkins, one month shy of his 52nd birthday, was attempting to go out on a high note in his Dec. 17 swansong fight against Joe Smith Jr., some 28 years after Hopkins graduated from correctional facility titlist into professional prizefighter.

The plan, as it turned out, went sideways – and quite literally. Hopkins was already losing by the time Smith started pounding on him in a neutral corner before sending his aged opponent out of the ring in what appeared to be an incredibly dangerous fall. Hopkins landed on the back of his head, all 180 pounds of him, and failed to “pull a Dempsey” when he was unable to find his way back into the ring after the 20-count. As anticlimactic an ending as it may have been, the fall may end up putting a new twist in the Hopkins legend that, far from tarnishing his legacy, may enhance it. After all, being the guy who literally had to be punched out of the ring to quit fighting at the age of almost 52 is a bragging right that few other fighters will ever be able to claim. Not bad, Mr. Hopkins. Not bad at all.    

Nat Gottlieb:

The death of Muhammad Ali was emotionally devastating news to boxing fans. “A Tribute to Muhammad Ali,” that was aired on The Fight Game with Jim Lampley was one of HBO Boxing’s best and most moving broadcasts in 2016. Ali left a dramatic legacy, both inside and outside the ring, and Lampley captured it perfectly. 

Hamilton Nolan:

Every Golovkin post-fight interview. The fact that the scariest fighter in boxing is also the most winning boxer proves that not everything in this violent sport is bad. 

Oliver Goldstein:

It wasn’t the most brutal fight of the year on HBO (that was between Orlando Salido and Francisco Vargas), but Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez’s win over Carlos Cuadras was special in its own way. There’s not a more savagely graceful fighter in the sport than Gonzalez, who is never less than balletic when he’s putting the hurt on. Still, Cuadras himself lacked little for skill, and also knew that he could make his greater size evident in several ways: Cuadras managed to trouble Gonzalez both by hitting him plenty and also by making Chocolatito chase him, skirting the ring to make the Nicaraguan work. By the 11th round Cuadras had Chocolatito reeling, hurting him a number of times down the stretch with strafing body shots.

Ultimately it wasn’t enough for the win, but Cuadras’ conviction in his own equality with Gonzalez produced 12 rounds of the highest caliber. And also a warning: Gonzalez’s power might not travel with him quite so easily in the future. And another warning: Should Cuadras’ template prove repeatable -- and it’s a template someone at middleweight might want to try out on Gennady Golovkin -- there’ll be more nights like this to come. 

HBO Boxing Insiders' 2016 Year-End Picks: Breakthrough HBO Fighter

Photo: Ed Mulholland

With the end of the year approaching and Boxing's Best airing, HBO Boxing Insiders take a look back at the fights that aired on HBO and HBO PPV in 2016. Here, they make their selections for Breakthrough HBO Fighter.

More: Fighter of the Year | Fight of the Year | Round of the Year | KO of the Year | Best Blow | Best Corner | Favorite Moments

Eric Raskin: Vasyl Lomachenko

It’s tempting to consider someone like Carlos Cuadras, who rose from relative anonymity to push Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez to the brink, or a pure prospect like Joseph Diaz Jr. or Oscar Valdez. But the biggest breakthrough belonged to the man I believe was the HBO Fighter of the Year, even though Lomachenko came into 2016 established, respected and not necessarily in need of a breakthrough. While I don’t agree with Jim Lampley or Roy Jones’ decisions to, at varying times this year, elevate Lomachenko to the top of their pound-for-pound lists, the mere fact that people are doing so tells you how far he’s come in the last 12 months. In 2015, Lomachenko, itching for bigger challenges in just the fifth and sixth fights of his pro career, was stuck marking time. In 2016, he made his mark by taking on better fighters, headlining in New York and Las Vegas, and barely breaking a sweat in either of his two outings. Lomachenko’s star power is still a work in progress, but his talent is not, and the entire boxing world now recognizes that.

Kieran Mulvaney: Joe Smith Jr.

Until the last fight of 2016, I was struggling to come up with a winner here. Who truly broke through this year? It might have been Jessie Vargas after his win over Sadam Ali, but then the rest of his year didn’t quite pan out, even though he did get a massive payday. JoJo Diaz and Oscar Valdez both took a step forward and a step up, and both look like the real deal, but did they truly break through? Vasyl Lomachenko and Terence Crawford looked sensational, but are they significantly more advanced career-wise than 12 months ago? The answer came, finally, with the very last punch thrown on an HBO boxing telecast in 2016. Hands up if you’d heard of Joe Smith Jr. this time last year? Thought so. And now he is one of the most talked-about boxers in the country. Who knows how far it will go? But there will be opportunities in 2017, for sure, and he’ll always be the answer to the trivia question of who was the only person ever to stop Bernard Hopkins.

Diego Morilla: Vasyl Lomachenko

A multiple Olympian with an extraordinary amateur pedigree like Lomachenko can always be expected to succeed, but this is boxing, where the best-laid plans end as soon as the first punch lands. Loma learned it the hard way when he arrogantly tried to lift a title in his second pro bout against a true warrior like Orlando Salido, but he finally had his breakthrough year in 2016 after annihilating Roman Martinez with a one-punch demolition and then battering Nicholas Walters into submission. Sure, those slow-motion highlights against a sitting duck like Romulo Koasicha were made to become the hot viral thing on social media as proof of his speed and accuracy, but you need real wins against live, proven opponents to get the accolades. Lomachenko got them in 2016, and the expectations about what he will do in 2017 are now enormous. 

Nat Gottlieb: Oscar Valdez

Valdez had three fights in 2016. The first was a victory over former world champion Evgeny Gradovich to capture a vacant featherweight title and then Valdez went on to successfully defend his belt twice, with both victories coming by way of TKO. The 25-year-old fighter from Mexico, who qualified for two Olympics, has a crowd-pleasing, aggressive style and a 90 percent KO rate. Combined with his million-dollar smile, Valdez has superstar potential. 

Hamilton Nolan: Vasyl Lomachenko

This is a tough category, because the year in HBO Boxing mostly consisted of stars doing what stars do. Lomachenko probably comes closest to fitting the bill. We knew he was very good, but now we know he is very, very, very good. 

Oliver Goldstein: Joe Smith Jr.

Not rich pickings for this category, but even in a good year Joe Smith would have a strong claim to this award having sent, finally, Bernard Hopkins packing into retirement. Smith made his name earlier in the year with a surprise stoppage of Andrzej Fonfara, before being lined up as a farewell victim for Hopkins. Eight rounds and an ignominious knockdown through the ropes later, it was clear Hopkins chose the wrong opponent. Smith is a big light heavyweight and looks, moreover, like a substantial fighter. Expect to see more from him in the future.