Rejoice, fight fans, cos’ March is a strong segment in the 2017 boxing calendar. David Haye’s comeback finally gets serious against a live body in a domestic tear-up, a salivating Welterweight affair erupts, plus a whole lot more. It’s an especially stellar period as the forecast looks incredibly fan-friendly. Big talents, big names, big punchers. So expect some major reshuffling in our Top 10 World Rankings. (As always, you can view a full lineup in our Complete 2017 Schedule.) Let’s get stuck in.
David Haye vs. Tony Bellew (Sky Sports Box Office)
March 4, London, England; Heavyweight
The cynic in me draws attention to the fact that Tony Bellew has zero fights on the slate as a Heavyweight. But actually, this is still a fine start to the month. Cut and slice this domestic grudge match however you like, Bellew must be considered a major step up for David Haye (since the Hayemaker’s comeback). Bellew, unlike Mark de Mori and Arnold Gjergjaj, has a beating pulse, plenty of drive, decent ability, and has developed into a puncher of sorts. That increased power was witnessed against BJ Flores and then-touted Ilunga Makabu in 2016.
My gut instinct says Haye’s superior technical game, speed and power, will be too much for Bellew. So we’re probably looking at another sensational knockout. Haye is slightly older (36 – 34) and suffered that career-halting shoulder injury (2013 – 2015). But I’m prepared to overlook those negatives. Mainly because Haye isn’t an old 36, and doesn’t have a history of hard, punishing fights behind him. In fact, thirty fights isn’t an awful lot for a former Cruiser and Heavyweight champ.
On the flip side, you’ve got to respect the threat Bellew represents. He’s got a chance here. Bellew has roughly the same physical dimensions, and it’s true that he went through quite a profound transformation last year. Self-belief and desire is key, especially on the biggest night of his career against a ferocious KO artist like Haye, and I believe Bellew has those attributes. This is an interesting matchup – forgetting all the trash-talking – and I hope it delivers the goods.
Haye vs. Bellew: Undercard
- Ohara Davies vs. Derry Matthews | Junior Welterweight
- Sam Eggington vs. Paulie Malignaggi | Welterweight
- Lee Selby vs. Andoni Gago | Featherweight | Selby’s IBF title defense
Keith Thurman vs. Danny Garcia (Boxnation, CBS)
March 4, Brooklyn, New York; WBA, WBC Welterweight Championship
Well, I really can’t say a bad word about this one. It’s been on boxing fans’ wishlists for some time, and now we’ve got it. Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia are world champions, in their primes with unbeaten records, and are respected technical boxer-punchers. Additionally, this highly significant Welterweight affair is broadcasting free on CBS, which is quite amazing since it absolutely screams PPV.
Splitting these fighters is no easy feat, but I’d probably give Thurman the slightest edge. Just because he’s that bit more accomplished at 147 lbs. The scalp I’m referring to is that of gnarly swarmer Shawn Porter. Thurman won a close but well-deserved decision last June, with his cleaner, sharper work paying dividends in an all-out war.
PBC chief Al Haymon has been slated for bubble wrapping his lengthy roster of golden geese for some time. From a business point, that’s been totally understandable. From a sporting point, it’s been infuriating. But the man now seems to have intentions to pit more and more of his top-earners against one another, and that could be very good for the sport going forward.
Thurman vs. Garcia is a fantastic fight, and won’t cost you a dime. So, seriously, what more could you ask for?
Thurman vs. Garcia: Undercard
- Erickson Lubin vs. Jorge Cota | Junior Middleweight
- Andrzej Fonfara vs. Chad Dawson | Light Heavyweight
Davis Lemieux vs. Curtis Stevens (Boxnation)
March 18, Verona, New York; Middleweight
You couldn’t call this a highly relevant encounter, since neither man seems destined to take over at 160 lbs (while Gennady Golovkin is around, at least), but it looks ridiculously fun. First and foremost, David Lemieux and Curtis Stevens are massive punchers. It’s not difficult to list their drawbacks, but that doesn’t really matter in this fight – cos’ it’s pretty much guaranteed to be a shootout.
Don’t ask me who wins. I’ve not a clue. Lemieux has tremendous power, but has a leaky defense, and can also come unstuck against good boxers. We’ve seen this in the past, and in particularly brutal fashion against Golovkin in 2015. Lemieux was valiant, but wound up looking completely disarmed as his biggest asset was taken away from him. What good is power if you can’t get your shots off?
All right, Stevens is no Golovkin. Granted. In fact, he also got chopped down by ‘GGG’ in similar-ish fashion in 2013. But Stevens is definitely the superior technical fighter with a much tighter defense here. So, from the get-go, we know Stevens is the more well-rounded guy. But it’s not so cut and dry as that. Stevens, despite having collected some very solid wins during a notable career, just isn’t all that consistent. Sometimes he looks great. Sharp, powerful, a real beast. Other times he looks a whole lot more ordinary.
If there’s one thing these guys do equally well, however, it’s throwing a devastating left-hook. Often on the counter. That’s a potentially fight-ending shot, and we should see a whole bunch of them whistling by if this meeting turns into a toe-to-toe battle. Perhaps akin to last June’s Francisco Vargas vs. Orlando Salido (although that might be a bit ambitious). Greater spoils, including a title shot, will no doubt await the victor on today’s popular 160 lb scene.
Lemieux vs. Stevens: Undercard
- Yuriorkis Gamboa vs. Rene Alvarado | Lightweight
Gennady Golovkin vs. Daniel Jacobs (HBO PPV)
March 18, New York, US; WBA, IBF, WBC Middleweight Championship
Moving on to the big man himself, Gennady Golovkin, who I’m 95% sure is human. ‘GGG’ was last in action against pumped-up Welterweight champion Kell Brook last September. Brook found a few chinks in Golovkin’s armour, and (surely) landed an unprecedented amount of leather. Brook picked up his first defeat, however, along with a broken eye socket for his troubles. And now Golovkin moves on to WBA (Super) titlist Daniel Jacobs.
Not everyone’s thrilled about this matchup, but I for one am pleased it’s happening. You won’t find me betting on Jacobs, but he’s tall, rangy, boxes well, and has very potent TNT of his own. Jacob’s slate pales somewhat against Golovkin’s, true, but he’s clocked up some solid wins of his own, plus a major one against fellow Brooklynite Peter Quillin in 2015. That was a stunning 1st round knockout, and I don’t buy into the theory that it was some ‘fluke’. Nobody wipes out a prime, unbeaten, former world champion by accident.
If Golovkin does crush Jacobs, then there’s absolutely no reason – in my mind – for him to hang around the Middleweight arena any longer. Now, it is true that Golovkin has eyes on Billy Joe Saunders’ WBO belt. Unifying the Middleweight division is an admirable pursuit, it’s just that, well…does anyone actually care enough to see that fight? Especially following Saunders’ dreadful defense against unheralded Artur Akavov last December.
Whatever happens, I’d happily brand Daniel Jacobs as the number two guy at 160 lbs. So that alone makes Golovkin vs. Jacobs more than relevant. (Be sure to check out Boxing Base’s Middleweight Top 10.)
Golovkin vs. Jacobs: Undercard
- Roman Gonzalez vs. Wisaksil Wangek | WBC Junior Bantamweight Championship
- Carlos Cuadras vs. David Carmona | Junior Bantamweight
- Ryan Martin vs. Bryant Cruz | Lightweight
- Andy Lee vs. KeAndrae Leatherwood | Middleweight
Jorge Linares vs. Anthony Crolla II (Sky Sports 1, Showtime)
March 25, Manchester, England; WBA, RING Lightweight Championship
This is a very tasty rematch between two top-ranked Lightweights, with Jorge Linares aiming to make it 2-0 against Anthony Crolla. Their September (2016) encounter was a barnburner that saw Linares narrowly outshine Crolla. Probably because his arsenal was the more creative and eye-catching with the judges. The scorecards were close that night, so naturally a sequel was called for.
There’s every chance Crolla could even the score here. That said, I’m not sure what he could do differently, or, if he should try to change tactics. Crolla is one of today’s underrated technicians, who underwent a remarkable transformation beginning with the much disputed Draw against Darleys Perez in 2015. Crolla isn’t what you’d call a flashy stylist, but he maintains a strong shape, with a nice, tight guard, and understands the importance of pounding rib cages. Throw in the fact he follows trainer Joe Gallagher’s intricate game plans to a tee, then there’s not much to criticize.
Linares has the more pop in his punch, definitely speed advantages, and his longer levers unload vicious, damaging combinations. The man himself is made of hard stuff, probably owed to the brutal moulding of Tokyo’s Teiken Boxing Gym. Linares vs. Crolla II is an exciting clash, certainly fan-friendly, and one that could go either way. That tops off our Top 5 Best Fights in Boxing for March, folks.
Linares vs. Crolla II: Undercard
- Martin Ward vs. Maxi Hughes | British Junior Lightweight Championship
- Brian Rose vs. Jack Arnfield | Middleweight
- Tomi Tatham vs. Liam Conroy | Light Heavyweight
- Marcus Morrison vs. Jason Welbourn | Middleweight
Boxing in March: Best of the Rest
Shinsuke Yamanaka vs. Carlos Carlson
March 2, Tokyo, Japan; WBC Bantamweight Championship
Andy Vences vs. Angel Hernandez (UniMas)
March 10, Leemore, California; Junior Lightweight
Jack Culcay vs. Demetrius Andrade
March 11, Germany; WBA Junior Middleweight Championship
Gary Russell Jr vs. Oscar Escandon (Showtime)
March 11, Maryland, US; WBA Featherweight Championship | Maryland, US
- Jermell Charlo vs. Charles Hatley | WBC Junior Middleweight Championship
Julian Rodriguez vs. Eudy Bermardo (UniMas)
March 17, New York, US; Welterweight
- Alex Saucedo vs. Johnny Garcia | Welterweight
- Michael Conlan vs. Tim Ibarra | Junior Featherweight
Tyron Zeuge vs. Isaac Ekpo (SAT 1)
March 25, Brandenburg, Germany; WBA Super Middleweight Championship
Chime in with your own favorite boxing picks for this coming March. Which scraps are you anticipating most? And what will be the state of the game – the Welterweight and Middleweight scenes in particular – when the month is through?