What is the ceiling for Inoue? Did Silva's win land him a boxing megafight?

1 month ago 9

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It was a wildly busy night in the world of boxing, even with the postponement of the pay-per-view card centered around unified lightweight champion Teofimo Lopez and George Kambosos. IBF and WBA bantamweight world champion Naoya Inoue reminded the world of the otherworldy power he possesses at 118 pounds with a third-round knockout of Michael Dasmarinas, and he's on a trajectory to challenge for an even higher spot on ESPN's pound-for-pound list. So how far away is he from knocking on the door and surpassing Canelo Alvarez or Terence Crawford?

Jermall Charlo had a tougher time with his world title defense on Saturday, going the distance against Juan Montiel. Was it a matter of overlooking Montiel, or Montiel stepping up on a big stage? And where does this fight and result leave Charlo in the middleweight pecking order?

Mikaela Mayer also went the distance in her first defense of the WBO junior lightweight world title. Was her tough test against Erica Farias a speed bump on her road to unifying the division, or a serious wakeup call?

Finally, UFC legend Anderson Silva did the unthinkable and beat former world champion Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in Mexico. What does it mean for Silva's future earning potential in boxing?

Our panel of Michael Rothstein, Ben Baby and Marc Raimondi digs into the fallout from Saturday's action.

What does Naoya Inoue have to do to realistically challenge Canelo Alvarez and Terence Crawford at the top of the pound-for-pound rankings?

There's not much more Naoya Inoue can do at this point, but wait. Almost every fighter Inoue's faced, he's dominated. Most of the time, the fight doesn't last very long, either. But the fighter who might make the most sense for him to face next -- provided he beats John Riel Casimero in their title unification bout on Aug. 14 -- was standing next to Inoue on stage Saturday night after his win: Nonito Donaire.

Donaire and Inoue have fought before -- Inoue won a unanimous decision on Nov. 7, 2019, in an instant classic --and facing the winner of Casimero-Donaire makes the most sense, as it would unify all of the titles at 118 pounds. It's also the best chance for Inoue to try and push past Terence Crawford or Canelo Alvarez into the Top 2 in the pound-for-pound rankings in the short-term.

Those rankings are something Inoue pays attention to as well -- he told ESPN as much last week -- and it's a start for the 28-year-old to show he might be the best fighter in the world, regardless of division.

"It's the opponents that I'll be fighting -- more quality opponents -- and basically, as we go to the unification of the title, that should bring me up in the rankings," Inoue said.

If he unifies the titles at 118 pounds, he would probably look towards a divisional move up to 122 pounds, where some new fights and new challenges would await. He could also become a four-division champion if he captures gold at 122. Win there, and Inoue would have an even stronger resume to bolster his case for the No. 1 spot. Barring a surprising loss by either man ahead of him, which is not something Inoue can control, he just has to keep doing what he's been doing. -- Rothstein

Anderson Silva made himself future millions against Julio Chavez Jr.

Anderson Silva likely made a pretty nice payday Saturday night for his fight with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in Guadalajara, Mexico. That was never in doubt coming in, regardless of the result. What was in doubt was how Silva would look. He's 46 years old. He had just one UFC win since 2012. Chavez Jr., while having never lived up to his family name, is a former WBC middleweight champion with nearly 60 pro boxing fights. Silva had not boxed professionally since 2005. It doesn't take an advanced mathematician to figure out those numbers were not adding up in Silva's favor. By every metric, Chavez Jr. should have won, and won easily at Jalisco Stadium.

And yet, that's not at all what happened. Silva won by split decision in a bout that wasn't even as close as the scores would have indicated. He dominated large portions of the fight, which is kind of ridiculous to type. Yes, an aging, allegedly washed-up Silva kind of whooped up on a boxing veteran who has beaten the likes of Marco Antonio Rubio and Andy Lee -- a fighter that went the distance with Canelo Alvarez, and fought Daniel Jacobs just a year and a half ago. Silva won so clearly that there wasn't even enough room for a sketchy decision to bail Chavez Jr. out, except for that one ridiculous card that had Chavez Jr. winning 77-75.

Silva absolutely smoked all expectations. Crushed them. Blew them away. That's significant in and of itself, to see one of the greatest MMA fighters of all time -- a former UFC middleweight champion for seven years -- put on a sterling performance in another combat sport. That's cool. But it's doubtful this ends here. This performance puts Silva in the driver's seat at the absolute perfect time. This is the era of the unconventional boxing match. The Paul brothers are doing their thing. Oscar De La Hoya is coming out of retirement and facing Silva's old rival Vitor Belfort in an exhibition. Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. fought each other in an exhibition last year.

All of this is to say, Silva made himself a major commodity Saturday night for a future boxing match against a fellow legend, a YouTuber, or any number of other individuals who could generate a lot of buzz. Silva has said for a decade that one of his dreams was to box his friend Jones Jr. That seems very much on the table right now. How about Anderson Silva vs. Jake Paul, if Paul can get by Tyron Woodley in August?

But let me propose this: Tyson vs. Silva. The former baddest man on the planet against the most creative knockout artist in MMA history. It would probably have to be an exhibition, but you're telling me that wouldn't sell pay-per-view units? Silva could be looking at one of his biggest fight purses ever -- perhaps his biggest ever, period -- and he's closer to 50 than he is 40.

These are crazy times in combat sports and Silva just made himself a relevant name again, eight years after he lost the UFC middleweight title to Chris Weidman. -- Raimondi

Did Jermall Charlo take his fight against Juan Macias Montiel too lightly?

Not at all. What else was Charlo supposed to do? In the sixth round, he did everything but send Juan Montiel to the canvas, and yet the challenger kept on coming. Montiel had something very few underdogs possess -- unabashed levels of self-confidence, and a true willingness to win. That's why Charlo (and most observers) were in awe of Montiel after that performance. Instead of acting like just another opponent, Montiel truly came to win and gave Charlo fits all night. It was not the easy night everyone expected it to be.

Charlo had to deal with a fighter who had a good chin on Saturday night -- a fighter who was incredibly awkward as he switched stances with herky-jerky motion early in the bout. Charlo picked his shots early and then got drawn into an action fight, which made for an entertaining evening.

Even in the win, Charlo showed why he has a case as the world's best middleweight. He has all the good boxing qualities he needs -- decent power, accurate punching and a solid ring acumen. On his best night, he can be absolutely dominant.

Yes, there will be people upset Charlo didn't get a stoppage. In most cases, that speaks poorly of the champion against someone with credentials like Montiel. Charlo's win doesn't fall in that category. It was a good performance -- Montiel was just up for it.

Charlo still showed he might be the best 160-pounder in a division that still includes Gennadiy Golovkin (and, yes, Demetrius Andrade). And Montiel showed he deserves another fight against a big-name opponent. -- Baby

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Mikaela Mayer goes the distance to successfully fend off Erica Farias and defend her WBO junior lightweight championship.

Was Mikaela Mayer's first title defense a learning experience or a wakeup call?

It wasn't necessarily the dominant performance you might expect from a first title defense. Mayer lost some rounds, others appeared much closer than she would have liked. And while a title defense is a title defense, Mayer is going to have to be better in order to reach her goal of unifying the junior lightweight division.

She's facing Maiva Hamadouche next, in the fourth quarter of 2020, and Hamadouche could cause problems for Mayer if she isn't careful. This isn't to say Mayer can't win that fight -- she clearly can. It also doesn't mean Mayer won't be favored to do so -- she likely will be.

But Mayer is still relatively young in her professional career, and Erica Farias was experienced and better than some might have thought. Farias' only losses have come in title fights. So this is one of those old clichés that fits in team sports -- it's easier to learn from wins than from losses, especially in boxing where titles and livelihoods are involved if titles are lost.

So Mayer can learn from this. That's something her coach, Al Mitchell, will clearly drive home to her. She won. She did what she needed to. And now she can move on to what she had been focused on since the start of the year - unifying her division. -- Rothstein

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