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HBO Should Give Back To Fans with a Junior Welterweight Tournament in 2013

Adrien Broner Vicente EscobedoBy Mark Uliano: In recent weeks we have seen HBO put on some fights that made the boxing public scratch our heads. Last night we saw Adrien Broner and Vicente Escobedo, a fight that up until hours before the first bell rang we weren’t sure if it was going to happen. After Broner failed to make the agreed on rehydration weight the fight was up in the air until Escobedo finally decided to take more money.

Escobedo came into the fight a huge underdog before the weight issue, but with the added weight everyone knew his chances went from slim to none. Escobedo made a valiant effort but he was outclassed by one of boxing’s great upcoming fighters. Fans and analysts immediately began to say how can HBO put a fight on like this when they passed on fights like Froch-Bute and Haye-Chisora. I think HBO should take after Showtime and put together a Super Six type tournament in the Junior Welterweight division for 2013. With household names like Cotto, Mayweather and Pacquiao coming toward the end of their careers, these Junior Welterweight fighters are going to be the face of boxing in the coming years. A six-man tournament to introduce the casual boxing fans to these new faces, and a couple old winding down their careers, would be a great idea for HBO Boxing.

A fighter I’d like to see in the tournament, especially after last nights victory is Adrien Broner (24-0, 20 KO). The dismantling of Vicente Escobedo over five rounds last night showed that Broner still had his power and speed two weight classes than what he normally fights. ‘The Problem’ has been just that against all of his opponents to date. On the other hand, Broner has still yet to be put in the ring with a formidable opponent. I think if he were part of a tournament like setting we’d see Broner in top form mentally and physically. Just twenty-two years old, Broner has a lot of growing up to do and fights against the likes of Juan Manuel Marquez, Zab Judah and Lucas Matthysse will expedite that journey.

Back in the limelight after his boxing clinic on March 24th is Brownsville, Brooklyn native Zab ‘Super’ Judah (42-7, 29 KO). In recent weeks Zab has been calling out multi-titleholder Danny Garcia after his recent victory over Amir Khan. Zab may be later on in his career as some of the other relevant junior welterweight fighters but his experience and ring generalship over Vernon Paris showed that he is still one of the top dogs in the division. A unification tournament would probably be Zab’s last shot at grabbing a title and would be big paydays against some of today’s best fighters.

A junior welterweight tournament wouldn’t be complete without the WBA, WBC, Ring belt holder Danny Garcia (24-0, 15 KO). After stepping up his competition from old gatekeepers to the arguably the face of the junior welterweight division in Amir Khan, he showed boxing fans that he may have what it takes to be the undisputed junior welterweight world champion. With a granite chin and the willingness to stand in the middle of the ring, Garcia is capable of fight of the year candidates with Juan Manuel Marquez and Lucas Matthysse. Still young, Garcia fighting the likes of the fighters I have in this mock tournament would be risky but rewarding for the fighter from Philly. Good showings, even in losses, can boost Garcia’s stock for the future.

Argentinian puncher Lucas Matthysse (31-2, 29 KO) would also be a great addition to the winner take all tournament. Not know by many casual boxing fans, the man from Buenos Aires recently jumped into the junior welterweight mix with his 5th round KO of former two division title holder Humberto Soto on the Victor Ortiz-Josesito Lopez undercard. With his only two losses coming against Zab Judah and Devon Alexander, I’m curious to see how he would do against other big name competition. Soto, three years his senior, was a two time champion but he didn’t fight much quality competition leading up to the Matthysse fight. With his KO rate and his face first fighting style, Matthysse could make for some entertaining fights against some of the top junior welterweights.

Lamont Peterson (30-1-1, 15 KO) coming of his now tainted victory against Amir Khan in December of last year after testing positive for PED’s, Peterson will be looking to show the world he beat Khan with his skills and not with anabolic supplements. Still the IBF champion, Peterson will be looking for big fights in the division to show the world what he’s made of. With his lone loss coming against current welterweight champion Tim Bradley, Peterson has showed in the past that he has what it takes to rule the junior welterweight division. Peterson would need a tune-up fight before the end of the year but would easily be ready for big fights in 2013. We’ll be able to see in his first fight back if there was some sort of illegal substance being used to elevate his performance. I hope for boxing’s sake that it was just a contaminated sample.

A long shot to fight in the tournament but probably the favorite to win in my eyes would be current WBO champion Juan Manuel Marquez (54-6-1, 39 KO). After a one sided victory over Serhiy Fedchenko in April to capture the interim WBO title and a controversial loss to Manny Pacquiao in November, Marquez seems to be reborn as a fighter with his new strength and conditioning coach Angel Hernandez. Marquez has been in the ring with the best fighters in the world and at 38 he still seems to be at the top of his game. With his newfound strength and his technical mastery, I think Marquez would win some of these fights rather easily. Marquez has been on the big stage before unlike some of the new names that are now on top of the division and will be able to keep his composure when all these major titles would be on the line.

If I were to pick the final between these fighters, barring no setbacks, I’d say it would be Juan Manuel Marquez vs Adrien Broner. With Marquez’s experience and skill verse the seemingly unbeatable Broner, I could see the self-proclaimed ‘new face of boxing’ win by unanimous decision. With time left for each of these fighters to take one more fight before the end of the year, it would be great for HBO to put on a tournament such as this. These are obviously this writers opinions, but I think a case can be made for these fighters to compete in this tournament. With each of these fighters capable of winning this tournament, HBO would do its loyal boxing fans a great service putting these men in the ring with each other.

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