There were no big fights this past weekend, but we have a couple of good ones on tap Saturday night in Las Vegas.
We take a look at Timothy Bradley's anticipated return under new trainer Teddy Atlas.
Can the fiery trainer get the most out of Desert Storm as he faces another dangerous foe?
Vasyl Lomachenko, the decorated amateur star and featherweight titlist, returns on the same card against a nondescript foe. When will he finally get the breakout fight both he and the fans deserve?
Next we take a look at Andre Ward's next opponent—if it can rightly be called that—the wretchedness that is the WBA and whether or not we'll get Deontay Wilder vs. Alexander Povetkin anytime soon.
These are the hottest boxing storylines for the week!
How Will Tim Bradley Look Under Teddy Atlas?
Bradley returns to the ring Saturday night on HBO in the first defense of his recently won WBO Welterweight Championship against rugged former lightweight titleholder Brandon "Bam Bam" Rios. That fight would be interesting under normal circumstances, but it's even more intriguing because Bradley will make his first start under fiery trainer Teddy Atlas.
Atlas steps in for Joel Diaz, who trained Bradley for more than a decade before an unceremonious and contentious split in September, and will try his hand at returning Desert Storm to pound-for-pound glory.
Bradley is an intelligent fighter, but he's become more hittable over his last several fights as he's fought with a style that's more crowd-pleasing but places him at greater risk of return fire. He dominated Jessie Vargas for 11-plus rounds in June before eating a wicked right hand in the closing seconds that nearly put him down and out.
He's excited for the opportunity to learn and refine his craft under Atlas, telling Shad Powers of the Desert Sun: "Teddy came out here to the desert for two days, and on the first day he came at me with this big like booklet thing. It had every round of all my fights. Who I was fighting and what mistakes I made in each round. I was like ‘Now that’s a coach. He’s ready. He’s prepared."
Bradley and Atlas will need to be prepared.
Rios will never be confused for a fine technical boxing specimen. He'd tell you that himself. But he's as tough as they come and loves to fight. He knocked out longtime rival Mike Alvarado earlier in the year to put a stamp on their exciting trilogy and won't be intimidated by Bradley or his trainer's reputation.
This is a more interesting fight than many people are expecting.
How Long Before Vasyl Lomachenko Gets a Big Fight?
Lomachenko defends his WBO Featherweight Championship for the third time Saturday night against No. 7-ranked contender Romulo Koasicha on the Bradley-Rios undercard in Las Vegas. Last we checked, that's not a fight that anyone was really demanding to see, least of all the Ukrainian champion.
Koasicha has four losses, three to anonymous foes, with the most recent coming in near-shutout fashion against Lee Selby in May 2014. Short of an absolutely shocking result, Lomachenko should outclass his foe and move to another easy win.
Now, there are times when you can blame a fighter for not taking on tough challenges, and then there is a situation like this one.
Lomachenko is widely considered among the best amateur fighters ever (if not the best) after compiling a record of 396-1 (he avenged the lone loss) and two Olympic gold medals. Another fighter in that conversation is junior featherweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux, an opponent both Lomachenko and his promoters Top Rank wanted for this fight.
USA Today's Mike Coppinger reported last week that Bob Arum reached out to Rigondeaux's promotional company Caribe with an offer for the fight. Each fighter would receive $500,000 with the winner doubling his purse.
Caribe declined the offer.
Arum blames the promoter, not Rigondeaux, for the fight not taking place, because its money demands just aren't realistic, especially given that HBO has dropped Rigo because of his risk-averse style and he has no fights on the horizon.
Rigondeaux, an amateur standout and two-time Olympic gold medalist, was recently declared "champion in recess" by the WBA for not defending the belt. He hasn't fought since last December and recently had a defense against Cesar Seda rejected by the WBA, per Ben Jacobs of Boxing Scene (h/t Bad Left Hook).
Hopefully, sooner rather than later, some common sense gets injected into this equation.
Why Is Andre Ward Fighting Another Tomato Can?
There is no denying that Ward is a phenomenal talent, though his opponent selection leaves much to be desired. The super middleweight champion (who now seems to be a light heavyweight) returned from a self-imposed layoff of nearly two years with an easy dismantling of Paul Smith at a light heavyweight catchweight of 172 pounds in June.
Ward, who recently signed a multi-fight contract with HBO, has been rumored to be on a collision course with reigning unified light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev for sometime late next year, per Andreas Hale of Yahoo Sports.
If that's the case, then he better step up his challenge level in the ring—and quickly.
Ward will next fight on the undercard of Miguel Cotto's middleweight title defense against Canelo Alvarez November 21 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
He was lined up to face unknown Australian Rohan Murdock (18-1, 14 KO), but the Nevada State Athletic Commission (in a rare move) refused to sanction the fight because of the huge talent gap between the fighters, according to the Western Australian (h/t Edward Chaykovsky of Boxing Scene).
Not that the new opponent is any better.
Ward will face 38-year-old Alexander Brand (24-1, 19 KO) who is probably best known (if much at all) for losing a close fight to Badou Jack (who was just 10-0 at the time) back in 2012. That's a marginally better opponent at best, and Ward better step it up in the new year if he hopes to be ready for the fierce and punishing Krusher.
Can We Please Stop Taking the WBA Seriously?
The WBA is the pound-for-pound worst sanctioning body in all of boxing.
In fact, it's a total and complete joke that is no longer worthy of our respect as a fair arbiter of who does and doesn't deserve the designation of champion in the sport of boxing.
A cursory look at the WBA's latest rankings shows that, between its ridiculous system of "super," "regular" and "interim" world champions, the WBA recognizes no less than 43 world champions spread out throughout boxing's 17 weight classes.
Many divisions have three men who can claim some form of champion status from the sanctioning body, and a precious few have just two. Talk about further muddying the already confusing waters of a sport that has too many belts already.
The latest ridiculousness comes from an announcement by British promoter Frank Warren that long faded former great Roy Jones Jr. would meet also faded former champ Enzo Maccarinelli for a WBA Cruiserweight Championship this December in Russia, where Jones recently became a citizen after befriending Vladimir Putin.
Let's just leave that part alone, shall we?
The story was picked up by the Guardian, but, per Dan Rafael of ESPN.com, the WBA disputes that it sanctioned the fight for a belt between two guys who have zero business contesting even a watered-down world title.
Who the heck knows what is true at this point, but, given the WBA's wretched reputation, would it surprise anyone if this fight not only happens but has a "world championship" at stake?
Can Wilder vs. Povetkin Get Done?
Povetkin meets Mariusz Wach Wednesday night in what will be nothing more than a stay-busy fight while the Russian bides his time awaiting a mandatory challenge of American heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder.
Wilder recently stopped woefully overmatched but tough challenger Johann Duhaupas in a predictably one-sided affair late in September that was Premier Boxing Champions' lowest-rated fight.
Povetkin is a former titleholder who dropped a wide decision in an ugly challenge of Wladimir Klitschko in 2013. He was overmatched in the fight, and it also didn't help that the champion was given a wide berth when it came to the rules against shoving and excessive holding.
Wilder has recently found himself the source of heavy criticism after two consecutive title defenses against little-known and highly suspect challengers. Neither Duhaupas nor Eric Molina is considered to be among the heavyweight elite (or even a legitimate contender), and the time for Wilder to step up is rapidly approaching.
But it might not be as easy as you think to get this fight done.
Yuri Tarantin of Boxing Scene reports that Povetkin's promoter is asking for patience due to the "very difficult" nature of negotiating with Wilder and his team.
Wilder was supposed to have fought Povetkin already but was granted a waiver by the WBC for one more voluntary defense, which he took and won against Duhaupas. In theory, Wilder vs. Povetkin should come next and early next year, with the WBC calling a purse bid, but only time will tell.