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Articles of 2005

Polarizing Fighters: Believing Isn’t Seeing – Part 1

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2004 was an historic year in the sport of boxing. No doubt Mike Tyson and Roy Jones being stopped every time they fought, and the retirement of heavyweight champ Lennox Lewis, had to be a few of the more memorable happenings.

On a personal note, 2004 concluded my 40th year as a certified boxing junkie. Ever since seeing Cassius Clay as a four year old on the evening news ranting about his fight that night with heavyweight champion Sonny Liston, I’ve been a boxing addict.

Over the last few years, I don’t know if it’s me paying more attention or if fan bias in boxing has risen to the level of Political bias – how scary is that? But I’ve noticed that some boxing fans and writers blatantly omit facts and reality to boost the image and perception of their favorite fighters. And sometimes overstate weaknesses to tarnish fighters they dislike. This is not a blanket statement pertaining to all, but it’s more than a silent minority who are guilty of trying to rewrite boxing history. It’s almost as if the manhood of some is directly linked to the wins and loses of the fighter they’ve adopted as their man.

The often and overused saying “opinions can’t be wrong” is a complete fallacy – and that’s not an opinion. An opinion can definitely be wrong. My opinion, like anyone else’s, has no validity if it ignores fact and reality pertaining to the subject in question. Reality is not a gray area to any objective and knowledgeable boxing observer.

Unfortunately, when debating some of the fights and fighters of boxing’s most popular stars over the last 40 years, reality and wishful thinking sometimes run side by side. If you doubt this, try and tell an avid Ali fan that he wasn’t a great boxer, or a big Tyson fan that his lack of mental toughness and character define him more than his hand speed and power. Try making the case to a Roy Jones fan that he has a suspect chin. Only a fanatical fan of Ali, Tyson or Jones would attempt to refute those statements as being unfounded. But I seriously doubt anyone who is a boxing fan first – before they’re an Ali, Tyson or Jones fan – would consider them unfounded. How could they if they really knew what they were watching?

If there is a bigger fan of Muhammad Ali than I am, he lives on another planet. However, not many passionate Ali fans can bring themselves to admit that he was overrated as a pure boxer. He was absolutely a gifted athlete and an all-time great fighter. But the truth is that because he possessed physical speed and reflexes never before seen in a heavyweight fighter, he didn’t think it was necessary to learn boxing basics and fundamental defense. That’s why he started to get hit more frequently when he started to slow down just a bit. Defensively, Ali was often out of position, only his great speed and instincts enabled him to escape without being nailed. As he aged his speed started to erode and he was no longer un-hittable and capable of outrunning his mistakes and fundamental flaws.

Muhammad Ali was also the loser in the biggest fight of not just his career, but in the biggest fight in boxing history. The first fight between Ali and Joe Frazier, titled the “Fight of the Century”, was the most anticipated and comprehensively covered sporting event in history. Frazier vs. Ali, as it was billed, was four years in the making and the hype actually began when Frazier showed up while Ali was working out for the press before defending his title against Zorn Foley. Frazier showing up unannounced triggered Ali to begin promoting Joe as a future title threat. While both fighters posed for a picture taken together, Ali remarked Frazier was too short to give him any real trouble, which prompted Frazier to say “we’ll see about that” – thus starting the Ali vs. Frazier countdown.

To this day almost 34 years after their first fight, some loyal Ali fans justify him losing to Frazier simply because he only fought twice after a 43 month exile from boxing before facing Joe. With the underlying message being: Frazier would have never had a chance if Ali never left boxing. And that couldn’t be more wrong. I’m not saying the layoff wasn’t a factor. Only a fool would say it wasn’t. What I’m saying is because Ali lost the fight, it’s impossible for many observers to fathom he fought one of the best fights of his career that night against Smoking’ Joe. This is the only loss of Ali’s career when he actually fought great. The problem for some Ali fans is in comprehending he could lose a fight that he fought great. But in reality, Frazier’s effort in winning “The Fight Of The Century” says much more about his greatness as a fighter than it takes away from Ali’s.

The first meeting between Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali is the fight I have re-watched more than any other fight since I’ve been addicted to boxing. I’ll never admit to just how many times I’ve watched it. Lets just say more than 100 times and less than 1000. Because of the style contrast, hype, and the fact that I couldn’t picture either fighter losing to the other, it’s my all-time favorite fight. And I say with complete conviction, Muhammad Ali was a great fighter during Superfight I.

In their 1971 fight, Ali threw and landed some of the hardest punches of his career in rounds one through five while trying to knock Frazier out. He did so for three reasons: (1) it was well known that Frazier wasn’t a fast starter, (2) no fighter ever pressured Ali as unrelenting as Frazier did, which basically left Ali no choice, and (3) was even a bigger factor – Joe was trying to take him out with every punch he threw. The term punching with bad intentions wasn’t coined for Mike Tyson. It was coined by the late Jim Jacobs for Joe Frazier when he discussed the punching contrast between Ali and Frazier before their first fight, in the documentary Jacobs produced on the bout called “The Fighters”.

The reality is Joe Frazier fought the greatest fight of his life against Ali in their first bout. Frazier was better prepared mentally and physically for Ali prior to their first meeting and knew exactly what he had to do to beat him, more so than any other fighter I’ve ever seen for their opponent. Another factor in the Ali-Frazier equation is Frazier had the perfect style to give Ali trouble every time, regardless of when they fought. Ali didn’t lose to Frazier in their first fight because he wasn’t a great fighter the night they fought. Frazier won because in his mind his life and career depended on it and he refused to be denied.

Muhammad Ali was, like it or not, a flawed boxer.

Mike Tyson is the best known fighter since Muhammad Ali. However, a book could be written on the facts routinely ignored by some Tyson followers who attempt to justify him as one of the greatest of the all-time great heavyweight champions. I’ll only address one of the scenarios where reality and perception are as different as night and day. And that is the circumstances surrounding the first fight between Tyson and Evander Holyfield in November 1996.

One of the greatest examples of passionate fans avoiding reality is the faction of Tyson supporters who try and justify him losing and being stopped by Evander Holyfield. What they would like history to show is that Holyfield won because Tyson wasn’t at his best. That statement is beyond misleading. It’s an outright lie. Only one fighter was coming off the two worst fights of his career to date when they fought, and it wasn’t Tyson. The fact is Holyfield was twice as washed-up as Tyson before their first fight. He was only thought to be on his game after beating Tyson, but definitely not before.

Only one fighter was perceived to be so physically finished that the Nevada State Athletic Commission demanded he get physical clearance by the Mayo Clinic before they would approve and sanction the fight. That’s a fact. And the fighter wasn’t Mike Tyson. Add to that the fact that Holyfield is four years older than Tyson, and he wasn’t nearly as protected during his career. Holyfield went out of his way to fight the best fighters of his era, and that’s a fact. Tyson went out of his way to avoid them and pay step aside money. But there is a faction that denies this to be the case, but it is a fact. And prior to his first bout against Tyson in November of 1996, the last fighter Holyfield stopped was Bert Cooper in November of 1991.

In the five years that passed between fighting Cooper and Tyson, Riddick Bowe won two out of three fights against Holyfield. Bowe won a unanimous decision in their first meeting and stopped him in their third. Holyfield regained the title from Bowe in their second fight and lost it to Michael Moorer in his first defense. During the years 1991-1996, Holyfield won decisions over 42 year old former champs George Foreman and Larry Holmes, Riddick Bowe, Alex Stewart and Ray Mercer. The only fight Holyfield won that didn’t go the distance was against former middleweight contender and light heavyweight champ, Bobby Czyz. Czyz didn’t come out for the sixth round due to an eye rash that flared up during the bout.

Tyson, who was two days shy of turning 30, only managed to win one round, two at the most, and was knocked down and stopped by a 34 year old Holyfield. And Holyfield never looked worse as a fighter than he did in his previous two fights before fighting Tyson. The biggest lie ever told in boxing history is that Holyfield beat Tyson because Tyson was washed up. When in reality the complete opposite is true. There is no doubt that it was Evander Holyfield who was further removed from his best than Mike Tyson. Only rumor and wishful thinking by some Tyson fanatics suggests otherwise. Historically and factually, Evander Holyfield was a greater fighter than Mike Tyson. Regardless of how you try and spin it, he accomplished more and beat Mike twice in two fights in head to head confrontations when he was the more eroded fighter.

Roy Jones is a lightning rod in much the same way as Mike Tyson. There’s simply no middle ground. Similar to Tyson, there was a belief that Jones couldn’t lose. And if he did, it was because of what he didn’t do more so then what his opponent did. Only he had control, in others words, of the outcome. There just had to be some complex reason lurking somewhere for it to be accepted. But this isn’t about Roy Jones’ greatness as a fighter, because he was a great fighter and without question one of the best of his era. This is strictly an assessment of the facts pertaining to his chin. And the reality is Roy Jones at best has a suspect chin.

Since being knocked out by one punch in his last two fights, Roy Jones chin and ability to take a punch has been a topic of much intense debate. Many of Jones’ loyal followers want to believe that moving up to heavyweight and back down to light heavyweight made him more vulnerable. Although a review of his career indicates it’s much more realistic that he has a questionable chin.

Roy was weakened the most in his first fight against Antonio Tarver after winning the WBA heavyweight title in his previous fight. While he fought in the fight which he appeared the most weakened, he was never was down and barely hurt. And that’s because Tarver never caught him with a memorable punch to the head or jaw. For the rematch with Tarver, Jones hired conditioning guru Mackie Shilstone as his conditioning trainer. And prior to the Tarver rematch both men repeatedly said Jones couldn’t be stronger or in better shape.

The second fight with Tarver was the first time that Jones went into a fight and had something to prove, since his victory in their first fight was seen as being controversial to half of those who saw it. In the rematch Tarver knocked Jones out with a hybrid left hand in the second round. The knockout punch landed by Tarver was the only meaningful punch he landed in less than two rounds. In his next fight against Glen Johnson, Jones fought as if either Tarver took his heart or he had no confidence in his chin. One thing Glen Johnson will never be called is a devastating puncher. Despite Jones fighting tentative and glove shy during the fight, he was close to going down and maybe out in the fifth round from a single punch. In the eighth round Johnson caught Jones with a solid right hand and knocked him out. Not only was Jones counted out, he was down for over eight minutes. How many great fighters has that happened to who had anything close to an outstanding chin? Let alone a great chin?

Fighters who really had outstanding chins were able to take a beating even at the end of their careers when they had nothing left without being stopped, especially by one punch. Actually, the chin is one of the last things to go on a fighter as he ages. As far as Jones’ legs being shot and the reason why he was knocked out twice, there wasn’t a whisper his legs were close to being gone before fighting Tarver. And it’s an undeniable fact that Roy Jones most likely took less punishment than any other great champion by age 35, and wasn’t hit anywhere near enough to account for his chin to be considered softened up.

The two fighters who stopped Jones both did it with a single punch. Neither Tarver nor Johnson is known to be a light heavyweight knockout artist. On top of that, how many fighters did either of them take out in the fashion they did Jones prior to fighting him? It’s unrealistic to try and believe Jones went from being like Ali to being John Tate in regards to taking a punch overnight. The Jones-Tarver-Johnson triangle provided a rare opportunity in boxing, being that all three faced each other in the same calendar year.

After Tarver and Johnson knocked out Jones in each of their last fights as big underdogs, they fought for what was recognized as the undisputed light heavyweight championship. In a fight that went 12 rounds they both nailed each other with several big shots, similar to what they hit Jones with, and not once did either of them seem hurt or close to going down or out. So Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson either have a Tex Cobb like chin, or Jones has had a suspect chin that he was able to hide because of his blinding speed of hand and foot.

The reality is Jones was knocked out with two of three biggest punches he was ever hit with. The right that Lou Del Valle knocked him down with wasn’t nearly in the league with the shot that Tarver and Johnson caught him with. And when he went down against Del Valle, the replay clearly showed that he was off balance when he got hit. Only a right landed by John Ruiz in the first round of their fight may have been in the same league as the two shots that stopped him. Without a doubt, facts and reality make a much better case that Roy Jones has a questionable chin, than indicating he doesn’t. Again, I didn’t say he had a glass jaw, but his chin is suspect at the least.

Read PART 2 of this 2 Part Series as Frank Lotierzo analyses those who analyse the fighers.

Articles of 2005

In Boxing News: Floyd Mayweather An All-Time Great, Valuev & More

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A Shot of Boxing on the Last Day of the Year

The Guardian reports that talks have already taken place between Nicolay Valuev‘s co-promoters – Don King and Wilfried Sauerland – and Danny Williams‘ promoter Frank Warren for Nicolay Valuev to face Danny Williams. I’d suggest Danny Williams needs to worry about Matt Skelton (who Williams is reportedly scheduled to fight in February) before he entertains notions of facing the Beast From The East.

The Mirror in the UK looks forward to a big year in boxing for 2006. The Mirror considers what the future might bring for Joe Calzaghe, Amir Khan and Ricky Hatton, among others.

The Parksville Qualicum News has an interesting column on the travails of former Canadian Super Middleweight title holder Mark Woolnough. Woolnough’s career turned controversial – as widely reported in the Canadian press – at the beginning of this year when Woolnough and four other men were charged with manslaughter and assault after a fight outside a Parksville nightclub. The case returns to court next month. It’s an interesting read, as Woolnough is still looking to the future with hope.

Our own Marc Lichtenfeld provides plenty of food for thought with his Top Ten Wish List for boxing in the New Year. There’s plenty of good stuff here, but what really jumped out for me is Lichtenfeld’s opinion that a win over Zab Judah could have Floyd Mayweather knocking on the door of all-time great status. Seems to me this might be jumping the gun a little. Or is Marc right? Will it soon be time to call Floyd Mayweather Jr. an all-time great?

(More Boxing News Links at TheSweetScience.com)

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Articles of 2005

ShoBox Friday Night Fights

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Hot bantamweight prospect Raul “The Cobra” Martinez heads back to Chicago next Friday night as he is featured in the co-main event of SHOBOX “THE NEW GENERATION,” an action packed evening of professional boxing presented by Dominic Pesoli’s 8 Count Productions,’ HOME OF THE BEST IN CHICAGO BOXING, Kathy Duva’s Main Events Inc., along with Miller Lite and TCF Bank.

The two-time national amateur champion sporting a perfect 12-0 record with 9 knockouts, six of which have come in the first round,  will take on Colombian Andres “Andy Boy” Ledesma, 13-1 (8 KOs) in a scheduled eight round bout.

Speaking after a training session at his home gym in Georgetown, Texas, Martinez said, “I’m truly looking forward to returning to Chicago. The fans were terrific in September, they were very supportive from the start of the fight,” an internationally televised first round knockout of Miguel Martinez on September 16th at the Aragon Ballroom.

Regarding his upcoming fight with Ledesma, “The Cobra” said, “I haven’t seen him fight, although I understand he’s fought at higher weights and will be naturally bigger than me. I’ve had great training for this fight and feel very confident. I really haven’t left the gym in months, just taking off Sunday’s and even then I get my running in. My thinking is that fights are won in the gym and complete preparation is the key.”

When asked about his being mentioned by Dan Rafael, ESPN’s boxing writer as one of the top prospect’s in the boxing world the 23-year-old San Antonio native said, ‘It’s a great compliment, but I still have much work to do. I want to be a champion for Main Events like Fernando Vargas and Arturo Gatti. But like Fernando said while he was in town, ‘be patient, work hard and your time will come.’”

Finishing the conversation, Martinez said, “I’m looking forward to starting out this year with a bang. I might have a couple less fights than the seven I had in 2005, but I’m looking to stepping up the competition, move up to ten-rounders and climb in the rankings.”

Headlining the evening is a ten-round welterweight showdown between boxing’s hottest prospect, unbeaten Joel Julio of Monteria, Columbia, and Ugandan native Roberto “The Doctor” Kamya. Julio, turning 21 years old the day before the fight, is 25-0 with 22 knockouts, twelve of which have come in the first two rounds. Kamya, now fighting out of West Palm Beach, Florida is 15-5 with four knockouts.

Tickets, starting at $30, are on sale in advance by calling 312-226-5800. Cicero Stadium is located at 1909 S. Laramie, at the corner of 19th and Laramie, just ten minutes south of the Eisenhower Expressway and ten minutes north of the Stevenson Expressway. Doors for this evening will open at 6pm with the first bell at 7pm.

The full bout lineup for the evening is:

Joel Julio vs. Roberto Kamya, ten rounds, welterweights

Raul Martinez vs. Andres Ledesma, eight rounds, bantamweights

Miguel Hernandez vs. Butch Hajicek, eight rounds, middleweights

David Pareja vs. Derek Andrews, eight rounds, light heavyweights

Mike Gonzales vs. Tony Kinney, four rounds, lightweights

Omar Reyes vs. Luis Navarro, five rounds, featherweights

Reynaldo Reyes vs. Ricardo Swift, four rounds, middleweights

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Articles of 2005

Pick ‘Em: Plenty of Big Upcoming Fights in ’06

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Here’s the early call on many top matches scheduled for the first half of 2006: Happy New Year!

As the new calendar dawns, there are already a considerable amount of premium bouts on the horizon. Things don’t look to be bogged down by undetermined championships next year. In many cases the scheduled face-offs involve the best fighters in the division, or at least close enough for general bragging rights. If anybody else with proper qualifications signs up to force the issue, all the better.

It can be argued that some pairings could have taken place within a more optimal timeframe, or that some headliners carry distracting baggage, but there are certainly enough heavy hitters on deck. That nobody can deny.

It doesn’t matter whether one considers the proverbial glass half empty or half full; there’s still the same amount of juice in the vessel. It’s nice to know that even with a high number of cancellations, there will still be plenty of important contenders on tap.

With elite fighters in weight divisions from top to bottom on the agenda, it’s an equivalent to what fans in more mainstream sports expect in a consistent championship format.

Baseball fans can almost always count on a World Series. Some hoops fanatics say too much attention to playoffs distracts unmotivated NBA teams during their regular season. In college, they project Sweet Sixteens. Football fans know there’s always a Super Bowl ahead to raise advertising dollars and test the USA’s halftime morals.

So too, there is method in boxing’s current madness.

The midnight crystal ball hasn’t even been unveiled in Times Square and there are already a number of potential thrillers scheduled. Most feature contrasting personalities that almost guarantee going along for the ride will be worthwhile. Any subsequent drops will probably be cheered.

Don King jumps right out of the auld lang gate with a January 7th Showtime card featuring Zab Judah against Carlos Baldomir and Jean-Marc Mormeck in a cruiserweight unification against O’Neil Bell.

It will be the upset of the year, bar none, if Baldomir can tip the applecart before Judah gets to his scheduled super-showdown with Floyd Mayweather Jr. Meanwhile, Mormeck is emerging and should keep on rolling against Bell, who can expose him if he’s not for real.

The proverbial Big Bang starts with a January 21st rematch of one of the finest fights of ‘05, when Erik Morales goes against Manny Pacquaio for the second time on HBO pay per view. The fact that Morales was upset by Zahir Raheem after beating Pacquaio was no real loss in box-office luster. Artful Raheem will get a spot on the undercard and hope his patience is rewarded.

Everyone figures Morales and Pacquaio will pick up where they left off. Like the first time, the rematch is a pick’em contest. Management distractions and glove restrictions cited as Pacquaio’s previous problems won’t matter this time. The two are very evenly matched and their styles will make for another whapathon. It could come down to corners, where Freddie Roach gets the edge since Morales will have a new trainer for the first time since replacing his father after the Raheem lesson.

February features four of the game’s most enduring attractions, in a pair of crucial matchups.

First up, Showtime presents the Jose Luis Castillo – Diego Corrales tiebreaker from El Paso on Feb 4th. This is another pick ‘em pair, barring any sideshow. In boxing that disclaimer may be a stretch, since the sideshow is part of the act and the charm.

As far as action inside the strands goes, every round these guys have fought has been great. There’s no reason to think that pattern won’t continue. Regarding the result, Castillo keeps the pressure on as he did in the second fight, but he’ll walk into trouble from a more reserved Corrales. We still don’t know which coin to flip.

February also holds a better late than never affair between two perennial favorites as Shane Mosley collides with Fernando Vargas on the 25th.  This fight could lead to a winning ticket in the Golden Boy sweepstakes for a fall bonanza against Oscar De La Hoya.

Vargas has been in tougher recently, based on comparable strength of opposition stats, but he’s seen little action. What weight they enter the ring at may have a lot to do with the result. If Vargas has to struggle at the scale, Mosley might have the battle in the bag after round nine.

It’s hard to imagine Mosley getting stopped early, but Vargas doesn’t have to hurt him, he just has to knock him down three times. With natural size, he may be able to do just that, but Mosley would have to box uncharacteristically flat.

Unless Mosley decides to heed the crowd, the most likely scenario is that Shane plays it safe, picks a few shots, and stays away enough to capture a comfortable, dull decision. An unbowed Vargas maintains his fan base but not his bettors.

March both comes in and goes out as a lion.

On March 4th Joe Calzaghe welcomes Jeff Lacy to Manchester UK for what may be the biggest blowout of the headlining bunch. Calzaghe gets the chance to prove his considerable home-based reputation once and for all, but if Lacy creams him as we expect, that glossy record will be severely tarnished.

All Calzaghe has to do is make a respectable stand, but that’s no small task against the rising Lacy. A motivated Calzaghe, songs of England ringing in his ears, could pull a big surprise if he can exploit Lacy’s relatively limited technical development, but that’s a longshot indeed.

It looks like Lacy can get by on power alone. He could soon emerge as a pound-for-pound leader. Old Joe’s hometown advantage will last about two left hooks.

March 11th has the Ides of history to beware for at least one old lion, with farewell (we’ll see) fireworks featuring Roy Jones Jr. against Bernard Hopkins. Less than two years ago they were considered untouchable all time greats. Now between them they’ve lost five in a row.

This goodbye fight is contracted at light heavyweight, for what seems like an oldies night. Hopkins is the senior at age 41 to Jones’s 37, but Roy seems more the grandpa figure, last seen hanging on against Antonio Tarver. Youth, as it were here, will prevail.

This bout was signed quickly as each principal, usually sticklers for favorable contract clauses, agreed to parity in a demonstration of businessman first and fighter second. They may both expect easy marks. How much the boys have left by the time they get down to business remains to be seen. The history books will show this as a climactic career bout between Hall of Famers.

At 175 pounds, Hopkins may be in for rude awakening. Jones may have been more thoroughly outfought recently, but he was rumbling with bigger, tougher men than Jermain Taylor or Howard Eastman. Respectable as he is, Taylor still falls short of the level of Tarver, at least for now. The difference is still fifteen pounds less pop.

It will be quite a feat if Hopkins can stay in the fight, even at Jones’s advanced age. Our stars point to Jones winning in overwhelming fashion.

On March 18th, James Toney meets Hasim Rahman in another pairing of seasoned war-horses.

Toney and Rahman already had their introductions, when they brawled in Mexico during a WBC gathering to bestow Rahman’s new belt. Between formalities, Toney got married, which could bring up the old questions about carnal training.

Let’s hope when they meet in the ring, they restore some of the fire missing from the heavyweights in ‘05.  Toney might have an edge in recent form, but Rahman shows fine tuning he previously lacked. The winner might get newly “crowned’ Nicolai Valuev, an easy payday outside Germany.

Rahman could be the heavyweight that finally makes Toney look like a blown up middleweight. But anything less than a top effort will probably lead to embarrassing night for the Rock and give Toney solid claim to being the true heavyweight champ.

This might not be the most artful fight of the new season, but it could well be the most grueling, and the closest. He who’s faced the better big boys gets the nod. Advantage Rahman.

March 25 features Marco Antonio Barrera, probably the strongest overall claimant to 130 pound honors. The likely opponent is said to be always tough Jesus Chavez.

Chavez seemed rejuvenated when he met Leavander Johnson, but Johnson’s tragic death may have taken some of the steam out of thoughtful Chavez, said to have received Johnson’s family blessing to continue in Leavander’s name. That could mean a lot of inspiration. Either way, if he does meet Chavez, who hung tough with one arm against Erik Morales, Barrera won’t get any slack. The Fates say Chavez, whose wife recently served in Iraq, is a live, live underdog.

Another clash to be King of the Hill finds Floyd Mayweather Jr, arguably the game’s finest practitioner, bumping heads with Zab Judah, one of very few boxers who rivals Mayweather in speed, skills, and brashness.

Their hoedown, scheduled for April 8th, is one of the top pound-for-pound pairings in recent years. Judah will need a career best performance to have a chance of victory. That’s not to say he can’t pull it off, but currently Mayweather is in a different galaxy in terms of punching power. Slow-motion replays may be the only way to follow the flying fists once these two whirlwinds unload.

Mayweather should be around a 4-1 favorite. Judah is good enough to make taking the odds an attractive proposition, since that’s probably as good of odds as one is likely to see on Floyd for a while. Mayweather will stop Judah in his tracks.

The first half of next year is set to conclude with the star power of Oscar De La Hoya, probably against noteworthy foil Ricardo Mayorga on May 6. There could be some snags before a contract is finalized, but if it comes off count on Mayorga for promotional sound bite nastiness. One of the questions is whether or not he’ll be able to get under Oscar’s skin, and it might actually be entertaining to see the classy, model perfect De La Hoya show he’s human and freak out against the Nicaraguan maniac.

Mayorga may have burnt his best bridges already. De La Hoya has not only the boxing skill to negate Mayorga’s offense, but enough power to end it early. If Mayorga rushes in and causes a cut, De La Hoya might get ruffled enough to duck into defense and Mayorga could get a decision that goes to the cards after six rounds or so. It will be wild for as long as it lasts.

Pro boxing, like many sports, had its share of problems during 2005, but there were also many positives. Most notably, as usual, was superior and inspiring action inside the strands. Unless there’s a mass freeze-up at the top, early 2006 figures to see decisive interaction among many well-known fighters.

If even fifty per cent of the aforementioned pairings come to fruition, it’s a strong likelihood the upcoming year has at least one very positive half. Arturo Gatti, Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito, Brian Viloria, and Shannon Briggs, to name a few, are also on deck. No matter how you chose to look at or measure mass qualities, there’s still just as much good to be seen.

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