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Articles of 2005

Floyd Mayweather Jr. Still Searching For Superstardom



It was a little over six years ago when Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and greatness started to get mentioned in the same sentence. The first hint of it for the 1996 Olympian came in his eighteenth pro fight, when he delivered a flawless performance in dismantling two-time junior lightweight champion Genaro “Chicanito” Hernandez, lifting the WBC title in the process. As impressive as the effort was, he barely gave fans and critics time to appreciate it. Eleven weeks later, he went to Miami and stopped then-top contender Angel Manfredy in less than two rounds. His debut in South Beach capped a year so impressive that he was universally recognized as 1998’s Fighter of the Year.

Six years, a lengthy stay in the pound for pound rankings and more than a dozen wins later, Floyd (32-0, 21KO) finds himself returning to Miami, no further along in terms of popularity and mainstream appeal as he takes on tough yet unheralded Henry Bruseles (live on HBO, January 22, 10PM ET/7PM PT). In associating fighters with movies, Floyd’s talent and in-the-ring accomplishments could be referred to as “The Greatest Story Ever Told.” Yet, somehow, his marketability and out-of-the ring activities are more reminiscent of “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Misfortunate Events.”

As of late, part of the reason for the leveling off of his career is his dubious business decisions. Having long raised the bar for level of competition, Floyd’s arrival in the super lightweight division has been little more than an ordinary run thus far. It was assumed that Floyd’s plans to abandon the lightweight division, coupled with his past penchant for seeking out the absolute best, would help liven up things in the division, arguably the deepest in the sport. Instead, he ultimately settled for former WBO 140 lb champ DeMarcus “Chop Chop” Corley, in hopes that it would lead to a mandatory title shot against WBC champ and latest matinee idol Arturo Gatti.

On the surface, it’s a sound plan. With Kostya Tszyu on the sidelines at the time and already obligated to face then IBF interim champion Sharmba Mitchell, who better to face than the most popular name in the division in Gatti. However, in looking back at Floyd’s career, what makes the scenario disturbing is the fact that he managed to arrive at the point where he’s dependent upon another fighter in order to make himself a household name.

Part of the misfortune stemmed from comments Floyd made a few years ago, in regard to a looming HBO contract. When presented with the contract offer, Floyd was not satisfied with the numbers, and stated that it was “slave wages compared to what Naseem Hamed was making.” Simply put, he demanded that he be paid closer to the heavyweight-like numbers Naseem was making. Unfortunately for Floyd, many in the press elected to only use part of the quote, dropping the “compared to…” part. The end result was Mayweather coming across as yet another spoiled potential superstar.

Also looming at the time was his well-publicized feud with his father, who at the time was his head trainer. Everyone from the media all the way up to Top Rank and HBO seemed to have a field day with Floyd’s out-of-the-ring troubles. While they were busy painting him as a monster of sorts, Top Rank was busy grooming its next lower weight star in the making, Diego “Chico” Corrales. Having smoked Roberto “Grandpa” Garcia in winning the IBF junior lightweight title the year prior on a Mike Tyson under card, Chico was an instant hit. His penchant for slugging and his eye-popping two-fisted power was easy to fall in love with. So much so, that when news broke of his being involved in a violent domestic dispute, the media seemingly gave him the benefit of the doubt. Floyd was afforded no such luxury, and was forced to play the role of villain going into their January 2001 super fight.

As the old saying goes, “Winning cures many things.” With fifty-seven wins and zero losses between Floyd and Chico – three years ago tonight, as this article is written – there shouldn’t be much to cure. Yet somehow, neither fighter had garnered much in the form of sympathy heading in. Not even appeasing HBO’s demands of appearing on their lowly-regarded and now defunct “KO Nation” series was enough for Floyd to gain support. So he took matters into his own hands, as he and manager James Prince guaranteed not only a win, but would declare such as a victory for battered housewives across America.

The comments didn’t gain him any more fans, but his near-perfect performance over the next ten rounds would force the hate to come to a screeching halt, if only for an evening. Ten dominant rounds later, a reversal of fortunes took place. In one corner, it was a teary-eyed Floyd Jr. and his father embracing, not only for the victory in the ring, but to let the world – and more importantly each other – know that the time had come for reconciliation. In the other, the now-defeated Chico was irate in launching a profanity-laced tirade at his trainer and father, Ray Woods, for having been forced to quit what would be his last fight for the next two years. While Floyd was once again revered as a hero and the recipient of the same HBO contract he had rejected a year earlier, Chico was now seen – and convicted in a court of law – as a wife-beater.

The rediscovered fame did not last for long, though. In a May defense against future belt holder Carlos “Famoso” Hernandez, Floyd managed to injure both of his hands and was forced to deliver a less than thrilling performance en route to victory. The bout was also the only time that he had ever visited the canvas, despite not having been hit prior to the knockdown. In fact, he had landed a punch, and then took a knee in trying to recover from the pain felt in his now broken hand. To date, it was the only time he has ever been officially called for a knockdown. However, it wasn’t the last time that he would deliver a performance that left a lot to be desired.

In April 2002, after having become the first and only fighter to stop the tough Jesus Chavez for his eighth title defense, Floyd abandoned the title, and set his sights on WBC lightweight champion Jose Luis Castillo. It was his fourth straight fight against a current or future world champion. But much as he had done so early into his championship run, Floyd had spoiled fans to the point where the ridiculously impressive level of competition was no longer reward enough to the general public. Not after reports had leaked out about “Pretty Boy” being involved in not one, but two domestic disputes, both involving women who were mothers to his children. The news, coupled with his renewed quarrel with Top Rank, had once again made Floyd public enemy number one.

Such was reflected in the fans reaction at the end of his fight with Castillo, the first of two times they would square off in 2002. Despite once again injuring his hands, Floyd pulled out a unanimous decision that was scored wider on the official scorecards than according to the paying public. In fact, many in attendance, as well as the HBO broadcast team, seemingly no longer in love with Floyd any longer either, insisted that Castillo was screwed out of the decision and his title.

Castillo was given a rematch in Vegas, and Bob Arum was given more grief by Floyd. Why am I fighting on the West Coast, where nobody gives a damn about African-American fighters, Floyd had questioned. Arum’s response was that he was impossible to market, though Floyd felt that he’d be a much better sell on the East coast, where he could also better promote his rap label, Philthy Rich Records. Instead, Arum not only kept the rematch in Vegas, but demoted the fight from main event to co-feature, allowing the long-awaited (though ultimately disappointing) Wladimir Klitschko-Jameel McCline heavyweight bout to play headliner that evening. Floyd responded by doing just enough to win, averaging less than 35 punches a round yet still decisively beating Castillo to confirm his claim as lightweight champion. Arum’s response? “Three more fights (left on his promotional contract), and I’m counting every one of them.”

By the time 2003 had rolled around, Floyd was basically a man without a country. More out-of-the-ring occurrences had transpired. He and his father had permanently split, his promoter seemed all but disinterested in further elevating his mainstream status, and reports of a bouncer allegedly being attacked by Floyd and his crew had surfaced. And after having announced Victoriano Sosa as his next challenger, those who had grown accustomed to Floyd calling out and facing the best groaned at the thought of a potential mismatch. Forget for a moment that the “easiest” fight in the past three years for Floyd just happened to be the then-toughest fight for another divisional champ, IBF lightweight titlist Paul Spadafora, who oddly enough was preparing for a unification bout with WBA champ Leo Dorin at the time.

After breezing through Sosa en route to a unanimous decision, Mayweather had set his sights on bigger game, hoping to conjure up the mainstream appeal he felt was befitting of his God-given talent. Mayweather had flirted with the idea of heading toward the super lightweight division, which at the time was the deepest division in boxing. Before doing so, he opted for one last defense, this to be a hometown (Grand Rapids, MI) against all-action knockout artist Phillip “Time Bomb” N’Dou. The knock on N’Dou was that he was a junior lightweight moving up in weight, and that he was somewhat chinny. His power seemed to come up with him, but unfortunately so did his chin issues, as Mayweather walked through him, scoring three knockdowns en route to his first stoppage win in almost two years. Finally, it seemed, Mayweather was on his way toward superstardom.

2004 was supposed to be the year in which Floyd would leave no doubt as to who was the best in the sport. But after having called out everyone from Kostya Tszyu at 140, all the way up to Oscar de la Hoya at 154, Floyd settled on a WBC junior welterweight elimination bout with Spadafora. However, Spadafora passed, not liking what was offered, in addition to enduring multiple run-ins with the law himself. Lazcano once again passed on the fight, instead opting for tough-as-nails Jose Luis Castillo for far less money and a shot at Floyd’s now vacant WBC lightweight crown. Lazcano lost, and Floyd wound up with Corley, and a long awaited return to the Northeast.

His theory on marketability on the Right Coast proved true, as a packed house had filed into the Atlantic City Convention Center for what turned out to be an action packed, if ultimately one-sided, contest. Floyd dropped the former WBO champion twice in taking a lopsided unanimous decision, thus earning a mandatory crack at WBC champ Arturo Gatti. All he had to do was wait out Gatti’s fight with Dorin, and he’d be next in line. Or so he thought.

Instead of the WBC doing their job and enforcing a mandatory bout between Gatti and Mayweather, Team Gatti announced that he would be facing Jesse James Leija, who had scored an upset in knocking off once-promising prospect Francisco “Panchito” Bojado. Gatti had even declared that he’d be willing to give up his WBC title if forced into such a position. Instead, the WBC forced Mayweather into a different position and sans Vaseline, in sanctioning a second straight optional defense, despite their own rules to the contrary.

The news had suddenly thrown Mayweather’s career for a loop. His contract with both HBO and Top Rank had run out, which meant that he had nobody to promote his next contest, nor the $3 million + payday he had grown accustomed to making while under the network contract. He passed on a title shot against WBA champion “Vicious” Vivian Harris, despite a verbal promise from Main Events that should he win, they’d give him a 50/50 split for a 2005 unification match against Gatti. Floyd would rather maintain his position as WBC mandatory than have to worry about a potential unification bout falling through the cracks, it seemed.

The reasoning seemed logical enough, but his next move would be anything but. The WBC, perhaps in an effort to atone for the “oversight” in allowing Gatti to sidestep his mandatory, offered Floyd a chance to fight for the interim title. As silly as interim titles are viewed, the payoff would be the mandatory receiving a 45% purse split against the champion, as opposed to the standard 25% (or 20% if the challenger lands the fight in his hometown). Simply put, Floyd would be ensured the largest payday of his career, all while earning near purse parity with one of the sport’s most popular non-heavyweights.

However, Floyd was bothered by the fact that he had to first split a good portion of the $1.5 million that HBO was offering for the fight with the next highest rated WBC contender, Gianluca Branco. HBO, nobody’s fan when it comes to the alphabets, didn’t mind the matchup, because Branco had fought Gatti the year prior and the network loves to showcase “comparison” matches. Floyd did mind, and the fight along with his chances at a near even split with Gatti later in 2005, was instantly squashed.

This is where Bruseles finally fits in. While a tough fighter and having come out victorious against Wilfredo Negron in what is considered one of the top fights of 2004, Bruseles is tailor-made for Mayweather. Fun to watch, but extremely hittable, and not really spectacular in any given area. More importantly, for the sake of the fight being made, he comes cheaper than what Branco was asking, or felt to which he was entitled.

While Floyd stands to pocket a little more for this fight, the thing he must realize is that the adage “winning cures many things” no longer applies. Not when you are involved in a series of fights where the outcome is all but a foregone conclusion. Instead, a new term applies, in regard to both his star status and future paydays; cheap is expensive. He’s saving now – in addition to the larger split he keeps for this fight, he also stands pat and bides his time while waiting for Gatti. But what he doesn’t realize is that next Saturday is Gatti’s last fight under HBO contract. Also, Gatti is to the point where he refuses to even discuss Mayweather, despite the fact that he has been Arturo’s mandatory for eight months.

If and when negotiations commence, there is no guarantee that enough money is offered to appease both parties. Floyd has already put himself in the position of most likely having to accept 25% of the total purse offered for such a fight. There is also no guarantee that Gatti keeps the title – he may very well lose to Leija, who has been slept on and written off for years now, yet refused to go away. Assuming that Arturo is victorious, who’s to say that he doesn’t vacate the title? Or even take it one step further, and retire? His management had once hinted after the third fight with Micky Ward that they’d be looking at three more fights and then possibly call it a career. What a coincidence that they signed a three-fight contract with HBO at the time.

If anything were to occur where Floyd and Gatti do not fight each other this year, the likely scenario is that Floyd winds up fighting for a vacant WBC title. That would leave him with a fight against the winner of Branco – Junior Witter. On paper, Floyd beats both, though Witter is no walk in the park. In reality, nobody would really care. Which would leave Floyd still no better off than he was six years ago.

Articles of 2005

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



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

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Articles of 2005

ShoBox Friday Night Fights




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



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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