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Articles of 2005

Boxing Predictions: Gatti vs. Leija

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The boxing writers at TheSweetScience.com return with their picks for Saturday night's main event – Arturo Gatti vs. Jesse James Leija.

I'll take Leija in the upset.
Mitch Abramson

Jesse James Leija is a crafty veteran. He is a survivor. His career should have ended a while back, but good matchmaking and a champion's heart have kept him in the limelight. I never thought he would defeat the talented, hard punching Bojado. Still, Leija toughed out the rough times and exposed Bojado's weaknesses to win. This will be Leija's last major fight. Arturo will prove to be too good. Gatti's a cash cow and this bout is just to showcase him for more serious bouts down the road. Gatti to win by stoppage within ten rounds.
Jim Amato

Gatti, who has come so far boxing under Buddy McGirt, may be better served to brawl again for this one, considering his advantages in strength and power. Remember what Oscar De La Hoya did to him 10 years ago? But he'll probably start out boxing, which will play right into Leija's hands – because Jesse James is better in that regard. By the time Gatti figures out that forcing the issue would better suit him, he'll be behind on points. But he'll come back in the late rounds, hurt Leija and win a close and controversial split decision. Afterwards, he won't look like a 5-1 favorite. And Floyd Mayweather will be licking his chops.
Matt Aguilar

Gatti by unanimous decision: I want to pick Leija here, because I think Gatti's power is slightly overstated and Leija is craftier than most of Gatti's opponents since he began working with Buddy McGirt.
Steve Argeris

Arturo Gatti squares off with Jesse James Leija in a real showdown of veterans. Gatti is three inches taller at 5’8”, and six years younger, and is no longer the “Ultimate Warrior,” preferring to box instead. Leija has won four in a row, against more modest opposition, but came on to deflate the Bojado myth, while Gatti was dispatching Leonard Dorin in the main event in their last fight on July 24. Gatti has made a remarkable transformation to boxer, after once losing three fights in a row to Angel Manfredy and Ivan Robinson (twice) in 1998. But I predict that Gatti will be too quick for the straight-ahead Texan, and possibly stop him because Leija has a real penchant to bleed. You can never count Leija out, but at 47-6-2 (19), he's contemplated retirement for years. Gatti could also get cut, if only because Leija comes in straight with his shaved head. I don't think this fight will be the thriller we used to expect from Gatti, but he's 38-6 (29), and has given fans so many rousing battles, he's unquestionably one of the best action fighters in the history of the sport.
Jim Brady

Any fighter who can beat Azumah Nelson has a shot against anyone. Leija’s credentials are very good. But remember, he’s coming up to junior welterweight from featherweight. That’s a long way. You can argue that Gatti was a junior lightweight. That’s true. But he’s naturally bigger and stronger than Leija. And that will make the difference. Leija is very tough, he takes a good shot, so he’ll hang in there. But he’s been kayoed by Sugar Shane Mosley and Oscar De La Hoya. And Gatti is a big puncher. Gatti is just too big and too strong. And at this point of his career, Gatti has improved; he’s a better all-around fighter now. I pick Gatti by 7th round knockout.
“Irish” Bobby Cassidy, Sr.

I think I would have preferred to see this fight three or four years ago. Leija is 38 and Gatti is 32. But they are a pair of throwback fighters who always give an honest effort in the ring. Ultimately, Gatti's physical advantages will be too much to overcome. He is too strong and too big for Leija. I think Gatti stops him in the 9th round.
Robert Cassidy, Jr.

Many are looking (hoping?) for the upset here, but I just can't see it. Jesse James Leija is a great guy, and a fun fighter to watch. But way too much has been made of his upset win over Panchito Bojado. Against Gatti, Jesse will soon realize that he's not in there with an unmotivated, underachieving youngster. He'll still put up a good account of himself, but I think Gatti will be too much for him across the board. Not sure that Arturo knocks him out, but it's not unreasonable to believe that cuts will prevent this one from going twelve. Gatti TKO10.
Jake Donovan

A couple of great old pros, a couple of world-class bleeders, go at it at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City Saturday night. This should be a close fight, with whoever doesn’t fall apart first (cuts, broken hands) taking the decision. I lean toward Gatti, because he’s younger, bigger, stronger, and has learned to adapt in order to win. But both these pugs both gotta lotta class – any way you cut it. This looks like a fight not to miss.
Robert Ecksel

An interesting matchup between 2 of the easiest to cheer for fighters in the game. Since Buddy McGirt took over, there hasn’t been much ‘thunder’ in the Gatti game plan at all. Crafty and experienced as Leija is, under McGirt’s guiding hand, Gatti’s edge in movement and speed should carry Gatti to a decision victory.
Chris Gielty

Gatti by decision unless the fight is stopped by cuts. Thanks to Buddy McGirt, Gatti will simply outbox Leija and not try to slug it out with him.
Rick Folstad

We found out in the Leija-Bojado fight that Leija, at 38, is motivated and able to deal with a blitzing left hooker. Straight punches were the key against the young Bojado’s wide, power-offensive bravado. Gatti will fight inside only in spots, working behind his left jab and selecting his moments to bomb. Leija’s quick, straight handed flurries will be a problem for Gatti, if Gatti’s stoppage of Dorin has him knockout crazed, as in his mid-career, highlight reel phase. Then all hell could break loose! Gatti TKO 10 Leija.
Patrick Kehoe

Win or lose, Gatti will probably get busted up, and there’s always the danger he could be stopped on cuts. But betting against Gatti is like picking against the Patriots in a big game. Gatti by middle-round TKO.
George Kimball

Arturo Gatti will make short work of Jesse James Leija. This is not to take anything away from the classy, consummate professional Leija, but will attest to Gatti's battle-ready approach to prove to the boxing world that Leija wasn't taken lightly and that boxing's “pound-for-pound most exciting fighter” is indeed ready to move up to HBO Pay-Per-View status and worthy to face the mega-talented Floyd Mayweather. Gatti TKO within 6 rounds.
Mike Indri

We all know that Gatti has improved as far as technique goes but he is still Arturo Gatti and that means we are going to see him engage Leija and let the fists fly. If Gatti moves and boxes, Leija will stalk around the clock until they meet and then it becomes a fight he can win. Both men cut, and it may end up deciding this bout, and the fact that Gatti continues to have problems with his hands at this stage in his career may be the wildcard. A convenient pick may be Gatti, but this is a fight Leija can win in an upset just as he did against Francisco Bojado. I think he does it again. Leija by late TKO.
Joey Knish

It feels like they’re trying too hard to create a typical Arturo Gatti fight. On paper this should be a war as Leija is as tough as they come. However things rarely happen in the way you expect. I see Gatti comfortably boxing and building a lead over a game but outclassed Leija. There will be a few good exchanges, but Gatti will not resort to his brawling ways. Midway through the fight, Leija will get busted open. He’ll try to fight on, but the doctor will eventually stop the fight due to a cut in the 9th or 10th.
Marc Lichtenfeld

This fight was made for one reason, and only one reason: To keep Gatti sharp and in front of the public. The handwriting is on the wall signaling Gatti is being lined up for a fight with Floyd Mayweather. As good as Mayweather is, his fights don’t draw flies. He actually needs the exposure Gatti can bring to him. Leija is tough so he should stick around for a while. Unless Gatti makes this fight tougher than it should be, he should win relatively easy.
Frank Lotierzo

Gatti is something like -600, which totally blows my mind. He is the legitimate favorite because of venue, recent results, and ruination of a Gatti-Mayweather windfall if Leija wins (wink-wink), but come on. If they don’t sprint out of their corners at opening bell and split open each other’s foreheads with a mutual head butt, Leija is in the fight. Hey, the man fought Azumah Nelson four times. I’ll pick Gatti by eighth-round technical decision. But I suspect the scorecards might leave us seeing more red than just the blood streaming down the face(s) of the fighter(s).
David Mayo

I could make a compelling argument for either fighter: Gatti being outboxed and outslicked by a re-invigorated Leija, or Gatti roughing up and busting up Leija. Something tells me that because Gatti's thinking ahead to Mayweather, Leija makes it a lot closer than it has to be. Gatti W 12.
Robert Mladinich

Intriguing bout, pitting two true blue-collar warriors together. Not since Ward will Gatti face such a seasoned and determined opponent and the question of whether the usually irrepressible Gatti can maintain focus with Mayweather on the horizon does exist. However, whilst I'm reluctant to disregard Leija on the over-used and over-stated issues of natural weight, age, etc., I'm going to. Gatti has demonstrated an ability to add cunning to his usual face-first march, too, and I think that flexibility will help him establish a points advantage before beginning to apply the physical pressure his larger frame should provide. Leija will be typically brave and well prepared, but I just feel Gatti has more of everything to secure the win, possibly on a stoppage between 8-10, but more likely by comfortable points decision.
David Payne

Without Buddy McGirt in his corner, Arturo Gatti should have too much for the 38-year-old Jesse James Leija. With McGirt, the vastly improved Gatti should be a lock. I favor Gatti by decision.
Pat Putnam

I sense a minor upset here. Leija did not get enough credit for beating Nelson and Gatti got too much for beating Ward. Leija on points.
Jonathan Rendall

Both fighters not only have a lot of mileage on their odometers, but they also have a lot of scar tissue as well. Cuts could very well become a deciding factor in this fight, and I hope this doesn't end on an accidental butt. Even though Leija is in his late 30s and an obvious underdog, his vast experience and excellent physical conditioning might prove to be problematic for Gatti. Jesse James will do best to frustrate Gatti and make him come to him. If Leija is successful at baiting Gatti into that game, he has a good chance of winning a decision. To be sure, with Buddy McGirt in the corner, I'm inclined to believe that won't happen. I think Gatti will mix his attack up. I think he'll work both inside and outside, and will concentrate on Leija's body to build a foundation for the late rounds. Additionally, when Gatti works on the inside, I believe he'll concentrate on putting a lot of leverage on his shots with bad intentions. Despite Leija's excellent resume, I think he'll be surprised by Gatti's power. Overall, I see Leija putting up a spirited effort for a while, and will probably give Gatti some nervous moments. In the end, I think Gatti will prevail in a fairly close unanimous decision or late round stoppage on cuts.
Greg Smith

Jesse James Leija is giving up three inches in height, around three inches in reach, six years in age and least fifty sutures in the mug against Arturo Gatti. It should be entertaining and competitive for the first three sessions. Then look for a poised and confident Gatti to open Jesse up and win via a bloody stoppage sometime after the fifth.
Scott Yaniga

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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