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Articles of 2005

King Fuels Spinks-Judah Call

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Last week’s telephone conference call between Cory Spinks and Zab Judah in anticipation of Saturday’s rematch in St. Louis ended in a shouting match.

But it started calmly.

John Beyrooty of Brener Zwikel & Associates served as master of ceremonies and got things going: “We have a great, great fight card on February 5th on Showtime in the main event, a grudge rematch between the undisputed welterweight champion, Cory Spinks, and a former two-time world champion, Zab Judah.”

Beyrooty turned things over to Alan Hopper, head of DKP’s PR, who announced the presence of a surprise guest: “I’d like to introduce the man that put it all together. He’s making a special guest appearance – rare these days ‘cause he’s such a busy guy – but my boss Don King.”

“Thank you Alan and to all the press,” King said. “This is the role model. ‘Meet Me in St. Louis’ is the theme coming from 1904 when they had the World’s Fair in St. Louis and they had a hundred eighty-seven, eight-hundred or nine-hundred people. We are revisiting ‘Meet Me in St. Louis,’ bringing the world to St. Louis again in 2005, and we’re bringing millions into St. Louis, valued at new technology that they developed in the prior hundred years.”

Don King tells it like it is and prefers commas to periods: “This is called ‘Arch Rivals’ because the gate rate to St. Louis you have the Great Arch there and the Arch is saying something like, you know, ‘This is the gateway to the west,’ I say, so they came and they rested in St. Louis for a moment of repose and then they ended up with staying there because it’s the best, so we’re gonna bring pure Americana to America and the rest of the world with Spinks and Judah, which is a great, great match for a return match.”

King informed the assembled members of the press that “two high school bands will be welcoming the people . . . They’ll be playing to show the comradery and conviviality that’s gonna take place. This is gonna be like a pep rally for the rest of the country, and taking back, taking off the shackles and fetters of negativity and putting on those of friendship and unanimity.”

Along with the crowd of fight fans hitting St. Louis over the weekend, the promoter enticed a hard-to-get guest to the bout. “I’m inviting Bucky Bush, who is the President’s brother,” King said, “who, as you know, I promote George Walker Bush for four more years and we are elected.”

Alan Hopper had a question for his boss: “Don, real quick, we’ve got the fighters on the phone, but you’ve had an illustrious career, you’re the greatest boxing promoter ever, and maybe you’re the greatest promoter ever. How do you explain, or what does it mean to you, the response that you’ve received in St. Louis? It’s been pretty overwhelming.”

“Yes, it has,” said King. “It’s been super sensational because it’s people power. Because no matter what you say or do, the people is the one that really makes it. You can do anything with public opinion. You can do nothing without it.”

John Beyrooty introduced the other principles, “Zab and Cory and Kevin and Yoel.” He asked Kevin Cunningham, Cory Spinks’ trainer and manager, how things were going.

“Oh, man, things are going great in camp, man. This has been a great camp,” Cunningham said. “We’re ready to go, man. If the fight was tomorrow, we’re ready. We’re ready, man. Cory is ready and he’s prepared to put on a special performance on February the 5th.”

King expressed fond feelings for Kevin Cunningham: “Kevin is the man. And he has a word. And that’s something so rare in this business. Kevin is one of the fantastic-ist guys I’ve ever worked within the business, but it’s a loot thing. It’s a loot thing, and when you get to St. Louis, we make it that way.”

Spinks was asked if he felt any additional pressure performing in front of his hometown fans.

“I’m going into this fight like I’m going into any other fight,” Spinks said, “clearheaded to go into the ring and handle my business.”

Beyrooty turned to Team Judah and asked Yoel Judah, Zab’s father and trainer, about their training camp.

“Everything is going great, man,” he said. “We gotta good camp. We got no complaints. We love St. Louis. And, hey, we look forward to be there. No problem.”

“Zab, how are you doing, man?” asked Beyrooty. “What are you gonna do differently in this fight that you didn’t do in the first fight? Or are you?”

There was a long silence.

“That question’s for Zab.”

There was more silence.

“Zab’s not here right now,” said his dad.

“Where is he, Yoel?”

“He’s not here.”

“All right, well get him.”

That was typical. If ever a sport loved flirting with chaos, that sport is boxing.

Beyrooty asked if there were any questions for Cory Spinks. Scribes from USA Today, St. Louis American and Baltimore Sun lobbed softball questions at Cory, and he lobbed softball answers back.

Zab finally appeared and Beyrooty asked the same question he asked ten minutes earlier when Judah was missing: “Zab, what are you going to do differently this time that you didn’t do first time around? Or what are you going to try to do differently?”

Zab hesitated. “I don’t think that I have to do anything different,” he said. “I just go in there with the same game plan and be myself.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. Zab clowned his way to a loss in the first fight with Cory Spinks. For Zab to believe there was nothing he needed to do differently in the rematch seemed like a huge miscalculation – if not flat out denial.

King said “What he want to do different is to win. That’s what he want to do different. In the last one he did what he did but lost. So what he wanna do different is to win.”

A writer from the Associated Press asked Kevin and Cory if they gave any thought about training in St. Louis.

“Never,” Cunningham said.

“Never,” Spinks repeated.

“We don’t even think of nothing like that, man,” Kevin said emphatically. “We don’t train for no fight in St. Louis.”

Cory seconded that emotion: “No matter how small or big it is.”

“And why is that?”

“Let me get this,” Cunningham said to Spinks. “I run a tight ship. You don’t wanna allow any distractions at home around you. Your woman, your boys, your buddies – it’s just all a distraction when you’re trying to focus and get ready for a fight of this magnitude. This fight here is life and death. That’s how we see this fight. You know what I’m saying?”

Cory was asked if Zab is a dangerous opponent.

“Zab is dangerous,” said Spinks. “I mean, it don’t get too much more dangerous.”

Kevin Cunningham said “We’re willing to fight anybody. We’re willing to go up and fight Trinidad. We’re willing to fight Chicken De La Hoya, Sugar Shane Mosley, Floyd ‘Sell No Tickets’ Mayweather. We fight anybody, anywhere, at any time.”

“Say that again though, Kevin,” insisted King. “What did you say? Floyd, Floyd . . . What’s that last part?”

“Floyd ‘Can’t Sell No Tickets’ Mayweather,” Cunningham said.

“Thank you very much,” King said. “I just wanted them all to hear it.”

King has the soul of a salesman and could sell snow to the Eskimos in the dead of winter. If King were promoting Mayweather, they’d be talking about Pretty Boy Floyd in the Oval Office.

The questioning resumed. Robert Morales from the LA Daily News asked Cory a two-part question: What it was like growing up in St. Louis? And what effect did his father, former heavyweight champ Leon Spinks, have on his career?

“The neighborhood I grew up in was terrible. It was killing here, killing there. It was basically all about survival. I’m just happy I survived it,” Spinks said. “As far as my daddy having an impact on my career, my dad had his own life, so I was more close to my mom. My mom was my backbone. But once my mom passed, my daddy started – you know what I’m saying? – playing that dad role, and I just embraced him. He’s a cool guy.”

Don King aimed the spotlight back on Neon Leon’s son: “Cory is now undisputed welterweight champion of the world and this is what makes the difference here, and he’s electric and he’s a ticket seller. But more important than even the tickets – which is vitally important to getting the money – is the conviviality, the comradery, the momentum that you can cut with a knife,” King said, “and the great congregation of people coming together demonstrating what America is truly all about. And this is what’s so fantastic about this sport. Rather than the negativity that we always have to suffer and live with, we’re taking it to a whole new level . . .”

It was my turn to ask two questions. The first was for Yoel Judah: “Just a little earlier Zab said that he doesn’t have to do anything different in this fight, and of course as his father and trainer you must have spoken to him after the loss to Cory Spinks. What did you tell Zab after that fight?”

“I thought he fought a good fight. I thought it was a good fight. I thought if anything the fight should have been a draw,” Yoel Judah said. “But some of the judges didn’t see it the same way. So, you know, that’s the way it goes out. You know what I’m saying? But I know it gonna be a whole different story this fight here.”

“Okay,” I said. “But he’s certainly not going to get the benefit of the doubt from judges in St. Louis.”

“St. Louis don’t have anything to do with the judges,” Judah said.

“So you think he can win a decision?”

Don King had something to say: “If he wins the fight he can win the decision, because you’re gonna have neutral judges that are coming in to judge a fight. They’re not having house judges that are gonna say give the house guy the decision.”

“Let me ask you, Don, while I got you there,” I said. “I know 15,000 seats were sold. You said this was an overwhelming response. And I know it’s in part due to Cory, because he’s like a local phenom, but is it at the same time because St. Louis is a bit of a backwater, relatively speaking, in terms of boxing?”

“What’s the word you say?” asked King.

“Backwater,” someone said.

“I don’t know nothing about any of that,” said the promoter. “All I do know is that in 1904 St. Louis brought the World’s Fair with the fairs from all around the world. Japanese, Germans, Spain, Asian – all of them put up, you know, their displays for their natural country, so in that time we didn’t have television and we didn’t have the type of advanced technology that we have today, where you have satellite broadcasting and it be going out like it is today. So what we’re doing is reduplicating it.”

A writer from the Santa Monica Observer, who had roots in St. Louis, asked Cory where he grew up.

“I grew up in the North Side of St. Louis, the water tower area,” answered Spinks. “I live in St. Charles now. I’m married now, grounded, got a daughter, so I’m not as wild as I used to be when I use to live down in the city.”

Spinks no longer lives in the city, but he still believes in St. Louis. As does Don King.

“Cory Spinks is loyal to St. Louis,” King declared. “You have got great stars that have come to St. Louis, all the people that’s there, you know, that’s been there. You got Maxine Waters, that’s a Representative. She’s been there. William L. Clay, another Representative fighting for civil rights. He’s in Congress right now too. You have Phyllis Diller. You know what I mean? I mean stars that have been the Walk of Stars is great. Bob Costas, who works for another network, he’s there. He was born there in St. Louis . . . All these people that I’m calling for and inviting to ‘Meet Me in St. Louis’ who was there, they’ve worked. Angela, Ma, Maya, Angelou, all of them, the great poets and things that were raised in St. Louis. It has a Walk of Fame that’s unprecedented. And I wanna be able to bring in all these people. Agnes Moorehead, who used to be with Barbara Eden. You know they can wave the magic wand and do all that kinda stuff out of St. Louis. Virginia Mayo. You’ve got people that are there that’s, that’s – We’re gonna bring back the ones that are gone . . .”

It was time to wrap things up, so Cory was asked for his final thoughts and predictions.

“I predict that I will win,” he said. “I’m gonna put on the best performance of my life. I guarantee that. I am so prepared for this fight . . . I’m very, very, very focused for this fight, and thrust me, trust me, I’m gonna put on a show.”

Zab was asked the same question and said “I’d like to elaborate on what Cory said in laymen’s terms. What he’s really saying is he’s prepared himself and he’s gonna bring his running shoes to run around the ring to get away from that hard-hitting boy Zab Judah. That’s what he really means to say. No disrespect to Cory Spinks. I like him a lot as a person, but my whole thing is this: I’m here to take. You know what I’m saying? I’m going to his backyard, ‘cause I’m from Brooklyn . . . That’s the way we do it in Brooklyn.”

Kevin Cunningham had heard enough. “You gotta show us that shit,” he said to Zab. “You can’t tell us about it. You gotta show it to us.”

“That’s why I do best,” said Zab. “I show, baby. I show.”

Then the shouting started. Dis went to brag went to boast went to gloat went to swagger went to threat – and all of it was incomprehensible. Zab was screaming into a speaker phone. Kevin was hollering into a cell phone. Beyrooty was trying to calm everyone down. Don was pouring fuel on the fire.

And that was the end of the telephone conference call.

I hope the fight is that entertaining.

Cory Spinks vs. Zab Judah is on SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING on Saturday, Feb. 5, 2005. In the co-feature, Owen “What The Heck” Beck faces Monte “Two Gunz” Barrett in a 12-round heavyweight elimination bout. SHOWTIME will televise the doubleheader at 9 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the West Coast).

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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