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Articles of 2005

Will Judah Backers Be 'Jinxed' On Saturday?

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It has been four years and ten fights since Cory Spinks beat anyone inside the distance, and that was a fighter named Dennis Allen, who carried a pumped-up 22-3 record into their February 2001 fight in Texas. When you look at the rest of Spinks' ten knockout victories, two of them came against Ken Manuel, who was 0-13 the first time he faced Spinks and 0-17 going into the rematch; other KO victims included a fighter with a 1-3 record, another who had a 1-6-1 mark, and still another who was 2-10. Forgettable types like Jim Williams, Mark Hammon and Mike Cooley, none of whom was as good as his mediocre record, failed to go the full route against the “Next Generation.”

The only “name” fighter who Spinks put away was 40-year-old Jorge Vaca, who went to the canvas five times en route to his 22nd pro loss, twelve years after holding a WBC welterweight title he won on a technical decision.

Yet Spinks is far from untested. He has scored wins over Michele Piccirillo, Ricardo Mayorga, and Miguel Angel Gonzalez. And in a defense of his world 147-pound title last April, he beat Zab Judah, who at one time was everybody's flavor-of-the-month.

All of those wins were by decision, so you know our own Joey Knish, in a previous article here on The Sweet Science, was on the right track when looking very strongly at the “Spinks by Decision” proposition in the upcoming Spinks-Judah rematch on Saturday.

He's giving up a buck-five in that play (laying $1.05 to win $1), and if you believe Judah is not going to do enough to reverse the result of last year's fight, the scenario where Spinks, who is a pain in the ass to fight but who has no power to speak of, wins on points is quite likely.

If you look around you'll see attractive prices on Cory, if you're inclined to go in that direction: at Ladbrokes.com the line is -150 favoring the champion, with a takeback of +110 on Judah. This is obviously preferable to most of the lines available on the internet, which have Spinks laying -160 or more. The best price on Judah thus far is +141 (bet $1 to win a profit of $1.41) at Pinnacle Sports, which offers a 'dime line' on lower-priced fights, meaning that the vigorish carved out by the bookmaker is just “ten cents.” These lines have a tendency to move, so I would check at Pinnacle before pounding on this number. Olympic Sports, which also puts up a lot of boxing, has Judah posted at +140, as does Diamond Sports International.

At Pinnacle, the price on the fight going over 11.5 rounds is -218, more advantageous than the -240 offered by the World Sports Exchange. 'Under' players can get +205 at Olympic Sports.

Heading up the Spinks-Judah undercard is a heavyweight encounter billed as a “WBC heavyweight title eliminator” between Monte Barrett and undefeated Owen Beck. Both are promoted by Don King, and here, Barrett poses a difficult road block for King’s undefeated prospect. The 33-year-old New Yorker, who hit the deck five times in a WBO title fight against Wladimir Klitschko in July 2000, has recently gone through the best stretch of his career, scoring wins over once-beaten Eric Kirkland and previously-undefeated Dominick Guinn, and coming very close to victory against Joe Mesi, in a fight many thought he let slip through his hands.

Beck (24-0, 18 KOs) was tested early in his career against the fairly capable Taurus Sykes, but has faced no live opposition aside from that. In fact, his toughest battles seem to have taken place outside the ring. Before he moved to the U.S. from his native Jamaica, Beck was shot accidentally in the leg by a friend, and was told he'd never fight again. Then, over the Thanksgiving holiday, he got into a horrific crash that left his car totaled, yet miraculously he walked away clean.

That Beck hasn't faced anyone in Barrett's class is a factor here, but it need not be the only factor. Every legitimate contender has that moment where he has to answer questions by moving up in class. Some pull it off; some don't. As far as Beck is concerned, it will mostly be a matter of whether he has the raw talent to do so, and the nerve to handle this kind of pressure without rattling. The people I've talked to who have seen Beck like his tools. If he turns out to be the real thing, it's a deft strategic move by King, as Beck will have positioned himself for a title shot by beating one fringe contender. And then the more serious question will be raised: how much will the lack of experience will handicap him against the likes of Vitali Klitschko?

Oddsmakers favor Barrett. He's -250 at Intertops (bet $2.50 to win a profit of a dollar), but if you're hot on the veteran, you'll like the -184 price at Pinnacle. Beck fetches +170 at both Sportsbook.com and Olympic Sports. I've seen a couple of over/under prices, using different parameters – at Pinnacle, the number is 9.5 rounds, with -173 on the “over” and coming back with +163 on the “under”; Olympic has the total posted at 11.5 rounds (it's a 12-round fight), with -115 on the “over” and -105 on the “under.”

Looking ahead to some fights in the near future, Bernard Hopkins is still a decisive favorite to win his February 19 middleweight title fight against Britain's Howard Eastman. Hopkins backers may find him a bargain at -521 at the Pinnacle site, while the best price we were able to find thus far was +500 at World Sports Exchange. Hopkins is a high of -833 at Intertops, where the takeback of +400 (4/1) on Eastman doesn't really offer much of a proposition. That's the biggest bookmakers' “spread” by far. There is also over/under wagering available on the fight, on a limited basis. The total at World Sports Exchange is 11.5 rounds, with the “over” favored by -240/+190. Pinnacle lists the prop at -239 for the “over” and +219 as the takeback on the “under”. I would expect more round props to be put up as the fight gets closer.

The numbers continue to be tight on the highly-anticipated March 19 junior lightweight showdown between Manny Pacquiao and Erik Morales. This is one of those unusual occasions where both fighters get the favorite's nod, depending on which sportsbook's odds you're looking at. Morales, for example, is favored at Intertops (-125, to a +111 takeback on the Pac Man) and Ladbrokes, where he's -137 as opposed to even money on Pacquiao. But Manny is slightly favored at World Sports Exchange, where you would have to lay -120 on him and -110 on Morales, and Canbet, where he is -115 to Morales' -111. William Hill has the fight as a pick 'em, posting -120 both ways. Sportsbook.com has the same dynamic, except you'd have to lay -115 with either guy.

If you're reading this on Friday, cable network action has made it to the board in some places. At Foxwoods tonight on Showtime, David Diaz is a -400/+300 favorite over Kendall Holt in their junior welterweight fight, according to Sportsbook.com. Diaz, a member of the 1996 U.S. Olympic team, perhaps holds the record for the slowest developing undefeated career. Now 26-0 and with wins over Ener Julio and Emanuel Augustus under his belt, he may be finally ready to make a move. Holt (17-1, 11 KOs) was considered a prospect coming out of the amateurs, but was knocked out in one round in his only pro loss and has yet to pass any big tests. Lou Duva refers to Holt as the second coming of Meldrick Taylor, but he hasn't come yet. Diamond Sports International also has a line on this fight, with Diaz a -425/+325 choice.

Another Diaz – Oscar – a junior welter from San Antonio, is on the show, facing Al Gonzalez of Chicago. Each has just one pro loss. Gonzalez is -200 at Sportsbook.com, with a takeback of +160 on Diaz, while Diamond has the line lower, with Gonzalez a -160/+130 favorite.

In Miami, Edner Cherry, a Bahamian lightweight riding a 13-fight winning streak, faces veteran Ricky Quiles in the ESPN feature. The 34-year-old Quiles, a southpaw, seems to have been around forever, but keeps scoring enough wins over middle-of-the-road fighters to get these kinds of opportunities. Fourteen months ago, he beat former WBA featherweight champ Eloy Rojas and followed that with a win over Luis Villalta. He'll be a dog in this one – at Diamond, Cherry is -220 with Quiles at +180. Sportsbook.com posted Cherry as a -180/+150 proposition, and they've also put up a number on the undercard fights between cruiserweights Dale Brown and Shelby Gross. Brown is a legitimate contender whose only losses have come in title fights against Jean-Marc Mormeck, Wayne Braithwaite and Vassily Jirov, while Gross (15-1) is best known for being a witness who helped convict matchmaker Bobby Mitchell on a fight-fixing charge last year. His lone defeat was a one-round TKO to Antonio Tarver. Accordingly, Brown is a heavy favorite – you'd have to lay -2500 on him at Sportsbook.com, with Gross fetching +1500 (15/1) should he pull an upset victory.

All information is presented for entertainment purposes only. Odds posted were current as of 7 AM Eastern time on February 4. Odds naturally are subject to change, so check first with each individual sportsbook

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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