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Articles of 2005

Jesse James Leija Has No Regrets

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Very few in boxing history can claim to have won ‘em all. In today’s era, very few attempt to fight them all. Jesse James Leija takes great pride in the fact that he can at least subscribe to the latter in reflecting upon his sixteen plus year career.

“I honestly have no regrets,” Leija told TheSweetScience.com during an exclusive interview. “There are certain aspects of my career where maybe if I did things different in life, I would have done better in the ring, but I had a great career and faced the best in every division I campaigned.”

A quick glance at his resume reminds us of the fighters he fought that were considered pound for pound among the best in the world over the past decade: Azumah Nelson and Gabriel Ruelas at super featherweight, Oscar De La Hoya and Shane Mosley at lightweight, Kostya Tszyu at light welterweight. The International Boxing Hall of Fame has already enshrined Nelson and De la Hoya. Mosley and Tszyu will one day follow, most likely in their first year of eligibility.

For Leija, now retired at the age of thirty-eight, there will most likely be no plaque in his honor. But honor is not limited to a picture and a brief career description on a wall in Canastota. Leija can – and does – take great pride in the fact that, through it all, he loved his job and was there for his family for the entire run. He also continuously gives back to the community of San Antonio, Texas, where he was born, raised and still resides. Golf tournaments, a youth foundation, a Miracle League Handicap Sports program, and even his own sausage line are among the many things that will keep Leija busy now that he has officially hung up the gloves. Since he’s only three weeks removed from his last fight – a fourth round stoppage to WBC light welterweight champion Arturo Gatti on January 29 – the transition is still ongoing.

“The hardest thing about retirement so far is looking to immediately fill that void. I’m a family guy and love being there for my wife and kids. But I already had so much going on in addition to boxing that, now that I’m not fighting or training for a fight, it’s like I have too much time on my hands. That period immediately after retirement is the rough part – if you have nothing to retire to,” Leija said. “Then you mind starts going crazy.”

Three weeks is hardly sufficient time to completely remove the sport from your blood, especially when it is a sport you have participated in for half of your life.

Having kept a childhood promise to not follow in his fighting father’s footsteps until graduating from high school, Leija’s entrance into the sport came at a relatively late age. He was a natural and only stayed in the non-pay ranks for less than two years, compiling an amateur record of 23-5 along the way. Truly following in the footsteps of his father James Sr., who was the first San Antonian ever to make it to the National Golden Gloves finals, Leija won the San Antonio Golden Gloves in 1988 and parlayed the win into an invitation to the 1988 Olympic Trials. His hopes of joining an all-star team that boasted Riddick Bowe, Ray Mercer, Roy Jones Jr., Kennedy McKinney and Michael Carbajal ended when eventual Olympian Kelcie Banks outpointed him.

As he would demonstrate in his pro career, Leija didn’t let the loss deter his hopes of living out the dream, so he turned pro in October 1988, shortly after the Olympic Trials. His first round stoppage of Oscar Davis would be the first of fifteen consecutive times that Jesse James would have his arm raised in victory. The first speed bump in his career came when Rickey Parker held him to a ten-round draw late in 1990. It would be the only blemish in his first five years as a pro, as he rattled off another eleven wins over the course of the next eighteen months. Notable among the list of those conquered were Miguel Arrozal, former world champion Troy Dorsey, and Louie Espinoza, all of whom Leija conquered in a two year span. The win over Espinoza (UD12) earned the Texan a mandatory ranking for the WBC super featherweight crown. The champion was the already legendary Azumah Nelson, aka The Professor, who would go on to fight Leija four times in a series that would define Jesse James’ career.

“Undoubtedly, the four fights I had with Azumah are what I look back upon in recalling the greatest thrills of my career,” Leija insisted.” Any time you have a chance to go forty-two rounds with one of the all-time greats in Nelson, you’re bound to learn something.”

In their first encounter, Leija learned two things: (1) that he had what it took to become a world champion, and (2) that boxing politics can serve as a greater opponent than the man staring at you from the opposite corner.

Having the privilege of fighting his first world title fight not only in his hometown, but in front of over 63,000 fans on the co-feature to the Pernell Whitaker-Julio Cesar Chavez PPV show, Leija was determined to end Nelson’s striking run of road victories. Nelson traveled to Australia to steamroll Jeff Fenech the prior year, which was a makeup performance for a draw that many viewed as a Fenech win in Vegas the year before their rematch. A year after the Fenech win, The Professor took his road show to Mexico, where he eked out a split decision over Gabriel Ruelas. Seven months later it was Leija’s turn to be defeated in front of his own fans (or so the long-reigning two-division champion had thought).

Leija had other plans and took the fight to Nelson. At the final bell, many in the capacity crowd believed Leija would become the second fighter from San Antonio in boxing history to capture a world title, with Robert Quiroga being the first. But the judges saw a different fight than most of those in attendance and at home watching on PPV. Initially the judges awarded the contest as a split decision win for Nelson. Leija was still coming to grips with what was announced as the first loss of his professional career – when ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr. came back several minutes later to announce a scoring discrepancy. The announcement was enough to tease the crowd into believing that the decision would be reversed, but the judges only met them halfway, ruling the fight a split decision draw.

Discouraged but determined, Leija knew he had to take it up a notch in the mandated rematch nine months later. Promoter Don King once again became synonymous with boxing history in May 1994, when he staged “Revenge: The Rematches” at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. It became the first time five world titles were staged in one night, and Leija-Nelson II led off the pay-per-view portion of the show. Twelve rounds later, Leija would become the only fighter ever to conquer Nelson in a rematch, dropping the legend in the second round en route to a clear cut unanimous decision. “Without a doubt, the pinnacle of my career” is how Leija recalls the title-winning effort.

Unfortunately for the Texan, it was short-lived. Four months after capturing the super featherweight crown, Leija faced Ruelas, who believed that like Leija in the first Nelson fight, he was the victim of suspect scoring in his own fight with Azumah. Ruelas made the most of his second chance at fifteen minutes of fame in taking a unanimous decision in what turned out to be one of the best fights on 1994. Ruelas overcame a knockdown and a point deduction late in the fight to score two knockdowns of his own. The first knockdown resulted in Leija tearing ligaments in his ankle. He climbed bravely off of the canvas and fought on, but the injury and Ruelas’ persistence were simply too much to overcome.

It would be the last time that Leija would enter or leave the ring as world champion.

Determined not to let his first loss keep him down, Leija returned to the ring in 1995 with two wins before the end of summer. The second win, a seventh-round stoppage of Rodney Garnett, came in the main event of a pay-per-view telecast in his hometown of San Antonio. Most notable among the telecast was one of the guest announcers for the evening, the then-lightweight champion Oscar De La Hoya. It was especially notable because five months later the two would square off in what was the return of boxing to Madison Square Garden, which hadn’t staged a fight card since Pernell Whitaker wrested the welterweight crown from Buddy McGirt in March 1993.

Leija didn’t get to share the stage for very long. De La Hoya steamrolled him in two rounds. Among other frustrations that evening was the fact that the fight before Leija’s was between Gatti and Tracy Harris Patterson. Leija wanted a crack at any of the super featherweight champions, but James was forced to move up in weight and accept a lucrative offer for what he knew was a no-hoper going in. James watched the legend of Gatti jumpstart that night, as Arturo sputtered across the finish line in eking out a razor thin decision over Patterson to win the IBF super featherweight crown. Leija knew their paths would cross one day. Little did he know he would have to wait a decade.

“For whatever reason, the fight never materialized. When Patterson won the title that summer, my team expressed an interest in fighting him. When Gatti won the title, we contacted Main Events about a fight in 1996. But things turned out the way they did and I just accepted the opportunities that came my way in waiting for the fight.”

What came along the way were two more bouts with Nelson. Six months after suffering the first stoppage loss of his career, Leija again found himself forced to call it an evening before the final bell. He was dropped early and suffered a nasty gash before the bout was halted after six rounds. It was his second straight defeat on HBO and he thought it might be his last opportunity. But Leija didn’t give up. He went home and regrouped. He returned to action with a seven bout winning streak in fights staged in San Antonio, Corpus Christi and South Pedro Island.

The last of the lucky seven was the fourth and final bout with Nelson, which headlined a PPV show that featured Kostya Tszyu’s return to respectability. Five years before he would face Tszyu on Showtime, Leija would break the 1-1-1 tie with a hard-fought unanimous decision over Nelson. It was the only time in Nelson’s career where he lost a fight where a major world title was not on the line – the two fought for the vacant IBA title that evening – but it would also be the closest that Leija would come to winning a world title.

Four months later, after Shane Mosley had several opponents turn down the chance to fight him, Leija stepped up and answered the call. What he hoped would be “the third time’s the charm” as far as his appearances on HBO ended up being his third strike – and third KO loss – as Shane stopped him inside of nine. At the fight’s end Shane and his father Jack told Leija: “Thanks for stepping up and fighting us… nobody else would.” Leija accepted the compliment, but not the fact that he would be forced to permanently accept the role of bridesmaid.

His best moments in the future would be in non-title affairs. Derailments to the careers of Hector Camacho Jr. and Francisco “Panchito” Bojado, coupled with wins over Ivan Robinson, Micky Ward and a points loss to Juan Lazcano, in what many view as one of the worst robberies in recent memory, would be Leija’s consolation prize for sticking it out through three different decades. After the Gatti loss, the seventh of his career against forty-seven wins and two draws, Leija confirmed a personal pre-fight premonition that his thirty-eight-year-old body had enough.

“A part of me knew that the Gatti fight would probably be the last of my career,” Leija said. “Of course, I wanted to continue on had I won, but the moment the fight ended I knew I fought my last fight. It just got to the point where there was too much wear and tear on my body. I separated my ribs four years ago and that kept coming back as a recurring injury. Then there were the torn ligaments in my elbow. The writing was on the wall that I needed to get out of the game.”

Though he ended the game with a loss, Leija takes pride in the fact that he ended it fighting for a world title. Not as a doormat for lesser opposition.

“One thing I can always say about my career was that I never lost a non-world title fight. I know the books show that I lost to Lazcano, but there isn’t a person alive outside of Lazcano and the judges who saw that fight and believe that he even came close to winning that night. All of my legit losses came against the best. Azumah, Ruelas back in the day, Gatti, Shane, Oscar, Tszyu – I mean, just about all of those guys are going to the Hall of Fame, with Azumah already there. I came up short in most of the A-list fights,” Leija said, “but nobody else from the second tier on down could ever view me as someone they could walk through. I take great pride in that.”

Leija also takes pride in the fact that despite the ups and downs, he did things his way, especially at the end of his career, when a decision had to be made whether he would be a full-time fighter or a full-time Dad. He opted for both, and could never understand why anyone would even make a choice between the two.

“I always say that you can’t worry about what happened yesterday,” Leija told me, “you can only change what can happen tomorrow. Sure, had I abandoned my family for months at a time, I might have been a better fighter. But it wouldn’t be worth it. I won a world title, fought well enough to be ranked among the top-ten in three weight classes for over a decade, and still had and have the time to watch my kids grow up. That is what’s most important to me. I’d rather be known as a good fighter and a great father and husband than be known as a great fighter whose family never knew or saw him. Those are the choices I made and I did the best I could. I didn’t take shortcuts and as a result I have no regrets. I am truly blessed.”

As are we, the boxing public, for having had the chance to witness one of the classiest acts of his generation.

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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