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Articles of 2005

Light Heavies Light Up Boxing Action Overseas

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This weekend, while we take a break from “major” fights here in the United States, Europe experiences a “mega-matchup” of sorts on Saturday in Hamburg, as FABRICE TIOZZO (48-2), the WBA light heavyweight champ, defends his title for the first time against the comebacking DARIUSZ MICHALCZEWSKI (48-1), the former WBO light heavyweight and cruiserweight titleholder.

Michalczewski made 23 successful defenses of his WBO light heavy belt – all in Germany or in his native Poland. Like many European fighters, he's had a lot of soft touches at the championship level, a situation made possible because of his drawing power of his bouts and the influence his promoter, Klaus-Peter Kohl, who was able to exert influence with an organization like the WBO. The man known as “Tiger'” has always been a very solid fighter. For years he was hyped for a showdown with Roy Jones, but demonstrated he wasn't “all that” when he lost a split decision to Julio Cesar Gonzalez. That was sixteen months ago, and he hasn't fought since.

What's interesting here is that any disadvantage Michalczewski's hiatus may have put him at is mitigated to an extent by Tiozzo's relative lack of activity. He hasn't fought since decisioning Silvio Branco for the WBA's 175-pound crown last March, and that's his only action in the last 18 months. Like Michalczewski, Tiozzo is an ex-cruiserweight champ, but that was much more recently. Both of his career losses were at the hands of Virgil Hill, including a first-round KO for that WBA title in December of 2000. Forty-four of Tiozzo's 48 bouts have taken place in France. This one is in Hamburg, Michalczewski's adoptive “home” territory.

Despite his layoff, Michalczewski has a lot of respect from the online sportsbooks. Intertops has him laying 4/1, with a +250 takeback on Tiozzo. Pinnacle Sports lists Tiger as a -282/+262 favorite, and World Sports Exchange has recently lowered its number from a -330/+270 spread, which would have represented the best price for Tiozzo, to -300/+250. At Sportsbook.com, Michalczewski is laying only -280.

The over/under at Olympic Sports is 10.5 rounds, where they have favored the under to the tune of -135/+115. But at Diamond Sports International they're using the number at 9.5 rounds, with -130 on the over and even money on the under.

The semi-final on the show in Germany features another light heavyweight title at stake. ZSOLT ERDEI, a Hungarian who is another of Kohl's “house fighters,” makes the third defense of his WBO light heavyweight championship in a rematch against Argentina's HUGO HERNAN GARAY. The two fought in May of last year, as Erdei took two of the three judges' cards, with the third one calling it a draw. Garay has been lightly tested since then, biding his time with a few tune-up fights.

If you like Erdei, you might find the best value at either William Hill (-225) or Intertops (-227). But Diamond Sports International favors Erdei quite a bit more, listing him at -295 with a takeback of +245 (the most generous we've seen yet) on Garay. All of the sportsbooks strongly favor the fight going the 12-round distance – the number is 11.5 rounds, and Olympic Sports has the over favored at -280/+240. You can get +250 on the under at Diamond Sports International.

MIGUEL ANGEL COTTO, the WBO junior welterweight champion, defends that title for the second time in Puerto Rico against former WBO titleholder DeMARCUS “CHOP CHOP” CORLEY, in a fight Cotto's supporters are probably viewing as a steppingstone to much bigger things. Corley won the WBO title in June of 2001 as a late substitute, stopping Felix Flores in the first round. His last five fights have gone the full route, including a unanimous decision loss to Floyd Mayweather and a split decision nod to current welterweight champ Zab Judah. Those guys may have been higher on the totem pole than Cotto then, and still are now, but neither of them appears to possess Cotto's power at 140 pounds.

I must admit I was a little skeptical of Cotto at first, and still feel that perhaps an artful boxer could cause him a multitude of problems he hasn't yet encountered. But he's a sharp enough puncher to take out this level of opposition. Since winning a ten-round decision over survivor John Brown, he's been taken the distance only once, by Lovemore N'Dou. He stopped Victoriano Sosa, who had previously gone twelve rounds with Mayweather, Randall Bailey, who had done the same with Corley in a title bout, and undefeated Kelson Pinto. He's been active, too, with six fights in the last eighteen months. Cotto capitalizes on a two-fisted attack, but his left hook combo to the body and head has been world-class from the outset. He might, in time, make a very intriguing opponent for either Mayweather or Kostya Tszyu.

Cotto is a big favorite, but prices vary. At William Hill, for example, you'd have to lay 33/1 on him, taking back just 10/1 on Corley. But other outlets offer better value. At BlueSQ.com, Cotto is listed at -1200; at Pinnacle he is -1442, at Diamond Sports International he is -1600. The best price coming back on Corley looks to be 12/1 at World Sports Exchange. Diamond and Olympic Sports are offering the over/under at 7.5 rounds; Diamond, for example, has the over favored at -175/+145. At Pinnacle, over 8.5 rounds is -114, with +104 on the under.

Alabama hosts an unusually good card on Saturday night, as super middleweights JAFFA BELLAGOU and KABARY SALEM square off in Mobile. Bellagou had a title shot once, being defeated on a decision by Frankie Liles. He's scored wins over undefeateds Dean Francis and Henry Porras, but it's quite possible he's never beaten anyone as good as Salem, a rough-and-tumble type who was never coddled, fighting the likes of Eric Harding and Richard Grant in his first six pro fights. Salem went to Germany last May to fight hometown guy Mario Veit for the vacant “interim” WBO super middleweight title, and despite being penalized two points, still got as close as a split decision defeat, which means he very well may have won the fight. He then lost a decision to Joe Calzaghe for the “real” WBO super middleweight crown last October, but put the undefeated Calzaghe on the deck in the fourth round. Salem may be one of the few fighters in the world where you could actually put a “headbutting” proposition on his fights; I haven't found one out there yet, but in his last three fights, he's been caught doing it. He nonetheless looms as a live dog – Pinnacle Sports has him grabbing +140 (Bellogou is the -150 favorite), while at Olympic Sports he is a -155/+135 underdog. Also at Olympic, the rounds prop (9.5 rounds) is a pick ‘em, going -110 either way.

Also on that Mobile show, DUNCAN DOKIWARI tries to bounce back from two straight losses as he takes on VAUGHN BEAN in a heavyweight match. Dokiwari, with a 22-3 record, put in a good performance in losing a decision to then-undefeated Dominick Guinn, but then was stopped in one round by Stacy Frazier in his last outing. Bean's record is a strange one. He has been rather competitive in losing to people like Evander Holyfield and Michael Moorer. He went eleven rounds with Vitali Klitschko. And losses to Yanqui Diaz and Tony Thompson were nothing to be completely ashamed of. But Bean has little or nothing in the way of a meaningful win. That's highly unusual for a fighter who's been around for so long, and who has fought for a couple of titles. Dokiwari is -204 at Pinnacle Sports, with bean fetching the best price at Sportsbook.com, where he is at +185. Olympic Sports is also carrying the fight, and has Dokiwari the -210/+180 choice. Diamond Sports International has Dokiwari at -210/+170.

In South Africa, there's big action in the junior lightweight division, as CASSIUS BALOYI engages in a rematch with LEHLOHONOLO LEDWABA in a scheduled 12-rounder. These two met last November 20, with Baloyi winning the unanimous decision by scores of 116-112, 116-112, and 116-113. Those who believe Ledwaba can turn things around will get their best price at Pinnacle, which lists him at +181. Baloyi's best value would be found at Sportsbook.com, which has him at -185, with a +155 takeback on Ledwaba.

(All information is presented for entertainment purposes only. Odds posted were current as of noon ET on Friday. 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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