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Articles of 2005

Mosley, Estrada and Company Talk to the Press

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SHANE MOSLEY

Moretti: 8 fighters, 4 fights, 2 world title fights but no bigger name on the card than Shane Mosley.  Shane is returning to the welterweight division, which is probably his best division. I know he feels a lot more comfortable at 147. He’s in with a real tough guy, David Estrada, who is with Angelo Dundee.  You can come back against a lot of guys after a loss, but taking on someone like Estrada shows that Shane is ready to get right back into it. Fighting Estrada reflects that and what is Shane has done his whole career.

Mosley: I’m in Big Bear training very hard and I’m ready to go.

Why did you decide to move to welterweight?

Mosley: I wondered whether it would be a problem or not, but right now I’m at 52. I’m pretty good, about 5 pounds away. When I fought my second fight with Winky I made the weight so easily – I was at 154 two weeks before the fight.  I was like wow.  I feel a lot sharper and a lot faster in my workouts now. If there was a weight class, 150 would be a great weight class for me, but 147 with the smaller gloves is also great for me.

Has wearing smaller gloves had an effect?

Mosley: I think it will be a big difference. I already feel the difference, but not only the gloves.  My punches seem to come out a lot faster and a lot stronger . . . After my fight with Winky I was trying to maintain my weight and get down a little bit because I knew I was going to 147. My punches were coming off a lot harder in my second fight with Winky and I though that was fine.  They were a lot quicker and a lot sharper. I think I am going to be phenomenal.

You changed trainers and are no longer with Joe Goossen.

Mosley: John David Jackson now in Big Bear. I think the change was because of the location.  Joe wanted to train in Van Nuys. John has proven to be a good trainer. He’s a good coach and has a lot of knowledge. Things I got away from and making little mistakes like drawing back on my punches. Not going away, stand up straight, upright. We are doing a lot of things and he is a very smart coach. He is a two-time world champion.

When was the last time you saw Estrada fight?

Mosley: I don’t think I ever met David Estrada. I have watched him on tapes. He’s a consistent fighter and he’s always in shape. He’s a little awkward at times. He has a style like Zack Padilla.  I don’t know if he’s seasoned enough yet, but I’ll find that out.

Might you have grown a little complacent against this opponent?

Mosley: I would never be complacent with any fighter. When I come to training camp I train very hard and I have to make a statement that the welterweight division better watch out because I am going to pick off each and every one of them. It doesn’t matter who it is. I am working very hard for every single fight. I am working exceptionally hard not only because I have to make weight, but I want to make a big impression on the welterweight division. I have a fire in my belly and I haven’t felt this way in a long time. I sit and watch some of my lightweight films and I have a hunger now because of the critics and haters that are out there. I really want to put a mark on the welterweight division. They are going to know that Sugar Shane is going to be here for a while.

How did this fight get made?

Mosley: There were a few phone calls. Lou DiBella said why don’t you fight my guy David Estrada. I said, yes. I hadn’t even looked at the tapes or seen the guy fight. I knew that he fought Ishe Smith and then he had Chris Smith . . . At this time I feel that I am a top fighter and he is a tough fighter and he’s going to come to fight. He’ll be in tremendous shape watching his fights and I just know he will come with a lot of intensity. But moving down in weight brings my energy up and my intensity up. I will throw a lot more shots and they will be harder and crisper.  Working with Armonda Velardez and Kenny Robinson, it is an overwhelming difference in my ability.

How far away are you from being the Shane of old?

Mosley: I am right there. I am so fast it tickles me right now. I just want to get in there and get going.

What about the relationship with your father?

Mosley: My relationship with my father is still the same. The only difference is that he’s not my coach. I still go over to the house and my kids hang out for the day. We talk every now and then about different things, things that I should do and shouldn’t do. It’s pretty much the same.

How motivated can you get for Estrada?

Mosley: I don’t know if the motivation is because of David Estrada.  It is to get in the ring and putting together a lot of combinations. To be slick and move, that is the motivation. That’s really the motivation that I need for this fight or for any fight, really.

Would you have stayed at 154 if you beat Wright?

Mosley: I probably would have stayed for a little while. God works in his ways, so it’s something that is a little better for me to move to welterweight.

If you are having trouble, why not stay at junior middleweight?

Mosley: The 10-ounce gloves make a little bit of difference also. The 10-ounce gloves are just fine. The smaller gloves are better for me the way I fight. And at the lighter weight, I can feel myself bouncing along a lot better. I’m a lot faster.

Do you have any particular opponents in mind for after this fight?

Mosley: I just want to fight at the welterweight division. Kind of like what Bernard Hopkins is doing. Just kind of hang out there for a little while.

Did Oscar De La Hoya have any part in your decision?

Mosley: That was something that I wanted to do as well at 154. I could fight those different guys but I want to hang at 147, but if there was a fight or two at 154, why not? But I think I would still stay at about 150 because I think that is my greatest strength. What happened to me in my last couple of fights was I became a puncher first and a boxer second. But when I started my career I was a boxer first and a puncher second, and I want to get to the way it was when I started. I have the knockout power.

How are you keeping the weight down?

Mosley: As far as nutrition is concerned, I eat as healthy as possible and I don’t really lift as much – at all actually – because I had to neutralize the muscle mass. I am doing the same basic stuff.

I want to make 147. I know it is best to make 147. I’m sure he’ll come in great shape as well.  There are going to be two guys that are in great shape.

I could have fought for a welterweight championship my next fight, but I chose not to. I want to get two fights under my belt. Maybe my next fight could be against Margarito or Cintron. I don’t know and it really doesn’t matter to me at this point. I just want to go out there and dominate.

I heard that I was No. 1 in the ABC rankings. I am a major force there and I want to come and do my best.

I became a puncher first and a boxer second. In my lightweight and welterweight days I was a boxer first and a puncher second. I maybe became a little more flat footed and a little lazier. I’m working on that with John David who is an excellent boxer type of trainer. I’ve been working on punching too, but a lot of movement – Forward/backward and side to side. With Joe Goossen I worked on placing my punches. It doesn’t matter who I am working with. I am the type of fighter who learns something and holds onto it.

It’s not really changes. It’s things he (Jackson) just brings back to mind. Moving around with John David, he can still box real good. He’ll capitalize on different thing and say this is why I say OK. We’ll talk about different things and it’s great. John is a good coach.

There are critics and doubters out there.

Mosley: Psychologically it is a motivational tool. It gets the fire in my belly. It’s actually helping me out. I need that type of criticism. I can then focus all of my attention on who is in front of me.  It is a positive. I don’t talk about it when I am training. When I’m training I really don’t see a lot about what they are saying or doing. The glimpse I get watching tapes and hearing commentary brings back different things. There are going to be guys for you and guys against you. I am an overachiever, so I want to achieve and be the best.

How do the fans treat you?

Mosley: They always call me the champ. The majority of the people on the street come up to me and say: How are you doing champ? So I’m still the champ. I reached the mountain and I overcame. I won a lot of great fights. It doesn’t bother me on the street. The streets are fine.

What about not being main event?

Mosley: My ego is not that big where I have to be the main event. If I had to be the main event then I wouldn’t be on the card. I’m happy to be on the card and enhance the card and make it better. I love to fight and I love to get in the ring. I love to give the fans great fights. It is going to be a great night, a wonderful night. There are some great fighters on the card.

It wasn’t like the card was set up for me. I could have had a card set up for me and waited a couple of months and fight the fight and have it be just me. I don’t have to be the main event. I just want to get back and keep fighting. I want to stay active and get good fights out there. When I was coming up I would fight three or four times a year and I want to get back to keep punching.

I talked to HBO and let them know that I had a prior commitment to Main Events to fight on this card and maybe the next big fight I will fight on an HBO card. I am very happy to fight on this ESPN PPV card. It will bring more viewers to watch boxing that may not watch boxing.

DAVID ESTRADA

Moretti: David Estrada is coming off a sensational victory over Chris Smith. What gets our blood going really is that we are back at Caesar’s Palace in an outdoor arena and I’m surprised this guy doesn’t have his own wing there because he built half of it. We have the great Angelo Dundee with us and it is a pleasure.

Lou DiBella: I would like to thank Main Events and ESPN for this great opportunity. David has proven that he is the real deal and a major contender in the welterweight division. We want to thank Shane Mosley for being the kind of champion that moves down to 147 to take a guy like David who is going to be all he can handle. It’s going to be a great show from top to bottom.

David, how does it feel to be close to a championship and fighting Mosley?

Estrada: It feels like any other fight. Like getting ready for any other fight. That other stuff comes after this fight but right now I am focusing on this fight. I think Sugar Shane is a good fighter and I think it’s going to be a great fight.

What about Shane dropping in weight?

Estrada: I don’t think it is going to affect him at all. He’s going to have the same strength and speed. He trained for the fight so it shouldn’t make a difference.

Angelo, how does it feel to have a go against a guy named Sugar?

Dundee: The last name is Mosley I think his name is– forget the Sugar. The unique thing is I’m an advisor to this kid. This kid trains boxercise in the South Florida boxing gym. His old man was up there one day and I liked what I saw. Do you mind if I get involved? I think I can do a little something with your son. The old man was very happy. We’ve had a nice time for the last three years. We didn’t want too much ink or any publicity. But this kid’s been ready for quite a while. But naturally we have to go up slowly and fight the good fighters. But I’m happy that Shane Mosley wants to fight this kid. We are in a good position. We’re one fight away from fighting for a world title. I was waiting for Tommy Hearns to come in, but the guy can’t fight welterweight no more.

People are not giving you much of a chance, David. Is that motivation for you?

Estrada: I really don’t pay attention to who’s going to be taking me seriously or not. When I get ready for a fight, I do what I gotta do. I go in the ring and I fight. All that other stuff really doesn’t matter to me.

Do you have weight difficulty?

Estrada: Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. It depends. I think I’m pretty much on schedule for this fight.

Angelo, what do you do to convince David he can beat Mosley?

Dundee: I don’t have to convince him, he knows. The other guy who does the day-to-day training and David and I are all of one mind. We’ve already got what we need to do to beat Shane Mosley. Shane Mosley is not an easy guy to beat. In fact, he’s a heck of a fighter. He’s been around quite a while. This kid you haven’t seen like I’ve seen. It’s not going to be the same guy you saw before. Because he fights the fight according to what he’s fighting. He’ll be so ready for Shane Mosley, I’m not concerned. I don’t care if he fought the guy at 50 it wouldn’t make any difference – because this kid is that kind of a fighter. He’ll rise to the occasion. It’s going to be a great fight and he’ll lick this guy . . . Shane Mosley has his own style, his own idiosyncrasies, which he bounces once in a while and he flicks with his jab. I have a pretty good idea what this kid’s going to do. David has got to blend. He’s got to do his thing and he knows that. If David fights the fight that we’ve got figured out, then he’s the winner. Then we’re going to fight for a title and that’s what I’m here for.

What does he need to do to beat Mosley?

Dundee: He’s just got to be David Estrada. He’s a multifaceted type of fighter. This guy is an instructor. I got a hard time telling this guy. It’s like a teacher talking to his pupil. This kid trains business people every day. He works at it. He’s like an old-time fighter. He’s always in condition. If I tell him there is a fight next week, he just asks “Where is it at?” Never asks who it is. He just wants to fight. We’re pleased. We have plenty of time and he’s working hard. I step in once in a while and we have a conversation and let me tell you: we know Shane Mosley. We don’t know which is going to show up so we have to be prepared for a multi-faceted fighter.

David, what will you do to win?

Estrada: What I’ve got going for me is I keep putting pressure on whoever I’m fighting and I just keep putting pressure on them the whole fight until they break down. That’s all I have to do.  Until he wants to stand there and go to war and then that’s it. I have it made. I’ve done my job.

When did you know you were going to fight Mosley?

Estrada: When I was still in the ring (after the Chris Smith fight). There was no hesitation at all.  They asked me if I was interested in fighting Sugar Shane . . . I didn’t hesitate. I told them straight up, yes, I’ll fight him. I didn’t ask any questions. That was it.

Did you follow Mosley's career?

Estrada: I used to watch him fight and always thought he was a good fighter. He was always a few years ahead of me. When I was watching him fight I wasn’t really sold yet. I was still an amateur. But as I turned pro I kept up with his fights. I watched what he did and thought he was a good fighter. When this came up it was just out of the blue.

Do you feel like your getting you just due?

Estrada: I feel like I’m getting some respect now but it really doesn’t matter because when it comes down to it, I just have to train and I just have to fight. What everybody thinks and says really doesn’t matter because it is not going to affect the way the fight turns out.

Angelo, what makes Estrada so special?

Dundee: What impressed me is he learns something from each and every fight. He adheres to it and he listens to what is being told. He’s an easy guy to work with because he’s been around.  Great amateur background and he’s been all over the country. He fought amateurs in Texas. He’s fought all over the place. And he comes out of Chicago. He’s not a Johnny-come-lately kid. He just came along nicely. I think he has more talent than he realizes he’s got. He’s easy to work with because he has talent.

Why hasn’t he been discovered sooner?

Dundee: I take the blame for that. I never blow this kid’s horn until recently. I figure now it’s time to let it go because he’s fighting a former champion . . . If he does a number, people will say, hey, where has this kid been? I feel good about it because we did keep it that way. I knew this kid could fight right from the get-go. He’s never given what I think he could give.

What would it mean to him?

Dundee: It’s a step up and he’s fighting a better fighter. We’re fighting on a big show at Caesar’s Palace. Two title fights on the show. This kid’s been twelve rounds a couple of times.

Will anything affect him?

Dundee: I think he’ll only be concerned that I get a suntan. I don’t think anything is going to bother this kid.

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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