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Articles of 2005

Weekend Warrior Challenges Kassim Ouma

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“Daddy, Daddy,” my three-year-old cheerfully exclaimed while he repeatedly hit me in the ribs to get my attention. It felt like he touched every nerve ending in my side as I jumped up out of my seat to get away from his pain-inducing taps. My left hand shot out with the speed of a Larry Holmes jab and grabbed his wrist. “Please don’t touch Daddy right now. He’s got some booboos that need to heal.”

The “booboos” were inflicted by one of the best boxers in the world, Kassim “The Dream” Ouma. I had been after him for months to spar with me, so that I could write about the experience of being in the ring with a top professional. He finally obliged. The beating was far worse than I expected.

Inspiration

“Come on, throw the right!”

“Circle to the left! What’s the matter with you?!”

“Get up! Get up, you bum. Get up!”

Everyone at ringside rolled their eyes whenever the skinny dude with the glasses and the baseball hat turned backwards (to cover his receding hairline) barked instructions and insults to one of the boxers. The rolled eyes turned to shaking heads, which led to clenched jaws. The fight doctor was the first one to snap. “You think you can do better?” he yelled at Skinny Dude. “Then you get up there in that ring.”

“Man, I’ll go in there and knock that mother out,” Skinny Dude answered while he threw punches in the air. Everyone in shouting distance dismissed him and returned to watching the action.

Boxing is very different than other sports. Most of us know that even if we ruled the playground, there is no way we could stop AI from going to the hole. If we were the fastest kid in school, we would be toast against Randy Moss. We all realize that, even by accident, we couldn’t touch a Randy Johnson fastball. But we’ve all been in fights. Most of us have won a few. And when watching boxing, we often picture ourselves in the ring, able to execute our strategies with surgical precision, because, after all, we kicked that kid’s ass in fourth grade with one punch.

Knowing that Skinny Dude was all talk and there was no way, under any circumstances, he would ever actually get in the ring, I decided to take a stand – for the boxers who don’t get the respect they deserve. I, an average Joe with mediocre athletic ability, would serve myself up on a platter to a world-class boxer, to prove to you (and Skinny Dude) that, no, you can’t kick his ass.

I’m 37-years old, but by the pure luck of genetics, I look and sometimes feel years younger. I’ve also kept myself in halfway decent shape. Although I’ve followed boxing for a quarter of a century and have written about it professionally for seven years, I’d never stepped in the ring.

My opponent would be one of the best boxers in the world. Kassim Ouma, currently the IBF world champion at 154-pounds, was the number one rated contender when he agreed to fight me. He’s 26-years old and sports a record of 21-1-1 with 13 knockouts. My man is always in shape and breaks records for most punches thrown in a round.

There was probably a boxer with less imposing credentials that would have proven my point. But I’ve known Kassim for a couple of years and his fighting weight and my “walking around” weight are about the same. Besides, everyone in the South Florida boxing circle talks about what a super nice guy he is.

Training Camp

Being an average Joe with a job, a wife, a kid, and another one on the way, I couldn’t exactly take off eight weeks to retreat to a secluded camp in the Poconos. But I dedicated myself to working out and getting in the best shape of my life so that I could go three 3-minute rounds with Kassim.

I also had a secret weapon. I hired former world champion Johnny “Bump City” Bumphus to work with me on weekends. Johnny is Kassim’s trainer.

On February 13, 2004, I showed up at the USA Training Center in West Palm Beach to begin “camp.” While waiting for Johnny to arrive, I tried to walk off the nervous energy by pacing around the gym. I had taken white collar boxing classes at fancy-pants gyms before, so I had a basic foundation to work with, but now I was in a gritty, steamy gym right out of central casting, ready to work with a big-time trainer.

After pacing the floor for about a half-hour and placing two unanswered calls to Johnny, I gave up on him and hit the heavy bag by myself. Boxers are notorious for not being where they’re supposed to be.

The following weekend, “camp” really does get underway. I learn some techniques that directly contradict my white collar boxing schooling. Johnny tells me to snap the jab all the way out, that my elbow needs to get used to it because I’m going to miss sometimes.

We work on the left hook. He’s impressed that I have the correct shoulder movement down, but my punch is too short. He tells me they need to be wider. To get me to throw the hook correctly he instructs me to drop my hand and pretend I’m slapping someone upside the head. After I get that down we follow the hook with a straight right. When that doesn’t go well he asks, “Ain’t you never slapped somebody?” I reply, “Yeah, but I never followed it with a straight right.”

After shadowboxing about five rounds, I do six more on the bag. In-between the fifth and sixth, I take a seat on a nearby stool. “No sitting until you’re done,” Bump City commands. Then we work with the mitts, where he has me slip and block while I throw combinations. Finally, sit ups and pushups.

On the way home, I feel worn out, but great. That night, I’m so exhausted I dream about how tired I am.

The next several weeks pretty much followed the same pattern. Sometimes Johnny would show up, sometimes he wouldn’t. When he did, he always reinforced the basics – keep my left foot on the outside because Kassim is a southpaw, keep my hands up, bring my jab back quickly.

One Saturday in late March he asked me if I wanted to spar with him. For a boxing junkie like me, this was like one of those baseball fantasy camps where you get to play against former big leaguers. I was about to get in the ring with a former world champion, one that I grew up watching on TV.

I got my headgear on and put in my mouthpiece. Johnny had neither of those and didn’t seem especially concerned. To hide my own jitters I asked him if he was nervous. He wasn’t.

Although I didn’t think he’d try to hurt me, I had no idea what to expect. The man across from me was, at one time, one of the best boxers in the world. Apparently, I didn’t mask my nervousness too well. About thirty seconds into the session Johnny scolded me: “Take it easy. Relax. Breathe.”

Bump City peppered me with jabs and slipped most of my punches with ease. In the third round, I was huffing and puffing. I had done ten rounds on the bag before but it doesn’t compare to the intensity of being in there with a live opponent. Suddenly I caught him square with a right uppercut. He looked at me with a surprised expression on his face, his mouth forming an “O”. Then he slid to my left, smiling.

All through training, I tried to nail down a date with Kassim. He always told me to call back later. In the meantime, I continued to hit the gym. I got my second sparring session in with a local amateur named Omar Brown. I was told to be very careful about getting in the ring with any of the boxers at the gym, because they “like to beat up on white boys.”

But Omar and I had become friendly during my training and I was confident he’d be cool. For five rounds, he basically just worked on his defense. The only time he really took it to me was when I got tired and stopped throwing punches. Then he’d force me to fight him off, which was a good lesson.

I finally confirmed a date for my showdown with Kassim. It would be in one week, on April 24th, at the USA Training Center in West Palm Beach, where we both train. All week long I visualized the fight. How I would circle to my left, shoot the jab, and spin out of threatening situations.

Meanwhile, at home, my wife was nine months pregnant. We couldn’t agree on whether she should attend the fight. She wanted to come and support me. However, hearing her gasp (and she would) when I took one in the grill wasn’t my idea of a morale booster.  Besides, I was afraid she’d drop the baby right there in the gym due to the stress of seeing me get hit and hit often.

On Wednesday, April 21, I got a call to rush home, my wife was in labor. The fight was off.

I believe I now understand what a huge letdown it must be for a boxer to train for a fight and have it cancelled, for whatever the reason. I had spent so much physical and mental energy in preparing myself, I thought it would be difficult to get up for this type of thing again.

As it turned out, Kassim had a similar situation in June. He was supposed to fight for the title, but was injured during the last week of training camp and had to pull out.

After Kassim healed, we rescheduled for August 4th.  As I feared, I did have a tough time going back to training. I worked out, but it wasn’t with the same intensity as I had earlier.  I got in two more sparring sessions, including one with a 140 pound prospect named Edwin Algarin. Edwin is very fast and I couldn’t catch him at all. He also put me on Queer Street for the first time. As he slid to my left he popped me with a right hook to the temple. Everything went fuzzy for about half a second. When it cleared and I realized my legs were still under me, I went back to work in my fruitless pursuit to land one of my own.

Despite giving him what had to be the worst sparring session in his career, Edwin complimented me on lasting three rounds. “Most guys come in here and think it’s easy, but they couldn’t do one round. You did good.” Despite having a fulfilling life outside the ring, I must admit, that comment made my day.

In the weeks leading up to the fight, I saw Kassim at various boxing events around town.  I’d make it a point to joke around with him about how I’m going to shock the world come August 4th. He usually answered with something about a funeral.

It’s Go Time

Surprisingly, I slept fine the night before. The butterflies were fluttering, but I wasn’t feel-like-I-have-to puke-nervous. I got to the gym at 10:30 for our 11:00 showdown.  After warming up and gettng my hands wrapped, I wait. And wait. And wait. Kassim, of course, is nowhere to be found. Several people try to reach him. Finally, a little after noon, he strolls in and starts his funeral talk again.

There were other sparring sessions going on in the ring while we waited for our turn. I had it in my head that we’d climb through the ropes, I’d get some final instructions from Johnny, hear the bell, take a deep breath and go to work getting my ass kicked. However, because of the other sparring, we had to jump into the ring as the others exited and started from the moment we got in. There was no moment of, “Okay . . . here we go.”

In the four sparring sessions I had in preparation for the exhibition, all of the guys kept their distance and counterpunched. I assumed Kassim Ouma, one of the best boxers in the world, would do the same.

I was wrong.

He took the fight to me at the opening bell. All I saw in front of me was a blur of blue gloves. Everything I learned went out the window as I merely tried to survive. I knew he was holding back on his power, but it seemed like his work rate was just as furious as ever.

After the first round, Johnny gave me some guidance on how to spin out of the inside fighting. I thought he was crazy if he believed I’d really be able to pull that off. I began to tire badly in the second round. Getting repeatedly punched in the face is much more exhausting than you’d think. I did have my moments. At one point, I landed a perfect one-two combination right down the pipe. A heavyweight that I had worked with in the gym shouted, “Yeah, do it again!” So I did and it was just as effective. My friend yelled for me to repeat the salvo. This time I figured Kassim would see it coming and would make me pay dearly. I circled to the left and threw an ineffective hook. Later in the round I caught him with a right uppercut when he had me against the ropes. However, it didn’t give me the breathing room I desperately needed.

In the third round, my gas tank was on empty. I was getting pummeled around the ring and there was nothing I could do about it. The only respite would be to take a knee. As I was stuck against the ropes with Kassim raining punches down on me, I seriously thought about it. However, I had friends who were watching, and to be honest, as bad as I knew I would look in the photos, I didn’t want there to be one of me on the canvas. I may be an awful boxer, but I’m a vain one.

What was surprising was that the punches didn’t hurt. The blows were forceful enough to snap my head back or to send me crashing into the ropes, but I guess due to the adrenaline, there was no pain involved – yet. There was even one instance where he was catching me with rights to the ribs over and over again. I thought to myself, “This doesn’t hurt. If I lower my arm to block it, my chin will be exposed and that could end things quick.” So I let Kassim hammer my ribs until I was able to grab him in a clinch.

The last round had to be the longest three minutes in the history of recorded time (not including a John Ruiz fight). The buzzer telling me that I had thirty seconds left was the sweetest sound I ever heard, second only to the final buzzer.

I spit out my mouthpiece to allow more air to fill my lungs and had Johnny take off my headgear so I could cool off. People were patting me on the back, telling me that I “did it.” But all I could focus on was not spilling my breakfast all over the ring. I walked over to Kassim to try to gasp out a thank you. He raised our hands with a big grin on his face.  I felt like I might pass out.

Aftermath

By the time I got home, my nose was swollen and I had a black eye. The next day the ribs on my left side (where I thought stupidly to myself as Kassim was pounding them, “Hey, this doesn’t hurt) had a big purple and green bruise. I couldn’t sleep on that side for three nights.

But more surprisingly, every muscle in my body hurt, not just the ones that had been in the way of Kassim’s fists. It felt like I’d been in a nine-minute long car wreck.

Within a week, I was back to my pretty self and even returned to the gym on Saturday to work out. Although I performed worse than even I expected, there was a newfound respect accorded me, because as one of the boxers put it, “Now, you know.”

I hope that Skinny Dude and all the others like him know now too.

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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