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Articles of 2005

James Toney vs. John Ruiz Fight Predictions

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This Saturday at New York’s Madison Square Garden, the defending WBA heavyweight champion John Ruiz (41-5-1 28 KOs) defends his crown against James “Lights Out” Toney (68-4-2 43 KOs). We may witness an ugly fight, but we may also witness a changing of the guard in the heavyweight division. How do the writers of The Sweet Science see it?

Ruiz by decision.
Mitch Abramson

Toney is among the craftiest and smartest fighters in boxing, and, though he's at a height and reach disadvantage, Ruiz isn't exactly a cutie. This will be rough and ugly inside warfare from the get-go, but Toney is the superior fighter. He's got better speed and better reflexes. He'll frustrate and confuse poor Ruiz with his counterpunching ability and make him look even more amateurish than he is anyway. If his body holds up, Toney by unanimous decision.
Matt Aguilar

I picked James Toney to beat John Ruiz on the day the fight was made. I felt that this was an easy decision. As of late I read a couple of articles by two writers I have a tremendous amount of respect for, Frank Lotierzo and Tom Donelson. They both have picked Ruiz to win and provided some intersting arguements. It was definitely food for thought. I know John is tough, I'll give him his due there. If an underconditioned and lazy Toney enters the ring, I can see him being outworked. I think James will be in great shape. If he is he should use his boxing skills to hammer out a decision. Maybe a late TKO. Just maybe now I'm not quite as sure…
Jim Amato

I'd tell Ruiz not to change anything. Jab and clutch and use his strength to wear Toney down. Once he gets him a little tired, and falls into a rhythm, then sneak in the left-right, the one-two, because Toney will be standing right in front of him. I'd tell Toney to punch from the outside, not to box, but to step back and throw his punches in combinations. I'd also tell him to throw them from different angles. And when he softens up Ruiz with outside shots – Toney is a terrific body puncher – that's when he should shift his attack to the body. I like Toney by a twelfth round TKO. I think he'll overwhelm Ruiz with punches. Toney won’t get tangled in Ruiz's web. Not only is Toney fast, he's slick. That combination of hand speed and his ability to slip is what gets him by. The one thing that concerns me is Toney's weight. That can hurt him. At 233, it could hurt him in a 12-round fight.
“Irish” Bobby Cassidy

I believe that, pound-for-pound, James Toney is a better fighter that John Ruiz. But we are talking extra pounds here. A lot of extra pounds. Roy Jones Jr. demonstrated how best to beat Ruiz. He boxed magnificently. Toney claims he will not do that. He will stand and fight. He also argues that he has more knockouts (43) than Ruiz has wins (41). But Ruiz is a strong and sturdy heavyweight. Toney will not knock him out. And since he will not try to outbox him, the pick here is Ruiz by decision. John Ruiz has weathered a lot of storms as heavyweight champion. He's tough and sturdy and somehow finds a way to win. He'll do it again at the Garden.
Robert Cassidy Jr.

I keep going round and round on this fight. My head tells me Ruiz. My heart says Toney. But both my head and heart have led me astray before (and not for the last time). Seeing the two men next to each other, the difference in size is not so pronounced, and watching them work out at the Trinity Boxing Club in New York this week convinced me that Toney has the speed, the pop in his punches, and the will to do some serious damage. Not that Ruiz is without gifts. Johnny is a great fighter, but not much of a boxer. Toney is a great fighter and a great boxer. I predict Toney works his magic on Ruiz and outsmarts him on the inside. James can’t pull off a Roy Jones – even Roy Jones can’t pull off a Roy Jones any longer – but I believe he can pull off a James Toney. Toney by unanimous decision after twelve.
Robert Ecksel

In what threatens to be an ugly fight, Toney should win this one just by avoiding the punch-and-hug style of Ruiz. If Toney fights a smart fight and somehow stays out of the clinches, he wins by knockout in the later rounds.
Rick Folstad

James Toney has the know-how to defeat John Ruiz. Say what you will about Toney's stoppage of Evander Holyfield, but that James Toney beats John Ruiz. Freddy Roach aside, the wild card in this fight is the conditioning of “Lights Out.” This should be cause for concern for Toney, despite the bravado. It’s certainly a concern for me in trying to make a pick. Ruiz came out against Andrew Golota to make a fight of it and ended up on the canvas. He then reverted to his patented jab and grab anti-tactics, which he rode all the way to another victory. I fear Ruiz does the same here, as Toney's conditioning fails him down the stretch. John Ruiz by split decision.
Chris Gielty

Not that James Toney is a change for the better, it's just that it's time for Ruiz & Stoney to disappear. So, with that said, and rooting strongly for Toney to (somewhat) change the face of the heavyweight picture, it's Toney by decision.
Randy Gordon

Ruiz, unanimous decision. I can't see either fighter dominating this bout, but Ruiz will squash much of Toney's offense with hugs and the occasional half-nelson. I'm giving this one to Ruiz on guile alone.
Tim Graham

John Ruiz, a heavyweight with a solid physical appearance, is a stab-and-grab artist whose primary skill appears to be finding inartful ways to win. And win he does. James Toney is a heavyweight who will win no body beautiful contests, but wins with as much artistry as anyone in the game today. His only problem going into this bout is that all of the masterpieces were created on middleweight through cruiserweight canvases. He has scored exactly two wins in the heavyweight division: he stopped a 40-something Evander Holyfield, merely confirming, again, what most of us have known for the last several years – Evander is way past his day. The other fight, against Rydell Booker, proved nothing. Toney is also starting to fall apart. A series of injuries has to catch up to him soon. April 30th will prove to be that day. Ruiz will punch, push, and mangle his way to a lackluster 12-round decision.
J.E. Grant

James Toney will rise to the occasion and dig into his bag of tricks, pull out all the stops and defeat John Ruiz midway through the fight. Afterwards, he will engage in some post-fight action with Stoney (Norman Stone) and give him some much deserved business for the press conference remark. Toney is my winner for both events!
Amy Green

Once all the trash-talking ends there will only be John Ruiz and James Toney in the Madison Square Garden ring this Saturday night. Besides being the current and two-time heavyweight champion, Ruiz is – by far- the more accomplished “heavyweight” fighter. James Toney's mouth has written a check that his body can't cash. Ruiz's body attack and relentless style will be too much for the unprepared future hall of fame fighter. John Ruiz over James Toney via late round stoppage.
Mike Indri

Watching John Ruiz's hand raised after an inaesthetic win at Madison Square Garden? Is this getting to be like Groundhog Day or what? When this fight was made we considered James Toney better-equipped than Fres Oquendo or Andrew Golota to reverse the trend, but we envisioned a 215-pound Toney, not one who had eaten half of Southern California to match Ruiz' heft. Ruiz by decision, in a fight so ugly it will make last year's Oquendo and Golota fights look like Hagler-Hearns.
George Kimball

Ruiz doesn't get much credit – whether it be from the media or the general public – and most of it is well deserved due to his style . . . which is more accurate to suggest he has none. While he was outclassed by Roy Jones, who was simply too fast to catch, he shouldn't have that type of problem with Toney. Since the Jones bout, let's not forget that Ruiz has defeated Rahman, Oquendo and Golota . . . not bad, not bad at all. I'll confess to not being the biggest fan of James Toney as a heavyweight – yet. The reason for that is he hasn't really fought a true heavyweight in my eyes. Having defeated former cruiserweight and a very old Holyfield and then another cruiserweight Rydell Booker doesn't say much about him as a heavyweight so far. I think Ruiz will be very strong and awkward for Toney. “Lights Out” has been fighting for a long time with 74 bouts under his ample belt and started out as 160-pounder. Ruiz ain't pretty, but he does win. Let's call it Ruiz by split decision, but a draw would be no surprise in a fight that may be very difficult to score.
Joey Knish

I think Ruiz will be too big and unorthodox for Toney. “Lights Out” has tremendous skills and heart, but I suspect he Ruiz's clutch-punch-clutch style will be too difficult for Toney to overcome. I see him getting frustrated at times and trying to slug it out which would play to Ruiz's advantage. That being said, Ruiz is one fighter I can't game for the life of me. I am consistently wrong on his fights, so bet the rent money on Toney.
Marc Lichtenfeld

I am sick and tired of hearing writers make fun of Ruiz. If he's as bad as everyone asserts, he deserves even more accolades for beating more legitimate challengers than any other titlist. He might not look pretty, but he's a winner at heart. Ruiz by decision
Bob Mladinich

I'm trying not to write off John Ruiz because of his unhappy knack of finding a way to win despite apparently lacking the requisite power, speed or guile to compete at this top level. In fact, such is the length of his winning streak, I've begun to wonder if the Tua fight ever actually happened or whether it was a figment of my imagination. Oquendo should have been too quick for him, Holyfield too tough, Golota too strong and well-schooled, Rahman too much power . . . but Ruiz keeps hanging on. Literally. But I'm going to try one more time not to curse his opponent by still plumping (is that a Freudian slip or what) for James Toney, the quietly spoken and shy challenger, who surely has the ideal game to shake the Ruiz curse from the heavyweight title picture. If Ruiz tries to jab and hold he's going to be on the inside with arguably the most gifted inside fighter in the sport today. My only concern is Toney's stamina and whether his ageing and injury prone frame can carry his own poundage, plus the Ruiz overcoat through twelve rounds, because I just don't see Toney stopping the champion. And if it goes the distance, which I suspect it will, then anything can happen. Ruiz has survived some scorecard squeaks before. But surely, surely, surely Ruiz cannot hang on again. Toney UD12 .
David Payne

The Whales are killing me. Unaware that Wladamir Klitschko’s people had discovered that Elieso Castillo was being trained by Mother Teresa, last week I picked the Fred Astaire of Cuban heavyweights to defeat old Wlaldo the Horrible. I don’t know which was worse: watching Klitschko using his jab to do his impression of Tamara Press putting a 16-pound shot, or waiting in vain for Castillo to take off the handcuffs. At least this week, I get to pick a real fighter when James Toney introduces John “The Boston Bore” Ruiz to Reality Heavyweight Boxing in Madison Square Garden. Toney by decision.
Pat Putnam

No matter how many ways I look at this, unless Toney's excesses finally catch up with him Saturday, I can only see Ruiz taking punishment until the ref steps in, or he takes a fearful beating, losing a one-sided decision.
Joe Rein

Difficult but one should always remember that Toney is not as big as his mouth, or as Ruiz, who must be doing something right, even if it is difficult to discern exactly what. So Ruiz on points in an almost certainly extremely unedifying spectacle.
Jonathan Rendall

This is James Toney's fight to lose. An in shape and fully prepared Toney will slip, slide, counter, and dominate John Ruiz. He actually has a better chance at putting Ruiz on the deck than a lot of big heavyweights because he sets traps and utilizes different angles to land blind shots. It is indeed the blind shots that do the most damage, and Toney's underrated punching power can end this before the twelfth round if he's at or near his best. Ruiz will try to do what Jirov failed to do. Jirov's punch output was prodigious, but he had more guts than sense. He threw too many punches, and didn't have enough in the gas tank when it counted most. Ruiz will try to do what Ruiz does best – win ugly and dirty. Two to three punches combinations and WWE tactics. It's up to the ref to keep control and allow both combatants to work legally so the best boxer prevails; not the best wrestler. In the end, the outcome depends on Toney's physical conditioning. Toney is a master at the art of economy of motion, and can rest while he's standing right in front of you. However, Ruiz's style and temperament are such that he'll make Toney fight, and Toney needs to be in good shape. Toney has been injury prone over the last few years, and that can take more of a toll than people realize in many ways. If Toney isn't prepared, this will be an ugly fight he might lose. If he's prepared, I like Toney on a clear unanimous decision or even a late stoppage.
Greg Smith

John Ruiz is the benefactor of a weak era in the heavyweight division, but then again so is James Toney. However, the Quiet Man has developed a style that can only be thwarted by a one punch knockout or continuous movement for 12 straight rounds. I do not think Toney is capable of either. Ruiz by unanimous decision.
Aaron Tallent

Toney starts believing his own hype; gets a little too over-confident and then get nailed. Ruiz by TKO in 10 or less.
Scott Yaniga

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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