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Articles of 2005

Felix Trinidad Career Facts

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Three-Time World Champion
Former World Champion at Welterweight (147), Jr. Middleweight (154)
& Middleweight (160)
Born: Jan. 10, 1973, in Fajardo, Puerto Rico Raised in: Cupey Alto,
Puerto Rico
Now Residing In: Monte Hiedra,
Puerto Rico
Height: 5'10″ Weight: Middleweight (160)
Record: 42-1, 35 KOs

There had been a void in boxing since May 11, 2002. It was on the date that Felix “Tito” Trinidad stopped Hacine Cherifi in round four in his native Puerto Rico. Shortly thereafter, he decided to retire, unable to lure Bernard Hopkins into a rematch after suffering his sole loss to “The Executioner” during an illustrious career. After winning world titles in three divisions and defeating three Olympic gold medalists, Trinidad decided he had had enough, until 2004 when he decided to return to the ring against a dangerous middleweight opponent: former WBA and WBC welterweight champion Ricardo “El Matador” Mayorga, from Manauga, Nicaragua.

The scene in Madison Square Garden was electrifying on Oct. 2, 2004, when the partisan Puerto Rican crowd raucously welcomed their hero back to the ring. In what was later called the “Latino Hagler-Hearns” by journalist Thomas Gerbasi, Mayorga, who has a penchant for smoking and drinking whether in training or not, got Trinidad’s attention after the first bell by winging bombs, some of which landed, while trying to score a knockout. Trinidad weathered the barrage and landed his patented left hooks, and a host of right hands, that delivered on promoter Don King’s pre-fight promise of this being a “fight fans' fight” for the ages.

With under a minute to go in the third round, Mayorga caught Trinidad with a wild right that forced Trinidad to touch the canvas with his left glove resulting in an unpopular knockdown call. Mayorga tried to do the same in the fourth round, but Trinidad made him pay with whipping shots to the head that sent sweat spraying into ringside seats.

In the fifth round, Trinidad and Mayorga continued their torrid pace, but a nasty gash appeared under the Nicaraguan’s left eye. Mayorga finally dropped to the canvas in the eighth round after Trinidad battered him with a body shot. He gamely rose, only to be sent to the canvas again after a left hook from Trinidad. An obviously hurt Mayorga refused to quit but was forced to take a knee before referee Steve Smoger had seen enough of the carnage and stopped the fight at 2:39 seconds into the eighth round.

From 1999 to 2001, Trinidad was the hottest boxer in the world, consistently near the top of most experts’ pound-for-pound best lists. Following in the footsteps of Puerto Rico’s great world champions, including Wilfredo Gomez and Wilfred Benitez, Trinidad's insatiable drive to fight the best champions reached new heights on Sept. 18, 1998, in Las Vegas, when, as the IBF welterweight champion, he tangled with WBC welterweight champion Oscar De La Hoya. The first fight ever at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino was dubbed “Fight of the Millennium.” Trinidad weathered a slow start to bang a retreating De La Hoya in the last four rounds and triumph by majority decision. “I told everyone I was the best welterweight in the world,” announced an ebullient Trinidad. “I proved it against a fighter who ran away from me.”

Trinidad's two-handed power was simply too much for “The Golden Boy,” who faded badly in the last three rounds. He was routinely booed by the crowd of 12,500, which continuously cheered for Trinidad, chanting “Tito, Tito, Tito.” Following the victory, which set a pay-per-view record for a non-heavyweight title fight with more than 1.4 million buys, Trinidad and his camp returned to his native island to an unprecedented celebration that literally closed the capital city for the day. Thousands of flag-waving islanders cheered wildly at the airport and along the parade route into San Juan. Don King, Trinidad's promoter, responded to a cry for a rematch from De La Hoya by saying, “Anytime, anywhere. Just reverse the purses and put Bob Arum's (De La Hoya's promoter’s) name where my name was on the first contract and it’s done. That's only fair.”

When Arum balked at this proposal, and fighting at a “catch” weight between 147 and 154 pounds (and De La Hoya didn’t show at a scheduled meeting in New York City), King and Trinidad decided to move on. De La Hoya may have lost forever his only chance to avenge his first loss, not to mention an attempt to solidify his standing in the annals of boxing history.

Trinidad’s next decision was bold and dangerous: He decided to move up to the 154-pound division and face a world champion in WBA super welterweight David Reid on March 3, 2000. In a thrilling sold out bout, which was the last outdoor stadium event at the famed Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Trinidad clawed back from a third-round knockdown, and a point deduction, to floor Reid four times—including three times in the 11th—on his way to a convincing, unanimous decision.

Now the WBA super welterweight champion, Trinidad set his sights on 154-pound world title unification against one of the only fighters in the world that could match his heart in the ring: “Ferocious” Fernando Vargas, the IBF junior middleweight champion, who was 20-0 and had never been knocked down in his career—amateur or professional.

On Dec. 2, 2000, in what turned out to be Fight of the Year according to the Boxing Writers Association of America, USA TODAY, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Cleveland Plain Dealer, San Antonio Express-News and others; a career-defining fight for both fighters; and one of the better fights in history; Vargas tasted the canvas for the first time in his entire career at just 26 seconds of the first round. Trinidad had slipped past a Vargas jab to counter with a devastating left hook. Vargas made it to his feet long enough to walk into another powerful left hook, which floored him for the second time. Vargas had been in the ring with Trinidad for less than a minute. It appeared the end was near. Now, many learned, it was clear why De La Hoya chose to run from Trinidad.

Vargas survived the first round and slowly built momentum before shocking Trinidad, and the raucous crowd at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, with a left-hook knockdown of his own in the fourth round that left the Puerto Rican sliding across the canvas on his trunks. Trinidad then built an insurmountable scorecard lead going into the 12th and final round. He could have shuffled away from Vargas’ haymakers, but, as he had promised, he stood toe-to-toe with him, repelled his advances, and scored three knockdowns in the round—the last of which came from a right hand that Marc Kriegel of the New York Daily News said, “dropped Vargas like a gunshot.” Referee Jay Nady mercifully ended the punishment there.

Trinidad, always reaching for greatness, then moved up to 160 pounds to participate in Don King’s Middleweight World Championship Series with IBF champion Bernard Hopkins, two-time WBA champion William Joppy, and WBC champion Keith Holmes. The first fight in the tournament was won by Hopkins, who defeated Holmes by unanimous decision in the Theater at Madison Square Garden on April 14, 2001. The second fight featured Trinidad vs. Joppy on May 12 of that year in what turned out to be the largest non-heavyweight crowd, 18,235, and the third-largest gross for boxing, since Madison Square Garden moved to its current location in 1968.

The widely held beliefs that Trinidad might not be able to bring his vaunted punching power to, or take a punch at, middleweight were dispelled when Trinidad dropped Joppy with a left hook that sent Joppy sprawling underneath the bottom rope with 12 seconds left in the first round. Joppy survived the round and maintained his composure until 2:03 into the fourth round when Trinidad caught him with a right hand left hook combination that floored Joppy and left him stumbling badly. Joppy made it into the fifth round, but Trinidad dropped him for the third time with two right hands. Referee Arthur Mercante Jr. ended the brutal punishment there.

The newly crowned WBA middleweight champion became the seventh fighter in history to win championships at welterweight and middleweight joining Sugar Ray Robinson, Carmen Basilio, Emile Griffith, Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns and Roberto Duran.

He then faced IBF and WBC champion Bernard Hopkins in the MWCS finale in the Garden on Sept. 29, 2001. In that bout, Hopkins had a tremendous game plan, stuck to it, and fought the fight of his life in winning by technical knockout in round 12. It was the only loss of Trinidad’s career.

Trinidad returned on May 11, 2002 to Coliseo de Roberto Clemente in San Juan and defeated Hacine Cherifi, from France, by TKO in round 4.  Unable to lure Hopkins into a rematch to avenge his sole career loss, Trinidad opted for a retirement that lasted 29 months before he returned to the ring.

Trinidad began boxing at age 8 and won five Puerto Rican National Amateur Championships at 100 pounds, 112, 119, 126 and 132. He posted an amateur career record of 51-6, but only had 12 knockouts. When he turned professional on March 10, 1990, he was determined to establish himself as a knockout artist. He made good on his goal by knocking out his first five opponents and nine of his first 10. Trinidad's staggering 35 knockouts in 43 outings have given this slugger one of the highest knockout percentages of any world champion in history at 81 percent.

Trinidad has faced some stiff competition as a pro. On Dec. 6, 1991, he faced a more experienced Jake Rodriguez. Trinidad injured his right hand in the second round, followed by an injury to the left hand in the fourth round. Even though he suffered great pain, he failed to become impatient or frustrated and went on to score a 10-round unanimous decision. Felix took a five-month layoff because of the hand injuries. He got a wake-up call against world-championship-caliber competition when he fought Alberto Cortes of Argentina, in Paris, France, on Oct. 3, 1992. The veteran Cortes entered the bout with a record of 51-3. One of Cortes' losses came at the hands of the great Julio Cesar Chavez. Trinidad got sloppy in the second round and Cortes made him pay by knocking him down twice. It was the first time Trinidad had been knocked down in a fight. When Cortes came out to finish him off in the third round, Trinidad caught fire and tattooed Cortes with a barrage of punches. Cortes was helpless and unable to defend himself, prompting the referee to stop the fight.

In his first world-title bout on June 19, 1993, Trinidad took on two-time world champion Maurice Blocker for his IBF welterweight crown. Trinidad took control of the bout from the opening bell, rocking Blocker with powerful shots from both hands. Trinidad finished Blocker off at 1:59 of the second round with a devastating knockout that left him on the canvas for several minutes, solidifying Trinidad's status as a power puncher. Trinidad's first defense of the IBF welterweight title was against No. 1 contender Luis Garcia in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, on Aug. 6, 1993. Trinidad stunned Garcia with a crushing overhand right in the first round and never let up. He knocked Garcia to the mat four times in the first round before the bout was halted. Trinidad successfully defended his title for the second time on Oct. 23, 1993, against Anthony Stephens. He survived a second-round knockdown and stopped Stephens in the 10th.

On Jan. 29, 1994, Trinidad scored a unanimous decision over Hector “Macho” Camacho. Trinidad dominated the fight against the flashy and cocky “Macho Man.” It was a fight that vaulted Trinidad to the elite of the boxing world.

Following what was then the longest layoff of his career (eight months), Trinidad was matched up against Luis Ramon “Yory Boy” Campas, whom many were calling the next Julio Cesar Chavez at the time. Campas carried with him a remarkable 56-0 record with 50 knockouts.

The fight took place on Sept. 17, 1994, as part of the Mexican Independence celebration in Las Vegas. Campas, who had the crowd behind him, sent Trinidad to the canvas with a quick, short-left hook in the second round. Though the punch seemed to stun Trinidad rather than hurt him, the frenzied crowd sensed he would finish him off. But the young Puerto Rican sensation showed why he became the champion as he roared back in the fourth round and landed a dozen unanswered blows to Campas’ head. Referee Richard Steele had no choice but to stop the punishment.

On Dec. 10, 1994, in Monterrey, Mexico, Trinidad faced the most formidable challenge yet in his career against then-undefeated Oba “Motor City” Carr. After an uneventful first round, a straight right hand sent Trinidad down in—you guessed it—round two. For the next five rounds, Trinidad controlled the fight, and in the eighth round, Trinidad decked Carr twice. After getting up for the second time, Trinidad unleashed four unanswered blows to Carr's head, prompting the referee to stop the fight.

In his first fight of 1995, Trinidad defended his title against the No. 9 contender Roger “Stingray” Turner. It was a quick night, as Trinidad sent Turner down with a left hook in the second round from which he was never able to recover. Referee Mitch Halpern halted the fight a short time later. For Trinidad, the second round had become his nemesis, as three of his prior four opponents dropped him in that round. Trinidad put an end to that streak by coming out focused against Turner.

Gaining headline status for his fight on Feb. 10, 1996, Trinidad took advantage of the limelight. In what was becoming typical of his fights, Trinidad stopped Rodney Moore by TKO in the fourth round. A body blow sent Moore down at one point and after returning to his stool, Moore relayed to everyone that he had suffered enough and refused to come out to begin the fifth round.

On May 18, 1996, Trinidad faced former world champion Freddie Pendleton. Pendleton was determined and had the experience but became victim No. 29 when Trinidad used a left hook to the body to stop the challenger in his tracks. The fight ended in the fifth, when Pendleton failed to rise before the count of 10.

Nashville, Tenn., was the sight of Trinidad's first fight in 1997. He faced the unheralded Kevin Lueshing. In what had become a bad habit for Trinidad, his lackluster attitude towards his opponent turned into a shock of reality when Lueshing tagged the champion with a right-left combination, sending him to the canvas in—you guessed it, yet again—the second round. But, like the others, the knockdown only awakened Trinidad and he stormed back in the next round to down Lueshing and register his 31st win with 27 kayos.

Trinidad was scheduled to meet Terry Norris during the summer of 1997, but Norris backed out of the bout agreement. No. 1-ranked super welterweight contender Troy Waters became the Puerto Rican's next opponent.

Fighting for the right to challenge Norris, the two met at Madison Square Garden on Aug. 23, 1997, in front of more than 10,000 Puerto Ricans. Showing no ill effects from the move up in weight, Trinidad called on his powerful right hand to knock Waters down late in the first round. Waters bounced back up before the count of 10, but Trinidad could smell the kill and went back to work, dropping Waters again, this time for the full-10 count.

In a homecoming of sorts, Trinidad returned to Bayamon, Puerto Rico, on April 3, 1998, to defend his welterweight crown against No. 1 contender Mahenge Zulu. It had been just short of eight months since Trinidad had fought. Norris never gave Trinidad his deserved shot, but poetic justice was served when Norris was upset by Keith Mullings. More than 12,000 Puerto Rican fans welcomed their native son home with a wild, electrified reception at the Coliseo de Ruben Rodriguez. Zulu had studied Trinidad and knew that his best opportunity would come early. He silenced the deafening roar of the island crowd by landing some crisp shots against Trinidad in the first couple of rounds, but his rally was short-lived. Trinidad began to score with precise blows and picked apart the challenger from Zaire. The frenzied crowd sang and chanted as Trinidad increased the pace. He staggered Zulu and sent him to the mat twice before the mismatch was mercifully stopped at 2:20 of the fourth round.

It was nearly a year later when Trinidad returned to Madison Square Garden to face welterweight icon Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker. The six-time world champion came in with stellar credentials, including a controversial split-decision setback to Oscar De La Hoya. Despite the long layoff and rumors that Trinidad was struggling to make the 147-pound limit, Whitaker was over-matched from the start. Trinidad floored Whitaker in the second with a straight right hand and wobbled the challenger several times with hard, crisp combinations. At the end of 12 rounds, Trinidad's dominance was illustrated in the punch-stat numbers that had him connecting on 54 percent of punches thrown (278 of 512) to a paltry 23 percent for Whitaker (234-749).

When asked after the fight if Trinidad or De La Hoya was the better fighter, in his opinion, Whitaker was a prophet in his reply: “Oh, he's (Trinidad) a much better fighter than De La Hoya, and I would know since I only fight the best.” The last hurdle to making the De La Hoya fight a reality stood in the form of mandatory challenger Hugo Pineda. A raucous crowd of 8,156 jammed the Roberto Clemente Coliseo to watch Trinidad defend his title, but if he was not guilty of looking ahead to De La Hoya, the fans were. In a pep rally atmosphere, signs proclaiming De La Hoya as Trinidad's next victim were draped throughout the arena as the flag-waving crowd chanted “Tito, Tito, Tito.” Although coming in taller and heavier than Trinidad (Pineda weighed 160 pounds at fight time), the Colombian was no match for the faster, accurate-punching Trinidad, who vanquished the challenger with straight right hands and left hooks.

Trinidad had Pineda in serious trouble in the third round, landing shots to the body and head that pierced his defenses. Trinidad finished him in the fourth with a crushing left hook to the body that folded Pineda over into a crumpled heap on the mat where he was counted out by referee Robert Ramirez.

Trinidad returned to fight in Miami for the first time in nine years against French brawler Mamadou Thiam at the sparkling new AmericanAirlines Arena on July 22, 2000. Trinidad broke his tradition of slow starts and began hammering away at the thickly muscled Thiam in the first round. A capacity crowd of more than 12,000 was on its feet most of the round as Trinidad pressed the attack. Thiam survived and actually mounted a rally during the second round of the fast-paced fight. In the third, however, Trinidad’s pinpoint accuracy and rapid-fire combinations overwhelmed the challenger.

With his right eye completely closed and swelling badly, Thiam simply walked away from the punishment, and the referee halted the bout at the 2:48 mark of round three. Trinidad’s first defense of his WBA super welterweight 154-pound crown had been a triumph.

Felix Trinidad Sr. was the Puerto Rican featherweight champion in 1979; the Boxing Writers Association of America Trainer of the Year in 1995 and 2000; and the BWAA Manager of the Year in 2000 (This marked the first time in it’s history that the BWAA had given the Trainer of the Year and Manager of the Year to the same person in one year.) Tito has three sisters and two brothers and remains very close to his family. He lives just outside of San Juan with his wife Sharon and two young daughters Ashley Nicole, 7, Leysha, 4 and Alayah 1. He also enjoys playing basketball and visiting the beach.

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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