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Articles of 2005

The Dream Becomes a Network Nightmare: What More Can Be Asked of Kassim Ouma?

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Kassim Ouma has spent his entire life making good on all that has ever been asked of him. From killing – repeatedly – as an adolescent soldier in the Ugandan Army, to taking on all the top opponents nobody else wants to face in the ring, Ouma has never met a challenge he didn’t like – or fail to complete and conquer.

For his troubles, Kassim is still on the outside looking in. Most so-called boxing experts refuse to recognize him as the top junior middleweight on the planet, despite Winky Wright seemingly affixed at middleweight these days. Networks love his style of fighting and the shocking childhood backdrop attached to his career, yet are slow on the draw in lining up dates. Rather than make good on a promise of future airtime, they offer a “maybe next time” as they revert to the familiar names in filling up timeslots.

Even other fighters respect his trials and tribulations, but pause at the thought of sharing a ring with him. The more marketable fighters will insist that he needs them more than they need him. Translation: high risk, low reward.

So while others continue to reap the benefits, Kassim continues to take on the risks. Only now, he refuses to march on with the no-questions-asked mindset by which he has long lived his life.

“What more can I do before someone looks my way?” Kassim asks, not knowing who and when he fights next as the summer calendar continues to fill up. “Everybody wants to interview me. Everyone wants me to attend fights as their guest. But nobody wants to look my way when it comes time to getting in the ring. I don’t get it.”

Neither does the average fan. Most understand the risk/reward factor when it comes to other fighters passing on the IBF junior middleweight champion. What gets lost in translation is how the networks elect to reward other fighters as a result.

Such was the case a couple of weeks ago, when Ouma sat ringside as Winky Wright delivered the performance of a lifetime in pitching a virtual shutout against box-office blockbuster Felix “Tito” Trinidad. Ouma never questioned why Wright accepted a career-high payday and a chance to fight Trinidad. But that explains his 2005 campaign. Questions that remain unanswered are the events leading up to that fight.

“I don’t hate on Winky,” insists Ouma. “He suffered just like I am, waiting a long time for a breakthrough fight. I’m glad he got paid against Trinidad, and I’m happy for him that he fought as great as he did. But what I do get mad about is that a lot of promises made to me were broken in the past couple of years. I was supposed to fight this cat a long time ago, and now it looks like I will never get that chance.”

A quick glance at any boxing schedule or rankings supports his argument. The win over Trinidad earned Wright a mandatory ranking to Bernard Hopkins’ WBC title. Perhaps Hopkins can give Wright the same treatment Winky offered when Kassim earned a mandatory slot for Wright’s IBF title. Ouma fought two elimination bouts under the belief that it would all lead to a sizeable payday and a long-awaited shot at the title and notoriety.

Instead, Wright went for total unification against Shane Mosley and allowed himself to be stripped of his title in favor of a Shane rematch and a seven-figure payday. Everyone was celebrating Wright’s newfound fame after paying his dues for years, but the irony is that it came at Kassim’s expense. Ouma was forced to settle for a shot at a vacant title and a five-figure payday.

At the time, Ouma did not mind the slight. He still believed that the title shot and a slot on a Showtime tripleheader would lead to bigger and better things. The fight would also provide closure, as he took on Verno Phillips in a rematch to their 2001 encounter. Phillips took the first fight on less than two weeks notice, and fell just short to Kassim in their ten-round war.

This time around, Kassim proved to be the better fighter, dominating the fight down the stretch to take a unanimous decision and the IBF title. The drawback was the fight failing to live up to Fight of the Year expectations, as it was far less scintillating than their encounter three years earlier.

Ouma received a second chance at fame, courtesy of a last minute vacancy in HBO’s schedule. When close friend Vivian Harris passed on short money against Mohammad Abdullaev, Kassim was offered the slot. Fighting beneath Arturo Gatti’s junior welterweight fight with Jesse James Leija was reward enough for Ouma, who immediately accepted the fight.

$125,000 payday? No problem, said Kassim. Nor did he mind the fact that he would have to take on feared puncher Kofi Jantuah. Why would he mind? He was already used to taking on tough challengers well before challenging for the title. So much that after he easily defeated Jantuah in a lopsided decision, he ran out of challengers. At least the ones that would pique HBO’s interest.

“I kind of warned him about this a while ago,” says Tom Moran, Kassim’s co-manager. “As a manager, the hard part is finding the right balance for your fighter. You want to keep him active and secure the best possible fights. But at the same time you have to convince your fighter to pace himself. Kassim took on one tough challenge after another. By the time he fought the rematch with Phillips, he pretty much wiped out the second tier at 154. Knowing that the top fighters were unwilling to face him, I saw this dilemma coming.”

What Dream Team Kassim did not see coming was being frozen out by the networks. The excuse is that dates are sparse, and Kassim against a mandatory is not appealing enough. But what are the excuses for airing less meaningful junior middleweight matchups?

Case in point: the co-feature for the Glen Johnson-Antonio Tarver rematch on June 18 in Memphis offers Ike Quartey’s comeback against Verno Phillips. This would be the same Phillips who has twice lost to Ouma, taking on a fighter without a meaningful win in over EIGHT years. How is that considered a more meaningful matchup that Ouma’s title defense against Roman Karmazian? It’s not. But it does better suit HBO’s agenda, which is to ignore the alphabet sanctioning bodies, even if it means ignoring a fighter in whom they are genuinely interested.

“The thing of it is, we know that HBO wants to do business with Kassim,” Moran believes. So much that he delayed a trip to Australia for an April 30 title defense against then-mandatory Shannan Taylor. The hope was that Kassim would land a date on the network, preferably as the co-feature to Vitali Klitschko’s title defense against Hasim Rahman. To this day, Moran is unsure of Kassim’s chances landing the slot; Klitschko wound up getting injured and thrice postponing the Rahman fight.

In its place went John Ruiz’s title defense against James Toney. The week prior went to Wladimir Klitschko in a rehab fight against feather-fisted Eliseo Castillo. HBO thought so highly of the fight that they traveled all the way to Germany to broadcast it via tape delay. HBO’s prior telecast was yet another comeback fighter, as Fernando Vargas returned to the ring against Raymond Joval.

If HBO is desperate to be in the Kassim Ouma business, they sure have a funny way of showing their appreciation.

But HBO is not the only network that offers boxing. ESPN has undergone upgrades in competition (even if the trade-off is minimal pre-fight exposure). Showtime has enjoyed much success since switching to their one Saturday per month format. The problem with both, however, would be money and appeal.

“Kassim is the type that wants to fight every two months,” says Moran. “He wants the best, and he wants to stay active. Unfortunately, the business has come to a point where you can only have one or the other. Showtime only buys the best fights every month, and the truth is that neither they nor HBO is very interested in Kassim fighting Karmazian, or anyone else in the IBF rankings. Everyone’s interested in Kassim, but the problem is lining up big fights. Everyone is running north and south of the junior middleweight division. Any wonder why?”

Kassim has a good idea why. He also has an idea on how to resolve that problem; if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

“I’m saying these guys didn’t want to fight me at 154, so they all move up and down,” says Ouma. “So I can offer to meet them halfway, maybe at 150 or 151. All I want is to score one big fight, and let my career speak for itself. I shouldn’t have to, though. I did all that has been asked of me at 154 lbs, yet everyone continues to avoid me. I’m tired of not knowing when these guys will step up and fight me, and I’m tired of being ignored. I made my home in America a while ago, yet I still feel like I’m a man without a country. I’ve always done all that has been asked of me, because I have never had a problem proving myself to anyone.”

Kassim has proven as such in and out of the ring. Especially out of the ring, as he lived a childhood to which very few in this world could possibly relate.

“There is so much about Kassim’s life that is unknown, it’s … you could fill a novel on his childhood experiences alone,” insists Moran. “People know about him getting kidnapped as a child and serving the Army. Yet it’s just a backdrop right now. The human interest story behind Kassim is like no other. We’re talking about a man who was forced to kill as a child, who had to do anything and everything it took just to survive. To know he overcame that, and to see him for the man that he is today, it’s a crime that he is so underexposed.”

Indeed, but to know the crimes Kassim was forced to commit as a child makes it more of a wonderment his ability to live his life so carefree today. That he had to kill, plunder, and do whatever it takes to survive just as a child is a remarkable tale in and of itself.

Add to the pot the fact that he was willing to leave behind the only way of life he ever knew going into his teenage years. Seeking boxing as a way out of the enslaved military lifestyle, Ouma defected from Uganda and arrived in America knowing very little English. What he knew was how to survive, and that led the way to what he hoped would be his American dream.

“Here you have a man – not even a man, a kid forced to live like a man – arrive in this country,” explains Moran. “He doesn’t know hardly any English, has nowhere to live, and no money in his pocket. The only English he knows that people can relate to is “boxing gym… box, box.” Just get him in the gym, and he’ll take care of the rest.

“Then you see that same man today; it’s amazing. Anyone that meets him will tell you that he has a huge heart. The mere thought of a TV fight has him dancing around like a child at Christmas time. He just loves to fight, whether it’s in the ring with his fists, or outside the ring standing up for what he believes in.”

Rather than killing for what he believes in, Kassim decides to fight back with his mouth. When he’s not fighting in the ring, he can be found at various political venues. Ouma has long been one of the more vocal fighters in visiting the nation’s capitol (Washington, DC) and speaking out on boxing reform. But his visions of reformation are not confined to the ring, or even to the states.

Despite not being able to return to his native Uganda for legal reasons, Kassim still holds the country and all of Africa near and dear to his heart. Until he is able to return, he wants to know that his fellow Africans will one day be afforded a better way of life. He believes it can start with something as simple as a glass of water.

“He wants to help promote clean water in Africa,” reveals Moran. “One of the biggest things he has been working on is a campaign to help bring in more clean water to the continent. It’s not something that will drain a budget, and the people will obviously live a much healthier lifestyle. It’s something he is adamant about, and will not rest until the necessary steps are taken. He has a heart as big as the ocean. He does. Some people donate money, and want the world to know about it. All Kassim wants is to make a difference in people’s lives, and for his good fortune to somehow pay off. Outside the ring, he has a good idea of how to achieve that. Inside the ring, he feels trapped, because he’s still at the mercy of others.”

Which takes Kassim right back to wondering where he will land his next big fight. And also wondering how long he’ll have to watch others cut him in line.

“I’m attending so many fights lately, I feel more like a boxing fan than I do a boxer,” says Ouma. “I’m tired of watching other fighters collect paydays and TV dates, pretending to be champion. But until I get on TV more, my voice isn’t heard as loud.”

Moran has taken steps to help change all that. Golden Boy Promotions recently announced the signing of Ouma, as they join Peltz Boxing as co-promoters. While Don King promotes the other three titleholders at 154 (WBA titlist Travis Simms, Javier Castilliejo of the WBC and WBO rep Daniel Santos), Moran believes that Golden Boy will help provide Ouma with something not even a fight with any of the aforementioned can offer: an instant profile upgrade.

“What it comes down to is that the risk/reward factor has become too great of a ratio for these other so-called champions to want to unify against Kassim,” insists Moran. ”The reward is not enough. Kassim’s profile needs to be raised. He does everything perfect, as far in-the-ring appeal. He never tires, he’s always in all action fights, and throws over 100 punches a round every round, every fight. With Golden Boy Promotions in the picture, he should be able to gain notoriety in no time. We’ll work together great. They have leverage, so that should help.”

It should also add to the leverage Kassim already holds, especially with Wright now as a top middleweight contender. That leverage would be the top dog at junior middleweight.

“Until you fight Kassim, your belt at 154 means nothing,” says Moran. “He’s happy to fight any of King’s guys, but under the right circumstances. None of his guys have the leverage, so King can’t demand too much. All they have are belts and King as a promoter. With Wright now at middleweight, Kassim is the man to beat at junior middleweight.”

Unfortunately, he also remains the man to avoid until the networks get involved and support his cause. With Quartey-Phillips lined up for June, and Castilliejo facing either Fernando Vargas or Ricardo Mayorga, help doesn’t appear to be on the way anytime soon.

Perhaps Ouma can land a date against whoever does not face Castilliejo this summer. Ouma-Vargas or Ouma-Mayorga should be considered noteworthy enough. Ouma’s even willing to handicap his own health to make at least one fight happen.

“Kassim is so willing to fight Mayorga,” reveals Moran, “he even told him that he would take up smoking just to level the playing field.”

What more can you ask for?

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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