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Articles of 2005

Tszyu-Hatton Fight Predictions

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After a week off for good behavior, The Sweet Science writers return to form by predicting the big fights. The bout this weekend on Showtime between the champ Kostya Tszyu and his capable challenger Ricky Hatton should be a humdinger. When Tszyu fights it's always a special occasion and Saturday night should be no different. Hatton, like all Tszyu's opponents these days, is no creampuff, but does he have enough for the Thunder From Down Under?

Tszyu by first round KO.
Mitch Abramson

Hatton is as live an opponent as Tszyu has faced in four years. He is young, powerful and relentless – a combination that could severely bother a fighter who was out of the sport for almost two years because of injury. Further, a petrified Sharmba Mitchell may have made Tszyu look better than he is at this stage of his career. But Hatton is also green, and has never faced an opponent as powerful and skilled as Tszyu. And Hatton's defense isn't exactly impenetrable – which should spell disaster for young Ricky. Hatton will be cut and battered courtesy of a furious Tszyu onslaught when the fight is stopped in the 7th round.
Matt Aguilar

Ricky Hatton is young, strong, aggressive and tenacious. He is a good puncher, not a devastating hitter, but more of a thumper. He has heavy hands as well as seemingly having a stout chin and a big heart. What he does not have is the right style to beat Kostya Tszyu. Kostya is a better all around boxer then he is given credit for. He is smart and knows how to lure opponents in to traps that enable him to get off with solid counter punches. Kostya is an extremely hard hitter and a great finisher. I look for Hatton to put up a game and honest showing but it will not be enough. The style needed to beat Tszyu was employed by Vince Phillips and will be copied and improved upon by Floyd Mayweather Jr. if he and Kostya ever square off. I have to go with Kostya by TKO between rounds seven and ten.
Jim Amato

Kostya Tszyu has been a great champion, but all great title reigns end. Now is the time for his to end. Hatton will be inspired by the hometown crowd and his whirlwind style will lead him to a unanimous decision win. Kostya has the edge in power, but I'm thinking this fight goes to the more determined fighter, not the puncher . . . a la Vito Antuofermo-Cyclone Hart and Tex Cobb-Earnie Shavers
Robert Cassidy Jr.

This will come down to the cards, but a UD for Tszyu. Both fighters are hard punchers with excellent knockout-victory ratios (Tszyu 31 victories, 25 KOs; Hatton 38 victories, 28 KOs). Indeed, Hatton has the advantage with his 70-inch reach over Tszyu's 67 inches. At 26, Hatton has longevity on his side. But Tszyu's edge is history. He's taken on more tough opponents than Hatton. This will pay off for Tszyu in picking apart Hatton early and much later.
Jesse K. Cox

When the fight was first announced, I thought Ricky was nuts for going in blind. By that I mean taking on one of the greatest 140 lb fighters in boxing history without so much as facing even B-level competition. But the closer we get to fight night, the more I believe that this is simply more than a cash out fight or a learning experience for Manchester's finest. I think Ricky will surprise everyone early by using a lot of in and out movement, while staying busy. Tszyu will eventually find a way to impose his will on Hatton, but will be forced to expend a lot of energy and absorb a ton of body punches before doing so. So long as Ricky can stick to his proposed game plan of a “subtle swarm,” I think he holds off a late Tszyu rally and picks up a well-earned unanimous decision and the junior welterweight crown. Hatton UD12 Tszyu (not a misprint).
Jake Donovan

This seems like an easy pick, which is why it scares me. Though he's getting older, Kostya Tszyu still has his firepower and I can't see Hatton avoiding it for an entire fight. Tszyu by KO in the middle rounds. Maybe.
Rick Folstad

This one has all the markings of a classic slugfest. From the opening bell you can expect fireworks. I can see both guys getting cut early but rarely taking a backwards step. The end will come around the sixth round, with Tszyu's hand being raised in victory.
Randy Gordon

We'll finally find out how great Ricky Hatton really is. These fighters have taken on two totally different calibers of opposition. Tszyu's road has been much tougher. Hatton's advantages are youth and activity, but Tszyu is just too powerful and too experienced. Kostya Tszyu TKO 8.
Tim Graham

One must be cautious when evaluating a great fighter based on his last bout which came after a long layoff – something many discovered painfully watching Felix Trinidad go down in flames against Winky Wright. Like Trinidad, Tszyu came back from a long layoff and stunned the boxing world with a thorough beating of a very good Sharmba Mitchell. Many did not see the limits of Ricardo Mayorga’s ability because they wanted to see the greatness of Trinidad once again. It is possible that the same thing is happening here with Tszyu. The central difference however, is that Mitchell is likely a better fighter than Mayorga. It is also the case that Tszyu has proven his ability to adapt and mix boxing with punching against tremendous opposition (Zab Judah among them). I’m betting Tszyu still has enough resourcefulness in the tank to stop a very determined and able contender in Ricky Hatton. Hatton has faced limited competition in defense of his obscure WBU title but has demonstrated a ruggedness that is likely the real thing. Expect him to give his best effort and see many applaud his valiant effort. Expect Tszyu to show his full repertoire of boxing skill and sharp punching. Tszyu by KO in 8.
JE Grant

I'll say Tszyu to win. He's the better, harder fighter.
Amy Green

Hatton would appear to be the latest of a familiar species: the well-protected British boxer carefully nurtured on unthreatening opponents who has developed a loyal and rabid cult following over there in Old Blighty. He is unbeaten in 38 fights (35 of which took place in England), and for the past several years has masqueraded as a “world champion” despite never having fought Tszyu, Mickey Ward, Arturo Gatti, Zab Judah, Vivian Harris, Sharma Mitchell, Jesse James Leija, Leonard Dorin, or, for that matter, anybody currently rated among The Ring's Top Ten 140-pounders. Ray Oliveira may have been his most dangerous opponent to date — and Ray was 37 by the time Hatton fought him. Balanced against this is the fact that Tszyu has fought less than nine rounds in two years. Kostya once got stretched by Vince Phillips, so he certainly isn't invincible, but the pick here is Tszyu in six. The Brits will be so insufferable if it goes the other way that it's painful to even think about.
George Kimball

I don't see how Hatton can beat Tszyu other than a big shot landing – and that can happen. Still, Tszyu is so composed and such a good tactical boxer I don't think Hatton gets to him before he gets to Hatton. If Hatton tries to bum-rush the champ he will be picked apart coming in. If Hatton sits back then Tszyu will jab-right all night. I doubt Hatton has ever been hit as hard as will on Saturday and he did taste the canvas courtesy Eamonn Magee. Tszyu is a maniacal trainer and has been getting better with age. Kudos to Tszyu for traveling to England and taking on the young lion, and to Hatton for taking the huge step up in class. Tszyu by TKO around the 7th or 8th round.
Joey Knish

Ricky Hatton is not a bad fighter, but he is nowhere close to being in Tsyu's league. The champ chews him up and spits him out in four rounds.
Marc Lichtenfeld

After the way Tszyu dispatched Mitchell, it's hard to imagine him not beating Hatton, even in the latter's hometown. Tszyu is way too strong and experienced, and should stop Hatton by the eighth round.
Bob Mladinich

I've grown to like Hatton in this fight, but I'm not sure if it’s purely based on balanced critique or whether the SKY Sports trailers are beginning to nest in my subconscious. Hatton, for all his record padding, has become a well schooled 12 round practitioner and is capable of rising from adversity (Magee), overcoming crisis (Thaxton), outboxing opponents (Tackie), overwhelming volume punchers (Olivera) and avoiding punishing right-hands (Phillips). There isn't much Hatton hasn't seen. However, in Tszyu he's facing one of the best fighters in the world: tactically astute, technically advanced, powerful, experienced, motivated and strong at the weight. In truth, Tszyu is arguably as complete a fighter as there is in the modern game and to take a more cynical view of Hatton's “education,” fighting worn-out title challengers and blown-up Lightweights is poor preparation for a bout of this magnitude. To pick Hatton is to make a quantum leap into the unknown. It is to park substantiated evidence based on opinion and go with the heart, to go with hunger, to go with youth over class and experience. I just can’t bring myself to do it. TSZYU by points decision.
David Payne

There was only one Hitman. His name was Thomas Hearns. I've seen Kostya Tszyu fight; I've read a lot of what Ricky Hatton has said about what he is going to do to the transplanted Down Under Russian. Right, Ricky. Tszyu by decision.
Pat Putnam

Since he was a tyke in grainy videos, Ricky Hatton's showed almost ADD-like enthusiasm for punching — not boxing. But when his opponents wilted, his hand was raised — winner of a boxing match — more aptly; they succumbed to the weight of numbers. It won't happen Saturday. Hatton will share 20 feet with as skilled a technician, concussive puncher and ring general, as deserves to hold a title — the consummate professional. If anybody else could lay claim to “The Executioner,” it's Kostya Tszyu. With almost 400 fights, amateur and pro — and still the face of a cherub — and not too imposing a physique, he doesn't strike fear until he lands the first numbing blow. Then it's: Man alone with a shark circling. Hatton will come out like a house afire — the only way he knows — what's got him this far…And he'll fight bravely — with everybody in the Men Arena behind him — for as long as he has strength in his body. Round five, the latest. (The playing of “Blue Moon” could carry him one more.) Hatton will be hurt and stopped, and come back another day.  It doesn't make him a bum to be beaten decisively by one of the best to ever put on gloves.
Joe Rein

Kostya Tszyu should be commended not only for taking on the formidable Ricky Hatton, but for fighting him on his British home turf as well. This is a tough one to call. The Thunder from Down Under looked like he had not missed a beat in his bout with Shamba Mitchell last November. But then again, we all said the same thing about Felix Trinidad. In this young lion versus old lion match, I am going to go with youth. Hatton by split decision.
Aaron Tallent

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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