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Articles of 2005

Boxing News: Arturo Gatti Tells It Like It Is About Floyd Mayweather Jr.

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Arturo “Thunder” Gatti, his trainer Buddy McGirt, Carl Moretti from Main Events and manager Pat Lynch met with members of the press via telephone conference call from their Vero Beach, Florida training camp on June 15 to discuss the upcoming fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Gatti:  It’s going to pay off for me again this time. My boxing skills: that’s what everyone forgets that I can do. It was very important for me to win that title. And it was very hard also. Not knowing my opponent and not knowing how he was going to come out, I hurt my hands in that fight and it didn’t go as I planned. But I was happy the way it turned out and I was happy to win the title and be a two-time world champion.

What do you see in Mayweather?

Gatti:  He didn’t bring out the best in me. That’s just who I am as a fighter. I only bring the best of me and that is great. Everything that night I learned that night had accrued in the last five years with Buddy, and I knew that for a fact. Which is why I am very excited about this fight. I think that Buddy and I are one and we work great together. I won a lot of my fights by listening to Buddy in training camp and I bring that to the ring. Mayweather likes to talk a lot, but his chin is suspect. We’ll see what he says on the 25th. That’s all I have to say.

Who do you think is most similar to Mayweather that you’ve fought?

Gatti:  I have mentioned to Pat and Buddy and Carl that he is like Eddie Austin, that’s who I compare him to. Is he overconfident? I think he is, but he’s not a stupid guy, and the people that handle him are not stupid either. They might talk a lot of crap but they know what they have against them. I think he will come prepared. I want him to be at his best anyway – because I am.

Will there be a point in the fight where you want to try and rough him up?

Gatti:  The fight will be exciting. I am going to explode on him. I am going to use my hands and listen to Buddy. We know what we are going to do and that’s how I’m going to do it in this fight. (Mayweather) never did (have to dig deep) and we’ll see how much balls he has. I know I have a big heart and a lot of balls. I don’t think he has that and I think he’s going to need them on the 25th.

Do you consider Mayweather a step up in competition?

Gatti:  I have been boxing all of my life. I have boxed the best. I boxed against professionals as an amateur. He’s not the best I have ever fought, not at all.

Who is the best you have fought?

Gatti:  I used to spar with Pernell Whitaker for four or five years. I think he is better than Mayweather, and more intelligent. Put it that way. If he wants to fight Arturo Gatti, that is my turf and that’s where we are going to fight. Once you are in the ring, it doesn’t matter where you really are. But to be honest with you, what I am going to do to him on the 25th I would do anywhere else.

What did Buddy do for you between Gatti-Ward I & II?

Gatti:  Just spending time in the gym and drilling it into my head that I’m a good boxer, don’t worry about my power, the power is there naturally. Don’t try to punch hard, you just punch hard, you don’t have to think about punching hard. You have it. Throw combinations and I have good legs. He drilled that into my head and I’m staring to like it. I really like to fight that way I fight now.

Is the hand trouble behind you now?

Gatti:  Well, you know the hands. They are always going to hurt. But many times I have broken a hand but it’s not going to stop me on the 25th either. Experience is always important when the fight gets tough.  I have it and I’ve learned a lot. I have more experience than him and I’ve been around boxing more than him. I’ve been in tough fights and I came out of them a winner. He has had it easy because he is a good fighter. He has great ability, so you can’t say he’s had it too easy.

Your last two fights were short, how does that affect you?

Gatti:  That was the proof of my ability. That was the proof of Buddy and (me) working together. The 25th will just be another fight and more proof. Because I am getting better is why those fights were so short. It lined me up for a great fight against Mayweather. I was waiting and I signed the fight. I was in and I was waiting for him. Then one day I got tired. I told my manager to forget about it. If he’s not signed, I’m done.  I postponed it – then he signed.

Mayweather has mentioned he would make this a fight.

Gatti:  I don’t know if it will make it easier. I do know one thing that when I clip him in the chin and he doesn’t get knocked out, he will run. I am going to do what I am supposed to do and you will see on the 25th. Buddy is determined about what we are going to do in the ring. I could do both.

Do you expect Mayweather to come after Arturo?

McGirt:  This is how I see it. The closer to the fight we get, the reality is going to set in on Mayweather.  He can talk all he wants, but once he gets in there and gets touched, he is going to have to switch tactics.  He can do whatever he wants, but we do what we have to do to win. I don’t care what he tries. It is not going to help him. I believe in my heart that Arturo is going to win this fight easier than people think. Everyone is saying Floyd is this and Floyd is that. We are going to find out. They underestimate Arturo.  They underestimate him a whole lot. That’s what is going to make it more exciting. He is a much better fighter than they think he is. Arturo rises to the occasion of his opponent. He knows he is going to rise for Floyd and he knows that what we worked on he is going to do. If he does that, I’m telling you, it’s not going to be as hard as you think.

Gatti:  Can I take his punch? Of course I can take his punch. I can take pretty much anybody’s punch. I’ve been down and I got up and finished the fight. Talent-wise, I think Mayweather is one of the most talented fighters I have fought, but I’ve been in the ring with a lot of really good fighters. Most of my opponents are tougher than Mayweather. He has the ability. Tough? I don’t know how tough he is. I’ll find out. He’s good for pay-per-view, that’s for sure. I am coming to win the fight and the rest. I am concentrating on what I’ve got to do and I’m not worried about what he is saying about me. The only time we will be together is at the weigh-in. I am afraid I am going to backhand him. I know at the weigh-in I just want to weight myself and get the hell out of there. He can do whatever he wants. He can talk to himself. 

How many pounds do you expect to put on between the weigh-in and the fight?

Gatti:  Naturally, 15 or 20 pounds is just a natural thing for me to do. I don’t look to do that. Do you know what I mean? It just happens. It’s not a goal for me to come in at

Moretti:  He’s not going to have many more meals than he normally does.

Can you talk about the excitement of the fight?

Gatti:  I love it and I think it’s very exciting for me. I will finally be respected after I win this fight. This is an important fight for me because of who I am fighting against. This is my time. I’ve worked hard to be where I am and have gone through some tough times in my boxing career. I cleaned myself up and I did the right thing. I’m at the position where I want to be against a fighter who will make me be what I want to be. I have worked hard to be where I am today and a lot of people are going to have to apologize to me after this fight. A lot of people.

What about the 140 lb. division?

Gatti:  What I want to say, to be honest with you, once I move up to 147, there isn’t going to be a 140. Everyone is going to be at 147. After this fight I would like to fight a ten-rounder at 147 to see how I feel, whether I will stay at 147 or go back to 140.

Did sparring with Whitaker help you today?

Gatti:  He was pound-for-pound at one time and he was using me for his sparring. Of course I learned a lot from him. The best thing about getting ready for this fight is that I’m in great shape and I know I have Buddy in my corner. I’m not worried about nothing. There is nothing out there that is going to touch me that night.

Is Micky Ward going to be in your corner for this fight?

Gatti:  Yes. 

Mayweather has referred to you and Micky as journeyman fighters.

Gatti:  Mayweather’s got a big mouth. Micky’s the toughest guy I ever fought. Mayweather might be talented and everything, but he wished he had the balls that Arturo has. We are going to find out if he has that anyway on the 25th.

How did camp go?

Gatti:  I did a little more with the weights and kinesthetic. And I did what Buddy wanted me to do.

Do you think Mayweather deserved his ranking in p4p?

Gatti:  I really don’t care. I mean, what is pound-for-pound? I really don’t give a $#%^. The only thing I care about is that I’m going in the ring on the 25th to fight. It’s not that I don’t like the guy. On the 25th I am coming to fight and I’m going to prove to the world that I’m a good fighter. I don’t like the way I’ve been spoken about. Forget about the ability I have as a fighter. I know I’m a tough guy with a lot of guts and I don’t give up. That’s all they talk about, and they forget about my ability. I train hard for every fight I have.

Gatti:  After the victory I will have the respect as being one of the best in the world.

What does a big KO feel like?

Gatti:  It feels great. It feels good for me when I knock somebody out, actually. I like it. I get turned on. It’s good to have good surroundings with you. When you have a good manager and good promoters that care for the manager, it definitely helps the fighter. When you are young and make a few dollars, you do stupid things, but when you have good people around you they can tell you to wake up. Those three fights with Micky Ward were great fights – that’s what people remember – but I had great fights before that in my career. But that’s what people want to remember me as.

Moretti:  You know it takes more than brawling to beat Micky Ward. You have to be immensely talented to do it and to do it the way Micky did. Outside of brawling, those talents came out and that’s how he beat Micky Ward.

How do you feel about fighting in Atlantic City?

Gatti:  I think it’s great. I love Atlantic City. What I love is that they were there for me in the beginning and even when I had three losses in a row they were still there cheering for me and supporting me and I owe it to them.

Do you feel strength and size will be a factor?

Gatti:  This is the same camp I had and I actually lifted more for this fight than I did with Micky. My size and my strength . . . I am bringing that. That’s what I’m bringing in the ring also. The longer the fight goes, the better it is for me. 

The feeling is that if you can get to Mayweather you can stop him.

Gatti:  It’s not if I get him. He is going to walk into it. He’s that type of fighter. People forget. He loves to throw fast hands, but he always opens up. He is always open. Don’t worry, he is getting caught.

Will you be going to the body?

Gatti:  That’s the thing. Not too many people look to go to the body. I think I am a very good body puncher and we are definitely going to use that. I am going to take him down. That’s what I am going to do. We always talk about how I am going to fight this fight. Forget about the head. He’s trying to ruffle me, but that (stuff) doesn’t work with me. Guys 6’5” don’t intimidate me, so he’s not either. Mayweather is considered the best and I think he’s a great fighter. What people think he is? That’s great. And for me to beat him, that will be a great achievement for me and he’s the type of fighter that I need to beat to be where I want to be in life.

What is his biggest weakness?

Gatti:  His chin. What I have I been studying on him? Nothing. I just listen to Buddy. I have the best corner. He’s been doing the homework for me and I’ve been doing the job. We are going to break him down and we’ll see after the seventh, eighth, ninth. That’s when the real fight starts. We’ll see if he’s still there.

I notice Mayweather throws the forearm to the throat.

Gatti:  I am going to address it with the same thing, so I’m not worried about his dirtiness. I can be just as dirty.

Who will be the cutman?

Gatti:  Joe Souza. He never left. Only with Jesse James. He’s been there for me when I needed him most and he’s a loyal guy. That’s what I respect about him.

What type of fight would you like to have?

Gatti:  I’m not sure. I would like anything. Whatever I need to do is going to get done. I think I’ve brought a good image to the sport for a long time. For me to win this fight, it will be great. It will be great for anybody that’s been with me and it will be great for the fans that really love me and that have been there for me.

What is the biggest compliment you have received from other fighters?

Gatti:  I have a big heart and big balls. I can’t say who told me that, but I’ve been told that many times.

McGirt:  He wins all of his fights the same way. He can’t hide his medula oblongata. He tucks his chin, but he can’t hide his medula oblongata behind that. When he gets hit in the medula oblongata he won’t feel anything, but when he wakes up it will be all over. The medula oblongata is right behind the ear and he won’t feel anything. He can’t protect it. I don’t care how slick he is, but if he can protect that, he belongs in a circus, in a freak show. When he hits him there and he wakes up and they’re sweeping the floors he is going to be wondering what happened.

How does it feel with 12,000 fans cheering for you?

Gatti:  It feels great . . . especially when I have him hurt. When the crowd goes crazy, it definitely gives you a boost. I will get him hurt and it will be great. I love my fans and Atlantic City is a great place to be.

Can you make a prediction?

Gatti:  Victory. I am winning this fight. I am winning the fight.

What do you think about Mayweather yukking it up with the TV guys during the fight?

Gatti:  He’s never going to do that with me.

Moretti:  Maybe it was a reflection on the quality of the opponent he was fighting.

Gatti:  All of the cockiness, all of the talking he does – once he steps into that ring, once he steps into that ring, once he gets to Atlantic City, his whole attitude is changing because he knows what he is going to face.

McGirt:  The crowd was so small that he thought he was in the gym in a sparring match.

Moretti:  The only way Lampley heard him was because there was no one in the audience watching him fight.

Gatti:  There is no way in the friggin’ world that he is going to (screw) around with me. After my victory, I have been fine at 140 for a while and it’s hard, but I don’t know.  I would like to try 147, but I will sit down with Buddy, Pat and my promoter and talk to see what our options are: what is the best fight for me.

I noticed Mayweather freezes up after being hit.

Gatti:  He’s not used to being hit, that’s why. He’s bringin speed. I’m bringing everything else.

When he tucks himself in there, people don’t see a target and don’t throw any punches.

McGirt:  The abul aboogala. It’s the truth. Think about it. I rest my case. Medula oblongata.

Gatti:  I work very hard and Buddy works very hard, but you know what, it’s always a pleasure going into the gym and seeing Buddy. I’m being honest about that. I go in there with a bad attitude but as soon as I see him and he cracks me up and I feel like working. That’s the best part.

What is you walking around weight?

Gatti:  It depends. 170. Lately I’ve been walking around at 165, 167,170.

How long does it take you to get down?

Gatti:  If I had to get down in 4 weeks, I could. But that’s why I come to camp for three months. I take my time and I drop weight nice and easy and that’s why I am always strong.

What did people say about you when you were down?

Gatti:  I was finished. I was shot. I don’t have it any more. I screw around too much. The only thing that was right was I was going a little too crazy in between fights. Those days are over. Those things have changed and people wanted me to retire but I knew in my heart that I still had it. Look where I am today. I teamed up with Buddy and it’s the best thing that happened.

What were the behaviors and how did you reinvent yourself?

Gatti:  Number one, I think I got lazy a little bit training-wise. I decided I think I belong at 147 when I fought De La Hoya. I think I got lazy and it made me realize, even thought my trainer through the towel in a little early, but I felt I needed to recuperate and work harder and go down to 140 and start from there and that’s what I did.

What do you mean when you say going crazy?

Gatti:  Just having a good time, just going wild. I’m a wild guy. Look at the way I fight. I can’t be normal. (Mayweather’s) never been in the situations that I’ve been in. I don’t have to prove anything to anybody.  He’s got a lot to prove, as much as he talks. I’m ready to die in that ring. I think I saw him fight a couple of rounds, but in those two rounds I could see his body talk. I know the way he is and I know when he’s hurt.  I know when he’s vulnerable.

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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