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Articles of 2005

Arturo Gatti … Remembering the Warrior

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Watching Arturo “Thunder” Gatti cry in Buddy McGirt’s arms while pleading for one more round against Floyd Mayweather was no easy sight for any diehard Thunder fan. The preceding six rounds did not help either, as Gatti took a beating without being able to give back anything in return. Normally, Arturo will take two or three to give back at least one. On June 24, 2005, all he could give back was his heart, which is always on display.

After watching Mayweather’s virtuoso performance, it’s easy for the critics to lend support to the claims of Gatti being an overrated slugger. Those who go there ignore the fact that Gatti never pretended to be a pound-for-pound entrant. What Arturo gave to the sport goes way beyond x’s and o’s. It was far more will than skill that has repeatedly filled up the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City for the past decade.

Despite a successful amateur career in which Gatti was far more boxer than slugger, Arturo transformed into a human highlight reel during the heart of his prime. The boxer and slugger were both on display the night he beat Tracy Harris Patterson for the IBF super featherweight crown in Madison Square Garden nearly ten years ago. It was boxing that earned him enough rounds to win that the fight on the cards. It was his heart that enabled him to cross the finish line.

It was the first time he won a world title, but certainly not the last time he’d leave the crowd gasping with every punch. A mere three months after winning the crown, Arturo entered what was intended as a routine title defense. It turned out to be the fight that would define his career and jumpstart the legend of the modern-day warrior.

Gatti returned to the arena that made him a world champion, though relegated to the small room. The circus played the main room that evening, but the high wire tightrope act took place downstairs in The Theatre against battle-tested Wilson Rodriguez. The defense was intended as a gimme, but developed into a war very quickly. By round two, Gatti was knocked down and had both eyes swollen shut. Little did Rodriguez know that Arturo had him right where he wanted him.

After surviving a brief eye examination by the ringside physician, Gatti willed himself back into the fight. “This has been a time capsule round,” was the call from ringside by HBO’s Jim Lampley. The following round would go down as one of the best of 1996, and perhaps any other year. Rodriguez battered Gatti throughout the round, to the point where a stoppage could not have been questioned. What would never be questioned from that moment onward is Gatti’s heart. Still operating on limited vision from both eyes, Arturo not only absorbed the brutal beating, but rallied back toward rounds end to pummel Rodriguez in a neutral corner. It was a round that perfectly captured the wild rollercoaster ride that was the fight.

Arturo carried over the momentum into the fifth, flooring Rodriguez with a body shot. Rodriguez would rise from the canvas, and stage a rally of his own. The two-way action carried over into the climactic sixth round. Midway through, Rodriguez let his hands go, but left his chin exposed just enough for Gatti to uncork a perfect counter left hook.

“DOWN GOES RODRIGUEZ … WHAT A LEFT HOOK!”

Lampley nearly screamed himself hoarse that night, as did the 4,000 or so in attendance. Larry Merchant’s post-fight claim of repeated showings of the fight never happened. But he was right when he said it would be a fight none would soon forget. He also coined the phrase that would be repeated through the years: “Can you believe … Arturo Gatti?”

What made the fight so special is that it was the first of three fights in three consecutive years where Gatti would participate in the Fight of the Year.

Gatti received a much needed soft touch four months later, when he was fed Pepe Correa in the co-feature to Riddick Bowe’s first fight with Andrew Golota. It was the night of the infamous Garden riot, and also a rare night where Gatti did not steal the show. He was impressive in scoring a third round knockout, but the bout was off TV and soon forgotten the moment Jason Wilson slammed a walkie-talkie off of the back of Golota’s head.

The tune-up was Arturo’s third straight at Madison Square Garden, but would serve as his last for the next four years. He took the “Thunderstorm” to Atlantic City, New Jersey, where he would headline or play co-feature to five straight cards on the Boardwalk. The first was a rematch against Patterson to start off 1997. The outcome was the same, though by a much wider margin. Arturo managed to go the full twelve without a scratch. He was also able to show a different side – that of the boxer we became familiar with earlier in his career. The timing of the transition was odd – it was the first fight where he abandoned his traditional AC/DC “Thunder” music entrance in favor of the theme to “Rocky.”

The warrior wasn’t needed that night, but would need to surface in his May non-title fight on CBS. Arturo took an over-the-weight bout against former featherweight Calvin Grove, looking to test the lightweight waters. Grove did all he could to drown him in such waters, but Arturo eventually prevailed in stopping Grove on cuts in about as thrilling a fight as one could ask from free TV.

Fans would pay to see his next fight. Even in serving as the co-feature to Lennox Lewis’ one round blitz of Andrew Golota, Gatti and Gabe Ruelas made the pay-per-view telecast well worth the purchase price in a five round brawl that would go on to be named 1997’s Fight of the Year. Ruelas was outfought throughout, but fared far better than anyone ever imagined. So well, in fact, that he had Arturo hurt several times in the fourth and fifth round before succumbing to Gatti’s “Thunder.” It would come in the form of a counter right and a left hook, the latter crashing against Ruelas’ jaw as he crumpled to the canvas. He beat the count, but was in no condition to continue.

The thrills didn’t stop there for Arturo, even if the winning did. Gatti would engage in a 1998 campaign that resulted in three straight losses. All three fights warranted Fight of the Year consideration. His first fight with Ivan Robinson landed such honors in a landslide. So valiant in defeat was Arturo, that veteran scribe Michael Katz commented how Gatti was the first fighter in history to warrant consideration for Fighter of the Year without winning a single fight.

It started with an over-the-weight grudge match with Angel Manfredy. Even without a title on the line, both fighters fought like champions. Ultimately, a cut suffered early in the fight became too much for Arturo’s skin to handle. Despite mounting a rally, he was forced into submission when the ringside physician deemed to the cut too severe for him to continue.

A supposed quick fix against Ivan Robinson seven months later developed into the Fight of the Year – and also Arturo’s second straight loss. The plan was for Arturo to tear through the light-hitting Robinson and secure either a rematch with Manfredy or a shot at a lightweight title. Instead, he was taken to hell and back by the high-speed boxer, relying on a fourth round knockdown and a go-for-broke rally late in the tenth to make things interesting on the scorecards. It resulted in a split decision loss and a rematch four months later. The rematch didn’t help. While still thrilling, it wasn’t as good as the August fight. Arturo’s performance wasn’t much better, this time dropping a close unanimous decision.

Gatti returned in 1999, as Main Events scraped the bottom of the barrel to find an opponent he could beat. They found one in Reyes Munoz, who for his troubles was knocked out in two and sent out of the ring on a stretcher. The same would transpire six months later, when Gatti returned to Madison Square Garden. Only this night would be shrouded in controversy.

Going into his bout with Joey Gamache, Arturo started a never ending debate about weigh-ins the day before a fight. He weighed in at an announced 142 pounds. Immediately after weighing in, he jumped off the scale and downed some water … all before Gamache’s camp could protest that the weight was inaccurate. Their claim would be further validated when Arturo gained a supposed eighteen pounds over night, weighing 160 by fight time. Gamache had little chance going into the fight; he had even less of a chance at a severe weight disadvantage. Gatti would score a second round knockout. It was so brutal, that fans still talk about it to this day. It was a near unanimous choice for Knockout of the Year, one that had Gamache out upon impact and in need of a stretcher to exit the ring.

Arturo made a statement in his next fight two months later, but only outside the ring. The NYSAC demanded that all non-heavyweights weigh in the same day of the fight. Arturo easily made weight, before scoring his third straight second round knockout. After the fight, Larry Merchant questioned when the real opponents would come.

Before Arturo could get there, Joe Hutchinson would give him all he could handle in a bloodbath of a fight. It was Arturo’s return to Montreal, but also the last time he would fight in the town where he was raised. Gatti absorbed an assortment of punches and headbutts throughout. He also received an extreme benefit of the doubt from the referee, who allowed the fight to go on when 90% of the officials would have stopped it. Even with the win, nobody was convinced that Arturo would return to the championship level.

His handlers seemed to agree; they secured him a lucrative date on HBO as a comeback opponent for Oscar De La Hoya in early 2001. Gatti received a then-career high payday, and a career worst beating, as Oscar scored a first round knockdown en route to forcing a stoppage in five. The only plan at the time was for Arturo to take the payday, prove to be brave in defeat, and then head off into the sunset.

Instead, Gatti fired his entire corner, and hooked up with trainer Buddy McGirt. A former two-time world champion, McGirt earned a new reputation as a quick-fix trainer. Gatti would help extend that reputation, returning to the ring in January 2002. He delivered perhaps the most complete performance of his career, overwhelming former 140 lb. titlist Terron Millett in four rounds. Once again, HBO had reason to believe they could make a superstar out of Gatti.

Four months later, another farewell was planned. This time it was for Gatti’s opponent, the equally tough-as-nails Micky Ward. Instead, it built a long-running association between the two, starting with a trilogy, and evolving into a special friendship which exists to this day.

HBO paid more for their first fight than for any other fight in the history of their Boxing After Dark series. Both fighters returned the favor by engaging in a fight which is still regarded as one of the best ever. Aiding its cause was their too-good-to-be-true ninth round. Gatti went down from a body shot, and was nearly out from the ensuing flurry. The old warrior returned, as Gatti turned the tide midway through. Ward absorbed the assault, and rallied back big time toward the end of the round. Ward delivered a beating so brutal that Jim Lampley screamed from ringside for referee Frank Cappuccino to stop the contest. Gatti would survive a round Emmanuel Steward proclaimed “the round of the century.” He not only survived, but came back to throw nearly 100 punches in the final round. His efforts were only good enough to pull even on one card, with the other two judges awarding the fight to Ward.

Many disputed the decision, but were thankful that it led to the first major trilogy of the 21st century. Purists will thumb their noses at the series, insisting that any two barroom fighters are capable of providing similar action. Those who just love the sport for what it is will always recall Gatti and Ward throwing caution to the wind for thirty rounds over a thirteen month span.

The fight fans in Atlantic City were grateful that the rematch and tiebreaker landed in their neck of the woods. It marked Arturo’s return to the Boardwalk, and the fans responded by selling out the Boardwalk Hall six straight times. The second and third fights with Ward forever connected Arturo to the South Jersey fight crowd. So much that they turned out in full force for fights with Gianluca Branco, Leo Dorin and Jesse James Leija.

The Branco fight represented Arturo’s return to the world championship level, even if many refused to recognize him as a true world champion. Such honors were reserved for Kostya Tszyu, who unified the division before giving up the WBA and WBC titles. Arturo won the latter in a vacant title match against Branco, and successfully defended it twice with knockouts over Dorin and Leija. Those that turned out for the fights could care less what title was at stake. All they knew was that Arturo was fighting, and that was good enough.

For hardcore boxing fans, it wasn’t enough. They demanded to know why Gatti continued to avoid Mayweather, who became his mandatory challenger in May of last year. The fight was finally made after several postponements and near cancellations. The moment the fight was signed, many predicted the end of the Arturo Gatti run. Some prayed for a miracle, hoping that Arturo could somehow bring back the warrior and find a way for will to prevail over skill. It never came close to happening. Floyd dominated nearly every second of their fight this past weekend. The odds going in were 4-1. The ratio of punches landed between the two was even greater than that, as Floyd landed at will and caught very little in return. The end result was Buddy McGirt keeping Arturo on his stool prior to the seventh round.

Some view the ending as a limited warrior finally getting exposed. Others simply recognize Floyd’s greatness, and point to the majority of his victims also struggling against the undefeated pound-for-pound phenomenon.

Those who were able to appreciate him for what he is and represents can forgive and forget. We never claimed Arturo was among the best fighters pound-for-pound. We merely asked for a fun night of boxing – win, lose or draw – when he entered the ring. More often than not, he went above and beyond the call of duty, giving us all of his heart and soul. After years of nonstop thrills, we owe it to him to at least say thank you in return.

Thank you, Arturo.

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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