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Articles of 2005

Stephan Pryor Sets His Sites on Ronald Hearns and the Middleweight Division



Following in the footsteps of an all-time great is both complex and difficult. Typically, when a son follows in the footsteps of a great fighter, the ambivalence of high hopes and cynicism comes from the boxing establishment and fans alike. Whether it’s Joe and Marvis Frazier, the Chavezes, the Camachos, or the Durans, it’s difficult no matter how you cut it. In fact, fellow Sweet Science writer Robert Cassidy Jr. beautifully explained why he didn’t pursue a boxing career in the footsteps of his father, former contender “Irish” Bobby Cassidy, in his recent article, “Shadow Boxing with Dad.” Boxing is a tough business, and family ties often exacerbate the inherent adversity a young fighter faces while carving his own path.

Aaron Pryor is considered by many boxing experts to be the best junior welterweight champion in boxing history. I was lucky enough to interview Aaron last year in Cincinnati. At the time of the interview, he informed me that both of his sons, Stephan and Aaron Jr., were boxers, but he wanted to step away from training them for various reasons. When he told me that he didn’t want to train his sons, I smiled. I thought it was a smart move considering the history of father and son relationships in our sport. Sometimes the combination works, but usually it doesn’t work as smoothly as everyone would like.

Less than one week ago, I sat down with Stephan Pryor in a downtown Cincinnati office to discuss his career. Stephan had a solid amateur background, and is officially 8-1 as a pro. Many people forget that Aaron faced managerial and promotional difficulties early in his career. A lot of contenders didn’t want to fight him, and he had to actually step up in weight for his title shot against Antonio Cervantes in 1980.

Stephan’s problems are both similar and different. Unlike Aaron, Stephan is unranked. Similarly, he’s experienced promotional and managerial issues in moving his career forward. Luckily, Stephan has found a new promoter in Mike Acri, and will be restarting his career soon. Stephan is a 29-year-old middleweight, and among other notable fighters, he has sparred with Ricardo Mayorga and Kelly Pavlik. He appeared to be fit and about ten pounds heavier than the middleweight limit when we met. Stephan has definitive goals and a clear focus on what he wants to accomplish for the remainder of his boxing career, and also has a keen eye on what he wants to do when his career is over.

Here is my interview with Stephan Pryor.

TSS: When did you first start thinking about becoming a boxer?

Stephan Pryor: Well, I think 1990. It looked easy from the outside looking in. I had a lot of street fights, so I wanted to get paid in some type of way. I wanted some sort of reward; a trophy or something to be doing what I’m doing to be happy with what I was doing.

TSS: When you first started in the gym, who was training you? Describe your first gym experiences. How old were you?

Stephan Pryor: I was about 15 years old. When I first went to the gym, it was Jackie Shropshire and Billy Joiner at the Emmanuel Community Center downtown. My father trained at that gym, too.

TSS: Did your Dad discourage that, or was he neutral, or was he positive about you boxing?

Stephan Pryor: Well, it was my mother. She was for the sport. She was always telling me to go knock ‘em out. Basically, I’ve been doing it ever since.

TSS: What was your amateur record, and what weight did you fight at?

Stephan Pryor: I lost six fights. I had like 36 fights. I fought at 156. I started in 1996-97. I stopped in 2000.

TSS: Outside of your father, which fighters did you like to watch growing up? Is there any particular fighter you patterned yourself after?

Stephan Pryor: Hagler.

TSS: As you transitioned from the amateurs to the pros, how was it different? Training, management team, competition, etc.?

Stephan Pryor: Well, you get paid (laughing)! It’s a lot different than getting trophies. Trophies get dust. In terms of management and promotions, it’s way different. In the amateurs, they make sure you have room and board and things like that. It’s different now because I’m lacking a manager, but promotion-wise, I’m with Mike Acri. Things are running very smoothly now, but financial-wise I’m still up in the attic right now trying to get the spider webs down.

TSS: When I interviewed your father last year, he indicated that he preferred to step away from training both you and Aaron Jr. To be honest, I think it’s a smart move because historically father and son combinations in boxing are tough. Fathers and sons can have a great relationship outside of boxing, but in boxing the relationship is more difficult and complex. Tommy Ayers is training you now. Tommy was a top welterweight contender in the 1980s. He was a good fighter. He was 38-4 with 32 knockouts. He fought some excellent fighters. He was a tremendous puncher. What are you learning from Tommy in the gym now?

Stephan Pryor: Eye coordination and speed. Speed will come with the power. Basically eye coordination, speed, and power. How to throw a punch. Make sure the punch is on the right platform. When you throw the punch, to throw it the correct way. He was a good puncher, a power puncher. He’s showing me some pointers. He showed me his way. I know how to punch, but he showed me how to correctly throw the punch.

TSS: Gives us a daily look at your training regimen now, and how does it compare to your training as an amateur?

Stephan Pryor: Well, I eat different. No more pizza (laughing). It’s way different now. It’s a mental thing.

TSS: You’ve compiled a pro record of 8-1 (5 knockouts), and have been inactive for about one year. Please detail some of the difficulties you’ve experienced in moving your career forward.

Stephan Pryor: First, the one loss came back in 1992. I was underage. I went down to Lexington, Kentucky. We had a promoter named Richie. He wasn’t really a promoter. He was one of these slumlord promoters. They grab a group of kids from the streets and see if they want to make some money.

Basically, my father was on drugs at the time. I said I knew how to fight, and I wanted to make some money. They said it was going to be a toughman fight, and they said I was going to wear the protective gear on my head. I understand what they said about the headgear. They said I wouldn’t have to worry about anything, and I would get paid. So, I said okay, cool. They tricked me. I wound up fighting a guy named Nate Jackson out of Lexington. In the first round, I come out, and I’m fighting a heavyweight. I wasn’t a heavyweight. I was a light heavyweight. I was fighting him and winning the round. I came back to the corner, and they put beer in my mouth. They weren’t checking bottles and water back then. I don’t know why. So I go out in the second round, and my mouth is dry. I felt like I had sand in my mouth. I never had sand in my mouth, but you know what I’m talking about. It was dry. So I went on one knee, and he can have this. I knew had to learn how to start fighting.

So after that, I asked my father to start training me. Basically, he got off drugs and he started training me. Everything went well after that. Remember, he started training me as an amateur. I won the Regional Golden Gloves here in Cincinnati. That was a pro fight they sanctioned me in, and I went back amateur, and stayed amateur for four or five years. Then I turned pro again in 2000. It’s like going to the NBA and then going to college and back to the NBA. Basically that’s what happened with my only pro loss. I don’t let that distract me or discourage me. I let that be my first and only loss to learn from.

In moving forward, I need the right fights. I’m doing that with Mike Acri, and it’s no problem. He’s an A+ guy there. Management-wise, though, it’s a day-by-day struggle in the area I’m from. Basically, right now just focus on the fights. I’m going to be fighting in Pittsburgh at Heinz Field on August 6. Once I win this fight, I want to keep moving. If they could get me a fight tomorrow, I’d fight.

TSS: If there was one fighter you’d like to face right now, who would that be and why?

Stephan Pryor: First, I wanted to fight Camacho Sr., and I had Camacho Jr. on my mind, too. The reason why I had them on my mind first is because it would be a good draw. As a matter of fact, I was down at Warrior’s Gym in Hollywood, Florida where Camacho Sr. was training. Zab Judah flew me in. I was down there training with Zab. I wanted to fight Camacho. So, I actually prompted him, said I wanted to fight him. He got out of the ring and pushed me. So we had an altercation. He pushed me and I pushed him. He apologized to me, though. After that, it died down.

Now I see Thomas Hearns’ son fighting, Ronald Hearns! He’s 6-0. My father beat Tommy Hearns in the amateurs without headgear. Why not me and his son fight in two or three more fights? That would be a good draw. We have something called the past, and this is now. Coming to an arena near you. I’D LOVE TO FIGHT HIM!

TSS: In any profession, it’s good to have short-term and long-term goals. Specifically, what are your short-term goals (1 year) and your long-term goals (3-5 years)?

Stephan Pryor: I’m glad you asked that question because at home I wrote a diagram. Where I’m at now, and where I want to be. I’m glad you said that. I say I’d like to have four more fights before the year is up. Next year, around this time, I’d like to fight for some sort of title. There’s so many belts out there, give me one of those belts. My pants are coming down there’s so many belts. Basically, that’s my goal right now. In three years, if things work out well in boxing, it’s always good to have something on the side. I’d like to be a writer like you. I’d like to learn the boxing game interviewing fighters. You have to have some type of goal and some other expectation on what to do in life besides boxing, because boxing isn’t guaranteed to be around forever. I’m starting to do a little bit of that for

(Author’s note: 8 Ball Magazine is an “adult” magazine. It is, however, mostly a social commentary and civil rights magazine. Of the 80 pages of the edition I saw, a total of about 10 nude pictures of women were featured. Stephan is working with the CEO, Anthony Baltimore, to build a boxing section of the magazine. Anthony was present during the course of our interview. He has an excellent knowledge of the sport. We had an extended dialogue on the state of the game, recent fights, and the upcoming Hopkins-Taylor bout before the interview with Stephan started.)

TSS: How would you describe your style? A boxer? A puncher? A boxer/puncher?

Stephan Pryor: I’m a puncher, and then a boxer. I can box, but I can really hurt you. Once I got you hurt, I’m a good finisher. I looked at my father’s DVDs. When he got you hurt, he was a good finisher in the business. I looked at some of his fights, and showed me some of the styles he used. Sometimes when I’m fighting, and I look at the film, I’m doing some of the stuff he used to do. Basically, I’m a puncher. If I hit you, it’s going to make you weary.

TSS: Considering that you’re a puncher first and a boxer second, is Tommy Ayers trying to round out your style to get you to box more?

Stephan Pryor: Basically, the focus is punching. Let’s bring the punching back. We’ve got little cobwebs on it right now; little rust on it right now. We’re putting a little oil in the joints now, and everything’s following smoothly now.

TSS: We’ve talked about gym work, and some of the technical things you’re working on with Tommy. In terms of following in your father’s footsteps, anytime you follow in someone’s footsteps, there are some positive things and some negative things. Is that something you actually think about? How do you view that? In fact, let’s put it in a hard way. Some guys like to gain a reputation in the gym. They know you’re Aaron Pryor’s son. Have some guys called you out in the gym? That’s the negative part. How is following in your father’s foot steps positive and negative?

Stephan Pryor: Well, I never really had guys talk like that. I’m from the streets. They know. In terms of my father, I try to follow his role of success, and not the negative ways. What he did in the past, everyone makes mistakes. Not just in boxing. Everyone makes mistakes. I learn off of the experience, and not just my father. I learn from Tommy Ayers. Not just Tommy Ayers, but I also learned from Ricardo Williams. I learn off of these guys. I’m a humble guy. I make mistakes, and I correct my mistakes. I’m not perfect, either. Basically, there are negative things in life and in the game. They’re always going to find something from way back in the past to pull you down. I don’t care what people say about me, or what they think about me. They can’t judge me; they should judge themselves. For the haters, their hate just motivates me. That’s all. I don’t worry about that.

TSS: In other words, you don’t feel the pressure?

Stephan Pryor: No. I’ve been through a lot of pressure … and pain (laughing).

TSS: You are your own man.

Stephan Pryor: Right.

TSS: Anything you’d like to add?

Stephan Pryor: Well, two or three more fights and let’s fight Ronald Hearns. Ronald Hearns. I’m going to keep saying that. RONALD HEARNS! I want to be on the right path. I’m working with my man Anthony with 8 Ball Magazine on ranking fighters. I’ll be putting in my picks for the Top 20 fighters. We’ll interview fighters on the magazine each month. I’ve talked to Diego Corrales. He’s real cool. I talked to Lamon Brewster. I might interview all these guys on a phone conversation or go see them. Doing something different after boxing is over. I like to talk a lot. I’d like to help with promotions.

(Author’s Note: After the interview was over, I asked some additional questions about other Cincinnati-based boxers. Cincinnati placed two fighters on the 2004 Olympic Team: Ron Siler and Rau’Shee Warren. Stephan informed me that Ron is scheduled to fight in the near future, but he needs a promoter right now. Stephan told me that Rau’Shee will be staying in the amateur ranks. I’ll be following up with Stephan in the gym in a few weeks, and will keep fans posted on his progress when he fights in Pittsburgh on August 6.)

Articles of 2005

In Boxing News: Floyd Mayweather An All-Time Great, Valuev & More



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

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Articles of 2005

ShoBox Friday Night Fights




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



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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