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Articles of 2005

Hopkins' Advocates Might Need a History Lesson; well, Class is in Session

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Don't even bother watching the ESPY Awards on Sunday night, if your primary interest lies in who was named “Best Boxer.” The winners have already been announced, because the ceremony happened on Wednesday.

Bernard Hopkins got the nod over three other candidates who probably accomplished more during the period covered by the voting. I say that because something just struck me. The other people up for the award – Winky Wright, Zab Judah and Diego Corrales – basically earned their recognition for taking a shot at moving up in weight and scoring a big win. Think about it: Corrales, the former junior lightweight champ, beat a full-fledged lightweight in Jose Luis Castillo; Wright beat Felix Trinidad, who by this time is a middleweight, in a walk; and Judah went from 140 to 147 to beat Cory Spinks. Meanwhile, Hopkins, who presumably got his votes from the public on the strength of the victory against Oscar De La Hoya, essentially dipped into a lower weight division to engage a fighter who had to visit the buffet table to grow into a very unnatural 160-pounder.

But I guess with his fight against Jermain Taylor upon us, Hopkins' name is the one that is freshest in the memory of most voters.

Let's just say the results of the ESPN popularity contest were unscientific at best.

We go through the same thing when we do the polls for The Sweet Science. Recently we conducted a poll where we asked voters to choose the greatest junior welterweight champion of all time. I originally put five choices in the mix, then added Kostya Tszyu, almost as an afterthought. The other candidates were Hall-of-Famers Tony Canzoneri, Barney Ross, Antonio Cervantes and Aaron Pryor, along with Julio Cesar Chavez, who will certainly be enshrined on the first ballot. I included Tszyu because I figured his name might be fresh in people's minds.

Maybe, in a way, that was a mistake.

Tszyu won the poll with 34% of the vote, beating out Chavez (31%) and Pryor (27%). Ross got just 4%, with Canzoneri and Cervantes neck-and-neck for the cellar (2% apiece).

Interestingly, the results were almost in perfect reverse chronological order of each man's title reign. That brought up a couple of questions in my mind: Would Floyd Mayweather had gotten all the votes if we had put his name on the list? Would Ricky Hatton have placed ahead of Canzoneri? Ross? Pryor?

Surely, you couldn't take a poll of recognized boxing historians that would place Tszyu near the top. And Canzoneri and Ross – three-division champions when that really meant something – would have received considerably more support.

Does that mean our readers are stupid or silly? Not in the least. But they do tend to have a myopic view of things, fostered by what is fed to them by members of the media, most of whom became initiated into boxing during the era of sanctioning body dominance and therefore lack some perspective as to what constitutes a legitimate “champion,” and, it follows, a legitimate “title defense.”

I don't expect everyone to be a historian, but I do want to know what goes through people's minds, so in the future we're going to be conducting polls here on the TSS Blog that are designed to elicit the rationale behind voters' choices.

That having been said, some people need a history lesson, and you know what? Because boxing has such a rich and interesting history, they shouldn't be at all unhappy about it.

Jim Lampley, I figure, is one of those people.

The HBO commentator, in the course of a half-hour show previewing the Hopkins-Taylor fight, was heard to say, “Bernard Hopkins has to be one of the top five or six middleweights of all-time.”

Lampley only put four middleweights in the same league as Hopkins. They included three fighters who are contemporaneous with his tenure as a network broadcaster – Thomas Hearns, Carlos Monzon and Marvin Hagler – along with someone he could not help but have heard of (Sugar Ray Robinson). Hall-of-Famers everywhere are turning in their graves. Suffice it to say the deserving names he failed to recognize could fill up a small conference room (or a medium-sized suite at the MGM Grand).

Having met several of the great boxing historians of the world (including our colleague Hank Kaplan), I would hardly be so presumptuous as to ascribe that designation to myself. However, I could probably teach a remedial course on the subject, so let me start with Boxing History 101 for Mr. Lampley and those of like mind:

Before the De La Hoya fight, Patrick Kehoe, who now writes for us at The Sweet Science, asked me for a perspective of what place Hopkins' accomplishments have earned him in the historical landscape, and whether his record was truly reflective of his abilities, for a story he was doing for another website. This was my response to him at that time (I have already re-posted this once, and promise not to break it out again):

“Is Hopkins' record reflective of his abilities? Yes, relative to what was put in front of him. Certainly it is reflective of what has been in the middleweight division over his tenure, which with all due respect to him, was not a whole lot. Did Hopkins have ‘defining fights?’ Well, yes, within the context of what is an over-used term. The fights with Antwun Echols defined him as someone who was tough enough to take a rough-and-tumble opponent and control him. The fight with Trinidad was a defining fight, because he was able to beat someone who had a level of talent that was above almost all his other opponents, and was able to execute a game plan to exploit his opponent's weaknesses, but by the same token, it was a win against a welterweight.

His loss to Roy Jones was a ‘defining’ fight too, because he failed to defeat the best fighter he ever faced – the only fighter who, when all is said and done, could be listed in the all-time top five of any weight division. He was respectable, but out-classed. It would be a stretch to say he was ‘in the fight’ all the way. I guess in a sense, that one may have been the fight that ‘defined’ Hopkins best of all.

Which is to say – he is an outstanding fighter – tough, durable, hard-nosed, and a credit to the sport inside the ring. He is a very solid champion. And when he is eligible, he will get my Hall of Fame vote. That won't be because of all his title defenses (Orlando Canizales and Virgil Hill had a lot of title defenses too, but they would be, at best, just borderline candidates in my mind), but because in addition to the above attributes, it can be said that he was the best in his weight division for a period of more than ten years.

However, I cannot consider him to be an ‘all-time’ great, if that barometer means that he be rated among my top ten middleweights ever. Certainly he is not the equal of Jones, Harry Greb, Mickey Walker, Sugar Ray Robinson, Charley Burley, Stanley Ketchel, Carlos Monzon, Marcel Cerdan, Marvin Hagler, Tommy Ryan, Jake LaMotta, or Emile Griffith.  Bob Fitzimmons, Frank Klaus, and Nonpareil Jack Dempsey might belong on that list too. Ezzard Charles was probably a better middleweight. So was Sam Langford. So was Archie Moore. So was Robert Villemain. And how about Tony Zale, Teddy Yarosz, Jeff Smith, Al Hostak, or Ken Overlin? What about Laszlo Papp? And other non-champions like Holman Williams, Cocoa Kid, and Lloyd Marshall – guys who paid their dues and never got a title shot – deserve to be mentioned in the same category. Sugar Ray Leonard, at 160 pounds, would have outclassed him. Thomas Hearns may have bludgeoned him, if he got to him early in the fight. Hopkins would probably have had entertaining fights with the likes of Gene Fullmer, Rodrigo Valdez, Nino Benvenuti, Joey Giardello, Carmen Basilio, and Dick Tiger, but I don't know that he necessarily belongs so far ahead of them in the pecking order. The same Roberto Duran who beat Iran Barkley at 160 and was ahead on points late in the fight with Hagler may have used his cleverness to take Hopkins to school. John Mugabi was a hard-enough hitter to take Hopkins out. The same can be said for Ruben Carter.

Now, you may want to say this is unfair, because the middleweights have been the deepest of all the weight divisions. Well, that's very true. But at the same time, that's part of my point. Comparatively speaking, Hopkins has had solid command over a division that is perhaps the weakest it's ever been. He hasn't been challenged on a consistent basis the way the aforementioned guys have. Sure, Echols and Robert Allen were tough guys, but they were not ‘special.’ To achieve his biggest career triumph, Hopkins had to find a guy from outside the division (Trinidad). In that fight, Hopkins had a natural size advantage that can not be disputed. It's one thing to have certain dimensions. It's quite another to be conditioned to fight at a particular weight. Hopkins was a solid, chiseled, natural 160-pounder, while Trinidad was at best a 154-pounder, albeit one who steamrolled a limited William Joppy. But there were other reasons Hopkins won – namely, because he took advantage of Trinidad being so, so mechanical. Hopkins did not provide such a willing target, and Trinidad couldn't make adjustments on the fly. And when Hopkins landed, it was the first time Felix had been hit solidly by anyone above 147 pounds.”

In the way of illustration, let's briefly examine the cases of Teddy Yarosz and Lloyd Marshall. What someone like Lampley sees (if he's even looking) is that which is on the surface – Yarosz and Marshall sustained eighteen and 25 losses, respectively, in their careers. But now let's consider that in his thirteen-year, 95-bout career, Yarosz fought 16 times against world champions, and scored wins over Archie Moore, Billy Conn, Ken Overlin, Babe Risko, Vince Dundee and Ben Jeby. And Marshall, in 97 fights over fifteen years, defeated the likes of Ezzard Charles, Jake LaMotta, Charley Burley, Anton Christoforidis, Overlin and Yarosz, and battled world champions – REAL world champions – in 19 of his bouts.

Now consider that during the era these two men were active, boxing was a business where world-class fighters actually fought each other quite often, because that was the only way they could continue to develop their craft, and prove themselves worthy of a title opportunity.

You couldn't be “steered” to a title shot; you had to EARN one. There was very little motivation to protect a won-lost record; those who did it would rarely make it to the big time. Yes, titles occasionally split, but not for long, and below the heavyweight division, the idea of having a “gimme” in a championship defense was virtually out of the question.

It was not uncommon for a fighter to have 10-15 fights a year, many against worthwhile contenders. Indeed, Marshall's victories over Burley, Charles, and Christiforidis happened over a period of FOUR MONTHS.

Contrast this with Hopkins, who has fought four times in the past two years, and has encountered only a handful of true middleweights who have held even a portion of the 160-pound title. And if you're looking for someone Hopkins has beaten who, AS A MIDDLEWEIGHT, even remotely compares to a Moore, a Charles, a Burley, a LaMotta, or for that matter our present examples (Yarosz and Marshall), don't even bother. By the way, that won't change no matter what happens in the Hopkins-Taylor fight.

So why in God's name are Teddy Yarosz and Lloyd Marshall not in the Hall of Fame, while the comparatively unaccomplished Barry McGuigan is? The only plausible explanation is that the bulk of the voters who decide such things share the same sensibilities as the Jim Lampleys of the world.

To imply that Bernard Hopkins is somehow singular as a fighter who took the “hard road” to the top is laughable to some, even insulting, when the travails of Burley, Marshall and Holman Williams are taken into account.

For an interesting angle on this, it might be instructive to visit Hopkins' hometown of Philadelphia, which is exactly what the Boxing Channel crew did in May. Our objective was to capture the essence of Philadelphia boxing, both past and present. Toward that end, we interviewed several Philadelphia middleweights, including a trio of fighters who made the City of Brotherly Love a Mecca of middleweight activity in the early to mid-1970s. Naturally assuming that Philly guys root for Philly guys, and because Hopkins had reigned for years at 160, we asked each of them – Joey Giardello, Willie “The Worm” Monroe, Eugene “Cyclone” Hart, and Bobby “Boogaloo” Watts – what they thought of Hopkins as a fighter. And believe me, we gave them every opportunity to pronounce Hopkins one of the greats; a symbol of Philadelphia's boxing supremacy. But while being cordial about it, they all stopped well short of saying that.

I think I know why, especially as it concerned the latter-day guys. It's not sheer jealousy, but rather the idea that in their day, when people like Marvin Hagler were coming into town and being turned away in defeat (by Watts and Monroe, in fact), there were so many good middleweights in Philadelphia (a group that included Bennie Briscoe and Kitten Hayward, among others) that first you literally had to fight your way out of the city to even be considered for world championship status. And there weren't four different world titles to make it easier to get that big chance.

The path to success that Hopkins has taken, though circuitous for his time, has been much less arduous than that which they encountered. And I could sense some resentment that Bernard really didn't do it the “Philadelphia way.”

Of Hopkins, Lampley says, “You'd be hard-pressed to find four or five middleweights that you think were better.”

Oh no I wouldn't.

It seems to me that if you are going to talk about who is the best of all-time, it helps to be familiar with “all time.” To make an historical evaluation about a Bernard Hopkins, relative to the greatest in the annals of the weight class, and not consider the existence of a Harry Greb, or a Mickey Walker, or a Charley Burley, or an Ezzard Charles, or any of the other aforementioned names, is simply offensive. And it is inexcusable, because Lampley makes significant coin from boxing and represents himself as an authority on the sport by consenting to offer analysis for documentary-type programs, like the recent promo on HBO.

It would be nice if, sometime during Saturday's pay-per-view telecast, color commentator Larry Merchant, who goes back far enough and allegedly knows better, would nudge Lampley and remind him that professional boxing did indeed take place in the United States – and elsewhere – before 1970 …

… and that it was quite a thing to see.

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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