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Articles of 2005

Top 25 Heavyweights (As of October 1, 2005)

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This is our fifth installment of the Grant Top 25 Heavyweights. This month saw a tremendous show by top heavyweights Wladimir Klitschko and Sam Peter. Given the number of alphabet belts in existence, it’s a shocker that no world belt was on the line. No matter, though, it was a thriller.  Both remain viable contenders and both remain dangerous against anyone in the division.

Speaking of dangerous, Lamon Brewster demonstrated the heat that has given fire to his career against a vastly overrated Luan Krasniqi in defense of his WBO strap. The fight itself demonstrated the utter meaninglessness of the WBO ratings. The defense, however, gives him license to go after some big money. 

October looks to be another month that may require some big changes: Chris Byrd defends his IBF belt against DaVarryl Williamson; Nicolay Valuev tussles with Larry Donald for the right to face John Ruiz; and some of the other top names in the division such as Calvin Brock and Jameel McCline stay busy with lesser competition.

1. Vitali Klitschko, Ukraine – WBC Champion (Last Month #1) The boxing world awaits his showdown in November with Hasim Rahman. Rock is sporting his WBC “interim” belt, making appearances as if he’s already the champ. He may be getting ahead of himself. Just wonder, if he loses to Klitschko, does he remain the “interim” titlist?  These alphabets sure create a lot of puzzles, huh?

2. Hasim Rahman, USA (Last Month #2) No one ever said Rahman was consistent and he showed why his last time out. He can shoot a jab as sweet as Sonny Liston, but he can also appear almost lethargic. Although his win against Monte Barrett wasn’t awe-inspiring, it did give him twelve rounds of work. Maybe he just needed a tune-up. Fortunately we’ll find out soon.

3. Lamon Brewster, USA – WBO Champion (Last month #3) Okay now that he has the WBO “mandatory” nonsense over with by stopping Germany’s Luan Krasniqi – who, according to the WBO was the second best heavyweight in the world – he can get on to meaningful fights for big $$$.  Perhaps he can persuade Don King to let him unify with WBA titlist John Ruiz. We know the WBC belt is tied up until at least after V. Klitschko and Rahman go at it. We also know that the IBF winner between Chris Byrd and DaVarryl Williamson will likely go against W. Klitschko. Of course now the younger Klitschko is again the top WBO contender, so possibilities abound. 

4. Wladimir Klitschko, Ukraine (Last month #4) No one can accuse Klitschko of taking the easy route to redemption. In beating a very able and willing Samuel Peter, Klitschko overcame at least some of his demons. He was on the deck and came back (though the first two knockdowns were very questionable). He was tired but fought on. His skill level, always his strongest suit, put him a full class above a young man that very few of the other names on this list will likely want to do face any time soon. He deserves a shot at either Byrd or Brewster. We will see watch closely to see if the alphabet sanctioning bodies that listed this fight as a title eliminator are true to their word. Of course since he beat Peter, the IBF might select Peter as the next mandatory. Hey, it worked for DaVarryl Williamson didn’t it?

5. Chris Byrd, USA – IBF Champion (Last month #5) DaVarryl Williamson goes by the nickname “Touch of Sleep.” I just hope this fight does not put us to sleep. They will mix it up as an undercard bout on contender James Toney’s return to Showtime October 1st. What does that say about the drawing power of the titlist?  n truth, Byrd is a solid, respectable fighter who consistently finds ways to win – or at least make judges think he is a winner. If Byrd wins as predicted – and this is no gimme because Williamson can fight a bit – and can’t get a big money fight with the Klitschko-Rahman winner, he simply must throw away his IBF belt and challenge the WBC winner directly as a ranked contender. Time is running out.

6. James Toney, USA (Last month #6) The real question as Toney prepares for his October 1st  showdown with Dominick Guinn is how gargantuan he will be. In recent television appearances, Toney has looked huge. Of course Guinn can bang with his left hook and if he can overcome the sluggishness he’s shown in recent fights, he has a real chance. I suspect Toney wouldn’t want an easy fight – though in his eyes all fights are easy. This fight should prove interesting.   

7. Calvin Brock, USA (Last month #7) The Boxing Banker is scheduled to take on David Bostice November 19th. This will be his second fight since beating highly rated Jameel McCline. He’s biding his time en route to a meaningful match. Don’t be surprised if he faces Vitali Klitschko should the Ukrainian get past Rahman. Otherwise, he’ll have to keep plugging away until he achieves a top rating and becomes a “mandatory” contender for one of the alphabet titlists. If Luan Krasniqi was considered the top fighter in contention for the WBO title, Calvin Brock should be king of the world.  Unfortunately just being light years better that most of the competition is not enough. He’ll need a few balls to bounce his direction. Until then these minor fights will have to suffice.

8. Audley Harrison, England (Last month #9) I took a lot of grief in promoting Harrison to the top ten last month. Fans have been disappointed with the slow pace of Harrison’s career progression.  Folks are wondering when he going to make his move. Given his age, they have a point. Don’t test me Audley; you better do something big very soon.    

9. Samuel Peter, Nigeria (Last month #8) As I predicted, Peter was taken to school a bit by Klitschko. Of course Klitschko brought a wealth of experience and physical advantages and he was able to pull it all together in a way that made him hard to beat for anyone. Peter proved he’s tough, his punches are for real, he won’t quit, and he believed in his strength to the very last moment. He will come away from the Klitschko bout a much better fighter. Although he took some hard shots, no one could say he took a beating. A few adjustments here and there and you’ll see this guy put some people on this top 25 list on their backs. He could likely take on an alphabet champion or two right now – but given the fact that his promoter isn’t named Don King, he’ll have to go back to the drawing board and get himself another title eliminator. He’s got the time and the ability.

10. Monte Barrett, USA(Last month #10) Nothing on the boards for Barrett since his loss against Rahman. He’ll need to regroup and come back against a fellow top fighter.

11. John Ruiz, USA – WBA Champion (Last month #11) A constant flow of rumors of an impending defense against Kevin McBride are the only rumors swirling around the titlist.  f the bout takes place it will undoubtedly be the most obscure title match since Monte Masters defeated Tony Fulilangi for the short-lived WAA heavyweight title in 1983. You remember that match don’t you? 

12. Jameel McCline, USA (Last month #12) He faces someone named Zuri Lawrence in what can charitably be called another stay-busy fight. He’s apparently hoping that by staying busy he’ll be ready for a big fight when it comes along. What a concept. 

13. Nicolay Valuev, Russia (Last month #15) When he meets Larry Donald October 1st in a WBA title eliminator, the 7’0, 320-plus fighter will be able to capture a mandatory shot at John Ruiz. Of course Ruiz may face Kevin McBride in the interim – can you imagine a McBride-Valuev match? I can’t. I won’t. He’ll likely take Donald and face Ruiz early next year.

14. DaVarryl Williamson, USA (Last month #16) His upcoming October 1st title tiff with Byrd represents a chance for the big time that likely won’t come again. He better make the most of it.

15. Danny Williams, England (Last month #13) No one knows what’s next for the embattled Williams. He’s clearly in the proverbial doghouse in England after pulling out of a fight with Matt Skelton. 

16. Corrie Sanders, South Africa (Last month #14) What’s it going to be Corrie? You won’t be able to emerge from this hibernation and capture a big win.  en nearing their 40’s rarely make big comebacks.

17. Oleg Maskaev, Uzbekistan (Last month #17) Set to take on Sinan Samil Sam in a WBC title elimination match November 12th in Germany. Let’s face some facts, neither of these guys rate a title shot as the “mandatory.” This “mandatory” stuff is quickly getting out of hand.

18. David Tua, New Zealand (Last month #18) He’ll square off with Cisse Salif October 21st in Florida.

19. Shannon Briggs, USA (Last month #19) Still living off his recent win over old-timer Ray Mercer.  Expect him to be in action in October or November.

20. Serguei Lyakhovich, Belarus (Last month #20) An injury kept him out of a bout with Owen Beck. He’s not capitalizing on his win over the very able Dominick Guinn last December.

21. Dominick Guinn, USA (Last month #22) His big shot comes October 1st against the hefty James Toney. A win means a title fight. 

22.  Fres Oquendo, USA (Puerto Rico) (Last month #21) It’s been well over a year since he was toppled by John Ruiz.  Haven’t heard a peep from him since it was announced he signed with Lou Dibella.  

23. Matt Skelton, England (Last month #24) The British champion, despite being 38-years-old, does not appear to be rushing into anything since his last win in July. He’s undefeated, but outside Britain he’s unknown. If he wants the big cash he needs to travel across the pond.   

24. Ray Austin, USA (Last month #25) Still mulling his option after his August win over Owen Beck.  My guess is that he’ll get a shot a name fighter soon.

25. Luan Krasniqi, Germany (via Kosovo) (Last month #23) Krasniqi is a fairly good journeyman who became a contender only in the imagination of the WBO’s rating committee. Some of the big European heavyweights actually have skills and power but they’re growth is stunted by an endless stream of meaningless fights meant only to create eye-popping win-loss records. I submit that had Krasniqi been guided through progressively tougher competition instead of finding himself at age 34 in his first big fight, he may have had some experience to draw on. His loss to Brewster was likely a shock to his system. Brewster is a far cry from Timo Hoffman.

Others on the fringes in no particular order:

Kali Meehan, New Zealand  He finally returned to the ring and stopped little-known, oft-beaten Tommy Connelly on the Brewster-Krasniqi undercard. He’ll have to do quite a bit more to move himself back into real contention.

Owen Beck, USA – We don’t know what’s on the drawing board for “What the Heck?” He needs some wins quickly.

Oliver McCall, USA – His recent demolition of Poland’s Przemyslaw Saleta will undoubtedly get him another chance at a name fighter. He has to make the most of whatever comes his way. Forty-year-old fighters don’t have a long shelf life.

Lance Whitaker, USA – Set to take on Gabe Brown on October 1st. He’s attempting to reconstruct a career following a loss to Krasniqi. Louis Monaco, a fighter with a decidedly losing record was first up. Brown at least has a winning slate. Whitaker knows he’ll need to stay busy and score a significant win soon in order to get back into the mix. 

Alexander Dimitrenko, Ukraine – A close but unanimous win over Vaughn Bean on the Brewster-Krasniqi undercard represents a step up for the 6’7”, 249-pound, 23-year-old. He’s moving in the right direction. At 20-0 he needs more and better competition each month.

Ruslan Chagaev, Uzbekistan – I finally had a chance to see one of his past fights and it appears the southpaw has some ability. If his level of competition does not rise soon, however, he’s at risk of finding himself in a situation similar to that experienced by Luan Krasniqi. He’ll run up an impressive record only to be stunned by a top fighter. You better get with it Ruslan or you’ll be left in the dust.

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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