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Articles of 2005

Top 25 Heavyweights (As of November 1, 2005)

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This is our sixth edition of the Grant Top 25 Heavyweights. We had some activity among the fighters at the bottom of the list. Most notably, Jameel McCline fell big with a loss to Zuri Lawrence, a fighter who in 35 fights has never scored a knockout. Expect some movement in the next two months with V. Klitschko, Rahman, Ruiz, Valuev, Harrison, D. Williams, Maskaev, and Skelton all in action.

The division continues to be derided but it is clear enough to me it is because the belt holders refuse to face each other. Enough overall talent exists in the division – if there is only one champion. Unifications will go a long way in reinstating the division as the most watched in boxing.

Of course the Klitschko-Rahman bout is the likely to be the heavyweight showdown of the year (followed closely by W. Klitschko-Peter). When the dust settles, expect the winner to start calling out the other titleholders. We don’t know if it will make any difference but we’ll remain optimistic.
Comments continue to flow in after the ratings are published. Keep voicing your opinions.

1. Vitali Klitschko, Ukraine – WBC Champion (Last Month #1) Klitschko and his upcoming opponent Hasim Rahman are in the final stages of preparation for their November 12 showdown dubbed “Seek and Destroy.” There won’t be much seeking inasmuch as both fighters will attempt to connect with their heavy hands early and often. Questions to be answered: Will the long layoff be detrimental to Klitschko? Can Rahman recapture his sharpness evidenced in his victory over Kali Meehan, or will he put us to sleep with another snoozer the way he did against Monte Barrett? Let’s just hope “Seek and Destroy” does not become “Wait and See.”

2. Hasim Rahman, USA (Last Month #2) This is Rahman’s last best chance to go to the mountaintop once more. A loss to Klitschko and he is likely finished as a serious contender. He has to know this.

3. Lamon Brewster, USA – WBO Champion (Last month #3) There are many possibilities for the hard-punching Brewster. His next mandatory is Wladimir Klitschko, but the Ukrainian is also the mandatory for Chris Byrd. Whoever Brewster’s next opponent may be, we hope that the American public gets to see it. Brewster has all the attributes to become a very popular figure.

4. Wladimir Klitschko, Ukraine (Last month #4) The younger Klitschko claims to want another fight in December though we’ve seen no movement on that yet. Byrd can wait a while because he recently fulfilled a mandatory. Our suspicion is that he really does not want a fight with Klitschko inasmuch as he turned down millions to fight him earlier and settled for a bargain basement fee for Williamson. Klitschko will likely take some interim bouts before one of the titlists are required to face him.

5. James Toney, USA (Last month #6) JT has evaded every reasonable measure used to evaluate readiness to compete at the elite level. He is too old, too heavy and too short to meet and beat the big men. Yet he does, with utter domination. I’ve picked against him twice recently only to see him obliterate the conventional wisdom. This man may just win a heavyweight belt within the year. I can actually visualize a Toney victory over Chris Byrd.

6. Chris Byrd, USA – IBF Champion (Last month #5) We’ve come to a place with Chris Byrd that requires that he fight one of his fellow belt holders or he slides into obscurity. Theoretically he is required to face Wladimir Klitschko – a fight that is almost certain to be a loss. Such a defense will reap more than the $425K he earned against Williamson, but less than he would earn against brother Vitali Klitschko. If I were his advisor, I’d tell him to dump the IBF belt and challenge Vitali. He’ll lose but it will be a far more substantial payday.

7. Calvin Brock, USA (Last month #7) He faces David Bostice November 19. A tentative date with David Tua awaits with a win over Bostice. He’ll likely have to wait to be named a mandatory before anyone with a belt will face him. He still represents the American future of the division. A well-spoken, skilled fighter, if he can continue his winning ways he will likely become a PPV attraction on a regular basis.

8. Audley Harrison, England (Last month #8) He’s signed to fight Danny Williams in an all-British affair. Look, the truth is Harrison is the most underrated heavyweight fighter in the game today. He will dismantle a highly motivated and hard-hitting Williams – but his detractors will remain entrenched. The date for the bout is December 10 in London.

9. Samuel Peter, Nigeria (Last month #9) His loss to Klitschko can be a building block to a more solid future if he absorbs the lessons he had beaten into him. He should have learned that power alone is not the answer; he has a true heavyweight chin; he can go 12 hard rounds; and he must diversify his attack to remain an elite fighter. I’m betting he improves dramatically.

10. Monte Barrett, USA (Last month #10) None of us like to see a talented, solid campaigner get only one real shot as he did with Rahman. A few minor wins and he could knock on the door again.

11. John Ruiz, USA – WBA Champion (Last month #11) Reports abound that he will meet the giant Nicolay Valuev in Berlin in December. Who knows which fighter enters with an edge. The bout just barely registers on the “who cares?” meter. If this comes off, however, maybe it will be the end of the Kevin McBride talk.

12. Nicolay Valuev, Russia (Last month #13) His title eliminator majority decision over Larry Donald puts him next in line for John Ruiz. By all accounts it was not an impressive win, but the big guy poked enough with his mile-long jab to take home the call. It could get ugly against Ruiz. (Okay, we know it will be ugly).

13. David Tua, New Zealand (Last month #18) He clearly beat a capable and very big Cisse Salif October 21st despite a bizarre split decision. He also did not exhibit the high-volume power punching that took him to a title fight with Lennox Lewis. He’s a tad slower and oh so easy to hit. It may not have shown against Salif, but it almost surely will if his scheduled bout with Calvin Brock comes to fruition.

14. DaVarryl Williamson, USA (Last month #14) The fight with Chris Byrd was just terrible. Lots of posing. Lots of nothing. Williamson has some ability and has some power. None of his ability and none of his power were used to any advantage in what could be his only shot at a heavyweight title. He moves to the back of the line.

15. Danny Williams, England (Last month #15) Matt Skelton is out, but a much better opponent in Audley Harrison is in. Williams will be a decided underdog. This is his last, best chance at getting another crack at another money fight.

16. Oleg Maskaev, Uzbekistan (Last month #17) In yet another WBC title eliminator, he’ll face Sinan Samil Sam. Given that Juan Carlos Gomez beat Oliver McCall in another WBC eliminator, it would seem the WBC is going out of its way to give Vitali Klitschko a European-based fighter to be his next mandatory (should he prevail over Rahman). Both “eliminators” are goofy. Not one of the four participating fighters is remotely close to being the top contender in the division.

17. Shannon Briggs, USA (Last month #19) On November 4th he’ll return against yet another stay-busy opponent – not yet named – in New York. He’ll start taking criticism for facing a lower-grade of opponents, but by keeping busy he’ll make a move on a rated guy within a few months.

18. Serguei Lyakhovich, Belarus (Last month #20) It has now been 11 months since he beat Dominick Guinn. An injury kept him out of a date with prospect Owen Beck. Serguei where are you?

19. Ray Austin, USA (Last month #24) No word yet on when he will capitalize on his win over Owen Beck.

20. Matt Skelton, England (Last month #23) The proposed Danny Williams match is now officially off. In comes Tyson conqueror Kevin McBride. This bout is just the kind of bout that will continue to keep Skelton busy while giving McBride the chance to prove his victory over Tyson wasn’t over a shell of Tyson. Okay, I’m kidding, there was no doubt that it was a shell of Tyson.

21. Dominick Guinn, USA (Last month #21) This man remains a puzzle to us. He showed flashes against James Toney of the talent that brought him to early prominence as a pro. He also oddly stood one-inch away from Toney who is 6 inches shorter and figured to dominate a phone-booth fight — just as he had done 68 times before. Guinn’s corner gave him the right advice. He chose to largely ignore it.

22. Fres Oquendo, USA/Puerto Rico (Last month #22) No fights in 18 months. We’re losing interest in a fighter who had some real talent.

23. Ruslan Chagaev, Uzbekistan (Last month unranked) He stopped Brazilian Jucimar Hipolito in one round on the Brewster-Krasniqi undercard. The man is 26 years old. Are they going to keep padding the record until he’s 34 like Krasniqi before they put him in with serious competition? It’s a mistake if they do. He has some ability and needs to develop it.

24. Luan Krasniqi, Germany (Last month #25) Upon review of the video snippets provided by Krasniqi’s promoter, it is clear that he pulled a quit-job against Brewster. It is just more evidence that some of the more skilled Europeans don’t get tested enough early in their careers in situations that will help them in big fights.

25. Zuri Lawrence, USA (Last month unranked) Who would’ve ever predicted that a guy who, after 35 professional fights in the heavyweight division, and having scored zero knockouts, could’ve climbed into the ratings. It may prove a short-lived experience but beating Jameel McCline has him riding cloud nine for now.

Others on the fringes in no particular order:

Jameel McCline, USA (Last month #12) Zuri Lawrence clearly zoomed past a ponderous McCline. While no one can be sure from a couple of fights, it appears the 35-year-old McCline is in decline. Unless something really big changes, he has probably had his last chance at the big time.

Corrie Sanders, South Africa (Last month #16) Some reports coming from my intrepid readers indicates Corrie may be retiring due to persistent injuries. You’re out Corrie.

Kirk Johnson, Canada – We’ve ignored him but he’s still around and still dangerous. He’s back to a more normal 240-ish since Vitali Klitshcko destroyed his ballooned version. He’s also won two fights since then. A few more wins and he’ll compete for a ranking.

Kali Meehan, New Zealand – “Checkmate” appears to be taking the European route to a ranking. His victory over American club-fighter Tommy Connelly on the Brewster-Krasniqi undercard may mean many more such contests.

Owen Beck, Jamaica – A pair of recent losses have set back the campaign of “What the Heck”. He has time to regroup. Now is the time to get on with it.

Juan Carlos Gomez, Cuba (living in Germany) – I’ve received angry mail for months for ignoring Gomez. After all he’s a former cruiserweight titlist who is 39-1 etc…  The truth is he moved back to Germany, the land of most of those victories, because he was falling short in the U.S. He’s an above average boxer with limited heavyweight power. I just don’t see him beating the big men at the top.

Lance Whitaker, USA – Stopped Gabe Brown in five rounds on the Tarver-Jones undercard. Believe it or not – although he was at the heaviest weight of his career, 272¾, he gave up nearly 65 pounds to Brown. Staying busy is his best course of action. We wouldn’t mind seeing him return to Germany to clean up the mess he left there with Krasniqi. It could happen – Krasniqi has some redeeming to do himself after his “no mas” against Brewster.

Alexander Dimitrenko, Ukraine – His last time out was a tough, close decision over Vaughn Bean. Another tough fight with a fringe contender is in order.

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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