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Articles of 2005

The Natural: Carl Froch

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Boxing; the sport, the business, the promotion – all come naturally to British and Commonwealth super-middleweight champion Carl Froch. Relaxed and confident in conversation, the loquacious Nottingham puncher afforded me some time ahead of a clash with British-based South African Ruben Groenewald on December 2nd.

Froch’s confidence inside the ring – from the low-slung left to the all-action offence – is matched only by a waspish tongue outside it. In tandem with promoter Mick Hennessy, and the imagination of his copywriters, a marketable persona has been finely tuned.  Almost five thousand bought tickets to see his victory over slippery British contemporary Matthew Barney, so the message sells. But is it real?

Eventually, the talk, the confidence, the press releases have to be substantiated and whilst 2005 has been a good year for Froch, compiling victories over Henry Porras, Barney and the presumed success against Groenewald, if all goes according to plan it will serve only as a pretext for the assault on European and world titles in 2006.

Super-middleweight, where Froch operates, has been home to a selection of Britain’s finest fighters of the past generation; from the division’s first world champion Murray Sutherland to Nigel Benn, Michael Watson, Chris Eubank, Steve Collins, Robin Reid and of course, Joe Calzaghe. On the subject of Calzaghe, Froch is on familiar territory.

I’ve been trying to get a fight with Calzaghe for about eight months, maybe longer, and he’s had opportunities when he could have boxed me but…” Froch pauses, forlornly shaking his head. Had offers simply been press talk or had ‘the call’ actually been made? “This fight was always going to be difficult to make because of the politics, but I tried to cut through all that by antagonising Calzaghe. If he had responded and shown that he was interested in the fight we could have then made it happen, but he remained deadly silent. Then his dad (Enzo Calzaghe) publicly priced him out. He asked for a million quid, which is ridiculous because he doesn’t get that for a normal defence, and if he thinks I’m a novice and he things he can beat me easily, why ask for a million quid?”

A plausible enough question; in Calzaghe’s defence, tackling Froch while the Nottingham puncher was still on the professional learning curve would have attracted its share of dissenters too. Froch does make a solid case for himself though; after all, Calzaghe’s recent dance card hasn’t been a who’s who of world-class fighters.

“I’ve sort of given up on Calzaghe now. Just not interested in him to be honest. If he was gonna fight me he would have done by now. He’s had opportunity to fight, defend against me for his title in voluntaries, and he boxed people like that Kenyan (Evans Ashira)in his last fight, who’s ranked way below me.” Froch delivers these judgements as fact, unflinching and pointed; it’s familiar ground for the unbeaten contender and, as most boxing fans know, defending Calzaghe’s level of opposition is an onerous undertaking.“Until Ashira suddenly appeared in the WBO’s super middleweight rankings one place above me just before he fought Calzaghe, he hadn’t even been rated at super middleweight. So I was a much better fight for him, I’m 8th with the WBC, but he didn’t have it, so I’ve given up on him.”

With a leap to world title class appearing at least six to twelve months away, despite Hennessy Sports record for negotiating the rankings minefield better than most, Froch is determined to stick to the traditional route through British, Commonwealth and European titles. “In the New Year I’m looking for European Vitali Tsypko, big tall strong Ukrainian, southpaw, get him over here and bang him out. That’s the idea.”

The big, tall Ukrainian Froch refers to won’t be across the ring should he succeed in earning a shot at the prestigious European title any time soon – Frenchman Jackson Chanet outpointed Tsypko last weekend – but the confidence and direction Froch demonstrates is infectious. Naming targets is an easy occupation for any fighter, but time in Froch’s company serves to undermine the seriousness of his intent. These are more than loose quotes and soundbites ahead of a routine spar.

Should Froch dispatch Groenewald as widely predicted, the most likely next opponent will be Irishman Brian Magee – his mandated challenger for the British championship. Two more defences would secure Froch the British Lonsdale belt, a key milestone for any aspiring young fighter. Froch’s real challenge will be finding two valid opponents. With former champion Tony Dodson only just returning from a catalogue of misfortune, Barney already vanquished and Calzaghe operating at a more elite level, is the 168 lb. cupboard all but bare?

“I don’t know if there are two opponents; we’ve got Magee that counts as British, and then there also is Robin Reid, but I don’t know if he’s prepared to drop down to domestic titles. Reid’s quality and history don’t appear to phase Froch, swiftly moving to assess what the proud Runcorn man has left following a crushing defeat to Jeff Lacy earlier this year. “I don’t think he really wants it, he just wants to earn a few more quid and the turn it in, I don’t think he really wants to fight. He’s not the man he was when he fought Calzaghe. I thought he beat Calzaghe.”

The spectre of the longstanding and oft-maligned WBO champion is never far from the conversation. For all Froch claims he’s looking past the Welshman to the new hotshot Jeff Lacy, Calzaghe clearly casts a perpetual shadow over Froch’s otherwise sunny disposition. “That’s Calzaghe’s traits, showing himself again. Split decision (against Reid) and yet no rematch.” Comfortable assessing rivals, every line delivered with purpose and without hesitation, Froch maintains a healthy respect for his contemporaries. Countering that despite his critics Calzaghe remains a terrific fighter, Froch willingly agrees. “Great fighter. Tough, strong, stays in there. Fast hands. Bags of heart; he’s got up a few times.”

In a career course astutely plotted to capitalise on the value and integrity of the three classic regional belts – British, Commonwealth and European – Froch is determined to secure defining fights, something he suspects may already have escaped Calzaghe. “I don’t think he will, he’s past it now, he’s not past it past it as in gone, but he’s not what he was, so he’s not got giving himself the best chance.” Now in full flow, Froch lamented on Calzaghe’s career to date. “Took the easy route. When he sits on his rocking chair when he’s seventy, smoking his pipe, is he going to be happy with himself? Because I wouldn’t be. I’d rather get beat trying than not [bleeping] try at all. Get a big fight, I want to fight Lacy now, badly want to fight Lacy.”

Fighting the division’s elite may be on Froch’s wish list, but in the short-term he tackles game South African Groenewald, who’s career highlights include two shared decisions with the now retired Anthony Farnell at 160lbs. Given the lofty aspirations Froch imparts, boxing’s observers could be forgiven for questioning Groenewald’s credentials; after all, he’s far removed from the Lacy, Calzaghe and Kessler class. Despite a supreme confidence in the outcome, Froch is bullish about the match. “Tough South African, comes to win, he’s had plenty of notice, so he’ll be super-fit, never been stopped. It’s a great fight, he’s had seven weeks, seven weeks, minimum, he’s had had plenty of time. Good. I’m glad. I don’t want him having any excuses when he’s finished getting bludgeoned.” Froch adjusts his tone, effortlessly promoting the opponent ahead of the clash when he needs to.

Although relatively inactive over the past three years, Groenewald has pursued profile matches throughout and Froch himself is only just punching again following summer surgery on his right hand. “Had the hand fixed, knuckle still swells up a bit but not like it was before, it was a nightmare before the op. Not really nervous about it, not at all. I’m hitting the bag full on and I only have a tiny pad on, but I’m still not able to hit someone full on the chin with a 10oz Reyes glove. I’ll find out in this fight wont I? But I’m not worried about it.” The puncher’s curse of hand trouble doesn’t dim Froch’s enthusiasm or self-belief. On the evidence of the sparring and bag work undertaken following the interview there appears little reluctance to employ the right. Something he wishes he could have done versus Barney; he elected to take the fight ahead of surgery and in the knowledge the hand was almost redundant. “I had one hand in that fight anyway. Got him out of the way and shut him up. He’s probably back in Canada now laying tarmac where he [bleeping] belongs. I don’t have to listen to his shit now for the next five years, [saying I] swerved him or skipped him. I boxed him with one hand, beat him one-handed, and he disgraced himself running and holding.”

Froch’s natural ability and fighting style has already attracted attention stateside, Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions is now a productive affiliate in the States. The partnership could prove its value next year if Froch is successful in reaching world title level. In the sport and business of boxing, the age-old adage of ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know’ was never more pertinent. “The link up with Golden Boy gives me the opportunity to gain exposure and top level experience in America. It will also make it easier for Mick Hennessy to land the superfights down the line for me.” Dreams of American superfights are one thing, but Froch’s bond with the people of Nottingham is a strong one. “Ideally, I want to fight in Nottingham. I mean look at Hatton and the MEN Arena; that’s why he’s making so much money. You need the backing of the fans. It’s not a massive town but hopefully the arena won’t be big enough; it holds 10,000. When I’m defending world titles I expect to be able to fill it.” Froch’s fixed eye contact stresses the seriousness of his plan.

Recent developments in boxing coverage in the UK: BBC no longer covers professional bouts; SKY now cherry picks shows and are aligned with no specific promoter; and ITV’s return almost exclusively supplied by Frank Warren’s Sport Network stable, create additional obstacles in plotting a fighter’s career. Froch has remained loyal to Hennessy Sports, despite fluctuating relationships with the television networks, and whilst the idea that the TV factor could hinder his progression resonates with Froch, he remains confident that ultimately results and performances will ensure his career unfolds as planned. “I’m 28, but I don’t worry about my age. Ultimately, I want to be top level in America.My ultimate goal is to fight Lacy, Kessler and the top champions and unify the division or at least fight them, that sort of level. If I do, I’ll be on Showtime, HBO and SKY; that’s where I wanna be, where the big money is. Regardless of whether it’s Sky, ITV or BBC – which I’ve been on loads – I’m still getting shown and I’ll get to where I wanna be eventually: beating the right fighters, at the right time. Mick’s (Hennessy) got a good relationship with Golden Boy and once I’ve got this European title I’ll be up there and I can say ‘I wanna fight Grant or Sheika, Beyer or Kessler.’ It’s up to me then. Unification with Lacy, or whoever else has got the belt at the time. I mean Calzaghe might grow a set of bollacks and fight me!”

Self-belief is a quintessential quality for any fighter, regardless of their horizons. Stepping between the ropes is no place for the timid or fainthearted, but self-belief can soon give way to arrogance in the wrong hands. Whilst there are those who feel Froch’s demeanour and ring style suggests a proximity to that pitfall, the fighter himself explains that his style of boxing is about entertainment and despite his success he’s still seeking to improve. “Improvements? I’m learning and improving all the time. I mean someone who is a fan of mine or wanted to be critical of me – What about Carl Froch?” they’d say – “Oh he’s got no defence” –  so I’m working on my defence all the time in sparring; ducking and diving, blocking, slipping and countering.”

Suddenly aware of the implied weakness, Froch is swift to clarify the point. “I’ve never needed to use my defence the way I can. I’ve always been on top, been in front, always found the game easy. I’m offensive. I’m letting the shots go and I get clipped with the odd shot. I take risks; I want to get my opponent out of there. I don’t want to win on points over twelve rounds, bore the crowd and not entertain. I want to entertain and that means getting caught with a right hand off Henry Porras or walking into a couple of silly shots from Matthew Barney, you know what I mean?”

With the incessant drum of a nearby skipping rope making conversation hard and with hand wraping complete, it’s time to close the conversation; I explained that the underlying discovery I’d sought was whether the man behind the quotes and the “Cobra” moniker was real. When he spoke publicly of beating Calzaghe, Lacy et al and being the greatest sportsman in England, did he believe it or was it simply a bid to garner attention? My conclusion was an unequivocal yes, he does. Every quip, comment and judgement is said without hesitation; this is what Froch believes – the confidence is genuine and deeply held but where does it originate?

“Yeah, I’m super confident. I train hard. I don’t cut corners. The wins I’ve had are great wins and I was a top amateur. So when I’m talking It’s not just I’m this or I’m that, I actually believe what I’m doing. As an amateur I was learning, but as a professional I’m confident. Six weeks with Howard Eastman in Miami; now whatever you say about Eastman he’s a top fighter. I know he got beat by Hopkins, but he’s probably a little bit past his best but when you’re standing in front of Eastman, trading off with him. Anyone in the world is gonna struggle but I’ve had hundred of rounds with him and I handle him every time. I’m not being bigheaded; I know when I’ve won a fight or when I’ve lost a round. I just float around with him and do what I want.”

It all comes natural to Carl Froch.

(My thanks to Jason Frost at Hennessy Sports and Robert McCracken for their help in arranging this interview.)

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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