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Articles of 2005

Top 25 Heavyweights (As of December 1, 2005)

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The sudden departure from the scene by Vitali Klitschko has just as suddenly generated interest in a unification series – at least that’s the talk of Don King, the man who holds promotional rights for all four of the current titlists. That applecart can be upset soon, however, as WBA belt holder John Ruiz meets “The Beast from the East” Nicolay Valuev in December. Additional talk of Chris Byrd trying to fly the coup could also mean trouble for DK.

However, don’t bet on outcomes that will derail a Don-only tournament. Ruiz will likely be favored against the Valuev despite the big man’s 42-0 record. When the big men rumble in Berlin in December anything can happen.

As for Byrd, don’t count on seeing King losing in any court action. He is the heavyweight champion of the courtroom. Also don’t plan on ever seeing Byrd take on his number one challenger, Wladimir Klitschko. Byrd, who recently came oh-so-close to accusing Wladimir of being on steroids going into their 2000 bout, has been grasping for years to explain that loss. It is at least possible that he lost because he is not as good a boxer, he’s not as fast, he can’t punch as hard, he’s smaller etc… Maybe, just maybe, he’s just not as good. Despite all of that, Byrd is still a top fighter and not many contenders can find a way to beat him.

Hasim Rahman has shown no reluctance to meet fighters who present a threat to his well being. He may be a long-term project for Klitschko, however, because talk is shifting to a James Toney defense. Don’t be surprised to see Klitschko agree to a fight with winner with the stipulation that he enters a King tournament and a defense or two.

Of course Toney should not be able to jump over Klitschko (or Oleg Maskaev the ostensible number one WBC contender with his recent win over the then-number 1 Sinan Samil Sam) but don’t try to get there through any kind of logic. Read more on this debacle at WBC makes Toney mandatory in bizarre ruling.

Not talked about enough is Lamon Brewster. Brewster has a personality and style that excites all who witness it. His last fight, a successful defense against Luan Krasniqi, was not televised in the U.S. If this type of situation persists it dooms the division’s marketability in the states. Brewster deserves better.  

1. Hasim Rahman, USA(Last Month #2) He is now the heavyweight champion in the eyes of the WBC. He must now prove his mettle in the ring. It looks like James Toney is next – unfairly – and it is a tough climb. Unification and defeat of Wladimir Klitschko must be in his near future if he wants to be seen as the true champion. Now is the time to set things right.

2. Lamon Brewster, USA– WBO Champion (Last month #3) So far there’s nothing on the horizon for “Relentless.” Wladimir Klitschko is the next mandatory but Brewster just beat Krasniqi in a mandatory so he can bypass Wlad for a while. Given that Don King promotes him, don’t expect to see him in with Klitschko soon. Perhaps the beginning of a unification series is in store for him. We’re waiting.

3. Wladimir Klitschko, Ukraine(Last month #4) As the only fighting Klitschko left, this young man has all the pressure on his shoulders to pull in another belt. While he is the ostensible mandatory for Chris Byrd and Lamon Brewster, look for him to be frozen out. The WBC already skipped right over him to give James Toney a shot. If all of the belt holders thought he was a shot fighter a few months ago, the Samuel Peter fight made them think that perhaps he has some juice left. He may be the first major heavyweight fighter in many, many years to not get a title despite being either the number one or highest available contender.

4. James Toney, USA(Last month #5) Suddenly Toney goes from the WBC number 5 contender to being the mandatory challenger for Hasim Rahman. Never mind that number 1 Sinan Samil Sam lost to number 2 Oleg Maskaev. Never mind that number 3 Wladimir Klitschko beat number 7 Samuel Peter. Never mind that number 8 Juan Carlos Gomez beat number 4 Oliver McCall. Never mind that Toney, in his last fight, beat Dominick Guinn – a fighter who is not ranked in the top 40 of the organization’s ratings. No, the WBC sees the number 5 guy as the next mandatory. Listen, the ratings are indeed goofy but it just shows that even the organization itself does not see them as meaningful.

5. Chris Byrd, USA – IBF Champion (Last month #6) The disappearance of Vitali Klitschko was a blow to the future earning potential of Byrd. The Michigan fighter has talent and has always given his best. A defense against Wladimir Klitschko would possibly spell the end of his reign and it probably won’t happen anytime soon. He also has promoter problems. Could we see him go back into hibernation for nearly a year again? You’re 35 Chris; get back into the ring soon.

6. Calvin Brock, USA(Last month #7) He beat journeyman David Bostice in a 12-rounder Nov. 19th and is now set to face Tua in January. While he failed to impress – Bostice has been knocked out three times previously – the workout could prove beneficial. No one knocks out Tua. Nonetheless, Brock is the real thing and you can expect that to show through against Tua.

7. Audley Harrison, England(Last month #8) With Vitali Klitschko gone look for this big man to wear one or more belts by the summer of 2006. Only Wladimir approaches him in natural talent.  It may turnout that he is in fact the complete package. Mark my words – he will be a belt holder by the end of 2006. He’s set for a December all-British showdown with Danny Williams.

8. Samuel Peter, Nigeria(Last month #9) He’s scheduled to face Robert Hawkins on Dec. 5.  Good move. Hawkins is coming off a victory over tough Robert Wiggins. We’ll get a chance to see if Peter learned from his first peek at division’s elite against Wladimir Klitschko.

9. John Ruiz, USA – WBA Champion (Last month #11) When Ruiz meets giant Nicolay Valuev in Berlin in December he will give up nine inches in height and almost 100 pounds in weight.  Valuev has been busy and winning – if not all that impressively – and may prove maul-proof due to his size. In truth – and take a big gulp before you read this – Ruiz is a much more skilled and able fighter than Valuev. Believe it or not he probably punches better as well. Despite his enormous wingspan, Valuev is not especially adept at keeping opponents at bay. Larry Donald was able to hit him almost at will. Nonetheless, this is a difficult encounter for Ruiz.

10. Monte Barrett, USA (Last month #10) Quiet as a mouse since losing to Hasim Rahman in what turned out to be a heavyweight title fight.

11. Nicolay Valuev, Russia (Last month #12) Despite his Russian origin, in his meeting with John Ruiz in Berlin he will be the hometown hero. Valuev is quite popular in Germany and he actually has some skills. Whether he can bring it all together against Ruiz, a fighter who finds ways to win, is difficult to gauge. Ruiz has more tricks in his bag than Valuev – many of which are distasteful to view. This one could go either way but I lean toward Ruiz.

12. David Tua, New Zealand (Last month #13) He gets a chance to return to the top 10 when he meets Calvin Brock in January. He’ll have to be much better than he was against Cisse Salif if he is to get past the busy and skilled Brock.

13. DaVarryl Williamson, USA(Last month #14) According to a news release on his website he underwent surgery in October on his right elbow following his title-shot loss to Chris Byrd and will be out 6-8 weeks.

14. Danny Williams, England(Last month #15) His chances against Audley Harrison are slim. A win, however, guarantees him at least one big all-British fight against Matt Skelton or a major U.S. contender. Expect this one to be his last gasp and last big payday.

15. Oleg Maskaev, Uzbekistan(Last month #16) He zoomed past Sinan Samil Sam in a WBC title eliminator and won something called the WBC International title. Coming into the bout he was ranked number 2 while Sam was number 1. His so-called reward for beating the so-called number 1 fighter was to see the number 5 James Toney zoom past him to a mandatory title shot. Obviously most boxing people don’t think Maskaev and Sam are number 1 material, but how can anyone ever see the WBC ratings as meaningful again?

16. Shannon Briggs, USA (Last month #17) He scored a first round knockout over someone named Brian Scott on November 26th in Fort Smith, Arkansas. The bout served the purpose of keeping the former top contender busy and setting up a big payday.

17. Serguei Lyakhovich, Belarus(Last month #18) It has now been a full year since his last fight. No status update on an injury that has kept him sidelined since then.

18. Ray Austin, USA(Last month #19) In his two fights this year he settled for a draw with Larry Donald and he upset Owen Beck by decision. The WBC saw fit to push him to number 6 in its latest ratings published on the organization’s website. Given that number 5 James Toney is now the mandatory challenger, logic would have it that another win by Austin over anyone could propel him into a title shot. Never know.

19. Matt Skelton, England(Last month #20) Scheduled to face John McDermott in defense of his British crown in December. A win could mean a match against the Harrison-Williams fight.

20. Ruslan Chagaev, Uzbekistan (Last month #23) The undefeated Uzbeki is scheduled for a December in Germany against an opponent yet to be named.

21. Sultan Ibragimov, Russia (Last month unranked) He and his upcoming opponent Lance Whitaker are scheduled to go at December 15th in Florida, but at their recent press conference announcing the fight they rumbled in front the world for free. It is a commentary on the relative state of the sport that such an event draws mention on the sports shows but when the best fighter in the world, Floyd Mayweather beats an honestly ranked top 10 fighter it’s as if it never happened. Maybe they should do it again. A win over Whitaker will prove a major boost to go along with a relatively recent stoppage win over the suddenly hot Zuri Lawrence.

22. Juan Carlos Gomez, Cuba (living in Germany) (Last month unranked) Gomez is ranked number 8 by the WBC and he recently beat number 4 Oliver McCall. We all know that neither of them should be in the top 10 but it is interesting to see that he is now frozen out of contention for the time being despite his victory. James Toney gets the nod due to his recent victory over Dominick Guinn, a fighter no where to be found in the WBC’s top 40. Yes 40.

23. Luan Krasniqi, Germany(Last month #24) On his website he says he’s going to fight again but doesn’t have an opponent scheduled. He needs a hot streak very quickly if he is to ever have a title chance again.

24. Zuri Lawrence, USA (Last month #25) Still basking in the glory of his victory over Jameel McCline. He needs another win over a name fighter to realize a major payday – the fact that he has no knockouts in his 35 fights doesn’t sell all that well.

25. Jameel McCline, USA(Last month unranked) Following his loss to Zuri Lawrence in October, he came right back with a first round knockout over Andy Sample in November. No one is reading much into the win because it certainly was not against a top foe. Nonetheless, McCline is smart enough to keep plugging along and it will likely pay off in the form of at least one more money fight.

SPECIAL MENTION: Vitali Klitschko, Ukraine – WBC Champion (Last Month #1) Last month we worried that the Klitschko-Rahman bout would end up being “Wait and See” instead of “Seek and Destroy” as billed. Little did we know that it would mean yet another delay – forever. Klitschko may have seen his last days in the boxing ring, but we suspect he will move on to bigger and better things outside the squared circle. Strangely, the WBC says that if comes back he will be installed as the instant mandatory challenger. Does anyone take the WBC seriously anymore?

Others on the fringes in no particular order:

Dominick Guinn, USA(Last month #21) – It’s back to the drawing board for this one-time prospect. There is unmistakable talent but there are unmistakable lapses. He’ll need to figure it all out or he won’t ever compete for the crown.

Lance Whitaker, USA – He did something almost no fighter has been able to do in quite some time and that is get himself on the news section of the cable sports channels with his brawl with Ibragimov. Perhaps a win could get him back in the mix. He still needs to clean up the Krasniqi mess he left.

Alexander Dimitrenko, Ukraine – He is now signed to fight Rob Calloway in January. Calloway is king of the club circuit. He has won nine consecutive fights since being knocked out by Hasim Rahman. Calloway has a pretty fair chin, having been stopped only by Rahman and Audley Harrison. This is the kind of fight Dimitrenko needs at this stage of his blossoming career.

Fres Oquendo, USA/Puerto Rico (Last month #22) – No fights in 20 months. What happened?

Kirk Johnson, Canada – Last fought in June. He needs a couple of wins to be competitive in the rankings.

Owen Beck, Jamaica – He went 0-2 in 2005 after being touted as a hot prospect. He’ll have to have a much better year in 2006 if he hopes to get to the top.

Kali Meehan, New Zealand – Nothing on the boards for the New Zealander. He put himself back in the win column in September but not against top competition. He may be on the European circuit in which case he could score numerous wins over one club fighter after another. In all candor, the club circuit is just where he belongs.

Sinan Samil Sam, Germany– While he doesn’t qualify for a ranking here, he was, until his loss to Maskaev, ranked number 1 by the WBC. Now he will likely drop off the face of the planet.

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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