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Articles of 2005

Taylor-Hopkins II Fight Predictions



Live Saturday night from the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, the rematch between Jermain Taylor and Bernard Hopkins, codenamed “No Respect,” will be broadcast on HBO PPV. It’s the same scenario as last time, the old master vs. the young gun, but in number two it’s Hopkins chasing after Taylor. Does Hopkins turn the tables on the young middleweight champ? Or is it Taylor time now and forevermore? This is how The Sweet Science writers see it.

This fight won't be any different from the original. Hopkins has always been a patient, tactical fighter. He won't rush in and attack. He'll sit back and wait for openings – just like last time. Taylor will storm out of his corner looking for the knockout, which he won't get. As a result, this fight will enter the late rounds with Taylor ahead. Hopkins will make another late surge. He will stagger and hurt Taylor. But he won't knock him out. Taylor will win another disputed, split decision.
Matthew Aguilar

Oh Lord, please don't let Bernard Hopkins go the way of Roy Jones Jr. Please grant him the grace to throw punches and duck those thrown at him. And, Lord, for all that is good and kind, don't let him feel the need to clown. Oh wait. I forgot Bernard Hopkins is nothing like Roy Jones and has plenty more talent, skill and cunning. Hopkins will pull this one off as it goes the distance. He'll just need to put a little more pressure on Jermain Taylor than he did in the first attempt.
Jesse K. Cox

Hopkins by decision. I don't see a knockout by either fighter, but I think “The Executioner” puts it all together for one last hurrah. Of course, I said the same thing about Roy Jones Jr. when he fought Antonio Tarver the third and last time.
Rick Folstad

I'm among those who believe this is Jermain Taylor's fight to win or lose. I truly believe he won the first fight by a slight margin, and I also believe on that night he became a better fighter. All Hopkins did was get older. So, that being said, with Taylor getting better and Hopkins getting older, this one belongs to Taylor on a decision, probably a little bit easier and wider than the first bout. The winna' and STILL undisputed middleweight champeen of the world…Jermaine Taylor.
Randy Gordon

Why are boxing fans always in such denial when one of the greats is discovered to be fallible? Mike Tyson was the favorite in his rematch with Evander Holyfield. Oscar De La Hoya was the favorite in his rematch with Shane Mosley. Johnny Tapia was the favorite in his rematch with Paulie Ayala. The examples are plentiful. And here Jermain Taylor finds himself the underdog once again after beating Bernard Hopkins last time. Taylor will win again, this time more convincingly. Taylor in a convincing unanimous decision.
Tim Graham

 In the first fight Bernard Hopkins drew on all his considerable talent and mental toughness and did the best he could with what he had. But something was clear for the first time – Bernard was and is a fighter in decline, however slight. Yes, he can meet and beat almost every top middleweight in the world even now. And yes, his level of conditioning is light years better than most 25 year old men anywhere on earth. Unfortunately, at the most elite level of boxing even a slight loss of a fighter's physical powers is enough to result in him being pushed out of the championship. Jermain Taylor has perhaps the best vision of where this fight will go. He knows what Bernard has left and he knows he can handle it. Further, despite the fact that Bernard is a physical dynamo by any measure, in Jermain Taylor he is meeting another special athlete and one who is in his physical prime. Moreover, Taylor undoubtedly is continuing to improve his game and it is highly likely he learned a great deal from the old master the last time out. Don't look for Bernard to be overwhelmed by anyone, however, even if he continues to do battle into his 50's. Taylor will be better, stronger, faster, and way more confident. Hopkins will be cagey, strong, well-conditioned, and mentally tough – but it won't be enough this time. Taylor by a much clearer 12 round decision.
JE Grant

Hopkins by decision over Taylor. This fight will go the distance and you will see none of the “complete gentlemen” attitude Jay Nady said both fighters displayed in July. Taylor has the title. Hopkins wants it back. Hopkins will employ all of his craftiness, ring savvy and considerable skills to regain his championship.
Amy Green

In a practical and historical sense there's no tomorrow for the champion. Jermain Taylor must fight like a champion, the younger man, the guy in his prime and dispose of the forty-year-old lion Bernard Hopkins. If he allows Hopkins inside his head or to establish the same kind of situational fight as last time, even with variations, then it will be Hopkins proving his own greatness, win or lose. So the onus is on Taylor to do what he's seemingly been fated to do; such are the slings and arrows of his outrageous fortune. For this fight, in this time, he's got to make a definitive statement of dominating quality. He'll never have this nexus-like fight again; there will likely be others, but this is unique. Great fighters make authoritative statements in these kinds of fights, as Hopkins did in his epic outing against Trinidad in 2001. I believe Taylor has the tools, the character and now the fitness to see it through. Taylor's upper end fitness is vital for it's his only problematic area – the key issue being how much water weight he carries post-weigh-in –and Hopkins knows it, is banking on it. Team Taylor will have to hit their target number on the money, literally. I can see Taylor winning inside the distance this time but…Taylor UD12 Hopkins.
Patrick Kehoe

We've spent years waiting for Bernard Hopkins to show his age. If one accepts the proposition that it finally started to happen in the  first Taylor fight, the fact that he'll be half a year older still  this time around becomes even more critical. We like Taylor by decision – again – but don't expect a carbon copy of the first fight. Hopkins knows he dug himself a deep hole with his customarily methodical approach and will be uncharacteristically aggressive in the early going as he tries to re-establish himself as the Alpha Male in Taylor's eyes.
George Kimball

I think Taylor has made a mistake by disrespecting 'Nard as he has lately. It is not like giving The Executioner more motivation would make things easier, but Taylor certainly has erased any notion that Hopkins might be content to take the money and head off into retirement after another loss. Instead, I think Hopkins might be as nasty as he ever was and that could make for a rough night and a tough fight. Taylor would be wise to use his youth, speed and movement to outbox Bernard and take a decision win. He should. If he doesn't, I think Hopkins will be rowdy and nasty in the ring. If all goes according to plan, Jermain will picks his spots and shots and win a close decision. If he doesn't and decides to bring the fight in close where Hopkins is more comfortable, all bets are off.
Joey Knish

Bernard Hopkins fought the best fight he could against Jermain Taylor in their first encounter, and it should have been enough to earn him the decision. No fighter knows his body, and its limitations, better than “The Executioner.” In fact, at nearly 41, he should no longer be dubbed the “The Executioner” but “The Philly Fox” – guile is his main weapon of choice. He may have executed opponents when he was in peak form – I'd say 1997-2001 – but has slipped considerably since then. Yet he was still too crafty, too nasty, and too skilled a counterpuncher for the then 26-year-old Taylor. A lot has changed since Taylor was given Hopkins' belts five months ago. And while Taylor (and his people) knew before he was handed titles he hadn't done enough to win, through the power of suggestion, he has comes to believe they are rightfully his. “Bad Intentions” has no intentions of giving them back. The question is: can Hopkins improve as a fighter at this late stage in the game, enough to overcome The System which inspires so much paranoia in him? Not likely. Can Taylor be a better fighter this time around? Definitely. Taylor will successfully defend the belts Saturday night. This time his victory will be more clear-cut than controversial.
Zachary Levin

In the first fight I expected Hopkins to win. Now, I'm not sure if I'm going with my heart instead of my head, if I've drunk the Kool-Aid that Lou DiBella has poured or if I truly believe that Jermain Taylor is the better fighter now. Taylor didn't show me enough in the first bout. But I have a feeling that he has a grasp as to how important this fight is. While he's still young and could easily rebound from a loss, beating Hopkins would be the first step in building his legacy. I expect Taylor and Hopkins to come out more aggressive than last time, with both fighters landing many meaningful shots. At the end, Taylor will emerge with a close and deserved decision.
Marc Lichtenfeld

I met Bernard Hopkins fourteen years ago; before he was regularly given the opportunity to publicly vent his frustrations. Back then, he was simply Bernard Hopkins, an up and coming fighter who let his skill in the ring do the talking. Back then he was humble and self-effacing. In the past few years as “B-Hop,” he seems less concerned with fighting and more concerned with hearing himself talk. Regardless of what Hopkins may believe, he received an “L” on his ledger and no amount of Duane Ford bitch-slapping is going to change it to a “W.” Hopkins made Taylor look inexperienced but Taylor made Hopkins look every bit his age. The young gain experience and the old keep getting older. A one-punch KO or brutal beating at the hands of Taylor may shut up Hopkins once in for all, but I don't see this happening. Taylor via unanimous decision.
Scott Mallon

Everyone assumes that the first fight was close only because Bernard Hopkins did very little punching over the first six rounds. Perhaps the former champ knows that at age 40 he’s unable to go 12 hard rounds, especially against a physically fit opponent in his prime. Jermain Taylor won the early rounds and stood up to Hopkins’ attack down the stretch. The Arkansas native has the stamina, vitality, confidence and ability to improve on that performance. I’m sure Hopkins will attack sooner in the rematch. If so, will he have enough in the late rounds? I don’t think so. Hopkins is five months older; Taylor is five months better. Taylor should win a unanimous decision.
Ed Maloney

I believe that both fighters will be much more aggressive than they were in the first fight. As much as Hopkins wants this victory in order to enhance his already lofty legacy, youth should prevail. Taylor should have learned so much from their first encounter, while Hopkins seems beyond the point of either learning more or getting better. Taylor W 12.
Bob Mladinich

I see this rematch as being very similar in nature to the first fight. Hopkins is too much of an old dog to learn new tricks and he will not likely stray far from his customary slow start. He will not, however, wait as long as he did in the first fight to score. Instead of throwing the twenty punches per round that he averaged in the opening frames of the first fight, look for him to throw between thirty and forty and limit his offensive production to fighting in bunches or in small, controlled spurts in an effort to conserve his energy. This will more than likely happen towards the end of rounds in an attempt to sway the judges’ opinions in the closer rounds. Hopkins will once again try and take Taylor deep into the fight hoping for a tired and vulnerable opponent that he can then execute. Now that Taylor has the experience of a huge bout under his championship belts, he should be more at ease and burn less nervous energy early in the fight by not headhunting and throwing wild, looping punches. If he sticks to the game plan he says he’ll pursue in the rematch, he’ll utilize his jab more and throw more combinations while working to the body as well as the head. He’ll pick his spots more carefully hoping to have more gas for the later rounds. If the fight does reach the championship rounds, fight fans should be in for quite a treat as each combatant battles to leave a lasting impression on the judges, fans and his opponent. It is unlikely this fight ends in a knockout. If Hopkins was unable to finish off a winded and wounded Taylor in the first bout it is unlikely he’ll be able to do so in a rematch.  Conversely, Hopkins is so hard to hit it is unlikely Taylor will be able to reach him with his knockout power. This one should go the distance with the Arkansan once again getting the nod in another close decision. Taylor by unanimous decision.
Jonathan M. Morgan

After many years of dominating the middleweight division, Bernard Hopkins' legacy will ultimately be defined by one night's work. If he beats Jermain Taylor and regains his titles then he'll be immortalized in boxing history. If he loses, questions will follow him wherever he goes and critics will say he may have been an overrated champion after all.
Hopkins knows what this fight means to his career and will pull every trick out of his bag to emerge victorious. He will fight for the first time in a long time as a hungry challenger seeking revenge. I believe he will get that revenge and win a close decision. Taylor is a good, young, strong fighter and will again force Hopkins to stand in and be more aggressive, refusing to allow him to grab and hold and do what he likes to do. I think the difference in this fight will be Hopkins' determination to throw more punches, as well as the greater accuracy in which he lands those punches compared with Taylor. Despite his ripe old age, he's still the man to beat in this fight. Let's not forget what Archie Moore did in his “old age.”
Benn Schulberg

I thought Hopkins won the first fight, so I am not going to pick against him. I would like to see Bernard get busier in the early rounds.
Ed Schuyler

After their first fight, Bernard Hopkins said Jermain Taylor still made a great deal of mistakes as a fighter. “The Executioner” is one of the cleverest fighters in boxing, but Taylor is no spring chicken himself. If “Bad Intentions” has honed any of his skills since July, he will win more convincingly this time around. While the round-by-round action will be different, the fight will boil down to Hopkins’ inability to maintain Taylor’s pace throughout the entire fight. Taylor by unanimous decision.
Aaron Tallent

Articles of 2005

In Boxing News: Floyd Mayweather An All-Time Great, Valuev & More



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

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Articles of 2005

ShoBox Friday Night Fights




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



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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