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Articles of 2005

Mormeck and Bell Meet the Press

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The first Saturday of every month belongs to SHOWTIME, and 2006 promises to be no different for America’s No. 1 boxing network, now in its 20th year on the air. Following a spectacular 2005, the network that consistently offers fans the best match ups in boxing begins the New Year with an exciting world championship doubleheader Saturday, Jan. 7, at 9 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the west coast).

In the SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING co-feature, two reigning cruiserweight champions will collide when WBC/WBA champion Jean-Marc Mormeck faces his IBF counterpart, O’Neil “Supernova” Bell, for the undisputed cruiserweight title. The winner of Mormeck-Bell will become the division’s first undisputed champion since Evander Holyfield defeated Carlos DeLeon in 1988 on SHOWTIME, and just the second since the division was created in 1980. In the main event, one of the world’s best pound-for-pound boxers, undisputed welterweight champion Zab “Super” Judah, will put all his belts on the line against WBC mandatory challenger and No. 1 contender Carlos Baldomir.

Question: Jean-Marc, how is your training going?

Mormeck: Everything is fine. I am feeling better and better everyday. I am training in the morning and training in the afternoon and everything is good.

Question: Jean-Marc, what is your take on this fight for the undisputed cruiserweight championship, and what are your thoughts on O’Neil Bell?

Mormeck: I think that O’Neil Bell is a great champion because he has his IBF title. I think it will be a tough match because O’Neil Bell is not going to want to let his belt go away, but he has to get ready for this because I am going to take it. 

Question: O’Neil, what are your thoughts on this fight and what do you think of Mormeck as a fighter?

Bell: This is a poignant moment for me to display my artistic abilities on SHOWTIME and to the world (and) to capture the IBF, WBC and the WBA championship. My training camp has been going well. I am up for this fight and I love it. The thing I have to say about Mormeck, I hope he does the same (is ready to fight and in top shape) too. Excellent shape, excellent condition. This fight will be like the war of attrition.

He wants to fight, I want it even more. So I am looking forward to that day.

Question: O’Neil, what it would mean to you to join Evander Holyfield and become only the second undisputed cruiserweight champion of the world? 

Bell: I am considering all these possibilities and it is a great honor, although I do not think I will ever be able to fit in Evander’s shoes with all the accomplishments that he has done. I am really very happy just to even be considered for being the unification champ.   am excited about all the possibilities that are going to come after the fight and also fighting Mormeck.

Question: Jean-Marc, what are your thoughts about joining Holyfield as only the second undisputed cruiserweight champion of the world?

Mormeck: I have great respect for Holyfield’s career, for the warrior, the man, for everything he has done. It would be a great honor and something magic to do what Holyfield did.

Question: Jean-Marc, can you give more details about training, your schedule and how you plan to spend Christmas and New Year’s Eve in camp while being far away from your home and country?

Mormeck: I have wanted this fight for a long time, and this is the only thing that counts. The biggest party I can make is to take this belt and then party with my friends and his family.

Question: Jean-Marc, do you have any special message for the people back in France?

Mormeck: I know that the country of France is behind me and a lot of French are coming to Madison Square Garden. I am just happy to do this title fight.

Question: Has either of you given thought to the possibility of moving up to the heavyweight division once becoming the undisputed cruiserweight champion?

Bell: That is the motivation for me itself – to become the undisputed champion and then move up and conquer that division as well.

Mormeck: It is kind of a dream to go up to heavyweight. If I would have to choose someone to fight, it would be (WBO heavyweight champion) Lamon Brewster because he is really strong. 

Question: Jean-Marc, what was your best fight and did you become discouraged from those back to back losses in 1997?

Mormeck: I was most impressed with my fight with Virgil Hill because he had great experience. Regarding the two losses, I learned a lot of lessons. When I get in the ring now, I want to win, win fast, and win with a lot of points. I do not want to take any risks.

Question: Jean-Marc, can you give a few more details regarding your training, and what will your strategy be against Bell?

Mormeck: I am in physical training in the morning and boxing lessons and sparring in the afternoon. I do not have any strategy for O’Neil Bell.

Question: O’Neil, can you talk about your training practices now?

Bell: I am a boxer that goes day by day. I do not necessarily have a direct mindset or strategy to overcome obstacles. I just deal with it as it comes.

Question: So you just wake up every morning and decide how you feel and then you decide how you are going to train?

Bell: That is exactly how it works. My trainer knows when I am slacking off and he knows when I am training too hard. Then again, I also listen to my body. I need running, but I do not need to have my knees hurting or my lower back hurting. So sometimes my body may be telling me to spar six to eight rounds. Keep it simple. I have no strategy. I just take it day by day as it comes along.

Question: O’Neil, what did you do today in regard to training?

Bell: When I go in the ring at five o’clock today, I will spar, and then there will be more mental practice with my trainers and we will analyze how I will approach Jean-Marc.

Question: O’Neil, would you say that perhaps most of the media and most of the boxing fans are automatically assuming that Mormeck is going to win?

Bell: I really cannot criticize my critics; I can just say just keep watching. I learn while I am in the ring. I do different things in every fight. I bring out the best in myself when my opponent wants to stand in front of me and get pounded on.

Question: O’Neil, Jean-Marc has one of the most sculpted physiques around. What do you attribute all that upper torso strength to?

Bell: You are a boxer; you should be a physical specimen. So that is not something to fear. It excites me even more to say it is a bigger and better challenge out there for me. So I commend him for being in excellent shape.

Question: Jean-Marc, do you intend to fight predominately in the United States?

Mormeck: Since I was a kid back in France, America has always been a dream. Today, I have a chance to fight at the Madison Square Garden.  .

Question: Jean-Marc, are you familiar with David Hay and Guillermo Jones and what are your thoughts on them for a possible fight in the future?

Mormeck: I do not want to think about any other fight. My only goal is O’Neil Bell.

Question: Jean-Marc, do you have any timetable if you do move up to heavyweight?

Mormeck: I will be moving up to heavyweight, but I have no schedule.

Question: What do each of you consider to be your advantages in this fight?

Bell: My advantage over Jean-Marc is resilience and also being a multi-dimensional fighter. If you want to go ahead and strategize or go ahead and be a technician, I believe my training has given me all the possible knowledge I need to do that. I have exhibited that previously in some of my fights.

Question: O’Neil, did you not say, “The bloodier, the better”?

Bell: Oh, the bloodier, the better. Toe-to-toe, that is my best fight possible. If you go back to the Davis fight, I wanted to fight after he knocked me down twice. I really wanted to take him out. From the very first round, it is going to be an explosion.

Question: Jean-Marc, do you enjoy bloodbaths?

Mormeck: I do not like blood. I just love to win. As far as my advantages, it is not a question of size or speed; it is just a question of will. He did not want this fight. I have always wanted this fight and now I have got it and this is my advantage.

Question: O’Neil, how do you respond to Mormeck saying that you did not want this fight?

Bell: This is absolutely the first time this fight came across the table and I signed the contract. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it.

Question: Jean-Marc, how do you respond to him saying this is the first time he has been offered a fight?

Mormeck: I do not care what he is saying. I left France and came to the United States. This is O’Neil Bell’s country. I am here to fight.

Bell: (To Mormeck) I would have gone there and fought you in your country and beat you in your country. I love this thing. It really does not matter where you are. If you are on the moon, I will come to you.

Question: O’Neil, you say you showed only 80 percent of your ability with Dale Brown. Do you need to try to put it all together and have one complete fight against Mormeck?

Bell: Yes, I was only 80 percent against Brown. The night before the match, I was up at dawn arguing with my manager. That is one of the reasons why I am managing myself now. I am up for this fight completely. I have wiped out all the negative influence in my life. I have been training for five and a half weeks. I am totally dedicated to this fight.

Question: O’Neil, if you defeat Mormeck, would you give Brown a rematch?

Bell: I wanted to give Brown a fight right after I fought him, but he never stepped up to the plate. The offer was there.

Question: O’Neil, is this the most important and biggest fight of your career?

Bell: Exactly, and that is why I am so serious for it.

Question: O’Neil, does it bother you that fans are sleeping on you going in, or is it going to be more satisfaction once you come out ahead?

Bell: My pro debut was against Evander Holyfield’s nephew, so I have always been the underdog. It is just like another day to me. It really does not discourage me. It actually gives me something to fight for even more, to disprove my critics.

Question: Jean-Marc, since you won the title, you have only been defending it once a year. Do you plan on staying busier in 2006?

Mormeck: I definitely want to fight more, but I have to clear this with my promoter, Don King.

Question: O’Neil, who have you been sparring with in preparation for this fight?

Bell: I am not going to disclose my sparring partners, but I know I have been getting excellent work. Like Mormeck said, he only fought once in a year and I have fought twice already. So I am well conditioned.

Question: Jean-Marc, do you have anything you would like to say to O’Neil?

Mormeck: He is going to have to fight because if he fights like he talks, it is going to be boring for everybody. He needs to get known and earn respect from everybody. He should not try to get known here because he is not going to get known by fighting me. O’Neil should just train and not talk that much.

Question: O’Neil, do you feel that because you have fought twice and he has only fought once that it gives you more of an advantage?

Bell: Of course. If you look at history, a man coming off of two wins, he is geared up. He is in a zone right now. “Supernova” is in his zone right now.

Question: O’Neil, when do you know when to box and when do you know when to slug?

Bell: I am diverse. I must be able to adapt to whatever situation arises. If it comes to a point where I need to fight him backing up, I will. If it comes to a point where I need to go toe-to-toe with him, I will. If it comes to a point where I need to set him up for a devastating knockout, I will do so.

Question: O’Neil, is there any chance of you being overtrained or overconfident?

Bell: No. I am very aware of being overtrained. Some days I do take a weekend off. I do sit in the house and just meditate, watch fight tapes. That is listening to my body.

Question: O’Neil, you were known as “Give ’Em Hell” and now you are known as “Supernova.” Why did you change your nickname and when did you change it?

Bell: I changed it after the Brown fight. I saw nothing good came from “hell.” So I think if you carry a name, you bring upon those evil spirits. “Supernova” is bringing about explosion of things, recreating your environment. “Supernova” is recreating a new atmosphere, a new way of thinking, a new way of life. It is a positive projection for me being “Supernova.”

Question: O’Neil, if you could give a nickname to Mormeck, what would

it be?

Bell: I heard one of the selections that stuck out the most – it was “Mighty.” But in turn, I remember the cartoon Mighty Mouse. I would think Mighty Mouse would be a better title for him after this fight.

Question: Jean-Marc, do you have a last comment?

Mormeck: Well, I really do not care about those his nicknames. O’Neil has been talking and talking for like hours. That is why he will never be a great champion. I am just waiting for the fight. That is all.

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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