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Articles of 2010

THE TSS TAKEAWAY: Readers' Cleanest, Hardest Shots Post Vitali-Briggs

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As the heavyweight division goes, so goes boxing, right?

You had a fight featuring maybe the top 168 pounder on the planet, Lucian Bute, on Friday, yet far and away the most feedback from TSS Universe comes from the Saturday demolition display by Vitali Klitschko, who banged on Shannon Briggs drum all night in Hamburg Saturday, and put such a hellacious beating on the proud/stubborn Brooklyn native, that doctors feared he suffered brain damage. Yep, we are still fascinated by the behemoths, even if by and large the models on display draw yawns and dismissive chatter.

Everyone was massively relieved when we learned that initial reports that had Briggs in critical condition were erroneous. Thanks be to a higher power, or fate, that we arent suffering through a vigil, or awaiting information on a service. So, with the knowledge that we must continually remind ourselves, and refs, and cornerpersons, and commissioners, that it is ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS better to stop a bout a round early, than a round late, the debate continues–are the Klitschkos all that?

Or are they merely very, very good in a very, very bad, maybe the worst ever, era of heavyweights? TSS-EM tends to think the bottom of the division in just about any other era before men became supersized could have their way with the lower tier top 10 guys now. The 80s era booblielicious top 20 heavies had an amateur pedigree that put them in a higher class than todays top 20. The decline of the sport, of the attention paid to it by the lamestream media (thanks Mrs. Palin!), the siphoning off of talent, spurred by the lack of a robust amateur scene, and the lure of the NBA and NFL dream, and 80s era mommies being fearful that their kids would end up brain damaged like Muhammad Ali, has resulted in a division ruled by two men who indeed would have been at the tip top of ANY heavyweight era, who would have been a hard mountain to climb for ANY all-time great heavyweight.

Now, time to end the tongue bath…and get the to best comments from our all-star band of commenters. A solid batch, with Mortcola leading the pack. Now, if we can get El Feroz back on full-time duty, all will be well in TSS Land.

15) In Touch: What did anybody think was going to happen? And why would anyone in their right mind think Briggs stood a chance of making it a fight? Briggs was, at best, in his prime, a contender and only that. How could he think he could now, way past his prime, challenge one of the top two heavyweights in the world? The heavyweight division is a scam. There is no good talent. And we have Tarver making noise. Its only noise, folks. If he fights a Klitschko he will get annihilated.

14) Brownsugar: Ever since Butes Come to Jesus Meeting with Andrade in their first battle, Bute has been practicing the ABCs of boxing, Always Be Closing, Always Be Closing, Always Be Closing (from Alec Baldwin in Glen Gary/Glen Ross). Butes been closing the show by setting up immaculate one punch precision shots to the liver or the chin. And I can no longer consider that to be a fluke. Ive always taken pleasure in dissing Bute in the past, but his skill can no longer be denied. Andrade showed that Bute is certainly human but hes stepped up his game considerably in the last couple of years, even though its only been against meat & potatoes bangers like Brinkley. Theres going to be a heck of a bounty on Butes head by the time the Super Six is done. If the winner of that tourney can pop Butes cherry, hell be sitting on top of the world. Momentarily, anyway.

13) Joe:Briggs took an incredible beating. This may sound crazy but my hat is off to the man. I expected some BS excuse after four rounds. He deserves a couple more paydays; it looks like he literally went out on his shield.

12) Zapata: A couple more paydays? No, he doesnt. Hes thirty eight years old. A couple more paydays and he might not see forty.

11) Amay: This was a dreadful fight, just dreadful. Briggs wouldnt even throw, let alone a jab. It just baffles me how little these pro fighters of today throw or use a jab, it is just embarrassing. On another note, Vitali fights like a robot, is there to get hit, sure has some head movement but NO torso flexion or rotation and his arms and hands are literally down at his sides. Double that jab and send a right hand down. Or jab straight to the stomach and follow up to with a right. Can someone please throw punches at this guy and not PUSH their punches at him? I think a healthy Holyfield of fivw years ago beats this version of Vitali. No joke, its hard to give Vitali credit when he was fighting a punching bag in Briggs who did NOT punch or disrupt Vitali, just stood there all night. Why does Briggs try to shoulder roll but without the shoulder roll? All he does is keep his right on his right-side chin, but he doesnt roll and he doesnt tip his front shoulder up to block his left side… wth is that? Shoulder roll posture without the shoulder roll defense, good idea Briggs wth.

10) DaveB: Shannon Briggs has to be given credit for not folding, considering the *ss whipping he got. I really thought Vitali was going to end it in round eight, I think it was, after he had Briggs buckle and almost out the round before. These guys already know what the Klit brothers are going to do, they know they are almost seven feet tall and yet they all get in there with the deer caught in the headlights look. The Klitschkos deserve a lot of credit. But since the 80s the heavyweight division has been weak. That IMO is why guys like Tyson, Lewis, and the brothers can rule and seem so invincible. I give these guys a lot of credit and as the years go on we will be comparing athletes today to yesterdays athletes. People over time get bigger, stronger, have better nutrition, training, better technology, equipment, dont have to fight as often and so on. I question Vitali being the hardest puncher even though he has the highest knockout record. That is just a statistic and has to be examined further. First, Cooney and Shavers werent champions but if you look at their records they got people out early almost all of the time. Vitali was originally a kickboxer so part of his career was doing that. From 1996 – 2001 he got them out of there early. From 2001 – 2010 he gets them out of there late. Part of that is because he is very tentative but part of his high rate comes from the fact that he is so tall and can deliver his punches easily. I think that ko record is over hyped.

9) DaveB: Im happy to hear that Briggs doesnt have any long lasting damage. If there ever was a fight that should have been stopped it was that one. Yeah, he may have a moral victory but so what? Because he sure got an earthly beating. If he has a couple more beatings anywhere close to that one he may end up like Greg Page or he may be slurring his speech in a few years. Was it really worth it? I do wish him all the best.

8) Robert Curtis: I know Im not in there eating the punches, but I would take issue with gushing praise of Shannons character or that no one can say Shannon Briggs simply went to Hamburg to pick up a payday. Yeah, Shannon stayed in there for 12, took the punishment and his face will no doubt be sore for a month. But I do not believe that Shannon Briggs either trained to win this fight or ever fought to win in this fight. Briggs seemed more concerned with his breathing than throwing punches. When Shannon did throw, there were few bad intentions and some he just threw in the air when Vitali was nowhere near him. This is the heavyweight championship of the world, folks. It used to mean something. If it doesnt mean anything to the fighter, how can it mean anything to the fans? I dont expect fighters to go out on their shield, but when they take a nap and digest three double-cheeseburgers on their shield, its an insult to the sport. Shannon had no legs or game. He seemed a sluggish sitting duck. Vitali did his part by staying busy and throwing lots of power punches, but I dont understand why he did not knock Shannon out. Does Shannon have an impossibly hard chin or is Vitali a humanitarian? It seemed like Vitali could hit Shannon at will, especially in the last 3 or 4 rounds. Why didnt he go for a TKO at least? Enough unanswered punches and the ref would have to stop it. Were these guys just sparring or giving us a real fight? I dont know. Here goes Mortcola harping on the astonishing fistic wizardry of Vitali Klitschko. Yeah, Vitali is a great fighter who has earned his place and has no peers. But he didnt risk much in this fight. Like the British commandos say, He who dares, wins. Neither of these guys did anything daring and we all lost.

7) Philo: Give it up for Briggs who came and was a punching bag. I expected him to take a dive or quit inside of 3 rounds as soon as a jab landed. But I cant applaud his effort beyond that. Six waving punches per round aint gonna get it done even in a Toughman competition. Abysmal punch output. I agree with Radam G that Klitschkos putrid and a disgrace. Anyone would look masterful against Briggs. On this night, he was MAYBE a top-65 or 70 heavyweight, and thats saying something given that this is the worst heavyweight era in human history. Klitschko can beat up on fat retreads and golfers until the cows come home, but I aint buying it. Even HBO and Showtime consider the Ks untelevisable.

6) Mortcola: Please, all of you who cant accept the boxing supremacy of the Klitschkos – just chill for a while. I cant handle another round of boxing fans in denial making unpleasant comments. Yeah, Briggs didnt earn this shot – but he earned respect by taking it, and taking it. Klitschko was, again, masterful. Fast-handed, accurate, nearly impossible to hit because of that moving head and snaking upper body; thudding shots from every angle; not even breathing hard in the 12th round. Same basic format as when VK fights young fighters, contenders, old men, taller, shorter….same formula. Briggs called VK a great fighter, better than Lewis, harder hitting than Foreman, incredibly fast. You may not like him, or his equally gifted and disciplined brother, but if you dont see it, you dont know boxing, or you have trouble with reality. Now lets get interested in finding a heavyweight who can give him more than a good workout.

5) Condor: Im in the minority here, but have good company in Mortcola. Ive never really understood the Klitschko venom that exists, but the criticisms I read here are baseless. Vitali has lost twice (Ill stick to Vitali only), once to Byrd and once to Lewis. Against Byrd, he was winning widely, suffered a significant shoulder injury, and resigned on his stool. Granted, Byrd aint Ernie Shavers, but he was a slick, crafty guy that possessed serious ring IQ and likely would have sensed, honed in on, and exacerbated a very real injury. Discretion is the better part of valor. We all know what he did to Lewis, and the circumstances of his defeat. As mediocre as Briggs is, Klitschko toyed with the guy and was completely unmarked and fresh after 12 rounds, while Briggs was likely exiting in an ambulance for a hospital visit. How many guys do that to Briggs? Is it Klitschkos fault he fights in this era? And speaking of this era, yes, its bad, but is it really THAT much worse than other eras? This point is made all the timed, but its never been truly examined. What is missing is exposure, and competitive fights, because the Ks fights are all so one-sided that people immediately discount the fighters and blame the era. Vitali is 6 8, an optimum 250 lbs, ALWAYS in shape, has a granite chin, effectively awkward and brilliant style, and thunderous power. Do you really think that a 200 pound Joe Frazier type guy would swat him like a fly? Briggs said that Vitali is the best hes ever fought. Was he waxing poetic because he went the distance? Was he concussed? Or was he saying something that was quite right?

4) Mortcola@jury and Robert: Guy has one of the biggest KO percentages in boxing history. Fewer decisions than Holmes, Ali, Foreman, Frazier, Hagler, Hearns, Louis…Occasionally, the other guy doesnt go, the ref and the corner dont stop it, the guy is hell-bent on toughing it out, and it goes to a decision. Pretty common occurrence, but it doesnt happen often with them. You may not like the guys style, but, sorry, hes done the same job on everyone since hes champ, the deserving and the undeserving, and was the only guy to ever outfight Lewis while it lasted. The criticisms some of you are vomiting up are without merit. Not their fault the division is weak – except that their complete blowouts highlight the vast difference between them and their opponents. As for the HBO and Showtime passing, this is about sales and marketing, the business of doing business, not a value judgment on their fighting skills.

3) Robert Curtis@Mortcola: Mortcola, Im going to get out of your way and let you give Vitali the big tongue bath you always give him. I agree that VK has a good trick bag and makes guys miss with defensive skills. However, I dont dig it when you drop specious statistics like Fewer decisions than Holmes, Ali, Foreman, Frazier, Hagler, Hearns, Louis…. I dont like to hear those names in the same breath with Vitali. Those guys fought in real eras with scary contenders up the wazoo. There were boxing gyms on every street corner back then. Yeah, I know Louis had the parade of bums here and there, but he fought a lot of tough matches all the way to the bitter end, from Tommy Farr and Billy Conn all the way to Ezzard Charles, Walcott and his hard loss to Marciano. Ali fought pluggers like Evangelista and London, sure, but he also fought prime Foreman, Norton and a death-defying trilogy with Joe Frazier. Holmes, Hagler and Leonard ended their careers fighting the best fighters, not the worst. To borrow from DaveB, is is the same story over and over with VKs fights. They play out like bad sequels to bad action films. The hero becomes an impossibly heroic parody of himself while the bad guys just get more lame and ridiculous. If Vitali cant find a legit contender, he should stop cheating the fans. Hes cannibalizing his own legacy by staging these sparring matches with inferior competition.

2) Brownsugar: I have to wonder if there has ever been a division so weak that an injured champ emeritus (Vitali), could come back in his late 30s and dominate four years later like he was never gone. Where the top contenders have eating disorders(Arreola), or fighters like Peter who represented their nation in the Olympics after only 22 fights (just like American Deontay Wilder who most recently earned a bronze). I dont care where the fighters come from but when will we ever see two skilled heavyweights fight for glory over 12 rounds like Holyfield/Bowe or Holmes vs Norton over 15 grueling rounds?? Statistics can become very misleading especially when top contenders like Peter struggles with a blowup aging middleweight like Toney and the K brothers have a big height and reach advantage along with 15-45 lbs over most of the opposition. I dont think theres any comparison to the golden years of the heavyweights especially when even many of the contenders had 100-175 amateur fights and Olympic experience (like Duane Bobick) and the weight difference hardly exceeded 15lbs. This isnt meant to demean the Klitschkos who certainly deserve a place in history, I just dont see any clearcut valid perspectives made by stats alone.

1) Mortcola@Saint and Condor: I try and sometimes fail to not be too much of a flag waver. My heros have been Holmes, Hagler, Hearns, Arguello. I have a high standard for how boxers perform, skill and character-wise. I just see something irrational going on with the K-hating. I also remember that in EVERY ERA except the Ali-Frazier days, people complained about the quality of opposition. In the 80s, you had these round-robins of close, boring fights by big, reasonably-skilled, but unmotivated heavys with pendulous breasts. Ali DID fight London, Evangelista, couldnt KO little Patterson. But in few periods of history have the champs completely shut down EVERY FRIGGIN fighter they go against, regardless of style. When Wlad shut down Eddie Chambers, a REALLY GOOD, slick, athletic, intelligent boxer, without even using most of his arsenal, I finally said, this is something different. Chambers would have been competitive in any era of heavies. He was not able to even get off on that night. I grant anyone the right not to enjoy their style. But I think one has to be in serious denial, clouding their historical awareness, to make the case that the Ks are putrid, and less than even with the best of the historical heavies. Lets say that for decades now the heavies have NOT contained the cream of the athletic crop. Our heavies have not dominated the top ten ranks, but have at least fought reasonably competitively against the Europeans, who ARE skilled, conditioned athletes on the rise. However, the Ks, with drastically different styles, utterly dominate all of them. They do it with ring mastery, excellent power (more power in Wlad, more variety in Vitali), and complete ring generalship. As a demanding fight fan, the skills and execution are just obvious. NOT LIKING what you watch – or not liking Europeans with Ph.D.s running the show – is just not justification to dismiss their skills. One reason an era sucks is that someone is that much better than everyone else. Thats no fun. But you dont get to dominate an era unless you are that good. And, no, I have no interest in giving anyone other than my wife and Minka Kelly (together) a tongue bath. But Im in a happy minority that sees the skills, intelligence, and discipline, and gives proper respect.

Articles of 2010

Judah To Fight Mbuza March 5 In NJ

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Totowa, NJ – Kathy Duva, Main Events CEO, announced their promotional firm won the purse bid held at IBF headquarters in East Orange, NJ, Thursday. The bid was for the right to hold the IBF's junior welterweight title fight between Zab Judah of Brooklyn, NY and Las Vegas, and South Africa's Kaizer Mabuza.

IBF Championships Chairman, Lindsay Tucker explained, “It is a 50-50 split of the earnings between the two fighters. Kaizer is ranked No. 1 by the IBF, and Judah is No. 2. Where the fight will be held is up to the winning bidder.”

Judah (39-6, 26 KOs) is promoted by Main Events and his own firm Super Judah Promotions, and Branco Milenkovic, of South Africa, promotes Mabuza (23-6-3, 14 KOs).

Kathy Duva confirmed the fight will take place at Prudential Center in Newark, NJ, late February or early March this year as part of Main Events' Brick City Boxing Series.  (Saturday Update: the fight is March 5th, in NJ at the Pru Center. The bout will be part of a PPV card.)

“We are very happy that Zab has the opportunity to fight for the IBF Junior Welterweight title right here in New Jersey.  Winning this fight will put Zab right in the mix with the winner of Bradley-Alexander and Amir Khan.” Duva elaborated, ” Zab will work very hard to win this fight so that he will be one step closer to his ultimate goal of unifying all of the Junior Welterweight titles by the end of 2011!”

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Articles of 2010

UFC 125 Preview: Frankie Edgar Vs. Gray Maynard

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Few predicted Frankie Edgar would grab the UFC lightweight championship last year but he did. Most felt he would eventually win it but Edgar not only took the title, he beat one of the best mixed martial artists in history to do it.

Edgar (13-1) has emerged from the milieu of nondescript MMA fighters to become one of the more brilliant performers for Ultimate Fighting Championship. Next comes a rematch with Gray “The Bully” Maynard (11-0) tomorrow at the MGM Grand Casino in Las Vegas. UFC 125 will be televised on pay-per-view.

All it took was not one, but two victories over BJ Penn.

If you’re not familiar with Penn, he’s one of the most versatile fighters in MMA history and had been nearly unbeatable in the 155-pound lightweight division. That is until he clashed with Edgar. Until he met New Jersey’s Edgar, the Hawaiian fighter chopped down lightweight opponents with ease. It was only the heavier welterweights he had problems against. Namely: Canada’s Georges St. Pierre.

Edgar showed poise, speed and grit in defeating Penn in back-to-back fights. The world took notice.

“You know, if I keep winning fights, the respect will come eventually,” said Edgar during a conference call.

Now Edgar will find out if he can avenge the only loss on his record.

“I just think I grew as a fighter. You know, mentally, you know, physically I, you know, possess differently skills, increased – you know, I think I boxed and got better, my Jiu-Jitsu got better and, you know, just have much more experience now,” Edgar says.

Maynard seeks to find out if Edgar has added any more fighting tools to his repertoire. Back in April 2008, the artillery shelled out was not enough to beat the Las Vegas fighter.

“It’s a perfect time. He had the chance and, you know, he took it and the time is now for me and I’m prepared,” said Maynard (11-0). “Any time you’re going up against the top in the world, you evolve and change and so I’m prepared for a new fight, so it will be good. I’m pumped for it.”

Though Maynard’s record indicates he is unbeaten that’s not entirely true. He did suffer a defeat to Nate Diaz during The Ultimate Fighter series and subsequently avenged that loss last January.

The UFC lightweight title is in Maynard’s bull’s eye.

“Looking to take the belt for sure,” said Maynard. “We’ll see on January 1.”

Edgar versus Maynard should be a good one.

Other bouts:

Nate Diaz (13-5) faces Dong Hyun Kim (13-0-1) in another welterweight tussle. Diaz is the only fighter with a win over Maynard. Anyone watching TUF remembers Maynard tapping out from a Diaz guillotine choke. The Modesto fighter has a tough fight against South Korea’s Kim.

Chris Leben (21-6) fights Brian Stann (9-3) in a middleweight fight. Leben is a veteran of MMA and if an opponent is not ready for a rough and tumble fight, well, that fighter is not going to win. Stann dropped down from light heavyweight and we’ll see if the cut in weight benefits the Marine.

Brandon Vera (11-5) meets Thiago Silva (14-2) in a light heavyweight match up. Vera is trying to rally back to the promising fighter he was tabbed several years back. Silva is a very tough customer and eager to crash the elite. A victory by either fighter could mean a ticket to the big time.

Clay Guida (27-8) versus Takanori Gomi (32-6) in a lightweight bout. Guida has become one of the most feared fighters without a title. No one has an easy time with the long-haired fighter. Gomi lost to Kenny Florian but knocked out Tyson Griffin. Can he survive Guida?

Marcus “The Irish Hand Grenade” Davis (22-8) clashes with Jeremy Stephens (18-6) in another lightweight fight. Davis is a go-for-broke kind of fighter and is looking to get back in the win column after a tumultuous battle with Nate Diaz last August. Stephens needs a win too. In his last bout he lost to Melvin Guillard.

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Articles of 2010

Borges Looks Back, And Forward With Hope

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As the end of another year approaches, there’s no need to invoke Charles Dickens to describe what went on in boxing. It was neither the best of times nor the worst of times. It was just too much time spent on The Fight That Never Took Place.

For the second straight year the sport could not deliver The Fight, the only one fans universally wanted and even casual fans craved – the mix between Floyd Mayweather, Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao.  No one has to be singled out for blame for that failure because this time there’s plenty to go around on both sides. The larger issue is what does it say about a sport when it cannot deliver its top event?

What would the NFL be without the Super Bowl? Where would major league baseball be without the World Series? Golf without the Masters? College basketball without March Madness?

They would all be less than they could be and so it was with boxing this year. Having said that, the sport was not without its signature moments. It was not bereft of nights that left those of us with an abiding (and often unrequited) love for prize fighting with good reason to hope for the future.

Three times promoter Bob Arum took the sport into massive stadium venues just like the good (very) old days and each time boxing drew a far larger crowd than its many critics expected. Twice those fights involved the sport’s leading ambassador, Pacquiao, who brought in crowds of 40,000 to 50,000 fans into Cowboys Stadium against inferior opponents Joshua Clottey and Antonio Margarito. Imagine what he might have done had Mayweather been in the opposite corner?

While both fights were, as expected, lopsided affairs, they showcased the one boxer who has transcended his sport’s confining walls to become a cultural icon and world celebrity. Pacquiao alone put boxing (or at least one boxer) on the cover of TIME and into the pages of such varied publications as Esquire, GQ, The Wall Street Journal, the American Airlines in-flight magazine and even Atlantic Monthly.

As history has proven time and again, that is what happens when boxing has a compelling personality to sell it and Pacquiao is that. Mayweather is such a person as well,  but for different reasons.

The one night he appeared in a boxing ring, he set the year’s pay-per-view standard against Shane Mosley while also leaving a first hint of dark mystery when he was staggered by two stinging right hands in the second round.

Mayweather was momentarily in trouble for the first time in his career but the moment passed quickly and Mosley never had another. By the end he had been made to look old and futile, a faded athlete who’d had his chance and was unable to do anything with it. So it goes in this harsh sport when the sands are running out of the hour glass.

As always there were some surprising upsets, most notably Jason Litzau’s domination of an uninterested and out of shape Celestino Caballero and Sergio Martinez’s one-punch demolishment of Paul Williams. The latter was not so much an upset as it was a stunning reminder that when someone makes a mistake against a highly skilled opponent in this sport they don’t end up embarrassed. They end up unconscious.

SHOWTIME did all it could to further the future of the sport, offering up a continuation of its interminably long but still bold Super Six super middleweight tournament as well as the launching of a short form bantamweight tournament which already gave fans to two stirring and surprising finishes with Joseph Agbeko decisioning Jhonny Perez and Abner Mares upsetting Victor Darchinyan in a battle of contusions.

While the Super Six has had its problems – including several of the original six pulling out – it also lifted the profile of former Olympic gold medalist Andre Ward from nearly unknown to the cusp of universal recognized as the best super middleweight in the world this side of Lucian Bute. If Ward continues winning he’ll get to Bute soon enough because that’s why SHOWTIME signed a TV deal with the Canadian and America may get its next boxing star if Ward proves to be what I think he is – which is still underrated and underappreciated.

HBO and HBO pay-per-view put on 23 shows, few of them compelling and many of them paying big money to the wrong people while doing little or nothing to grow the sport that has helped make their network rich. But they did have the knockout of the year – Martinez’s second round destruction of Williams – and some fights in the lower weight classes that were left you wanting more.

Two new names popped up who are causing the kind of fan reaction that also gives us hope for 2011 – American Brandon Rios and Mexican Saul Alvarez. They are two of the sport’s brightest young prospects because each comes to the arena the old-fashioned way – carrying nothing but bad intentions.
Aggression and knockouts still sell boxing faster than anything else and each exhibited plenty of both this year and left fans wanting to see more. Alvarez is already a star in Mexico without having yet won a world title and Rios is the definition of “promise.’’ Whether the star will continue to shine and promise will be fulfilled may be answered next year and so we wait anxiously to find out.

Backed by Golden Boy Promotions, there is no reason 2011 shouldn’t be Alvarez’s year and if it is people will notice and remember him because he has a crowd-pleasing style that is all about what sells most.

That is what boxing needs more of – fresh faces and new stars… so as fans we should root for guys like Alvarez, Ward, Rios and young Brit Amir Khan, who is a star in England but still a question mark with a questionable chin but a fighter’s heart here in the U.S.

Those guys and others not yet as well known are the future of boxing, a sport that for too long has been recycling the likes of Mosley (as it will again in May for one last beating against Pacquiao in a fight that's a joke), Bernard Hopkins (who can still fight although it is unclear why he bothers or where it’s all headed), Roy Jones and, sadly, even 48-year-old Evander Holyfield, who continues to delude himself but not many other people into believing he will soon unify the heavyweight title again.
If fighters like Ward, Alvarez, Rios, Khan, WBC welterweight champion Andre Berto and middleweight king Sergio Martinez continue their rise they could be the antidote for the art of the retread that Arum and Golden Boy have been forcing fans to buy the past few years at the expense of what boxing needs most – fresh faces.

The heavyweight division, which many believe determines the relevancy of boxing to the larger world, remains a vast desert of disinterest here in the US. The Klitschko brothers, Vitali and Wladimir, hold 75 per cent of the title belts but few peoples’ imaginations in the US, although to be fair they are European superstars and don’t really need U.S. cable TV money to thrive economically.

Each defended their titles twice this year, Vitali against lame competition (Albert Sosnowski and Shannon Briggs) and Wladimir against better fighters (Sam Peter and Eddie Chambers) but not competitive ones. Sadly, there is no American on the horizon to challenge them, a comment on the division and on our country, where the athletes who used to be Joe Louis or Muhammad Ali now opt for the easier and frankly safer road of the NFL or the NBA. Who can blame them considering all the nonsense a fighter has to go through to just make a living these days?

The one heavyweight match that would be compelling and might lift the sport up for at least a night would be either of the Klitschkos facing lippy WBA champion David Haye. The fast-talking Brit claims to not be ducking them but he’s had more maladies befall him after shouting from the rooftops how much he wants to challenge them that you have to wonder if Haye is simply a case of big hat no cattle syndrome.

For the sake of the sport, we should all be lighting candles each night in hopes our prayers will be answered and Haye will finally agree to meet one of them. It may not prove to be much of a fight but at least it will give us something to talk about for a few months.

Whatever Haye and the Klitschkos decide the fighter with the most upside at the moment however seems to be Sergio Martinez.  He has matinee idol looks, a big enough punch to put Paul Williams to sleep with one shot and a work ethic second to none. The Argentine fighter had a year for himself, starting with a drubbing of Kelly Pavlik followed by his demolishment of Williams. Those kinds of victories, coupled with his Oscar De La Hoya-like looks, are the type of things that if HBO or SHOWTIME would get behind him could allow Martinez to capture the attention of both fight fans and more casual ones.

In general, Hispanics fighters continued to dominate much of the sport’s front pages with Juan Manuel Marquez’s two victories in lightweight title fights leading that storyline. His war with Michael Katsidis is a strong candidate for Fight of the Year and his technical skill and calm demeanor make him the uncrowned challenger to Pacquiao. The two have unfinished business that should be settled this year if Arum stops standing in the way.

Two other fighters who gave us moments to remember in 2010 were Juan Manuel Lopez, who knocked out three solid opponents including highly respected Mexican warrior Rafael Marquez, and Giovani Segura, who won four times (that’s three years work for Mayweather) in 2010, all by knockout. Along the way, Segura defeated one of the great minimum weight fighters in history, slick Ivan Calderon, to win the belt on Aug. 28.

Lastly, boxing gave us another magical cinematic moment as well with the release of “The Fighter,’’ a film based on the life and hard times of junior welterweight scrapper Micky Ward. The film has won rave reviews and many awards and seems likely to have several of its actors nominated for Academy Awards, most notable Christian Bale for his sadly humorous portrayal of Ward’s troubled half brother, former fighter Dickie Ecklund.

Boxing has a long history of providing the framework for memorable movies and it did it again with “The Fighter,’’ a film that did more for boxing than any promoter did all year.

All in all, it wasn’t the best of years for boxing but it was a good year that picked up speed in the final months and, like that great golf shot you finally hit out of the rough on the 18th, left us with reasons to hope for a better year in 2011. If somehow it gives us Mayweather-Pacquiao, the emergence of Alvarez and Rios, the ascension of Martinez and Haye vs. the best available Klitschko in addition to the kind of solid performances that always come along, it could be a year to remember.

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