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Articles of 2010

F-LO TAKEDOWN: Mayweather Versus 10 Of The Greatest Welters In History

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I recently read a long piece by Gavin Evans on Ring TV.com's blog where he discusses what would happen if Floyd Mayweather Jr. fought ten of the greatest welterweights in history. In it Mr. Evans concludes that Mayweather would lose to Sugar Ray Robinson, Sugar Ray Leonard, Charley Burley and Thomas Hearns. I totally concur with him, and don't believe any one of the four greats listed, at their best, would have to struggle in any way to defeat Mayweather.

On the flip side he sees Mayweather coming out victorious over Henry Armstrong, Kid Gavilan, Jose Napoles, Carmen Basilio, Emile Griffith and Mickey Walker. Here, I couldn't disagree more. Had Jose Luis Castillo been awarded the decision he earned and deserved versus Mayweather in their first fight and Floyd had one loss on his record, Mayweather's name wouldn't be involved in this conversation.

Evans said, “Even keeping it to the last 100 years, there are greats we have to leave out – Jack Britton, Ted ‘Kid’ Lewis, Barney Ross, Jimmy McLarnin, Luis Rodriguez, Roberto Duran, Pernell Whitaker, Felix Trinidad and Oscar De La Hoya.”

Maybe the fact the author included Oscar De La Hoya as one of the all-time great welterweights in history tells us all we need to know about how limited his scope is pertaining to professional boxing. Just in case anyone is not sure – Oscar De La Hoya was not a great welterweight. As a fighter there's not one thing he did great. Sure he was tough and fought the best of his era, but never did he once separate himself from the three best welterweights he fought, Pernell Whitaker, Felix Trinidad and Shane Mosley. Giving him the benefit of every doubt he went 1-1-1 in those bouts.

This “today's fighters are faster, stronger, better conditioned, and have more skills” type BS has to be seen as the nonsense it is. Fighters today are at a deficit in each one of those categories. The argument that the old-timers could do no wrong is ill founded, just as the one suggesting today's fighters are human wrecking machines is flawed.

As for Mayweather, I really believe many of his staunchest supporters confuse the combination of slickness, sharpness, great reflexes, and the alertness under fire that Mayweather possesses with speed. Superficially, they look like the same thing. Zab Judah is faster than Mayweather, and was out-speeding him for the first five or six rounds of their fight (he hits harder too.) He just doesn't have near Floyd's boxing IQ.

I'm not going to break down the sizes and weights precisely of the greats listed for this. If you don't know their record and physical measurements then Mr. Evans's piece is great remedial reading for you. I write for a sophisticated boxing observer, and am fully aware that some miss what I'm saying. That's okay because there's a plethora of boxing content available via the Internet in 2010.

It's important to understand that, although Mayweather is a slick enough fighter by today's standards to outthink and outmaneuver virtually anyone he faces, all of the fighters Evans writes about would have seen everything that Mayweather could show them dozens and dozens of times. Evans excludes Luis Rodriguez from his top ten welterweight list, but believe me, there's not one thing that Floyd Mayweather does as well as Luis Rodriguez.

If Jose Luis Castillo could pressure Mayweather into what should've been his first defeat, Henry Armstrong, stronger, faster, better conditioned, and possessing a far more daunting workrate (to say nothing about the tricks of the trade involving his elbows, forearms, and head that he'd use), would run Mayweather out of the ring. It's true that Armstrong wasn't a great puncher at 147, so Floyd would probably survive. But there's no offensive component to his arsenal that would allow him to bother Hank for a minute.

In Jose Napoles, Mayweather would find himself facing someone even slicker than he is, but with one significant difference. Napoles could punch. Mayweather wouldn't dare trade with Mantequilla. In a straight out boxing match, they'd be close, but because Napoles was much more offensive-minded, it would be hard for Floyd to win a decision. And Napoles' power would keep him on edge all night. Realistically, Floyd's only chance would be to try to potshot Jose in order to bust him up and force the TKO win (Napoles had a tendency to cut around the eyes.) That happened to Napoles exactly twice in 88 pro fights. I don't like Mayweather's odds.

Although Mickey Walker was not as great a welterweight as Ray Robinson (no one was), he's the guy who, aside from possibly Hearns, would beat Mayweather most easily. And he'd have a great time doing it. Nothing in Mayweather's anemic offense would slow Mickey down for a fraction of a second. He would put more pressure on Floyd than Mayweather would believe possible. The guy who Walker most resembled offensively was Roberto Duran. He never let you rest, he mixed his combinations brilliantly, working the head and body, and he was a murderous puncher with either hand. And, unlike Floyd Mayweather, Walker loved to fight.

Harry Greb, probably the second greatest fighter who ever lived behind Robinson, couldn't stop Mickey Walker (and he knew a lot more ways to cut up his opponents than Floyd Mayweather will ever imagine.)  Heavyweight champion Jack Sharkey, a 200 pounder with real pop, couldn't do it either. Does Gavin Evans really believe that powder puff punching Floyd Mayweather, the guy who couldn't knock out a used up Oscar De La Hoya or an overfed, over-aged featherweight (admittedly a great one) in Juan Manuel Marquez would kayo a prime Mickey Walker? Among a long list of really stupid assertions, this one may be the dumbest. Mickey Walker routinely knocked out 200 pound men who weren't stiffs. And he would have knocked Floyd Mayweather loopy without the slightest problem.

Does Evans realize what a life-taker Florentino Fernandez was? And Griffith had his way with him bettering him boxing and physically moving him around the ring wherever he wanted. Emile took the trilogy he had with Benny “Kid” Paret who was an aggressive fighter who could box and punch. But he couldn't handle Griffith's upper-body strength, pressure and hand speed. It's doubtful that Mayweather has ever seen the likes of a Paret, let alone suggesting he could handle a welterweight who not only was the first to drop Dick Tiger, but chased him up to light heavyweight. Tiger was so good he beat Jose Torres to capture the light heavyweight title and held onto it until he was knocked out at the very end of his career by Bob Foster.

Griffth was an aggressive counter-puncher. He wasn't manhandled by middleweights the likes of Nino Benvenuti, Carlos Monzon and Dick Tiger. Emile was too strong for the great Luis Rodriguez to box for the duration of the fight. What does Floyd Mayweather posses in his arsenal to keep Griffith from walking him down and working him over? Nothing, based on his fights with Judah, Baldomir and De La Hoya.

Mayweather's slight advantage in height wouldn't have mattered a bit. And for Evans to consider Mayweather the puncher in a match up with Griffith is laughable. Griffth threw straight punches and they were fast. He also could throw short powerful hooks and uppercuts inside. Couple that with his freakish physical strength and stamina, how does Mayweather hold off a fighter who he holds no physical advantage over? Fighting Griffith, as it would be the case with Basilio, Mayweather would discover early in the fight that's it's a lifetime different moving back on your own than it is when you're being forced to do it. Mayweather being forced back would be fighting to stabilize the fight and wouldn't be in control like he was facing the fighters he's fought. It would be impossible for him to win a decision over Griffith being forced to fight Emile's fight.

As for Kid Gavilan – he would've reigned for years as welterweight champ had Sugar Ray Robinson not been fighting in the same division. As Evans correctly stated, Gavilan lost a disputed decision to Robinson the first time they fought. In the rematch for the title Robinson won a non-controversial decision over Gavilan. However, that was Robinson at his best. A welterweight who had a better punch assortment, hit harder, threw more of them and faster than Mayweather ever dreamed he could. Plus Robinson was mean and nasty and almost impossible to hurt at 147. If Gavilan can hang with Robinson and deal with a rough-house and tough guy like Carmen Basilio, what's Mayweather gonna do with Gavilan?

I completely disagreed with Evans when he said Mayweather hits harder than Gavilan. He may hold the edge in defensive prowess, but he's not beating Gavilan with his defense. A motivated Gavilan would neutralize Mayweather's speed and defense. When Gavilan cut loose he put combinations together in multiples. If Mayweather engaged him he'd lose because “The Keed” would get there with more and wouldn't have to break off the exchanges. In order for Mayweather to beat Gavilan, he'd need to be at his best and catch Gavilan on a night where he wasn't fighting with a sense of urgency – and even at that it wouldn't be enough. If Evans only sees a split decision for Mayweather, he's telegraphing how unsure he is about the outcome. I'm not. Gavilan controls Mayweather inside and outside and wins a comfortable decision over a fighter who isn't a better boxer or strong enough to unnerve him.

Imagine if De La Hoya was more aggressive and stronger on the night he fought Floyd. Oscar has no inside hook or right hand and had Mayweather stymied with his roughhouse tactics and a half hearted jab that he threw. If Basilio could drop Gavilan for a nine-count, and bull Robinson around the ring for fifteen rounds as he smothered him (and that was a middleweight Robinson), how on God's earth would Mayweather keep Carmen off of him?

Some fighters are too strong to box – and that's what would've transpired had Basilio and Mayweather crossed paths at their welterweight best. Mayweather's seize the moment pot-shot offense doesn't match up with the real authentic swarmers like some of the greats from past eras. (There's a dearth of good attackers/swarmers fighting today). Basilio pushed a beast like Gene Fullmer back and forced him to fight in retreat. Mayweather's hand speed would keep him from getting totally overwhelmed, but he's never experienced the type pressure and aggression that Basilio would bring. Imagine Castillo three fold with more tenacity and power. When Mayweather let his hands go against Basilio, it would be out of need and he'd be rushing his punches, therefore he'd have even less on them. Floyd couldn't beat Carmen fighting in the mode where he's just trying to keep Carmen off of him. And he doesn't have the physical strength or power to keep Basilio from forcing the fight from bell-to-bell. Maybe Mayweather opens a cut on Basilio and the fight would be stopped, but even at that he'd be behind in the scoring. Again, some fighters are too strong to box, and Carmen Basilio was one of them. Mayweather wasn't nearly strong enough to outbox Basilio and would have to hold on just to make it the distance.

At least Mr. Evans had the presence of mind to recognize that four of his top ten welterweights (Robinson, Leonard, Hearns, and Burley) would have beaten Floyd Mayweather. From there on, his sense once again deserts him: he believes that three of the four fights would have been close, with only Hearns potentially winning decisively. You don't get close to beating fighters of this caliber without a formidable offensive arsenal. Floyd Mayweather has nowhere near the tools to be competitive with any of these four. Three of them would have knocked Mayweather out effortlessly. Leonard might not have, but he would have completely controlled the fight from start to finish. But if forced to pick, Leonard would've had to have been pulled off of Mayweather the way he was Hearns the first time they fought.

Floyd Mayweather doesn't have the strength or physical skill to defeat one of the ten welterweight greats Mr. Evans listed. Having Mayweather going 6-4 is a pipe-dream, 0-10 is more like it. And in case anyone is wondering, Manny Pacquiao equals Mayweather here as well, as he would also be shutout going 0-10 against the same field of welterweight greats.

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

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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