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PREDICTION PAGE: Dirrell/Abraham, Funeka/Guzman

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NEW YORK (March 26, 2010) – Sixty-seven media members have weighed in on who they think will be victorious in Saturday night’s Group Stage 2 Super Six World Boxing Classic matchup on SHOWTIME® (10:30 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the West Coast).

Forty-three experts think the Armenian Arthur Abraham (31-0, 25 KOs) will keep his tournament standings lead by beating the hometown hero while 24 feel that Andre Dirrell (18-1, 13 KOs) will reign victorious during a Free Preview Weekend on SHOWTIME.

Here’s how they see the Dirrell-Abraham Super Six World Boxing Classic 12-round fight:

Chris Mannix, Sports Illustrated, (Abraham): “Honestly, I think we're looking at fighters at two different levels. Dirrell is skilled, sure, but he has a fraction of the experience Abraham has, and even less raw power. Abraham's solid defense should gobble up Dirrell's attack early and his power will wear him down late. I like Abraham in a late stoppage.”

J. Michael Falgoust, USA Today, (Abraham): “Abraham by decision. Judges tend to penalize a guy like Dirrell for his style. He'll lose a few rounds that he otherwise would've won, much like when he fought Froch.”

Mike Brudenell, Detroit Free Press, (Dirrell): “Thirty years ago, Tommy (Hit Man) Hearns returned Detroit to the boxing map by thrashing Pipino Cuevas to win the WBA welterweight title at Joe Louis Arena, becoming the toast of factory workers, office managers and Grosse Pointe bluebloods. Dirrell isn't the second coming of the Motor City Cobra, but he will add to the D's proud fight history by beating Arthur Abraham by decision in a tough bout in which he'll have to dig deep.”

Ron Borges, Boston Herald, (Abraham): “Abraham by TKO 10. He has just too much experience and too much power for Dirrell to handle.”

Karl Freitag, Fightnews.com, (Abraham): “Abraham is in danger of being outpointed if he spends too much time covering up as he is prone to do. Abraham will have to be more aggressive than normal as he tries to hunt down the nifty speedster Dirrell, who has the home-court advantage in a state that has seen some strange decisions favoring the local fighter in recent years. The feeling here is that the former middleweight champion will eventually catch Dirrell and score his second straight knockout win in SHOWTIME's ground-breaking Super Six series.”

Steve Kim, Maxboxing, (Dirrell): “I like Dirrell by decision. I think being on his home turf, unlike against Froch, he gets the benefit of the doubt in all the close rounds.”

Clive Bernath, SecondsOut.com, (Abraham): “I thought Dirrell was pretty unlucky not to at least get a draw against Froch last time out. Froch struggled to slow down the slicker-punching Dirrell for any period of time, but I believe Abraham is a stronger fighter and will slow the American down late with solid punches to the body and score a unanimous points win to stretch his lead in the tournament.”

Ryan Burton, Boxingscene.com, (Abraham): “I think Abraham wins because Dirrell can't box and move without it looking like he is running. Even though he has the hometown advantage I don't see him backing Abraham up and I don't see him winning enough rounds to get a decision. The other problem Dirrell is going to have is that he hasn't been in the ring with anyone who hits like Abraham. One perfectly-placed punch and it could be lights out. I say Abraham by TKO in round 8.”

Geno McGahee, Ringsidereport.com, (Abraham): “Abraham is a beast in the ring. Dirrell's speedy style may pose some problems for him, but in the end, the power and strength of Abraham will be too much, leading to a 10th round stoppage.”

Robert Hough, FightNews.com, (Abraham): “Dirrell's got guts. He knocked off some mediocre competition and signed on to face some serious men. He said he learned big from losing to Froch, admitted that the Englishman's talk and tactics disrupted his focus and vowed to be smarter when he fights Abraham. Abraham, as ever, is as low-key—and dangerous—as it gets. Can Dirrell's hand speed, movement and what he says is hard-earned wisdom overcome Abraham's toughness and power? It wouldn't be shocking if Dirrell is extremely careful and wins (and gets some home cooking if it's close), but my view is that Abraham will hit Dirrell often enough to wear him down and finish him in the 11th round.”

Colin Seymour, Examiner.com/San Francisco, (Dirrell): “Dirrell might not outbox Abraham as thoroughly as he outboxed Froch last October, but this time Dirrell will be awarded the decision. This fight will be in Dirrell’s home state, so he might even get the benefit of the doubt if he keeps Abraham from decking him. At home in Nottingham, England, Froch apparently got points for wrestling Dirrell to the canvas. Abraham won’t do that. He’ll try to win legitimately but will find Dirrell too elusive.”

Norm Frauenheim, 15 Rounds, (Dirrell): “Dirrell by unanimous decision. The versatile Dirrell can do more than Arthur Abraham. He'll have to. Dirrell also will be armed by a couple intangibles. First, there is motivation in the frustration he felt in the disputed loss to Carl Froch. Then, there figures to be a friendly crowd from nearby Flint, Mich., his hometown. If Dirrell wants to become a star, this is his chance.”

Francisco Salazar, Fight News, (Abraham): “This will be an interesting fight between experience and youth. Dirrell may control some rounds early, but Abraham will begin to figure him out. Dirrell might get knocked down once, as Abraham will win by a unanimous decision, along the lines of 116-111.”

Percy Crawford, Fight Hype.com, (Dirrell): “I like Dirrell. I think when Taylor was boxing Abraham he was having some success. Dirrell's boxing ability or stamina shouldn't come into play as much as it did for Jermain. Dirrell's back is against the wall, so he really has to shine in this fight and I think the home crowd will get him through it. Dirrell by split decision.”

Martin Mulcahey, Max Boxing, (Abraham): “A tough pick, with many favoring Abraham's experience and guile over Dirrell's youth and speed. I think Abraham's crab defense could be the worst thing against a slick speedster like Dirrell. So there is doubt in this outcome. I see Abraham figuring out and timing Dirrell from the fifth round on and winning the fight on points, perhaps with the aid of a couple knockdowns in the championship rounds.”

Lyle Fitzsimmons, SportsNetwork.com, (Abraham): “I like Dirrell's skill, but something tells me Abraham's going to be too tough and will deal better with adversity than Dirrell. . . . even in front of his home crowd. Abraham by decision.”

Don Stewart, Reading (Pa.) Eagle, (Dirrell): “I like Dirrell to pull off the upset by decision. No one has been able to solve Abraham's style, but Dirrell might just be awkward and tricky enough to throw Abraham off his game. This might not be a pretty fight, and the scores could be all over the place. But I just have a weird feeling that Dirrell is going to come out on top.”

Ivan Goldman, Ring Magazine, (Dirrell): “Abraham's style doesn't pile up points but makes life very dangerous for opponents. Dirrell has plenty of talent, but does he have the will? Froch, who doesn't hit as hard as Abraham, couldn't get Dirrell to exchange, so unless Dirrell undergoes an attitude transplant he'll stick and run for 12 rounds and it will be up to the judges to characterize the outcome. This year we've been seeing some pretty crazy decisions. Dirrell wins on the cards at home.”

Ramon Aranda, 411 Mania, (Abraham): “Though I like Abraham in this fight, I respect Dirrell's speed and that could cause him some problems. Still, if Abraham manages to stun Dirrell and not take him out, expect it to get ugly from there, resulting in a decision win for ‘King’ Arthur.”

Paul Upham, SecondsOut.com, (Abraham): “One of the most important points to come out of the SHOWTIME Super Six tournament will be the boxing world's understanding of how great a fighter Abraham really is. Dirrell is a talent, but Abraham has the raw power, experience and skills to win and win well. Abraham wins by 10th round knockout.”

Earle Robinson, WKAR, (Abraham): “As much as I would love to pick Dirrell, I will have to pick Abraham, as his experience should carry him to the win. Abraham is strong and fast, where Dirrell is faster but not as strong or experienced.”

Mike Elliott, TheDailySportsHerald.com, (Abraham): “Dirrell will not generate enough offense, and Abraham will walk through his shots. Abraham's power edge will be the difference.”

Ryan Bates, 411 Mania, (Abraham): “Cracking Abraham's defense is the key, and I'm not sure Dirrell can do it. Abraham by unanimous decision.”

Chris Cozzone, Fight News, (Abraham): “Abraham by unanimous decision over Dirrell, 115-113 and 116-112 twice.”

Anson Wainwright, 15Rounds.com, (Dirrell): “This is a fantastic fight which pits two very different styles of fighters: Abraham's pressure against Dirrell's speed. I think Dirrell will start fast and win the early rounds before Abraham finds his way into the fight by the mid-rounds. I expect Dirrell to pick and prod his way late through some potentially awkward late moments to a close maybe controversial points win.”

Geoffrey Ciani, East Side Boxing, (Dirrell): “Abraham is the safe pick here. It is reasonable to assume that he will land a big shot somewhere along the line and that will be all she wrote. Dirrell, however, has the style to outbox Abraham. He is slick, quick, and knows how to use the ring to his advantage. I do not expect him to make the same types of mistakes he made with Froch. If he can remain focused for 12 full rounds and neutralize the explosive power of Abraham, he should win this. Prediction: Dirrell by unanimous decision.”

Marc Lichtenfeld, Through the Ropes, (Abraham): “Abraham will take Dirrell to places he's never been before. Dirrell knows that if he is going to be a star, he's going to have to weather some heavy fire against Abraham. Dirrell will erase the memories of the Stevens fight and some of his other stinkers with a gutsy performance and will squeak out a (controversial?) split-decision win.”

Ralph Gonzalez, The Sweet Science.com, (Dirrell): “I'm going with Dirrell on this one by split decision in a close fight. Abraham will stalk and Dirrell will box effectively. Dirrell's patience and focus will propel him to a close win in an exciting fight.”

German Villasenor, Maxboxing, (Abraham): “Abraham by mid-to-late rounds stoppage. Abraham will put up more pressure, start earlier than he did against Taylor, wearing down and eventually catching a tiring, backpedaling Dirrell in the mid/second half of the fight for a TKO stoppage.”

Dennis Taylor, Ringsideboxingshow.com, (Abraham): “I'm among the minority who thought Dirrell beat Froch, and I think ‘The Matrix’ has the style to give Abraham fits. This is going to be a great fight — a split decision — with Abraham getting the nod.”

Michael Payne, 411 Mania, (Abraham): “I think Abraham will have a tough time keeping up with Dirrell who will look to use his speed to stay away and pick him off but I still cannot see Dirrell winning. Abraham will stalk him all night and sooner or later he will catch him. I don't think Dirrell will handle his power. Later KO for Abraham.”

Corey Erdman, SIRIUS 98, (Dirrell): “Dirrell's hand speed, stamina and his ability to move in and out of the pocket will win out. If Jermain Taylor were a tad more elusive, he could have beaten Abraham. The hometown boy will hit and run his way to a world title.”

Stephen Tobey, Maxboxing.com, (Abraham): “Abraham by late-round KO. Abraham is stronger and has too good a chin.”

Scott Gilfoid, Boxingnews24.com, (Dirrell): “I have to go with Dirrell. Abraham is too slow, too short and too primitive a fighter to win this one.  Abraham has had things his way in recent years, fighting limited opposition in the weak middleweight division. Abraham is going to be fighting a complete fighter when he steps in the ring against Dirrell. Abraham’s skills, or lack thereof, will be badly exposed by the talented Dirrell. I see Abraham losing badly. I just hope he doesn’t resort to fouling when things start to look bleak for him. Dirrell is a diamond in the rough, a young Roy Jones Jr. type fighter. This is going to be a  break-through fight for him. Dirrell by lopsided 12-round unanimous decision

Raymond Markarian, The Sweet Science.com, (Dirrell): “I think Dirrell knows how to win this fight. He knows that he has to attack Abraham's midsection to slow him down. But can he execute the game plan effectively? That's the real question. I say Dirrell has what it takes to win a majority decision.”

Thomas Marriott, 15rounds.com, (Dirrell): “I've been a big Abraham fan for years, but styles make fights. With that said, I'm giving the edge to Dirrell. Abraham's ear-muff style of defense will have him down on the cards early, forcing him to play catch-up and need a KO to win. Also to factor in is Dirrell getting the benefit of some close rounds after getting ripped off in the UK against Froch. Dirrell by a MD is my pick.”

Coyote Duran, Max Boxing.com, (Abraham): “Dirrell is not a guy who’s going to get down and dirty with you; it just isn’t his nature. He’s slippery, quick and quite a counter-puncher. Abraham knows how to command a ring. Combine that with his power that’s, fortunately, migrated to 168 with him (making any connects he can make even more significant), and I’m thinking, that after a very early lead, we might see Abraham do enough damage on the inside to the body, wearing down Dirrell, en route to a 10th-round stoppage.”

Jack Hirsch, Boxing News, (Dirrell): “Dirrell will win. His jab, speed, and movement will shut down Abraham's vaunted attack just enough to win a close decision.”

Dan Hernandez, Boxingrepublic.com, (Abraham): Abraham came in with such hoopla that it seemed impossible to live up to the high expectations. He has made me a believer. Abraham has considerable boxing skills that complement both his established power and durability. Dirrell, while an excellent fighter, would appear to be relegated yet further into the losers’ bracket. A unanimous or knockout victory for Abraham would not be a surprise.”

David Lee, 411 Mania, (Abraham): “This fight is what the term ‘pick-em’ was invented for. Abraham is not the monster some make him out to be, but he's consistent, powerful and has a toughness about him which makes him more reliable than Dirrell. I go with Abraham ever so slightly on points.”

Raymundo Dioses, 411 Mania, (Dirrell): “Although Abraham’s power is something to be respected, I believe Dirrell will win. Abraham is open to be hit, and if Dirrell fights well on the outside and lands decently in the clenches, he can win on points.”

Jerry Glick, Boxing Digest Magazine, (Abraham): “It is hard to pick against Abraham. He's so strong it appears that he's almost impervious to the punches of his opponents. Abraham’s foes must work around his power. He had some difficulty getting his finisher to connect onto Jermain Taylor's chin until the final few seconds of their fight, but when he touched Taylor, he knocked him out. As talented as Dirrell is, it will all be over when he's tagged by honest Abe by round eight.”

Joseph Bourelly, Examiner.com/Oakland, (Dirrell): “I believed Dirrell was the most talented of the combatants in this tournament from the very beginning, and his performance against Froch confirmed my belief, as I am of the opinion he should have gotten the decision.  Now fighting at home in Michigan, Dirrell should get an extra boost.  He is naturally too fast and talented for Abraham and should emerge victorious via a unanimous decision.”

Dave Wilcox, Talkinboxing.com, (Abraham): “Dirrell is a tremendous fighter, but Abraham is the strongest man in the division. His power will be the difference and he will KO Dirrell in 10 rounds.”

Chris Strait, Convictedartist.com, (Dirrell): “I rarely pick the underdog, but this time, I think I will. I can certainly see Abraham having too much firepower and strength for anyone, but Dirrell has the speed, awkwardness, chin, and energy to outbox Abraham over 12 rounds. He also has no shame in stinking out the joint if that's what it takes to win. Abraham will start hustling in the last few rounds, but it will be too late. He has started to believe his own hype, and that is when fighters lose. Dirrell by unanimous decision (split or majority if Sauerland picks any of the judges).”

Isaac Barrio, Fightweek.com, (Abraham): “Abraham by Unanimous Decision (115-113).”

Ali Shakoor, 411 Mania, (Abraham): “I like Abraham. I don't think Dirrell has the discipline and maturity to beat a tough veteran like Abraham. Dirrell has the physical skills to do it, but he doesn't have the mind, or the experience. I expect Abraham to start slow as usual, but eventually wear down the frustrated and tiring Dirrell down the stretch. Abraham by UD due to clean, effective, power punching.”

David Duenez, Therewillbebloodfightshow.com, (Abraham): “Dirrell is obviously stepping into this match with a greater boost of confidence, since dancing with Froch on the first stage of the tourney. Dirrell has the speed, but does he have the maturity to push and interrupt Abraham effectively and not carelessly? I would say no. Abraham is no Froch. He may be predictable, but that doesn't mean he isn't world class in the ring. Abraham by late stoppage.”

George Elsasser, BraggingRightsCorner.Com, (Abraham): “Guess here is Abraham by late stoppage, or likely decision. Dirrell’s early quickness will make it interesting, but finding no place to hide over the run to the wire should be his downfall.”

Manish Pandya, TheDailySportsHerald.com, (Abraham).

Oscar Borras, 20 de Mayo, (Abraham): “Abraham should be the winner because he is the more experienced fighter. He can box, and hit very hard. He is just a better fighter than Dirrell.”

Rizwaan Zahid, Ringsideboxingshow.com, (Abraham): “Dirrell has a lot to prove since his outing against Froch. Although Dirrell did more then Froch in the view of many, he lost on the scorecards and few had sympathy for him due to his running and holding tactics. Abraham, on the other hand, aims to add another American on his resume with a win over Dirrell.”

Elisa Harrison, Braggingrightscorner.com, (Abraham): “King Arthur for me. I think he is stronger, certainly more experienced, and he strikes me like the kind of guy that won't wilt under any type of pressure. I think he will take this Super Six crown, but for now, I pick him over Dirrell.”

Howie Reed, The Square Ring, (Abraham): “Abraham late as referee stops fight.”

Joe O'Rourke, Ringsideboxingshow.com, (Dirrell): “One can anticipate a war on the horizon, an eventual collision between two prototypical fighters. I favor Dirrell most likely to win. It is not unknown that Abraham has only fought twice outside Germany, and  Dirrell’s loss to Froch may awaken in him a sense of resolve powerful enough to outpoint his adversary.  Moreover, a great outside boxer like Dirrell usually wins against an inside master like Abraham.”

Igor Frank, Burbank Times, (Dirrell): “Abraham is a lot more experienced fighter with explosive power, but for long periods of time he could use his high guard defense and be inactive. Dirrell is a more athletically-gifted boxer who is in a must-win fight if he is to stay in the tournament. I believe he will upset the odds and outwork and out punch Abraham for a well deserved unanimous decision victory.”

Armando Cabrera, Boxing Let's Talk.com, (Abraham): “Dirrell is a good fighter but Abraham is a tougher fighter and probably will win the fight.”

Travis Hartman, Ringsideboxingshow.com, (Dirrell): “Dirrell by unanimous decision. I think he shocks not only Abraham but the world. Amazing fight nonetheless.”

Albert Alvarez, Diiamondboxing.com, (Abraham): “I see Abraham being too much for Dirrell to handle at this particular time. My pick goes to the thunderous punching Abraham by UD.”

Ed Ludwig, Braggingrightscorner.com, (Abraham): “This fight could really go either way. Abraham imposing his strength or Dirrell using his well-rounded boxing skills and taking a decision. Big fights and experience favor Abraham and I think he will be able to keep constant pressure on the young Dirrell and by round nine, Abraham will have his hands raised in victory as Dirrell’s corner stops the fight.”

Scott Swerbinsky, TheFightFans, (Abraham): “Abraham by easy decision or late-round KO/TKO.”

Jake Emen, ProBoxing-Fans.com, (Abraham): “Abraham continues to prove that he's more versatile than he at first may seem, and that he's exceedingly patient, slowly working to unfold his game plan as it was envisioned. While Dirrell's speed and movement could frustrate Abraham, he will not have the ability to maintain that for a complete 12 rounds, providing Abraham with opportunities to land his well- placed power shots and break his man down. Abraham's power will either cause Dirrell to retreat in full, leading to a decision victory, or could possibly hit home and end the fight late. Abraham by unanimous decision.”

Jerry Hoffman, 12 Sports Production, (Dirrell): “Dirrell got jobbed last fight and Abraham may be firing at air. Decision AD.”

Martin Mayfield, Game Sports Magazine, (Dirrell): “This is an intriguing matchup of pure puncher vs. natural boxer with outstanding movement, and underrated power. I believe Dirrell pulls this one out to impress and surprise just as his good buddy Andre Ward did against favorite Mikkel Kessler. Not only do I feel Dirrell should have gotten the decision in his fight against Froch, I believe he learned some valuable lessons in the ring. And let's not forget, this one is stateside! Dirrell 12D”

Juan Zurita, Boxingfanatics.com, (Abraham): “Many felt Dirrell deserved the nod against Froch.  However, there's no denying the bout was a close, ugly affair, all due in large part to Dirrell's stall tactics.  Abraham is more talented than Froch, so I expect him to apply much more pressure and get his offense off more effectively than Froch was able to. Of course, Dirrell will do his best to make things ugly again, and he'll very likely be outraged when he drops another close decision. All that said, a late TKO victory for Abraham would not surprise me either.”

Butch Gottlieb, Boxinginlasvegas.com, (Dirrell): “Dirrell by unanimous decision. This time Dirrell is fighting at home and can concentrate on his opponent. He has a plan and will implement it on the 27th.”

HBO’s hit late-night boxing series features a doubleheader of hungry young fighters when HBO BOXING AFTER DARK:  MARCOS RENE MAIDANA VS. VICTOR CAYO AND JOAN GUZMAN VS. ALI FUNEKA is seen SATURDAY, MARCH 27 at 10:30 p.m. (live ET/tape-delayed PT), from The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, exclusively on HBO.  The HBO Sports team of Bob Papa, Lennox Lewis and Max Kellerman will be ringside for the event, which will be available in HDTV, closed-captioned for the hearing-impaired and presented in Spanish on HBO Latino.

The main event features sluggers with nearly perfect records, as Marcos Rene Maidana (27-1, 26 KOs) of Margarita, Argentina goes up against Victor Cayo (24-0, 16 KOs) of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic in a scheduled 12-round junior welterweight match.  Suffering only one loss in his pro career, Maidana possesses a fabulous knockout margin and is one of the division’s top contenders and heaviest hitters.  Boasting great ring presence, the undefeated Cayo looks to elevate his standing in the division with a victory.

The opening bout is a rematch pitting undefeated Joan Guzman (29-0-1, 17 KOs) of Brooklyn, by way of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, against Ali Funeka (30-2-3, 25 KOs) out of East London, South Africa, in a scheduled 12-round lightweight title bout.  Last November on BOXING AFTER DARK, the two faced off in an action-filled contest that saw Guzman dominating the early rounds before Funeka rallied.  The judges’ verdict of a draw left most observers unsatisfied, setting the stage for this highly anticipated encore.

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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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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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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