Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Weighing In - July 2009: The Cruiserweights

Seven months after losing it, Steve "U.S.S." Cunningham set sail on a tour to regain the IBF title. His first assignment: successfully withstand the barrage of the hard-hitting Wayne "Big Truck" Braithwaite in Sunrise, Fla., on July 11.

Mission accomplished.

Throughout the course of the 12-round title eliminator, the 6-foot-3 Cunningham was content on trading with the diminutive Braithwaite on the inside, most times landing cleaner punches at a higher frequency. All three judges had Cunningham winning by a wide margin: 119-109, 117-111 and 118-110.

"I wanted to rough him up a bit, just give him different looks," Cunningham said of his willingness to mix it up with a dangerous opponent.

One win closer? Check.

It was Cunningham's first bout with Naazim Richardson as his trainer. Richardson -- who also trains Bernard Hopkins and Shane Mosley, among others -- gained recognition in January for discovering a foreign substance in Antonio Margarito's hand wraps minutes prior to entering the ring against Mosley. His keen eye led to a one-year ban for Margarito.

New trainer? Check.

Next on the U.S.S. log is reclaiming what Cunningham (22-2, 11 KOs) feels is rightfully his: the IBF belt, along with the then-vacant RING cruiserweight championship Adamek won in their epic December slugfest.

"I feel like a champion," Cunningham, 33, said. "A champion without a belt right now. I'm looking for my belt, and I found it. I know where it's at, so I'm going to go get it."

Following his win, he might not have to look far. Barring interference from fellow-Philadelphia fighter Hopkins, Cunningham and Adamek are on another collision course.

Also on July 11 but in Newark, N.J., Adamek packed too much ammunition for Bobby Gunn. Referee Earl Brown and a ringside doctor called a halt to the bout after the fourth round. It was Adamek's second win in as many fights since defeating Cunningham.

Though separated by more than 1,200 miles, Adamek and Cunningham were linked by I-95 and a memory of their first meeting.

Adamek (38-1, 26 KOs) floored Cunningham three times in December. Still, Cunningham's resolve and relentless will were enough to impress judge Clark Sammartino to score it for him 114-112. At 115-112 and 116-110, respectively, Shafeeq Rashada and John Stewart favored Adamek, a testament to how closely the two competed considering up to three extra points could have been deducted from Cunningham's scorecards due to the knockdowns.

It's no wonder why Cunningham is vocal about a rematch and deserving of such.

"I'm the No. 1 mandatory and hope to get (a rematch) sometime in '09," he said.

Not only is Cunningham not looking past Adamek, he also isn't seeing anything else in his scope. Adamek is the only blip on his radar.

A move to heavyweight doesn't entice Cunningham, either. In a fairly deep weight class with a lack of household names, he wants to be the face of the cruiserweight division. Evening the score with Adamek on a stage set by HBO or Showtime is the first step, as well as one toward closure.

"After Adamek, I'm going to get them belts," Cunningham said. "Then it's the whole cruiserweight division. (In beating Braithwaite) I wanted to send a message, let them know that I'm still the man in the cruiserweight division. Man up."

And the U.S.S. Cunningham won't dock until the mission is accomplished.

Top 10 at 200:

1. Tomasz Adamek (38-1, 26 KOs): The RING champion is a beast. He's deceiving to both opponents and fans. He has pure skill, a good chin and throws smart combinations. He rarely throws one punch at a time.

2. Steve Cunningham (22-2, 11 KOs): A rematch with Adamek makes so much sense that fans are worried it won't happen. When you throw the IBF in the mix, you never know what to expect.

3. Guillermo Jones (36-3-2, 28 KOs): El Felino has a solid resume to match his record. One of his three losses was by split decision to Cunningham in April 2005. He stopped Braithwaite in four and Arslan in 10.

4. Marco Huck (25-1, 20 KOs): Another victim of the sea-faring Cunningham, Kapt'n takes on Victor Ramirez on August 29. Huck fights almost exclusively in Germany, which makes fans weary of record.

5. Giacobbe Fragomeni (26-1-1, 10 KOs): Fragomeni has plenty going against him: He's 39, 5 feet 9 inches and has little power. Nobody told that to Wlodarczyk, who the fiesty Italian fought to a draw in May.

6. Krzysztof Wlodarczyk (41-2-1, 31 KOs): Diablo had Frago down in the ninth but couldn't put him away. He also owns an erroneous split decision win over Cunningham, which was later avenged.

7. Firat Arslan (29-4-1, 18 KOs): The southpaw has wins over Darnell "Ding-a-Ling Man" Wilson and Wilson-stopper Grigory Drozd. Alas, he's another German-based fighter who has rarely fought outside of his homeland.

8. Matt Godfrey (19-1, 10 KOs): Too Smooth put on a clinic against Shawn Hawk on July 10, fighting in the southpaw stance the entire bout. He owns quality wins over Emmanuel Nwodo, Felix Cora Jr. and Danny Batchelder.

9. Ola Afolabi (14-1-3, 6 KOs):
Kryptonite's knockout of Enzo Maccarinelli proved this Brit can bang a bit. He's recently been winning with ease, but needs better opposition to show fans how skillful he is.

10. Troy Ross (22-1, 15): In his first fight since winning The Contender, The Boss took an easy but terribly boring decision from Michael Simms. The Canadian is definitely talented. He just needs to be entertaining.

Notably absent: Hino Ehikhamenor (KO loss to Ross), Darnell Wilson (KO loss to Drozd), Jean-Marc Mormeck (KO loss to David Haye) and O'Neil Bell (what else is new?)

The Sweet Science lab is now closed.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A Battle of Bantamweight Beasts

Predictions for Joseph Agbeko vs. Vic Darchinyan are posted on The Boxing Bulletin.

Add a comment or post your own prediction.

Also, more tragic news. R.I.P. Arturo Gatti.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

P4P Rankings - July 2009

It's the first Tuesday of the month, so it's time to evaluate the pound-for-pound best boxers in the world.

Michael Jackson's memorial service was held today at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Not only did the King of Pop have a nickname worthy of any top-tier fighter, he also churned out some bad ass music.

To honor M.J. -- who was as familiar with a hit as anyone -- here's the always subjective top 10, Jacko-style:

1. Manny Pacquiao (49-3-2, 37 KOs): A Nov. 14 showdown with Miguel Cotto at a likely catchweight of 144 -- a matchup in which Pac-Man will be favored -- is all but signed. Adding to the obvious advantages he'll have over Cotto, the Filipino will be the fresher of the two having needed only two rounds to dispose of Ricky Hatton to win the RING junior welterweight championship on May 2. Song: "Dangerous"

2. Juan Manuel Marquez (50-4-1, 37 KOs):
Dinamita's bout against Floyd Mayweather Jr. was rescheduled for Sept. 19 because Mayweather bruised rib cartilage while sparring. Marquez is the lineal champion at 135 pounds, but is meeting Mayweather at a catchweight of 144. If there is any doubt of his ability: One measly point separates him from Pacquiao in their two bouts (one draw, one split-decision loss). Nobody fights Pacquiao that close, and Marquez is always ready for a challenge. Song: "I'll Be There"

3. Bernard Hopkins (48-5-1, 32 KOs):
The Executioner has been inactive since picking apart middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik in a light heavyweight bout Oct. 18. He negotiated himself out of a cruiserweight fight against champion Tomasz Adamek and will be a spectator as fellow light heavyweights Chad Dawson and Glen Johnson clash in a proposed rematch. B-Hop might depart the rankings if nothing is scheduled by Halloween. At 44, he can't wait too long. Song: "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough"

4. Shane Mosley (46-5, 39 KOs):
Sugar Shane became the odd man out in the Pacquiao sweepstakes when Pac-Man opted to face Cotto. Who would've thought his Jan. 24 destruction of Antonio Margarito would turn out to be a bad business move? Mosley can't buy a fight right now, unsuccessfully low-balling himself for a shot at Pacquiao and begging for anybody to step up to the plate. According to his twitter page, Andre Berto has been told he is the first option for Mosley on Nov. 14. Let's hope. Song: "Rock With You"

5. Paul Williams (37-1, 27 KOs):
In the same boat as Mosley is the Punisher. The freakish physical specimen is hovering between three weight divisions -- 147, 154 and 160 -- and still has trouble finding worthy opponents. His April 11 decimation of Canastota-bound Winky Wright vaulted him into the top 10. Williams is a high-risk, low-reward fight for anyone, even if he chooses to compete in the stacked super middleweight division. If he campaigns at 168, will he still be avoided by the top guys? Song: "Who's Lovin' You"

6. Israel Vazquez (43-4, 31 KOs):
Vazquez hasn't fought since defeating Rafael Marquez in the 2008 fight of the year and has fallen three spots. What keeps him in the rankings is his legitimate excuse: He had surgery to repair his retina. This is not the same as retirement (Mayweather) or inactivity (Rafael Marquez). He has recently relinquished his RING championship at junior featherweight to join the featherweight ranks. Hopefully he'll return to form after injury, the layoff and the weight gain. Song: "Remember the Time"

7. Miguel Cotto (34-1, 27 KOs):
Nobody can deny Cotto's heart and guile. In a fight that easily could have gone either way, Cotto showed unbridled determination in eking out a split decision win over a game Joshua Clottey on June 13. Not only did he battle through Clottey's assault and a nasty gash over his left eye, he also overcame personal turmoil stemming from his split with his trainer, uncle Evangelista Cotto. With Joe Santiago in his corner, the Cotto camp has a lot of homework leading up to a bout with Pacquiao. Song: "Thriller"

8. Ivan Calderon (32-0-1, 6 KOs):
As mentioned in last Tuesday's blog, the Iron Boy may be showing signs of rust after a sixth-round technical draw with Rodel Mayol on June 13. At 34, Calderon is still the master of hit-and-don't-get-hit, but once the legs and hand speed begin to slow what is this feather-fisted puncher going to rely on? He's a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame, but the window of opportunity is closing for this great 108-pound champion to give fans a defining performance to remember. Song: "Smooth Criminal"

9. Wladimir Klitschko (53-3, 47 KOs):
Finally -- maybe a bit overdue -- Dr. Steelhammer makes his debut in the P4P rankings. His case is clear: He attained the vacant RING heavyweight championship in another dominant performance, this time in a 10th-round TKO of Ruslan Chagaev. His entry into the top 10 bumped out Vic Darchinyan, who challenges Joseph Agbeko in a bantamweight title bout on July 11. With the state of the heavyweight division as it is, Klitschko might remain on here for a while. Song: "Unbreakable"

10. Chad Dawson (28-0, 17 KOs):
Bad Chad is nearing a crossroads. The southpaw has the necessary tools to be a star, but hasn't reached pay-per-view status. Lackluster performances like his win over a 40-year-old Antonio Tarver in a May 9 rematch do nothing to garner the speedy southpaw a broader fan base. A second bout with Johnson won't be easy, especially considering the difficulty he had against the Road Warrior in April 2008. Song: "Bad"

The rest:
11. Vic Darchinyan
12. Kelly Pavlik
13. Tomasz Adamek
Carl Froch
15. Juan Manuel Lopez
Nonito Donaire
17. Rafael Marquez
18. Timothy Bradley
19. Nate Campbell
20. Chris John

Come back Thursday for a Sweet Science lab prefight analysis of the Agbeko-Darchinyan bout.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Heavily Weighing the Heavyweights

by Bill Jessup, Blast Furnace Brawler

On June 20, a new lineal heavyweight champ was crowned for the first time since 2004. The problem was nobody cared.

The bout -- originally scheduled between Wladimir Klitschko and former cruiserweight champion David Haye -- was slated for HBO’s World Championship Boxing. However, when the boisterous Brit backed out of the fight due to injury and was replaced by No. 3 heavyweight Ruslan Chagaev, HBO dropped the fight.


Well, for those who watched the fight (or any Klitschko fight, for that matter), it was obvious: It was standard boring Klitschko. Through a systematic destruction of his opponent, Klitschko won by 10th-round TKO. The fight should have never lasted that long.

Klitschko had broken Chagaev's will by the sixth, and he continued to punish Chagaev with jabs and straight right hands for three more rounds until the bout was stopped one second into round 10.

I half expected Dr. Steelhammer to stand in the center of the ring and scream, “What? Are you not entertained?” However, much like Proximo told Maximus: “Listen to me. Learn from me. I was not the best because I killed quickly. I was the best because the crowd loved me. Win the crowd and you will win your freedom.”

Klitschko needs to look at the great heavyweights and understand why they were great. They brought an entertainment factor, whether it was Muhammad Ali with his words outside the ring and skill inside it or Mike Tyson delivering brutal knockouts.

Klitschko will never achieve greatness until he can bring an entertainment value to the ring. Haye would have delivered that.

For nearly two years Haye has created the biggest buzz in the heavyweight division without even throwing a punch. The world wanted to see what -- if anything -- Klitschko would do differently against Haye and whether Haye’s insults and total disrespect for Klitschko and older brother Vitali had affected Wladimir as much as it seemed.

To quote Yogi Berra, “Ninety percent of this game is half-mental” If Haye was able to get into the head of Klitschko before the bell even rang, what would happen in the squared circle? Would Klitschko’s methodical jab be replaced by wild haymakers intended to remove the Brit’s head from his shoulders? Or would Haye’s head movement and foot speed prove to be an obstacle the robotic Klitschko may not be able to overcome?

There is a quote from William Shakespeare’s play, “The Twelfth Night:”

Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ‘em.

By becoming the lineal champion, Klitschko achieved something great but did not achieve greatness. However, had he fought and defeated David Haye? Greatness may have been thrust upon him.

Heavyweight rankings

1. Wladimir Klitschko: He became the first lineal champion since brother Vitali retired in 2005. ‘Nuff said.

2. Vitali Klitschko: He is the former lineal champion and current WBC champion. He boasts a record of 37-2 with 36 by knockout and is coming off a March 21 ninth-round TKO victory over Juan Carlos Gomez. He will possibly be the first Klitschko to get a crack at David Haye.

3. Alexander Povetkin: The Russian boasts a record of 17-0 with 12 knockouts. He is the current mandatory challenger for Wladimir's IBF title. He has wins against former titlist Chris Byrd and current top-10 heavyweight Eddie Chambers, and he's coming off a 10-round unanimous decision victory over American Jason Estrada.

4. David Haye: The former undisputed cruiserweight champion is now campaigning at heavyweight. He had a questionable chin at cruiserweight and will likely rely heavily on foot speed and head movement to succeed. With a record of 23-1 with 21 knockouts, he pulled out of his June 20 bout with Wladimir Klitschko. He's now campaigning for a September fight against Vitali.

5. Eddie Chambers: Fast Eddie consistently performs to the level of his competition. After suffering the first loss of his career to Povetkin, he has won his last three bouts -- most recently against Sam Peter in one of the least entertaining fights I have ever seen. He is scheduled to face Alexander Dimitrenko on July 4. Hopefully he will show more fireworks than in his last fight.

6. Chris Arreloa: With a record of 27-0 with 24 knockouts, he is the most intriguing name on this list. Arreloa is a big puncher. He needs to work on his weight issues and slim down. His aggressive style could prove troublesome for every aforementioned fighter on this list. His most recent bout was a fourth-round KO of Jameel McCline.

Also ranked:
7. Alexander Dimitrenko
8. Nikolai Valuev
9. John Ruiz
10. Denis Boytsov
11. Evander Holyfield (Come on, brother needs a paycheck!)

Editor's note: The views expressed in guest blogs are not necessarily the same as those of the blog owner.

Chambers defeated Dimitrenko by majority decision in Hamburg, Germany. Official judges' scorecards were 117-109, 116-111 and 113-113.

There are many gripes from casual fans and other detractors about the lack of American star-power in the heavyweight division. Chambers may not fit the mold -- he's a slick, cautious boxer without stunning power -- but how better to celebrate Independence Day than having Chambers earn a win overseas, where decisions are difficult to come by?

Happy Fourth of July. -- JRH

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

R.I.P. Alexis Arguello

I had planned to publish a guest blog today, but the death of Alexis Arguello deserves a higher billing than being just a snippet at the end of a post. Boxing has lost a legend. He will be greatly missed.

Yahoo! Sports: Kevin Iole's response
ESPN: Dan Rafael's response

HBO's Legendary Nights:
The Tale of Alexis Arguello vs. Aaron Pryor

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

R.I.P. Alexis Arguello
"El Flaco Explosivo"
(82-8, 65 KOs)
April 19, 1952 - July 1, 2009

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Joey Bag O'Donuts: Ranking the Undefeated

Understatement of the week: Boxers take great pride in their records.

As competition stiffens, it's often said the greatest weakness of an unbeaten prospect is his not knowing how to lose. The undefeated carry their lack of L's like their birthrights. This is sometimes an advantage and other times a detriment.

Just ask Acelino Freitas, who boasted a 35-0 record when he faced fellow power puncher Diego Corrales in 2004. The unorthodox Brazilian was seemingly having his way with the stalking Corrales, using every inch of the ring and countering effectively through the first five rounds.

Halfway through the scheduled 12-round bout, Freitas began slowing down. Corrales, 38-2 at the time, was getting to him more frequently and cutting off the ring to land flush combinations. The result was Freitas walking away from referee Michael Ortega after being floored a third time. Corrales was declared the winner by 10th-round TKO.

On the other hand there is the late Corrales, who -- despite legal, emotional and weight issues -- fought Floyd Mayweather Jr. on relatively short notice in a 2001 super featherweight title bout. Corrales was 33-0; Mayweather was 24-0 and too much for his troubled opponent.

Corrales was knocked down five times, peeling himself off the canvas before each 10-count was reached. In the 10th round, Corrales' corner decided it had seen enough and threw in the towel. Corrales vehemently protested the stoppage, even had to be restrained from attacking his own father (whose decision it was to call a halt to the action).

These contrasting examples prove varying responses boxers have to tallying first losses. Freitas was never the same as he was before and became comfortable with saying "no mas" when things weren't going his way, as he did in his most recent fight (vs. Juan Diaz in 2007). Corrales went on to become a legend in winning the lightweight championship against Jose Luis Castillo in 2005 in what may be the greatest bout in recent memory. Sadly, Corrales died in a motorcycle crash two years to the day of his most celebrated triumph.

Some risk all to keep their loss columns empty, while others do whatever it takes -- even if that means avoiding unfavorable matchups -- to remain blemish-free. Either way, that intangible donut weighs heavily on every undefeated boxer's plate as he step through the ropes.

With that, a list of the best undefeated fighters in the sport:

1. Ivan Calderon (32-0-1, 6 KOs), junior flyweight: The Iron Boy showed some rust in a technical draw with Rodel Mayol on June 13. Even if he's losing a step, he can still avoid getting hit better than most in the business. But how much does he have left at 34?

2. Juan Manuel Lopez (26-0, 24 KOs), junior featherweight:
If this Puerto Rican southpaw boxer-puncher has a weakness, it has yet to be exposed. Juanma disposed of another victim, Olivier Lontchi, on June 27. Super stardom may be on the horizon.

3. Floyd Mayweather Jr. (39-0, 25 KOs), welterweight:
Money May's financial instability has forced him out of retirement. His pride has forced him to face one of the best boxers in the world, Juan Manuel Marquez, in his return bout. Too bad Marquez is a lightweight.

4. Carl Froch (25-0, 20 KOs), super middleweight:
The Cobra was on the better end of a thriller against Jermain Taylor, knocking out Bad Intentions with 14 seconds left in their April 25 bout. The 168-pound division is deeper than the English Channel, and this Brit may be the best in it.

5. Chad Dawson (28-0, 17 KOs), light heavyweight:
Bad Chad has incredible physical tools, especially speed, but the southpaw hasn't been a critical success in recent wins against Antonio Tarver (twice) and Glen Johnson. A scheduled rematch with Johnson is pivotal.

6. Arthur Abraham (30-0, 24 KOs), middleweight:
Boxing fans are clamoring for a King Arthur-Kelly Pavlik middleweight championship bout. It is uncertain whether it will happen with Abraham's difficulty making 160, though he showed no signs of sluggishness in defeating Mahir Oral on June 27.

7. Chris John (42-0-2, 22 KOs), featherweight:
A blood illness kept the Dragon from rectifying a faulty draw with Rocky Juarez. The June 27 rematch was scrapped, but the self-promoted Indonesian remains an entertaining and under-appreciated fighter.

8. Jorge Linares (27-0, 18 KOs), junior lightweight:
It's a shame how little American fight fans get to see of El Nino de Oro. After sitting out nearly all of 2008, the Venezuelan has notched stoppages in back-to-back fights, most recently over Josafat Perez on June 27.

9. Timothy Bradley (24-0, 11 KOs), junior welterweight:
Desert Storm proved his mettle by overcoming a first-round knockdown (and a rare standing 8-count) to win a decision over Kendall Holt on April 4. An August 1 bout against Nate Campbell is mouth-watering.

10. Edwin Valero (25-0, 25 KOs), lightweight:
Despite his lack of quality opposition by comparison, El Inca has run through every opponent in his path. Valero has limited medical clearance in the States stemming from a brain injury, but he is a thrilling enigma at 135.

Of course, there are other notable no-loss fighters who could easily be on the list. If you like or dislike, agree or disagree, post a comment. The "Bag O'Donuts" will appear on the last Tuesday every month.

Ortiz backlash: Victor Ortiz is likable, talented and fun to watch. That stated, he is not "vicious," as his nickname implies. Not after quitting in the sixth round against Marcos Maidana on June 27.

As if robbing fans of what was a back-and-forth firefight that had both fighters tasting promotional decal a stunning total of five times wasn't enough, Ortiz felt it was necessary to tell Max Kellerman in a post-fight interview that he wanted to be able to talk when he is older and fans shouldn't hold it against him for not wanting to continue.

He has since changed his tune, attributing his comments to impulsiveness and nerves. Sorry, Victor, but it's going to take a lot more than an apology to mend what you have broken. Fans connect with those who go out on their shields.

Ortiz must find something within himself to be a warrior in the heat of battle, not in hindsight.

Remember that aforementioned comparison between Freitas and Corrales? Ortiz has decided not to be held in as high regard as Corrales. It will be a long road back to winning fans' trust in his degree of fortitude.

As Ortiz may have learned, the science isn't always sweet.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Cotto-Clottey: A Gem in The Garden

How bad did Joshua Clottey want to step into the squared circle and stare down a fellow top welterweight? The Bronx-based native of Ghana vacated the IBF belt he earned in a ninth-round technical decision over Zab Judah to get the chance.

If there are few fighters who considered Clottey's constant call outs, there are even fewer who would relinquish a trinket for the sake of facing a more dangerous opponent. But that's how Clottey rolls. He's 32 and has 37 bouts under his belt. He's as good as he'll ever be yet isn't where he wants to be in terms of name recognition.

That may change June 13 when the underdog Clottey challenges Miguel Cotto in what might as well be Cotto's back yard.

Cotto, 28, is no stranger to Madison Square Garden, where he is 5-0. From 2005-2007, Cotto has headlined at the legendary arena during the weekend of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade. The native of Puerto Rico has not only possessed an edge in skill in the main events but also had a rabid crowd behind him.

And it took Antonio Margarito, a common opponent between the two, to be suspended for the fight to come to fruition. Basically, when Margs decided to defecate on the sport by attempting to use an illegal substance in his hand wraps against Shane Mosley, the seeds of a solid matchup were fertilized. Fans will find out how it blossoms at 10:35 p.m. ET when HBO airs the fight live as part of its free preview weekend.

To expand on the pre-fight report card posted in the last blog, here is how the two compare:

Speed: Cotto: B | Clottey: B

Neither fighter has especially quick hands, and each has a different type of speed. Cotto (33-1, 27 KOs) creates combinations from footwork. His lateral movement opens his opponent's guard and allows him to unleash both hands to the head and body. Creating the multiple targets gives the illusion of speed and, while certainly not slow, the punches aren't thrown at a blistering clip.

Clottey, who is more of a defensive fighter than Cotto, has sneaky speed. He confuses opponents by not allowing them to solve his rhythm. He occasionally lets his hands go -- and vows to do so on the inside where he's most effective -- but he is more economical with his output than Cotto.

Power: Cotto: B+ | Clottey: B-

Despite a high knockout ratio, Cotto's jab and right hook aren't as damaging in single shots as someone like Mosley's. He has been the physically stronger guy in most of his fights and will be against Clottey. His left hook to the body is probably the best in the game at the moment.

Clottey (35-2, 20 KOs) relies on outlasting rather than outslugging his opponents. Because he is a pressure fighter who prefers to mix it up in a space equivalent to a phone booth, he throws short, well-placed shots while preserving energy.

Chin: Cotto: C+ | Clottey: A

Listen, Paulie Malignaggi rocked Cotto. There is, of course, no shame in being shaken by Ricardo Torres, Mosley or Margarito (whose KO win looks shady now). But Cotto, even if he was drained at 140, was visibly rattled by DeMarcus Corley, Kelson Pinto and Lovemore N'Dou.

Whether Margarito used the plaster of Paris against Clottey was a non-issue. Dude has a beard. Even though Clottey lost that bout, he continued to go head-to-head with the Mexican for most of the 12 rounds and was showing no signs that Margarito's punches were bothering him as much as they have others.

Ring generalship: Cotto: A- | Clottey: B-

What Cotto might lack in his jaw he makes up for in his brain. He knows how to use the expanse of the ring, as he did against Mosley and Margarito. He also knows when to jump on a guy when he has him hurt. His footwork has improved over time, and he can be surprisingly elusive sometimes.

Make no mistake, Clottey has been in some stinkers (Clottey-Gutierrez II, anyone?). Because of his propensity to fight on the inside he is prone to the occasional, sometimes frequent, clinch. He has had point deductions for hitting low and -- intentionally or not -- been warned for other fouls. He was disqualified for a low blow in round 11 against Carlos Baldomir. He was up on all three scorecards at the time.

Intangibles: Cotto: A- | Clottey B

Cotto has the crowd, that much is clear. He will carry his aforementioned record at MSG into the ring along with an alphabet soup strap. Cotto is as focused as they come, even if he's working with a new trainer in Joe Santiago after firing uncle Evangelista Cotto in April's physical confrontation.

As focused as Cotto might be, Clottey is just as determined. He has not fought on stages as high as Cotto, but that may be to his advantage. It's a surprise this will be his first bout in The Garden, but rest assured he'll want to make it a lasting impression. He has the death stare locked.

Prediction: Clottey W12 Cotto

How is that for a curve ball? Ever since the bout was announced I've leaned slightly toward Clottey to pull off the upset. He's not as skilled as Cotto, but styles make fights. Both are known to fade down the stretch. I'm picking the guy who can take the better punch and has the defense advantage. I can see Cotto outboxing Clottey, sure, but eventually he'll be dragged into a brawl. Clottey will take four of the final six. A draw is a strong possibility.

Remember to tune in!

"Fight Night Club" premieres: Golden Boy Promotions' first "Fight Night Club" card premieres tonight on Versus at 9 p.m. ET. The monthly installment will showcase prospects and is intended to attract a younger audience by implementing a disc jockey and broadcasting on RingTV.com.

The first card is full of feel-good stories. In one of the co-main events, David Rodela squares off against Juan Garcia at a catch weight of 133. Rodela, who sparred with Manny Pacquiao in preparation of his decimation of Ricky Hatton, is on the comeback trail after surviving a near-fatal car accident.

Garcia spends his time outside the ring working with children at a Los Angeles YMCA. Though he began his career 14-0, he has lost his last two and has fought once in the past 14 months. The matchup is intriguing enough to carry the inauguration of "Fight Night Club" if the innovation doesn't.

Etc: Don't forget Robert Guerrero is in action on "Friday Night Fights."

It's a sweet weekend of boxing. Drop science in my comment section.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Weighing In - June 2009: A look at the welterweights

No weight class has housed more talent or been more consistent over the past 30 years -- if not history -- than the welterweight division. Almost exclusive to combat sports, the term "welter" is defined by Merriam-Webster as "a state of wild disorder."

In the first installment of "Weighing In," where I rank a division's fighters and offer other analysis, I will try to bring order to the 147-pound class. "Weighing In" will be a monthly installment appearing at the beginning of the second week each month. Comments and suggestions are encouraged.

In the words of the legendary Mills Lane: Let's get it on.

Top 10 at 147:

1. Shane Mosley (46-5, 39 KOs):
Despite ESPN jumping the gun and reporting Manny Pacquiao accepted Mosley's challenge (without checking with boxing writer Dan Rafael), Sugar Shane is still without an opponent for the second half of the year. He may just have to take a risk and fight Paul Williams. According to the RING's championship policy, Mosley should own the title after battering Antonio Margarito. It's a shame "The Bible of Boxing" didn't crown him.

2. Miguel Cotto (33-1, 27 KOs): He'll have his hands full with a very determined Clottey in Madison Square Garden on June 13. Cotto is no stranger to fighting at MSG, having fought there five times prior. This will be the fourth time he headlines a card on the weekend of the Puerto Rican Day Parade. He bounced back from his knockout loss to Margarito by disposing of Michael Jennings in five rounds in February and will have the crowd behind him against Clottey.

3. Joshua Clottey (35-2, 20 KOs): The tough-as-nails Ghanaian relinquished the IBF trinket he won in his technical decision over Judah last August. That's how much he wants to fight the best. If every boxer was as resolute as Clottey, Mosley would have an opponent by now.

4. Andre Berto (25-0, 19 KOs): He didn't surprise nor disappoint anybody by earning a unanimous decision win over junior welterweight Juan Urango on May 30. He has the physical tools to maintain a high ranking, but he needs to grasp his star potential and get rid of guys like Urango.

5. Luis Collazo (29-4, 14 KOs): The slick southpaw from Queens, N.Y., proved he was an elite welterweight when he took Berto through hell in January. The bout was closer than a unanimous loss for Collazo, which included judge Bill Clancy's ludicrous 116-111 score in Berto's favor.

6. Carlos Quintana (26-2, KOs): Speaking of Puerto Rican lefties, Quintana showed superior skill in easily outpointing Joel Julio and Paul Williams. He followed each of those huge wins with knockout losses against Cotto (KO5) and in a rematch with Williams (KO1).

7. Zab Judah (37-6, 25 KOs): No rematch with a shower door for "Super" Judah. The unpredictable Brooklynite is scheduled to face Hatton -- Matthew Hatton -- on the Floyd Mayweather-Juan Manuel Marquez undercard.

8. Isaac Hlatshwayo (28-1-1, 10 KOs):
Remember, this guy does own a win over Nate Campbell. After a strange draw with Rodriguez in his home country of South Africa, the two will fight for the IFB strap vacated by Clottey.

9. Delvin Rodriguez (24-2-2, 14 KOs):
Seriously, within the next 12 months we need a Berto-Rodriguez bout. Anybody down to see that? If he gets by Hlatshwayo (and another rematch isn't mandated), there might be a chance for the showdown.

10. Vyacheslav Senchenko (29-0, 20 KOs):
The great unknown of the ranked welters (all but three of his fights were in Ukraine). The 2000 Olympian hasn't fought much since 2002, but when he has, he's won.

Notably absent:
Floyd Mayweather Jr. (returning from retirement), Antonio Margarito (suspended), Manny Pacquiao (campaigning as 140-pound champ) and Paul Williams (last three bouts at 154 and 160).

As promised, and appropriate for this month's "Weighing In," how about a Cotto-Clottey report card?

Speed: Cotto: B | Clottey: B
Power: Cotto: B+ | Clottey: B-
Chin: Cotto: C+ | Clottey: A
Ring Generalship: Cotto: A- | Clottey: B-
Intangibles: Cotto: A- | Clottey: B

Check back for a full preview and the lowdown on the "Fight Night Club" premiere.

Until then, the Sweet Science lab is closed.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

April showers bring May sours

I've been a bad blogger.

The first four months of 2009 were chock full of quality bouts, both on paper and in competitiveness. Fights like Andre Berto-Luis Collazo and Jermain Taylor-Carl Froch were cinematic in their drama, setting the stage for the May 2 junior welterweight "superbout" between champion Ricky Hatton and consensus No. 1 pound-for-pound boxer Manny Pacquiao.

With the storm clouds gathered, the monsoon that is Pacquiao blew through Hatton in less than six minutes. As spectacular and one-sided the performance was, it could be argued that the bout didn't live up to the phenomenal promotion by Golden Boy.

And the rest of the month followed suit. What do fans know now?

Well, 26-year-old Chad Dawson can do just enough to take another decision in a rematch with Antonio Tarver, who is 14 years Dawson's senior. Berto, who
had maybe fought his heart out against Collazo on Jan. 17, lacked killer instinct against a completely inferior Juan Urango. Alfredo Angulo, perhaps suffering from the effects of an ailment, was out-gunned by a slicker Kermit Cintron. Andre Ward was impressive and maintained his focus after being cut by a headbutt against Edison Miranda, but -- let's face it -- Miranda can't keep up with anybody who can actually box.

So forgive me for being a slacker. I apologize. I didn't even get to use my "Union Jacked Up" headline for a Pacquiao-Hatton post-fight blog.

Now let's get back to our regularly scheduled program.

Haye fever: On June 3, David Haye pulled out of his scheduled heavyweight bout against Wladimir Klitschko. Claiming cold feet a back injury suffered during training, Haye said he hopes the June 20 fight can be postponed three weeks, pushing it to late July. Klitschko's crew, according to BoxingScene.com's Mark Vester, would rather Haye be available for July 11, but is exploring another option for the original date.

Ruslan Chagaev, who sits at No. 3 in the RING ratings below Klitschko and brother Vitali, is being discussed as an opponent. Good news: The bout will be for the RING magazine heavyweight title, vacant since then-champion Vitali retired in November 2005 (only to return three years later). Bad News: Chagaev (25-0-1, 17 KOs) might be infected with hepatitis B.

ESPN's Dan Rafael reported Chagaev's "health issues" forced him to pull out of a rematch against Nikolai Valuev for a third time. So, is he cured now? And why is Klitschko (52-3, 46 KOs) so eager to share the squared circle with him?

The Klitschko-Haye bout was actually a heavyweight fight fans were looking forward to. With Haye -- who is never at a loss for words -- showing up to pressers wearing a shirt adorn with a graphic photo of him standing triumphantly over Wlad's and Vitali's decapitated bodies holding their severed heads, he brought a theatrical nature to the mundane division. And it may have lit a fire under Klitschko, who has vowed to punish Haye like he has no other opponent.

Hopefully it happens sooner rather than later.

Pac Man says bring it, Arum says hold it: According to GMANews.TV, Pacquiao accepted the challenge from Shane Mosley to meet on Oct. 17. Sports news outlets were quick to jump on the story, including ESPN, who had
it scrolling across its BottomLine on June 3. Speaking with the Los Angeles Times, Top Rank's Bob Arum, who promotes the Filipino phenom, was quick to dispell the rumors:
This has absolutely no credibility to it. Manny hasn't decided who he is going to fight. It could be Mosley, or it could be (Miguel) Cotto, (Floyd) Mayweather Jr., (Juan Manuel) Marquez or (Edwin) Valero. They're all in the mix.
With the rest of the welterweight division seemingly suffering the effects of diabetes, it would be nice to see Sugar Shane step between the ropes again while BALCO founder Victor Conti's motions in Mosley's lawsuit against him keep being denied. The way Mosley (46-5, 39 KOs) demolished Antonio Margarito was a testament that a proposed matchup with Pacquiao (49-3-2, 37 KOs) would be more competitive than Pac Man's recent fights (Oscar De La Hoya, Hatton).

Wasn't Pacquiao's training leading to the Hatton bout wasted on six minutes of work?

Again, we'll have to wait and see.

Give me four: The California State Athletic Commission recently cleared Israel Vazquez to pursue his career. The
junior featherweight champion had been sidelined with a detached retina since winning the 2008 Fight of the Year, his rubber match against Rafael Marquez. Many, including Yahoo! Sports' Kevin Iole, hope this sets up a fourth bout between the two Mexican legends. Marquez (38-5, 34 KOs) is coming off a third-round knockout of Jose Francisco Mendoza, his first fight since losing to Vazquez (43-4, 31 KOs).

Now for something completely different: For the first time on this blog, I'm mentioning mixed martial arts. That is my disclaimer.

On June 7, WEC featherweight champion Mike Brown (21-4) will defend his title against the man he took it from in 2:23 with a crushing right hand, Urijah Faber (22-2). The rematch should be a firefight. Versus will begin airing the card at 9 p.m. ET. Try to catch it.

That wasn't so bad, was it?

Come back for more of the Sweet Science when I break down Miguel Cotto-Joshua Clottey.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Explosiveness Expected: Hatton, Pacquiao locked and loaded

The wait is finally over, folks.

Ricky Hatton, the RING magazine junior welterweight champion, and Manny Pacquiao, the consensus pound-for-pound best boxer in the world, will collide in Las Vegas' MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday night. And it still can't get here soon enough.

There is no shortage of captivating side stories leading into the bout, either. The rivalry between trainers Floyd Mayweather Sr. and Freddie Roach has been a focal point on HBO's award-winning 24/7 series. The two appear to be living vicariously through their fighters to attain an unofficial "trainer champion" status. The verbal jabs have been as sharp and oftentimes hilarious.

If Pacquiao (48-3-2, 36 KOs) wins, he will join only the recently retired Oscar De La Hoya in winning a world title in a sixth different weight division. Not only that, he would claim his fourth lineal championship in as many weight classes, making him the only fighter to ever achieve such success.

A victory by Hatton (45-1, 32 KOs) would not only be perceived my many as an upset but a prophecy fulfilled. After pummeling Paulie Malignaggi, a slick and speedy boxer many presumed would give the Hitman's style considerable trouble, Hatton put the world on notice by saying he would not be defeated at 140 pounds.

The Manchester Mauler might not be far off in his bold statement. He was surprisingly quicker than Malignaggi in his last outing and showed superior ring generalship to Brooklyn's biggest mouth. To put his 11th-round knockout in perspective: Miguel Cotto went to a decision with Malignaggi, who showed courage in winning latter rounds though his jaw was grotesquely swollen. Hatton won nearly every minute against the flashy slickster before trainer Buddy McGirt threw in the towel for Malignaggi.

Hatton's only loss was at welterweight to the then-No. 1 pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr. His overly aggressive style was no match for Money May's defensive skills and counter-punching. The result was the Hitman assuming the role of victim as he lay on the mat in the 10th round.

But adjustments have been made in the Hatton camp, most notable since hiring Mayweather Sr. After a few iffy performances, including a close call against an over-the-hill Juan Lazcano, Hatton proved his critics wrong. The 30-year-old showed an old bloke can learn new tricks, as evident in the Malignaggi bout. And this can be attributed to "Joy" Mayweather bringing different dimensions to Hatton's game.

Still, Yahoo! Sports boxing writer Kevin Iole reported Thursday that there could be a rift in the Hatton-Mayweather relationship and that Roach contacted Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer about possibly training Hatton. Not the type of added pressure a fighter needs stepping into the ring opposite the Pacman.

Pacquiao lived up to his unofficial nickname of "The Mexecutioner" when he destroyed an obviously drained and ready-to-retire De La Hoya in December's welterweight bout. The Filipino didn't appear to have lost any speed or power with the added weight. Prior to obliterating Oscar, Pacquiao crushed an otherwise sturdy David Diaz at 135 pounds. Settling into 140 won't likely be a problem.

What is a problem is that, unlike De La Hoya, Hatton is at the peak of his career. Even if in decline, it's only slightly and by no means any indication of a shot fighter. Hatton is the naturally bigger man, an advantage he didn't have against Pretty Boy Floyd. He's still strong, aggressive and is familiar with the weight having fought most of his career at junior welter. It's a match of speed versus power, though not implying both fighters don't possess each attribute.

The fact is, once the hammer hits the bell only the present matters. Hopefully they'll give fans a gift.

Desert Storm Desserted: No.1-ranked junior middleweight Timothy Bradley, who will has an invested interest in the Hatton-Pacquiao showdown, was stripped by the putrid WBC (insert clever acronym here). Not even a month removed from a sensational victory over Kendall Holt, Bradley (24-0, 11 KOs) refused to accept an agreement to face the corrupt sanctioning body's No. 1 contender, Devon Alexander.

Who could blame him? Alexander has been the victim of Don King's horrible handling and brings nothing to the table. Bradley has the potential for star power and has his sights set on the real junior welterweight championship that will be leaving the squared circle with the one of Saturday's main event stars. For shame.

R.I.P. Greg Page: Former heavyweight champion Greg Page, 50, died Tuesday from complications following a brain injury sustained in a 2001 bout.

The Sweet Science mourns your passing, Champ.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Oscar: No Slouch

Sometimes pulverizing. Often mesmerizing. Always polarizing.

The greatest star and most transcendent boxer of his generation has hung up his gloves for the last time. Oscar De La Hoya, 36, tearfully announced his retirement in a press conference on April 14.

I wanted to do a list but hoped to steer clear of the cliche (best fights, greatest moments, etc.), so I've decided to go another route:

The Top 5 What Ifs...? of Oscar De La Hoya's Career

1. What if De La Hoya hadn't fought and bloodily battered a past-his-prime Julio Cesar Chavez? Twice? Would Mexican fight fans be more receptive to him than they have been?

2. What if De La Hoya, a natural lefty, fought in a southpaw stance throughout his career? How many of his close bouts would have gone the other way?

3. What if De La Hoya looked like the lovechild of Nicolay Valuev and Art Binkowski? Who would then carry the torch to garner casual female fans?

4. What if De La Hoya was a bratty braggadocio a la Floyd Mayweather Jr? Or stone-cold and standoffish like a young Roberto Duran? Or, do I dare compare, as unpredictably volatile as Kid Dynamite himself, Mike Tyson?

5. What if De La Hoya was apathetic to the the business dealings and well-being of boxing? Who would take his place?

The Golden Boy has many detractors -- whether they are jealous of his movie-star handsomeness, annoyed that he sometimes faded down the stretch in fights or maybe mad he captured their girlfriends' imaginations -- but these people fail to see how important De La Hoya is to the sport.

His promotional company, Golden Boy, houses some of the most exciting young talent in the game. Possible future stars Victor Ortiz and James Kirkland (more on him later) are included in the stable. Future Hall of Famers Bernard Hopkins, Shane Mosley and Juan Manuel Marquez are also on the roster.

De La Hoya bought The Ring Magazine, saving it from the seemingly inevitable demise of tangible publications. He associated The Ring with Yahoo! Sports, broadening the online audience and drastically improving the appearance, content and navigation of the site. Those who say they can't keep track of the many titlists in the sport need to look no further than this site, which follows the lineage of the championships as the magazine always has.

This is no eulogy. De La Hoya will be a mainstay in boxing for decades to come. Sure, his fans will miss seeing him lace up the leather and flinging crushing left hooks, but it was the right time to walk away. He was never meant to be a gatekeeper. He could probably float in the top 10 at junior middleweight for a few more years, but he's too small for middleweight and proved welterweight was physically draining.

He has retained his wits, faculties and looks. Why risk any of those when all his focus will now be on business? He has the opportunity to be Ali-esque in his influence. A goodbye is hardly necessary, but his in-the-ring exploits and entrepreneurism deserve to be commended.

Thank you for everything so far, Oscar. Here's to years to come.

Mandingo caged: James Kirkland, a 154-pound knockout artist, was arrested on charges of possession of a firearm by a felon on Sunday. An exciting junior middleweight prospec
t trained by former women's champion Ann Wolfe, Kirkland is scheduled to face Michael Walker on the May 2 undercard of the Ricky Hatton-Manny Pacquiao junior welterweight championship bout.

If I were Kirkland, I would sit and ponder my situation while things cool down. Wolfe may be the scariest individual in the sport. Don't believe it? Catch this month's episode of HBO's "Real Sports." You might not want to do it alone.

Playing catch-up: I've recently been slacking in my updates. Thanks to those who poked and prodded until I had the time. There have been plenty of great fights that went unmentioned on this blog. Here are some brief blurbs of the action from April 4, 11 and 17.

Rolando Reyes KO5 Julio Diaz: Reyes had no chance in a four-round bout. Problem was, nobody told Diaz it was scheduled for 10.

Vincente Escobedo UD12 Carlos Hernandez: Veteran lightweight Hernandez was floored in the first and second rounds by identical right hands and battled to a lose a close unanimous decision. Wonderful fight.

Michael Katsidis KO8 Jesus Chavez: To witness Chavez quit was closing the book on his boxing career. Katsidis doesn't know how to be boring.

Edwin Valero KO2 Antonio Pitalua: Somebody wake Pitalua up, please. Valero has won all 25 of his bouts by knockout.

Librado Andrade UD12 Vitali Tsypko: This is what you get when you pit two battle-tested, iron-willed guys against each other. Andrade deserves a rematch with Lucian Bute.

Timothy Bradley UD12 Kendall Holt: Bookended by peeling himself off the canvas in the first and nearly being disposed of in the twelfth, Bradley showed resolve by winning nearly every round from the second to eleventh.

Chris Arreola KO4 Jameel McCline: Though "Big Time" McCline has cleary run out of time, this was a solid win for the Nightmare, who KO'd a guy who had previously never been stopped.

Paul Williams UD12 Winky Wright: Wright's courage was commendable, but there might not have been anyone in the world who could have beaten the Punisher that night. Actually, there may not be anyone in the world who can add a second blemish on Williams' record. Impressive win.

Yuriorkis Gamboa KO10 Jose Rojas: Note to Gamboa: Though it's a trinket and doesn't matter much, the WBA strap you won is Chris John's. Still, the flashy Cuban continues his ascent from prospect to contender.

The Sweet Science has had a huge first three and a half months. Let's hope the momentum continues to build.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Jabs, geriatrics and journalism

After the phenomenal performance of Juan Manuel Marquez in retaining his RING lightweight title against Juan Diaz, the trend of older fighters turning in dominant displays over their younger counterparts seemed to be in tact. At 35, beating a quality boxer as busy and brutal as Diaz -- 10 years his junior -- surely sealed Marquez a spot in Canastota.

It came nearly 24 hours after 40-year-old Glen Johnson easily picked up a win over Daniel Judah, keeping the Road Warrior in the mix at the top of the light heavyweight division. Johnson sits at No. 3 at 175 pounds, behind fellow quadragenarian Bernard Hopkins and the 26-year-old Chad Dawson, to whom he lost a close and disputed decision last April.

Hopkins, apparently a freak of nature at 44, has his sights set on the sturdy and severely underrated RING cruiserweight champion Tomasz Adamek. Who would deny B-Hop could handle his own? The Executioner battered RING middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik, 26, from pillar to post in an October light heavyweight bout.

Let's not forget about top welterweight Shane Mosley, who looked as sweet as ever in his ninth-round knockout of the iron-chinned Antonio Margarito in January amid controversy of Margs' corner cheating. At 37, Mosley has six years on the Tijuana Tornado.

It appeared 40 was the new 25.

But for every Marquez, there is a Marco Antonio Barrera; every Johnson, a Roy Jones Jr.; every Hopkins or Mosley, an Oscar De La Hoya.

Barrera, despite his warrior spirit, proved he was a shell of his former self last Saturday against Amir Khan. The Baby-Faced Assassin met a far fresher face in Khan, who caused Barrera's mug to bleed profusely. The match was called after the fifth round with Khan conquering the former champion by technical decision. Barrera lost every round on all three official scorecards.

Jones -- who has lost four of his last eight and been the recipient of beatdowns at the hands of Johnson, Antonio Tarver and Joe Calzaghe -- is scheduled to fight Omar Sheika in Jones' hometown of Pensacola on a split boxing/MMA card. Problems: Though innovative, fans of neither sport seem interested in the pay-per-view; and Jones is as clueless and delusional about promotion as he is about having a future in the sport.

Then there's De La Hoya, who will likely never accumulate the success his Golden Boy partners (Hopkins, Mosley) have in boxing's golden years. To his credit, he hasn't retired only to return to the ring, but after Manny Pacquiao came up two weight classes to brutalize him it seems like the logical option. We'll see a farewell fight, but it will be meaningless in terms of the grand scope of the fight game.

At 35, 40 and 36, respectively, these former stars' careers have stalled. Running on fumes isn't beneficial to their health or the state of boxing. It's time to pack it in and call it a career before further damage is done.

Though Marquez, Johnson, Hopkins and Mosley have a few more good fights left in them, this is a young man's game. Tarnishing legacies and well-being won't win over potential viewers and isn't impressing the present fan base.

A friend once commented on Kevin Kelley's persistence to fight on. The Flushing Flash, who will be 42 in June, is 13-8 since December 1997 and has next to zero chance fighting for -- let alone winning -- a title. He began his career 47-1-2.

The paraphrased quip: How long before Kelley trades in his mouthpiece for dentures?

That sums up a collective response to boxers pressing on beyond their primes. Families and fans could use far less onsets of physical and psychological damage.

Death speculations correlated: As a student of journalism and a fan of boxing, I have to constantly hear of the demises of both newspapers and the sport I love.

Kevin Iole wrote a great column connecting the two. I encourage all to read it, consider how to improve the situations and become activists for keeping each alive and thriving.

"The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated." -- Mark Twain

The Sweet Science is as everlasting as the written word.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Two official champs and a gentleman

There are two RING magazine championships on the line this weekend. And there is a certain Road Warrior showcased on cable television.

A thrilling weekend of boxing begins on ESPN2's Friday Night Fights with Glen Johnson in the main event against Daniel Judah. At 40, Johnson needs more high-profile bouts, but it seems nobody wants to fight him. Even Joe Calzaghe retired instead of taking up Johnson's offer.

Conveniently scheduled for 11 p.m., a special edition of Showtime's ShoBox series will feature Tomasz Adamek defending his recently won cruiserweight title against the undefeated Johnathon Banks. Adamek won the then-vacant title in a thriller against Steve "USS" Cunningham in December.

Then on Saturday's HBO World Championship Boxing, lightweight champion Juan Manuel Marquez heads into Juan Diaz's backyard of Houston. Marquez is No. 2 on the P4P list but is facing the determined and younger Baby Bull. It has all the makings of a fight of the year candidate. The Chris John-Rocky Juarez undercard also looks good.

Predictions: Johnson KO6, Adamek KO7, Marquez by slim decision, John by wide decision.

Make sure to tune in!

Mosley's Jin woes: The Associated Press reported today that No. 1 welterweight Shane Mosley's wife, Jin, has filed for divorce. I can't say that I'm upset for Sugar Shane, and I think I'm speaking on behalf of most boxing fans.

Jin is an annoyance in anything Mosley-related. She's capitalized on his talent and fame to further her own career. And what does she return? A slap in Shane's face, seeking custody of their three children and Shane to cover her legal fees.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to spot a gold-digger. It's just a shame it happened to someone as sweet as Sugar Shane.Bold

Monday, February 23, 2009

P4P: 11-20

All right, about half of the handful who read this blog (meaning about three of you) requested my thoughts on who sits just outside the top 10 of my pound-for-pound list. Without further ado, and potentially cause for a few debates, here are Nos. 11 thru 20:

11. Vic Darchinyan:
There are only two things keeping the Raging Bull out of the top 10: (1) His vicious fifth-round knockout loss against Donaire, and (2) Adamek's win over No. 1 cruiserweight Steve "USS" Cunningham to claim the division's lineal championship. Darchinyan is an unorthodox beast, a pleasure to watch and talks a great game, too.

12. Chad Dawson:
Bad Chad has superior speed at 175. The southpaw is still undefeated, with wins against Adamek and -- though seemingly slim despite the scores -- over Glen Johnson. With Joe Calzaghe retiring and the rest of the top boxers at light heavyweight advancing in age, it won't be long before he is champion and a stalwart in the P4P rankings.

13. Miguel Cotto: With an impressive win Saturday against unheralded Michael Jennings, Cotto appears to have returned from his brutal beating at the (again, loaded?) hands of Antonio Margarito. Doesn't Mosley's decimation of Margs make Cotto look even better, considering he owns a win over Shane? He still has the best left hook in the fight game.

14. Paul Williams
: The Punisher can barely buy a fight at any weight class. The extremely busy and unorthodox southpaw is a threat to anybody at 147, 154 and 160. Too bad he's fighting at middle, ranked at junior middle and calls himself a welter. His avenged loss to Carlos Quintana keeps him out of the top 10. We'll see how he performs against Winky Wright on April 11.

15. Nate Campbell:
Losing his lightweight trinkets after weighing 3 1/2 over the 135-pound limit didn't help him, but the Galaxxy Warrior was able to beat a game Ali Funeka on Feb. 14. At 36, he's still a factor entering the junior welterweight division, but time is running out. He needs high-profile fights against the likes of Hatton and Pacquiao.

16. Timothy Bradley:
Speaking of 140, the No. 1-ranked Bradley may be the best fighter in the division. Consider these particulars: Desert Storm is only 25, has excellent speed and glimpses of power, has superb conditioning and isn't afraid to infiltrate hostile territory to score KOs. Ask Junior Witter. His April 4 bout against Kendall Holt should be explosive.

17. Chris John
: The self-promoted featherweight is the best undefeated boxer nobody knows or has seen for lack of North American exposure. Most of his bouts have been in his homeland of Indonesia. One of his 42 wins was against Juan Manuel Marquez. The Dragon makes his U.S. debut against Rocky Juarez on Saturday's HBO card.

18. Juan Diaz:
After being out-boxed by Campbell, the Baby Bull rebounded by brutalizing Michael Katsidis. He's fearless, a ferocious body puncher and forces action with forward progression and flurries. A victory over Marquez on Saturday may vault Diaz into the top 10, depending on performance, but Marquez is no pushover.

19. Nonito Donaire:
Inactivity has plagued the flyweight since his 2007 knockout of Darchinyan. The Filipino Flash has only fought twice since, winning both bouts by stoppage. He returns March 22 against Raul Martinez on a Top Rank PPV card. His split with promoter Gary Shaw may cost him because Shaw has refused to match him against his fighters.

20. Wladimir Klitschko:
Before hitting "send" on the hate mail, hear this out: Dr. Steelhammer is the best heavyweight in the world, bar none. This slot could be a two-headed monster with the inclusion of brother, (No. 2) Vitali, since the two top heavies will never square off. He fights cautiously, but still dominates the division. He's earned his rating.

Well, there you go. Feel free to comment and berate the decisions, but a lot of time and consideration was put into this list. Hope you enjoyed it.

Oscar Diaz update:
The Associate Press reported today that boxer Oscar Diaz was released from a hospital seven months after falling into a coma during his fight against Delvin Rodriguez. The welterweight bout was televised on the now-defunct ESPN Wednesday Night Fights on July 16.

A doctor said he is optimistic the 26-year-old will walk and talk again.

Donations to the Oscar Diaz Foundation can be made by clicking the banner above.

I wish all the best to El Torito. May science be as sweet to him as he was to fans.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Descending Rank

Saturday's Top Rank pay-per-view doubleheader is not only a card built on redemption for two of boxing's fallen stars.

It's also one to redeem promoter Bob Arum.

When Kelly Pavlik and Miguel Cotto attempt to get back in the win column after each fighter's first loss, both men will be keeping Arum's company above water until centerpiece Manny Pacquiao's May 2 bout.

Top Rank hasn't fared so well in the first several weeks of 2009, which is almost inversely proportional to the sport outside the world of "Mexican Bob."

Above all, Top Rank-promoted Antonio Margarito was involved in
perhaps the most stunning controversy since Mike Tyson's gnawing of Evander Holyfield's ear. Margarito's and trainer Javier Capetillo's licenses were revoked for one year after the California State Athletic Commission decided unanimously that Capetillo was tampering with Margs' handwraps before his bout with Shane Mosley.

Then, Arum and his fighters were dominated by Gary Shaw's on Feb. 7. Almazbek "Kid Diamond" Raiymkulov fought evenly with Antonio DeMarco before being stopped in the ninth round. In the main event, the long-awaited showdown between Vic Darchinyan and Jorge Arce turned out to be a blowout in favor of Shaw's ultra-exciting Darchinyan.

The most recent blow came Monday, when rising star Anthony Peterson injured his left knee, knocking out a potential crowd pleaser against Edner Cherry.

Cotto and Pavlik need to take care of business to maintain appeal outside of their respective fan bases in Puerto Rico and Youngstown, Ohio. They also need to take care of Arum's business. And each certainly has a winnable fight on the split-site card.

Cotto took the high road when asked if stable mate Margarito had illegally weighted wraps when the Tijuana Tornado took him down last summer. He probably won't have to worry about Michael Jennings' power, save for the underdog bringing cinder blocks to the squared circle.

Pavlik wasn't quick enough in his lop-sided loss to Bernard Hopkins. Even at 43, The Executioner was too much for Pavlik. To his credit, The Ghost was fighting two weight classes above 160, where he is still The Ring magazine champion. He should retain the title against Marco Antonio Rubio by mid-rounds knockout and send Youngstown into a frenzy.

It's up to these two to get Arum off the hook, not for of any fondness of him but for the other fighters he represents. All we need after Capetillo's stunt is for a major promotional body to fold, sending a multitude of deserving fighters into limbo.

The Margarito Effect: It isn't often you see a guy win a single fight twice, but that's what happened last Saturday. The sad thing? He left with a draw.

Sergio Martinez appeared to have knocked Kermit Cintron out at the end of the seventh round, only to have referee Frank Santore restart the match after protesting from Cintron's corner. Of course,
despite Cintron's excessive whining, a punch was landed. And yes, Cintron got up around the time Santore reached 10, but he was obviously still groggy.

To top it off, the fight went the distance with two of the judges scoring it 113-113. This is counting a knockdown. Insane.

And it had the promise of intrigue as the three losses between them were all at the (loaded?) hands of Margarito. Instead, what we got was the same heartless plodding from Cintron and not much more from Martinez, who likes to drop his hands way too much. Martinez deserved the fight, but who's looking forward to a rematch?

Until next time, the Sweet Science lab is closed.