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.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Doggin' it

Ricardo Mayorga is scared. Or stupid. Or both.

Last Wednesday, El Matador pulled out of his scheduled Feb. 14 bout against junior middleweight Alfredo Angulo. It was first reported Mayorga sustained an undisclosed injury in training camp, yet ESPN's Dan Rafael later revealed the Nicaraguan brawler demanded more money through his promoter, Don King.

It wouldn't be the first time Mayorga resorted to his antics. Three days before being mauled by Oscar De La Hoya, he sought a 300-percent raise to fight the Golden Boy.

Yes, he's nuts. But now he's being a detriment to the sport.

Angulo (14-0, 11 KOs) deserved the high-profile fight and his opponent's respect to go through with it. He shouldn't have to settle for Danny Perez, who also decided Saturday wasn't a good night to fight. And he shouldn't have to settle for Cosme Rivera (31-11-2, 22 KOs), who has stepped in (for now) on four-days' notice.

Mayorga's recent stunt cost Angulo the main-event status, but hopefully El Perro will still pocket a pretty penny.

It's reminiscent of September, when Joan Guzman left Nate Campbell jilted at the arena. Guzman fought at 130 in his bout prior to his scheduled match with Campbell, but he hit the scale 3 1/2 pounds over the weight limit and canceled the day of the fight. The lack of payday cost Campbell valuable training time, and three weeks later he declared bankruptcy.

And all Guzman got was a slap on the wrist.

Coincidentally, Campbell (32-5-1, 25 KOs) has slid into the headliner on Saturday's HBO Boxing After Dark, facing Ali Funeka (30-1-2, 25 KOs).

Eric Raskin, currently one of the most entertaining boxing writers, wrote a blog about the "pullout artist" -- a fighter like Mayorga or Guzman who reneges on his contract to fight. Raskin wrote:

If fighters like Mayorga and Guzman want to disappear when it’s time to fight, that’s their prerogative. But the networks who cut the serious paychecks should do their part to make sure these fighters don’t reappear.

I couldn't agree more. It's a disgusting act, especially considering the exceptional first several weeks of boxing this year. All it takes is this kind of behavior for some bonehead to start a message board thread about how the sport is lacking in every category.


One Mayorga doesn't equate to Major League Baseball's 104 recent steroid poppers, including the biggest star, Alex Rodriguez. Is Guzman's no-show anything close to Michael Vick's pit-bull fighting? Boxing is a violent sport, but do we have Todd Bertuzzis running around trying to decapitate others with hockey sticks?

Hopefully heavy penalties will be imposed on future violators for breach of contract. Guys like Angulo and Campbell, who remain professional no matter the cost, deserve to be held in higher regard than these cowards.

The Sweet Science deserves it, too.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Pugilistica mathematica

Boxer A beat Boxer B. Boxer C beat Boxer A. The logical assumption is that Boxer C will beat Boxer B, right?

Not necessarily the case. This is the Sweet Science, folks. The parameters for success differ from conventional wisdom. This game, as former trainer and current ESPN commentator Teddy Atlas often says, is 75 percent mental.

Styles make fights, and the approaches of junior bantamweights Vic Darchinyan (31-1-1, 25 KOs) and Jorge Arce (51-4-1, 39 KOs) will certainly make for an explosive bout when the two square off Saturday in the main event of Showtime Championship Boxing's first show of 2009.

Better late than never.

Darchinyan and Arce have been on a collision course for years, but each suffered derailment along the way. Darchinyan was floored by Nonito Donaire in the fifth round of their July 2007 flyweight bout only three months after Arce was blown out in a unanimous decision loss to Cristian Mijares.

Yet the luster remains.

The unorthodox Darchinyan is 3-0-1 since his only defeat, racking knockouts in each win. This includes his nine-round annihilation of Mijares, who was edging his way into the top-10 pound-for-pound ranking. Arce has also been hot as of late, winning five in a row, four by knockout.

Back to the equation: Mijares (A) outboxed Arce (B). Darchinyan (C) crushed Mijares (A). So is the Raging Bull’s victory over Arce set in stone?

The only things for certain are Darchinyan’s propensity for trash talk and Arce entering the ring wearing a cowboy hat and sucking on a lollipop. The rest is up for grabs.

The Pond in Anaheim, Calif., is showcasing a firefight. Darchinyan (No.1) and Arce (No. 6) say they’ll leave everything in the ring. Only one will exit the ropes with the WBA, WBC and IBF titles.

Predicting a winner isn’t an exact science, but the fight itself should be sweet enough for fans.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Say it ain't so, Joe

Retirement, really?

Just when light heavyweight champion Joe Calzaghe was receiving the credit his illustrious career deserved, he ended it. Until his decimation of Jeff Lacy in March 2006, boxing fans outside of Great Britain were relatively apathetic about the Welshman.

Now he calls it quits after a pair of less-than-satisfying performances. He was awarded a questionable split decision over Bernard Hopkins to capture the 175-pound crown last April and followed it up with putrid promotion leading into his November slaughter of Roy Jones Jr.

And these were his only appearances on U.S. soil, the same country Calzaghe lambasted for its inablity to resurrect "a dying sport."

Come again?

He was ripped by some of the most respected boxing writers for his comments. Kevin Iole, Michael Rosenthal and Tim Smith, among others, had scathing responses for the Pride of Wales. And deservedly so. ESPN's Dan Rafael wrote the following:

So, Joe Calzaghe said this week that boxing is dead, huh? Way for him to crap all over the sport that made him rich and famous. Boxing is far from dead, but if it's not what it once was, part of the reason is because of fighters like Calzaghe who think they're also businessmen and are so egotistical that they think they can be also be a top promoter, yet have no clue. Maybe if Calzaghe, whose own company supposedly co-promoted his November fight with Jones but really did squat, hadn't dumped experienced promoter Frank Warren, the fight wouldn't have tanked so badly. If boxing is dead, why in the world did De La Hoya-Pacquiao do 1.25 million PPV buys and generate $70 million in TV revenue and a nearly $17 million live gate? Calzaghe might be a great fighter, but he's no rocket scientist.

You would assume a fighter of Calzaghe's caliber would reinforce his diatribe by proving his presumption in the squared circle. He's the champ and has a right to cash in his chips, but the the top 4 light heavyweights live in the U.S. and three are American-born citizens.

Other than Hopkins (No. 1), who, Joe, have you faced? Chad Dawson wants a shot. Glen Johnson has been begging for a bout for years, so badly that he recently wrote an open letter. Antonio Tarver rounds out the group, and as easy a target as he is now, he's still rejected.

So who's killing the fight game? Calzaghe refused to fight in America until recently, marched around a WBO trinket for years and won't see Hopkins' demand of a rematch after a title match that easily could have gone the other way.

On second thought, I withdraw the “come again” plead. Just go away, Joe. You've made your money and gained publicity, each at the expense of Lacy's popularity and HBO's budget – both unquestionably American products. Until then you were just another foreign fighter who wouldn't cross the pond for fear of losing a home-field advantage.

Really, if boxing's demise was imminent, how did January's Antonio Margarito-Shane Mosley fight garner the largest attendance for any event held at the Staples Center? Why did Kelly Pavlik's Feb. 21 middleweight championship defense set for the Chevrolet Centre sell over 5,000 tickets in only 12 minutes while country superstar Carrie Underwood drew a crowd of 5,500 into the 7,000-seat venue?

As Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy said: “Get your facts straight.”

Enjoy your retirement while the Sweet Science thrives.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The welter-wait

If January was indicative of how boxing will fare in 2009, fans are in for a treat.

The Jan. 17 Andre Berto-Luis Collazo bout was a war likely to be in the running for the fight of the year award by December, even if it was marred by clueless judge Bill Clancy, who scored the virtual dead-heat 116-111 Berto.

The following week saw a 37-year-old Shane Mosley looking as sweet as sugar in his utter domination of Antonio Margarito for the WBA strap. Not only was Mosley as smart and slick as a decade ago, but he also achieved the unthinkable by knocking out the iron-chinned Tijuana Tornado in the ninth round.

High expectations for only three and a half weeks into the “Year of the Ox.”

With Margs’ perceived invincibility no longer scaring off potential opponents, how will the deep and talented welterweight division pan out in the upcoming months?

The scenarios are seemingly endless.

The Ring magazine welterweight championship: It’s a shame Margarito-Mosley wasn’t recognized as the official title match by The Ring magazine.

The magazine, which follows the lineage of the championship as opposed to the politics of alphabet organizations, cites this rule for awarding a vacant belt:

Championship vacancies can be filled by winning a box-off between The Ring's number-one and number-two contenders, or, in certain instances, a box-off between our number-one and number-three contenders.

Wouldn’t Mosley, who was at No. 3 in the 147-pound rankings, earn the title with his dominance of Margarito, considering the Mexican was No. 1? Why would Sugar Shane have to wait any longer after beating the top guy?

What’s worse is Bob Arum's intention of promoting a Margarito-Miguel Cotto rematch. This just seems unfair. If the championship was on the line and Margarito beat Mosley, the Cotto bout would be for the title since Margs would stay at 1 and Cotto at 2.

Cotto has already been knocked out by Margarito, whether shenanigans took place. Shane Mosley should be the champ.

Pac-man’s claim: Equally as dominant in his win over Oscar de la Hoya is Manny Pacquiao, who vaulted from lightweight to welterweight to crush the ring legend. He is currently No. 5 in the 147-pound rankings, though he faces 140-pound Ring magazine champion Ricky Hatton on May 2.

Pacquiao, the pound-for-pound best boxer in the world, is able to fight at nearly any weight he wants from 130 to 147. And he looked like a monster at the latter against the Golden Boy. Former P4P No. 1 Floyd Mayweather, who is in “retirement,” may be lured out of his sabbatical by the Filipino phenom.

Pac-man destroys anybody not named Juan Manuel Marquez.

Wild cards: Collazo proved massive heart and skill against Berto. A rematch looms.

Berto should grant Collazo a second fight after a great first one. He won, but it was close. Who wouldn’t want to see a few between these two?

If Cotto evens the score against Margarito, will there be a rubber match or an even more intriguing match against top welterweight Mosley?

Paul Williams can’t find a legitimate opponent at any weight. Boxing fans are yearning for a rematch between the Punisher and Margarito, whom he beat via slim unanimous decision in 2007.

If Margarito-Cotto II doesn’t pop off and Williams can make weight, this would be a fight fan’s dream. It would also mean Mosley-Cotto II is a possibility.

Joshua Clottey, Carlos Quintana, Zab Judah and Isaac Hlatswayo are top 10 welterweights. Would there be a bad fight among the quartet?

Hopefully boxing is able to capitalize on its early-2009 success. There are too many meaningful and titanic clashes on the horizon for the sport to get complacent. We’ll just have to wait. And hope.

Until next time, let the fists fly and the Sweet Science captivate.