For the past several years, boxing had fallen behind the UFC (and YouTube videos of teens crotching themselves with skateboards and women tumbling from grape barrels) as the flagship “watch people get hurt” sport. Blame it on Manny; blame it on Floyd, blame it on Top Rank and Golden Boy but boxing had beached on the pop culture stream. We satisfied our lust for corporeal punishment in the Octagon. 2010 served as a boxing renaissance and it occurred while the two biggest draws did everything in their power to not fight one another. Here’s what we have to look forward to in the last half of the year.
Wladimir Klitschko vs. David Haye – Ring/IBF/WBO/WBA heavyweight unification (July 2)
There are six things I look for in a fight. Usually, I’m lucky if a particular fight fills three of the categories. Klitschko/Haye is, along with Hopkins-Pascal II, is the only fight this year to fill out four.
1) Legitimate Bad Blood – Ever since Haye wore a shirt of decapitated Klitschkos before backing out of signed fights with both brothers Haye, the brothers Klitschko have wanted to straight up merk David Haye. No exaggeration. If Wlad batters Haye until he is left twitching in the center of the ring don’t be surprised if you hear him growl: “if he dies, he dies.”
2) Significance – The outcome of the fight should affect boxing or, at the very least, the division. This fight will potentially re-ignite the public’s waned interest in a dead, uncompetitive division. A Haye victory will have more significance as the American public has grown tired of watching the K-Bros lay waste to all challengers.
3) Theatrics – An interesting fight needs a villain. Haye has never won a significant bout at heavyweight aside from his life-or-death struggle with a plodding, limited Valuev. On the other hand, Wlad hasn’t lost in over six years (12-0, 10 KO). But listening to Haye, you’d think Wlad was a journeyman tomato can with no shot at beating a present-day Larry Holmes. Haye’s mouth continues to run about as fast as he’s been running from this fight. I would love to see him shut up.
4) Equal skill levels – The jury’s still out on Haye at heavyweight. We know he is relatively quick and can punch. Wlad’s chin is notoriously weak. If Haye can get a right hand past Klitschko’s tight defense – which he can and will – we may see Wlad crash to the canvas
5) Fighting styles – Wlad has a notoriously boring style he’s adapted to protect his weak chin. Although very effective (he hasn’t been seriously hurt in nearly a decade) it makes for some godawful fights. Haye, I fear, will run as he did with Valuev.
6) Finality – As long as the Klitcshkos refuse to fight one another, this division will never have an undisputed king. Should Haye win and go on to beat Vitali in the winter he would reign over the heavyweights. It’s a long shot.
Tired of fighting ex-girlfriends and security guards, Mayweather has elected to use his fists in the ring. At last. This is an intriguing fight not so much because it will make for good pugilistic drama – Floyd is in a different class than Ortiz and I believe Ortiz knows it – but more for the potential what ifs. Every fighter has that one tussle where they just don’t have “it” anymore. That fight happened to Roy Jones almost a decade ago and he still doesn’t realize it; on the other hand it doesn’t look like that fight will happen to Bernard Hopkins until he’s eligible for Social Security benefits. For everyone waiting for Floyd to hit that wall, the ingredients are there for it to happen (which I doubt it will). He’s had a long layoff, he’s nearly 33, he’s fighting a young guy who isn’t afraid of being hit and it’s unclear whether Floyd’s fighting because he’s still passionate about the sport or whether he needs the money to pay Uncle Sam. It should be interesting. Just don’t be surprised if Ortiz gets TKO8.
Pacquiao vs. Marquez III – WBO welterweight title (Nov 12)
Despite having scored Marquez the winner in their previous two close bouts, this match-up gets knocked down a point because it will be a blowout. Marquez looks awful at any weight higher than 140 lbs. Had this fight taken place at 135 lbs I would have been more interested. But Manny has made a HOF career off beating fighters at catchweights and it shows no signs of stopping now. It’s a good fight for both fighters that needs to happen and both fighters will come forward, trading leather for as long as it lasts. Manny is on a roll but he’s shown evidence in his last three fights that he’s breaking down. The only problem is Marquez is further broken down than Manny.
Amir Khan vs. Zab Judah – WBA/IBF junior welterweight unification (Jul 23)
Before Tsyzu made Zab do the safety dance back in 2001, I thought he would one day become the best lightweight in the world. He had an electrifying combination of speed and power. But he was lazy defensively and got hit with too many flush shots. I thought he would improve that deficiency with age but he’s become even more lazy. Khan faced similar shortcomings but since hooking up with the great Freddie Roach, he’s improved immensely. The style similarities makes this a must watch.
Marcos Maidana vs. Robert Guerrero – WBA interim junior welterweight title (Aug 27)
I’ll get this out of the way now; I love Guerrero. He’s one of those fighters I sense big things from. Which means he will be knocked stiff by Maidana – one of the most exciting fighters in boxing. Should both Guerrero and Khan win, a fight between the two will come in the next year or so. Maidana has a very good chance of spoiling those plans. He came within an eyelash of knocking Khan out and he also pummeled Floyd’s opponent Victor Ortiz into submission.
Vitali Klitschko vs. Tomasz Adamek – WBC heavyweight title (Sept 10)
Go to Youtube and watch the Klitschko vs. Shannon Briggs fight. Now imagine it happening again except to a smaller man with a worse (at least I hope for his own sake) chin. If Adamek wishes to fight again after this he better hope he has a better corner than Briggs. We will witness a slaughter. Too bad. I like Adamek.
Tavoris Cloud vs. Yusaf Mack – IBF light heavyweight title (Jun 25)
Both are relatively young, big punchers with not much by way of defense. Should be good brawl that ends with Cloud on top. Would love to see him against Pascal.
Joseph Agbeko vs. Abner Mares – IBF bantamweight title (Aug 13)
The winner of this fight could be considered the best little fighter not named Donaire. I expect a rugged fight that will go the distance. I’m leaning toward Mares but Agbeko looked good in his last fight.
Ricky Burns vs. Nicky Cook – WBO junior lightweight title (Jul 16)
Over in the UK this is a huge fight though both fighters are virtual unknowns over here. Neither is the caliber to seriously challenge for a meaningful title but will be an exciting scrap between two very good fighters.
Danny Green vs. Antonio Tarver (Jul 20)
Both men have legacies that are somewhat tricky to pin down. Green has amassed a serviceable record made possible by him never venturing outside of his native Australia. The two times he has stepped up in competition he’s lost (to Mundine and Beyer) and was perhaps party to a fixed fight last year against Paul Briggs – a man who we will thankfully never see in the ring again. Tarver, on the other hand, has made a career off wins over the dreadfully faded Roy Jones Jr. Had it not been for the upset knockout of Jones, Tarver would be regarded as a top-tier light heavyweight and nothing more.
Paul Williams vs. Erislandy Lara (Jul 9)
I’m interested to see how Williams fights after having his brain punched into the 4th dimension by Sergio Martinez last year. It was a sick, sick knockout that some boxers would never recover from mentally. Williams has a free-swinging relentless style. Will he tighten up to avoid getting his chin cracked again? Lara doesn’t pose too much of a threat to the old Williams who battered Winky Wright. But if the knockout ruined him, we may see Lara take a tight decision.
Devon Alexander vs. Lucas Matthysse (Jun 25)
After falling asleep in the 4th round of Alexander’s fight with Headbutt Bradley I made a vow to never watch a fight involving either man. But kudos to Devon for picking a very tough fight coming back. Matthysse is a fighter in the Mickey Ward vein. He will keep swinging without fear. Matthysse is a very aggressive fight who near.