It’s been one unbelievably busy week for the fax machines of boxing promoters and managers. More fights — many of them big-time — were signed, almost signed, agreed to, or scrapped in the last seven days than I’ve seen in a long while.
So here’s a run-down of all the battles involving at least one “name” fighter that have been in the works (plus a little about a few other fights this weekend):
Mayweather-De La Hoya II (welterweight, 147 lbs.): Close to done. We’ve talked this one to death, but there’s an important new wrinkle — it will likely now happen in September, not May. That makes this fight much less appealing to me, and it was only barely appealing. I don’t blame Mayweather for wanting to pick up another big paycheck before moving on to more meaningful bouts, but a September De La Hoya fight means we’re all but certain not to get Mayweather against Miguel Cotto in 2008. And that leaves me angry, because that means the best fight that can be made in boxing may never happen.
Bernard Hopkins-Joe Calzaghe (light heavyweight, 175 lbs.): Agreed to for April 12, but unsigned. Remember, kids, never believe that either Hopkins or Calzaghe are going to fight anyone until the night it happens. It really did look promising early this week, yet it’s still not signed. I had a sneaking feeling there’d be a hitch. It’s unclear what the problem is in getting these two top-10 pound-for-pound best into a ring against each other. Is it that Calzaghe’s awaiting word on the victor of Roy Jones-Felix Trinidad, as rumored? Screw all that, just make it happen. It’s another pretty important fight in the sport.
Ricky Hatton-Gavin Rees (junior welterweight, 140 lbs.): Off. And for the life of me, I can’t figure out why, other than the given explanation of “the terms” not being suitable to Ricky Hatton, which is wacky, because I have to imagine he’s still a big enough star to dictate the terms against a relatively low-profile contender, right? It sounds like the ideal bounce-back fight for Hatton this summer to get back in the win column after his KO loss to Mayweather, a dream for the up-and-coming Rees, a decent scrap and a money-maker in Great Britain. Oh well.
Juan Diaz-Nate Campbell (lightweight, 135 lbs.): Agreed to for March 7, but suddenly in doubt. There’s all this unnecessary drama about Diaz wanting to fight for all three of his belts — he would be stripped by the WBO if he doesn’t — and promoter Don King not wanting to pay the sanctioning fees. If you are looking for any reason to hate the sanctioning organizations, you need look no further than situations like this. I want this fight to come off, even though it wasn’t my first choice for Diaz, because it’s a good style match-up between Diaz, a swarming, highly-entertaining brawler, and Campbell, a boxer-puncher, and both are among the top in their division.
Joel Casamayor-Michael Katsidis (lightweight): Officially signed; it’s a go. If I never see Casamayor again after his stink-a-thon against Jose Armando Santa Cruz last year, I’d be a happy man… but I’d also be pretty happy seeing him flat on his back on March 22 courtesy the hard-hitting, gritty Katsidis. I fear that Casamayor may just run away to avoid that fate, making this one potentially awful. But it’s significant in that it’s the Ring Magazine champion, Casamayor, versus one of the division’s best, Katsidis. Don’t get me started on the sanctioning organizations stripping Casamayor of his trinket belt and potentially giving another to Katsidis for no apparent reason.
Tomasz Adamek-O’Neil Bell (cruiseweight, 200 lbs.): Currently under discussion for the spring. I like this fight. We’d find out if Adamek is a real factor at cruiserweight, and we’d find out what the talented, hatchet-wielding Bell has left, besides insanity. The all-around pretty good and very gutty Adamek has been taking relatively easy cruiserweight fights to find out how he feels at the weight, after getting out-quicked by Chad Dawson in 2007; Bell would be a huge, huge step up. Bell, who was the consensus division champ until he lost to Jean-Marc Mormeck last year, began derailing his career by doing things like not showing up for the fight or hurling sharp objects at sparring partners. I suspect he’s still got power for days and that disquieting ability to take any punch that comes his way, but mentally, he may be running on empty.
Marco Antonio Barrera-Mzonke Fana (junior lightweight, 130 lbs.): In the concept phase, but fleshing out. I had a feeling this would happen… that the legendary, Hall of Fame-bound Barrera wouldn’t last as a retiree. I wish he’d stay put. I guess there are some hardcore fans who’d buy any fight he’s in, even against a guy he’s already clobbered easily. But once a fighter, always a fighter.
Antonio Tarver-Jeff Lacy (light heavyweight): Negatory. Both of these boxers need to realize that at this point in their careers, they are beggars, not choosers. Lacy turned down the fight, saying he’s not feeling just perfectly healthy yet, although he’s previously said he wouldn’t fight Tarver because he’s promoted by Gary Shaw, and Lacy has hard feelings toward Shaw from the days when Shaw promoted him. Whatever. I was a Lacy fan, and still was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt after his horrid showing against Peter Manfredo, but I’ve now totally lost interest. Tarver? Lost interest there a long time ago. While these two picky light heavyweights turn their nose up at everything in front of them, there’ll be a real light heavyweight showdown between Chad Dawson and Glen Johnson the night in April, the 12th, that Lacy and Tarver would’ve met. I’m super-interested in that one.
Joan Guzman-Alex Arthur (junior lightweight): Nearly dead, but it’s still early. Both sides have accused the other of being scared or other hijinks. I’m lukewarm to Guzman, who can be both great and lackluster over the the course of 12 rounds, and don’t have a good feel for Arthur, who’s said to be exciting. Really, though, who else is out there for either man? Just get it on, already — you could ask for worse exposure than on the undercard of Hopkins-Calzaghe, the tentative date.
Kendall Holt-Ben Tackie (junior welteweight): Done deal for Feb. 7. Holt’s really quite talented, and I like to watch him fight when he’s on top of his game. Tackie’s really not very talented, but good Lord does he take a licking and keep on ticking, making life difficult for whoever he’s in against. There are few better measuring sticks in boxing than Tackie, and Holt would get a sense of how he measures up coming off a dubiously-refereed KO loss to Ricardo Torres in 2007.
Lucian Bute-William Joppy (super middleweight, 168 lbs.): They had the press conference last week. Bute is a brawler who can turn into a skill guy on the drop of a hat, and he’s a frighteningly good finisher. Joppy’s something of a reclamation project. I can understand why ESPN’s Dan Rafael is scoffing.
Andre Berto-Michel Trabant (welterweight): News-released for Feb. 9. Honestly, I know nothing of Trabant other than what I’ve read, but he sounds like a step down for Berto, and a significant one. That said, he’s not entirely a tomato can by the looks of things, no sir. So it’ll be a good keep-busy fight for the powerful, promising but perhaps flawed Berto.
John Ruiz-Jameel McCline (heavyweight, unlimited): In the works for March 8. The mere thought of this makes me want to find something to impale myself upon. Ruiz, only the holdingest heavyweight whoever lived, versus McCline, the reluctant warrior? It sounds like a the visual equivalent of Vogon poetry.
John Duddy-Walid Smichet (middleweight, 160 lbs.): Recently announced for Feb. 23. Is it fair to dismiss a fighter just because his name makes you laugh? No. So I’ll refrain. But I’m thinking it, “Smitchet.” The Duddy Money Train just keeps on rolling…
Amir Khan-Gairy St. Clair (lightweight): Also recently announced, for Feb. 2. I’m high on Khan. St. Clair sounds like a credible enough opponent on the surface, what with him being Khan’s first former titleholder. No need to rush the kid, no matter how tempting it is.
Yuriorkis Gamboa-two unnamed opponents (junior lightweight): There are two ESPN dates in Feburary set aside for the Cuban phenom. If you haven’t seen Gamboa, take a look below. He’s special. He may one day regret holding his hands so low, but that day is probably very far away, and he’s got plenty of time to wise up.
Last but not least, the rest of the weekend, as promised: Aside from Roy Jones-Felix Trinidad, the main televised bouts are an underwhelming ESPN2 card and a Jones-Trinidad undercard that will leave one with a sensation no more pleasurable than picking gum off one’s shoe.There are a couple decent bouts around, though. One is junior featherweight (122 lbs.) Steve Molitor in perhaps his hardest fight to date, against Richard Castillo, brother of Jose Luis. Molitor once was a pure technician with no pop, but he’s started “sitting down on his punches,” as they say, and the result is that he’s been doing a lot of damage in the ring to accompany all that speed and fancy footwork. He’s a joy to watch. It’s getting to be time for his promoters to bring him to America and put him on TV here — he’d make for any number of good fights in the deep junior featherweight division, but he’s wildly popular in Canada, and he’s a cash cow there because of it. Here he is in his title-winning effort:
Additionally, there’s a potentially interesting heavyweight bout in Ruslan Chagaev-Matt Skelton. And there’s one mildly intriguing Jones-Trinidad undercard fight in Devon Alexander-DeMarcus Corley. Corley may not have much left, but I expect he’ll help us find out whether junior welterweight Alexander, one of Don King’s few prospects, is for real. King needs a youngster who’s for real in his stable, if he has any designs on remaining relevant in the distant future of boxing.