Five Fights That Should Be Happening But Aren’t

Paul Williams’ steamrolling of a legit middleweight (160 lbs.) on Versus Network Thursday night provoked in me a fresh round of outrage that a Williams rematch with Antonio Margarito for clear welterweight supremacy (147 lbs.) still isn’t on the map. It isn’t alone among important, exciting bouts that boxing’s powers-that-be — and in some cases, the fighters themselves — are neglecting. I’ve picked the top five, with a few honorable mentions, and listed them in order. I’m not talking, by the way, about fights that could make the most money. I’ll leave that to Fortune magazine or somebody in the business press for now. But I guarantee every one of the bouts on my list would make serious cash. (A newspaper editor once told me, “The story isn’t just about the information. It’s mainly about how you present it.” Here’s the part where I re-present it; I’ve screamed about some of these fights needing to happen before, but never in the form I do below.) 1. Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez III Why it needs to happen: I’ve preached so much about this one that I risk sounding like a broken record, but I really do think it is the most important and best fight in the sport, and it gets better and more important all the time. The top, twin reasons are that A. Pacquiao and Marquez are now #1 and #2, respectively, on most everyone’s pound-for-pound list, now that both have had stellar debuts at lightweight (135 lbs.) and B. together they’ve produced two thrilling, close, controversial instant classics both times they met, in 2004 and then this year, and surely would do so again. When the two best fighters in the world have unsettled business, and every time they’ve met it’s been fantastic fireworks, they really ought to go for the rubber match. Why it isn’t happening: While Marquez’ last fight, a knockout of lightweight Ring champ Joel Casamayor, was all about getting a third shot at Pacquiao, Pacquiao and his team don’t seem terribly interested. Part of it is that nobody on Pacquaio’s team, including Pacquiao himself, likes the match-up. One fight was scored a draw and the other was scored a win for Pacquiao, but either fighter could easily be 2-0 against the other right now. The other part is that Pacquiao can make a ton more cash fighting Oscar De La Hoya in December than he can Marquez a third time. And after that, unless he gets absolutely crushed at 147 lbs., Pacquiao can make a lot more money fighting Ricky Hatton at 140 lbs. next, assuming Hatton beats Paulie Malignaggi in November. You can’t blame him for that motive. But money’s not the only reason. Before Pacquiao settled up with De La Hoya, Marquez was an option for December, and Pacquiao and his crew were instead looking at easier, less rich fights against the likes of Humberto Soto or Edwin Valero. Prospects for it ever happening: Pacquiao says he’s happy to fight Marquez if Marquez basically does it for free, but as of now, it looks like late 2009 is the earliest it would even be in the cards. 2. Joe Calzaghe-Kelly Pavlik Why it needs to happen: Both are arguably among the top five fighters on the planet. One, Calzaghe, is the Ring magazine champion at both super-middleweight (168 lbs.) and light heavyweight (175 lbs.), and the other, Pavlik, is the Ring magazine champion at middleweight. If they fought at around 168, Pavlik could duplicate one of boxing’s all-time great accomplishments by holding belts in three divisions simultaneously. Calzaghe could strengthen his claim as one of the best British fighters ever by beating a young, accomplished turk. And it’s an intriguing style match-up between Pavlik, a power-puncher, and Calzaghe, a crafty boxer. Pavlik has never been in a bad fight, and Calzaghe’s always at his most enjoyable with an opponent who comes straight at him. Why it isn’t happening: Calzaghe can’t seem to make up his mind about whether he wants to keep fighting after taking on Roy Jones, Jr., in November, and he can’t seem to make up his mind about whether Pavlik is worth a damn. Only he can answer the first question, and at 36, I couldn’t blame him if he hung up the gloves. But on the second question, Calzaghe’s got it all backwards. He said he offered a fight to Pavlik a while back, before Pavlik fought and beat Jermain Taylor, but Pavlik turned him down. Now, he says Pavlik hasn’t done enough to get a fight with him. Think about that one for a second — before Pavlik obtained his signature win, Calzaghe wanted to fight him; afterwards, Calzaghe deemed Pavlik too green to fight. It smacks of the “d” word — “ducking” — and if Calzaghe just isn’t sure he wants to take on a prime young power-puncher at his age, he should just say so, and I’d give him less hell, the same way I was lenient about De La Hoya not wanting to fight Margarito. Pavlik, for his part, is 100% on board with fighting Calzaghe. Prospects for it every happening: If Pavlik beats Bernard Hopkins next month,¬† Calzaghe beats Jones and Calzaghe decides not to retire, this fight could be on deck for early in 2009. 3. Cristian Mijares-Fernando Montiel Why it needs to happen: Junior bantamweight (115 lbs.) is arguably boxing’s hottest division right now, and Mijares is the clear #1 fighter with Montiel the clear #2, meaning a fight between the two would be for the vacant Ring magazine belt. Mijares has cracked the top 10 on a number of pound-for-pound lists, and Montiel is in the top 20 on his share. Both are excellent boxers who have been in some seriously exciting bouts in the last year or so, and each have wowed spectators with their quality performances in them. Mijares just blows people away with his skill level and poise, while Montiel has become increasingly ferocious. It’s hard to imagine a fight between the two being anything but a barnburner. Why it isn’t happening: I can’t figure it out. Both Mijares and Montiel have spoken out about wanting to fight the other, Montiel more than Mijares, but they both keep fighting other people instead. Prospects for it ever happening: You gotta figure that if both men keep cleaning out the division — Mijares has taken down Jorge Arce, Alexander Munoz, Jose Navarro and is about to go after Vic Darchinyan, while Montiel has taken down Martin Castillo and Z Gorres is on deck for a second time — it won’t be too long until they’re the last men standing, right? 4. Antonio Margarito-Paul Williams II Why it needs to happen: The welterweight division also is in the mix, with lightweight and junior bantamweight, in the debate over boxing’s most loaded division. In the division’s pecking order, Margarito gets the nod for #1 from most, but because Williams beat him last year, Williams is no worse than #2. And what a fight it was. In a battle of two giant, ultra-busy, hundreds-of-punches-per-round welters, Williams controlled the early rounds before Margarito stormed back to almost knock Williams out late, then Williams summoned a ton of heart in the final round to pull out the win. The winner would become the Ring champ. Why it isn’t happening: A feud between Margarito promoter Bob Arum and Williams’ management team over negotiations that went awry for Williams to fight Pavlik. Arum says he will no longer do business with Williams because of it. That’s bunk. I can’t say Margarito comes off as dying to get another shot at Williams, but you get the impression Margarito’s not exactly scared of anyone, either, and would fight Williams if that’s what his promoter asked him to do. So the blame’s on Arum, almost entirely. Prospects for it ever happening: With Margarito’s schedule — two fights on the ledger, one against an opponent yet to be named in early 2009 then rematch with Miguel Cotto in June — the best we can hope for is that Arum gets over his hard feelings toward Williams’ team in time for a fall 2009 rematch. 5. Wladimir Klitschko-Samuel Peter II Why it needs to happen: The heavyweight division remains important to the general public, and the general public craves clarity in the division. Klitschko and Peter are ranked #1 and #2 there by Ring magazine, so the winner would be the real heavyweight champ of the world. Their first fight in 2005 was sloppy, but it was dramatic, because it featured a slew of knockdowns by Peter, a near-knockout by Klitschko in the final round and a scorecard that was hard to predict. Klitschko and Peter both have improved in several ways since, although there are still plenty of questions about each man. A second fight could go a long way toward answering them. It doesn’t hurt that they’re two of the sport’s premier knockout artists. Why it isn’t happening: A weird mix of family and sanctioning organization politics is keeping Klitschko away from Peter again. Peter is due to fight Klitschko’s brother, Vitali, next month. The reason? Klitschko retired after repeated injury problems, but one of the sanctioning organizations allowed him to retain “champion emeritus” status. In the meantime, Peter won a couple title eliminators to become the mandatory challenger to titlist Oleg Maskaev, and after playing legal cards successfully to get Maskaev before the unretiring Vitali, Peter now has to fight the brother of the man he ought to be fighting if he wants to keep the title he won off Maskaev. It’s moot, though, because Wladimir wouldn’t fight Peter if Peter wanted to give up his belt, because Wladimir has a dream of he and his brother holding heavyweight title belts at the same time. Prospects for it ever happening: I think the chances are fairly good of the rematch happening some time early next year, assuming Peter beats Vitali and Wladimir wins his next fight against Alexander Povetkin. It’s one of the two biggest money-makers in the heavyweight division. Come on, Wladimir tries to avenge his brother’s defeat, with undisputed heavyweight supremacy on the line? The only potential hitch is that Wladimir and David Haye also look to be on a collision course, and that, too, is a huge bout. Honorable Mentions Juan Manuel Marquez-Nate Campbell: Marquez is the Ring champ at lightweight. Campbell holds three of the alphabet title belts. Both are intelligent, action-oriented fighters, and Campbell’s been climbing all the pound-for-pound lists. Advocates of either system of determining who’s best, Ring vs. alphabet, could unite behind the winner of this fight in what I consider boxing’s premier division. Too bad Marquez’ promoter, Golden Boy, appears to be trying to “keep it in the family” by matching Marquez against fellow Golden Boy stablemate Juan Diaz instead of taking a chance on making a deal with Don King Productions’ Campbell. Marquez-Diaz is a heckuva fight, but it doesn’t settle as much as Marquez-Campbell. Kelly Pavlik-Arthur Abraham: Pavlik’s the man at middleweight, but Abraham is clearly the division’s clear top contender for Pavlik’s Ring belt. Both hit really, really hard and have styles that would mesh for a great action fight. The main thing that has stood in the way of Pavlik-Abraham is that Abraham has a mandatory title defense he has to get through first. Another potential problem is that Pavlik promoter Arum isn’t so sure the Abraham fight would sell, since Abraham is a German with a relatively low profile in America. Ivan Calderon-Ulises Solis: After dominating the 105-pound class, Calderon moved up to 108 and twice defeated the man many believed to be the second-best little dude in the game, Hugo Cazares. But there was a case to be made that Calderon and Solis were the two best little dudes at the time, and with Cazares out of the picture, there’s little doubt now that Calderon and Solis should be ranked #1 and #2, respectively. Despite hardly ever knocking anyone out, Calderon has used his pure boxing skills to ascend into the top 10 of many pound-for-pound lists, and his name is beginning to be spoken among the all-time greats among boxing’s tiniest combatants. Beating the ultra-exciting and dangerous Solis would turn the volume up on that kind of talk. Earlier this year, Calderon-Solis was a possibility for 2008, but it seems to have fallen off the agenda. Calderon has talked about fighting other boxers more enthusiastically than he has Solis.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.