Quick Jabs: This Week’s Fights, Being Uncool, New Pound-For-Pound List, And A Look Far Ahead

We’ve just completed a lengthy stretch of big, meaningful and/or potentially exciting fights with the conclusion of Manny-Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez II last weekend, and what have we gotten from it? Well, we did get one lemon-juice-in-the-eyeballs letdown in the heavyweight unifications bout between Vladimir Klitschko and Sultan Ibragimov, but virtually everything else delivered as promised, or better. Pacquiao-Marquez II produced a divisional (junior lightweight, 130 lbs.) classic. The slightly smaller (122 lbs.) Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez came up even bigger, producing the all but certain Fight of the Year in their trilogy battle. The two top middleweights (160 lbs.), Kelly Pavlik and Jermain Taylor, packed on a few pounds and produced 12 rounds of solid action. The cruiserweight (200 lbs.) fight for all the marbles betwixt David Haye and Enzo Maccarinelli produced a sensational knockout, courtesy Haye, as did a couple ungainly, but at least game, heavyweights: Sam Peter and his special delivery to Oleg Maskaev. And we got a huge upset when veteran lightweight (135 lbs.) Nate Campbell wrung out all of his 36 years of experience all over Juan Diaz, spoiling, at least for now, the 24-year-old Diaz’ rise to superstardom. And that’s not to mention the fun featherweight (126 lbs.) scrap between Robert Guerrero, who has his own star potential, and Jason Litzau, who turned on the jets to make a competitive affair of things before Guerrero landed a concussive combination or two on him and sent him down for the count. With that stretch over, boxing is going to go into a minor hibernation until mid-April. Pacquiao-Marquez II was the second most important fight that could be made in boxing; Bernard Hopkins-Joe Calzaghe (175 lbs.) is the third most important fight that can be made in the sport, given that both men are among the elite fighters in the world, and it’s scheduled for April 19. The most important fight that could happen? It’s still nowhere to be seen. April 12 brings us welterweight (147 lbs.) star Miguel Cotto, one half of the equation, against the overmatched Alfonso Gomez. The other half of the equation, Floyd Mayweather, is going to be spending the next couple weeks playing around with professional wrestling, with nary a mention of Cotto in his plans. It remains the real sore spot in boxing’s great run of late that the sport’s top fighter, Mayweather, has no interest in proving himself against the fighter everyone believes is the top contender in his division, Cotto. But the temporary absence of action doesn’t mean there isn’t stuff to talk about. So let’s get to some “Quick Jabs.” Three To Ponder This Week There are three TV fight cards of note this week, starting tonight with Andre Ward, the super middleweight (168 lbs.) former Olympic gold medalist who’s career has proceeded at a snail’s pace since he won that distinction. To his credit, he is in against his toughest opponent to date, the credible but not exactly formidable Rubin Williams. His handlers are clearly beginning to feel the pressure, because they were foolishly talking about matching him with the far more experienced Allan Green before Green had to pull out to meet an obligation to fight on ESPN again. If Ward looks good against Williams, as he should, I think he’ll be ready to make another step up in class, against a top-10 fighter of some kind, like, for instance, Green, who’s already beat Williams. Ward’s got talent, so he’s worth watching out for on FSN this evening. The following night on ESPN2 comes Andy Lee, a greener middleweight prospect but one whose career is moving more rapidly and at a pace befitting his incredible talent, in against his biggest-name opponent to date, Brian Vera. Vera doesn’t have much on his resume other than the fact that he was a contestant on the boxing reality show “The Contender,” so this is purely to give Lee some exposure and build his name recognition. If Jaidon Codrington knocked Vera out in two rounds, I would expect Lee to give him some of the same medicine. Then, for Lee, it’s off to Marco Antonio Rubio, in a more difficult challenge. Either way, if Ward is worth watching in action, Lee is EXCEPTIONALLY worthy of watching in action. Joel Casamayor — now there’s someone I don’t care to see much of. But he holds Ring magazine’s 135 pound belt, making him the “linear” champ, so he’ll be on HBO Saturday night even though everyone in the universe save two judges thought he should have lost said belt to Jose Armando Santa Cruz last year in what was literally the worst decision I’ve ever witnessed. The guy he’s fighting, Michael Katsidis, makes up for Casamayor in the watchability quotient. He’s come by his “new Arturo Gatti” designation honestly, what with his all-offense approach and tendency to be in dramatic seesaw affairs. Even though Casamayor says he’s going to go toe-to-toe, don’t count on it. He’s more likely to run around in circles, landing the occasional hard shot, flummox Katsidis with his defense and southpaw stance, toss in a headbutt or low blow for good measure and win an ugly decision. I believe Casamayor’s non-loss against Santa Cruz was a by-product of ring rust, not some kind of instant aging overnight, even though he’s 36. Twelve months off is not good for a boxer who lives off his legs and is getting old to boot. I hope I’m wrong in my expectation and Katsidis thumps him good, because Casamayor is one of the least likable cats in the sport — boastful without deserving to be, foul-prone, oft-unappealing in the ring. And Now, A Quick Look Back At Some Post-Fight Fallout Two weekends ago, Casamayor’s one-time opponent, Nate Campbell, gave fellow lightweight Juan Diaz a real beating, and since, Diaz’ camp has raised an awful stink. After Pacquiao-Marquez II this weekend, so did Marquez’ camp. Both were being pretty uncool. For uncoolness, Diaz’ camp takes the cake. They have suggested Campbell may have used steroids, and want the fight overturned because there were no drug tests. Whoa. Hold up. That’s not the kind of thing you go around insinuating without evidence. I’m all for justice, but if there was some suspicion, why not quietly file a protest ASAP instead of waiting to do so and then doing it rather publicly? I love Diaz’ abilities and his personality, but it’s going to start reflecting poorly on him if he continues allowing this kind of thing to happen. Anyone out there familiar with the book or movie “Late Shift?” Willie Savannah, Diaz’ manager, is beginning to come across like Helen Kushnick, manager of Jay Leno. He’s helped get Diaz this far, but he does some underhanded-sounding things, and while a lot of talented people could use their own career “enforcers,” there comes a point where where some of them are doing more harm than good. Marquez’ team was acting like there was something untoward about the judges’ scoring in his loss to Pacquiao, which is another uncool thing to do without evidence. Now, might TheSweetScience’s Ron Borges be on to something when he detects a slight Pacquiao-over-Marquez bias among the powers-that-be in the sport? Maybe, maybe. Certainly, it was strange for HBO’s Larry Merchant to want to call the fight a draw after its conclusion when he had Marquez up one point going into the final round and when everyone pretty much agrees Marquez won the 12th. But, again, what evidence is there that the judges were biased? That in many sports, the “star” gets the call from the refs? It’s just not enough. All the available evidence points to Pacquiao-Marquez II being a really close fight according to everyone on the planet who saw it, so no conspiracy or internal bias is called for. The only way to settle it is to have a rematch, which Pacquiao still doesn’t seem to want, even if his trainer Freddie Roach is willing to consider it and his promoter Bob Arum is, too (although Arum wants to do it later than he should, given Marquez’ advanced age). Pacquiao should man up and try to beat Marquez definitively to silence this kind of talk. Updated Pound-For-Pound List With the first quarter of the year over and some significant fights under 2008’s belt, it’s time to update my pound-for-pound list. For weights, key wins, commentary on each fighter, etc., please refer back to the original list here; for changes explained, see below. 1. Floyd Mayweather 2. Pacquiao: If Pacquiao beats David Diaz in June then gets another quality win — such as, say, I dunno, a rematch with Marquez — and Mayweather sits out except for Mayweather-Oscar De La Hoya II, Pacquiao replaces him at the top. You can’t be the best fighter in the sport if you barely fight, and especially if you don’t fight top opponents in your weight division, like, say, I dunno, Miguel Freaking Cotto. 3. Bernard Hopkins 4. Joe Calzaghe 5. Miguel Cotto 6. Juan Manuel Marquez: He tumbles just one spot, since I thought he edged Pacquiao. 7. Israel Vazquez: He leaps over Rafael Marquez but not big brother Juan Manuel, by beating little brother, and I think a case can be made for putting him over big brother, too. But the close nature of his win over Rafael, and the close nature of Juan Manuel’s loss to Pacquiao, doesn’t warrant that, yet, in my mind. 8. Kelly Pavlik: He only drops because of the achievements of others. 9. Rafael Marquez: Marquez only falls below Vazquez because of the close loss, and because of the lack of a compelling case for those immediately below him. 10. Winky Wright 11. Ricky Hatton 12. Shane Mosley 13. Ivan Calderon 14. Oscar De La Hoya 15. Cristian Mijares: I hadn’t seen his clinical win over Jose Navarro when I last did the rankings, and upon reviewing it, I’ve decided I made a mistake by leaving him just outside the top 20. 16. Joan Guzman: He moves up because of the what others have done or haven’t done, and because, in another adjustment, I fear I had him underrated the first time around. 17. Vladimir Klitschko: He beat his opponent, so he doesn’t deserve to move down, but he doesn’t deserve to climb, either. 18. David Haye: Two knockouts of two top cruiserweights (200 lbs.) in a row means he’s arrived. 19. Nate Campbell: Beating a pound-for-pounder in Diaz gets him on the list, in combo with a couple good wins and a couple close losses, but his position is precarious. 20. Jermain Taylor: Taylor’s another guy I feel I had knocked down too low, after seeing his performance against Pavlik again, and considering he’d beat Cory Spinks, whom I’d had rated higher. Hey, pound-for-pound lists aren’t an exact science. My inagural one really showed some shortcomings in its thinking. I’ll get it down to a more precise art soon, promise. I removed Cory Spinks because he hasn’t done much of anything in forever, and won’t anytime soon. Same for Chris John. Mikkel Kessler exits because of inactivity, but he has a chance to rectify that very soon. That leads to my next subject… Round And Round There are two potentially very interesting match-up developments bubbling, so I want to discuss them briefly, plus touch on one hopeless lark that’s under discussion. We’ll start with what could be the best of the bunch — super middleweights (168 lbs.) Kessler and Edison Miranda squaring off. After first appearing to duck Miranda, Kessler now appears to be into the idea. Good. This has the potential to be an exciting fight, what with Kessler’s balanced power/precision ratio and Miranda’s unhinged power. It’s last reported as “close,” and would be on Showtime May 24, so let’s get the signatures on the contract, gents. The other question is, what’s next on Pavlik’s agenda, after his expected June win over Gary Lockett? There’s some talk out there of him maybe hooking up with fellow middleweights Arthur Abraham — which I whole-heartedly endorse — and Wright’s people are calling Pavlik out left and right. Of the two, I think Abraham makes for the more entertaining bout, but I’d take Pavlik-Wright in a heartbeat. The lark? Light heavyweight (175 lbs.) Roy Jones, Jr. vs. the top guy in mixed martial arts, Anderson Silva. It’s just ridiculous that either party is discussing this one. Do even MMA fanatics think Silva would stand a chance in a boxing match against most any professional boxer, let alone the faded pound-for-pound king? But, hey, if Silva wants to do it, it’ll make a chunk of change, and I’m sure that after he gets knocked out, someone out there will see this as proof that boxing is the superior combat sport. That’s a misperception that’s fine with me, even though the truth is that they are two very different sports and a Silva loss would prove nothing. If Silva somehow pulled off a miracle and won, though? Ouch, I hesitate to think what that would do for boxing’s rep.

About Tim Starks

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