Quick Jabs: Tide Turns From Mayweather To Cotto-Margarito; Legendary Trainer Manny Steward’s Awful Year; Round And Round

Between two great weekends past and ahead comes your weekly “Quick Jabs,” AKA a series of lesser thoughts, with a helping of “Round and Round,” AKA an examination of some fights in the works. Emmanuel Steward’s House Of Cards A couple weeks ago, Maxboxing’s Doug Fischer had an exchange with his readers about whether legendary trainer Emmanuel Steward was overrated. I can’t provide a link, but Fischer said he ain’t, in the strongest possible terms. And you know what? He’s right. But it’s getting hard to ignore what a disastrous year he’s had, concluding with the steamrolling of his top-10 welterweight (147 lbs.) Kermit Cintron over the weekend. To rehash the fate of the boxers for whom he is responsible: First, in September, consensus middleweight (160 lbs.) champ Jermain Taylor lost his title belt via nasty knockout to Kelly Pavlik, a fighter Steward had ruthlessly ridiculed as nothing special. That was the end of the lengthy, unproductive Steward-Taylor experiment, and Taylor fared much better in a Pavlik rematch in February he nonetheless lost with a different trainer in his corner. Then, in February, heavyweight Vladimir Klitschko — hailed as one of the all-time great heavies by Steward — choked in the most important fight of his career, winning against Sultan Ibragimov and unifying two title belts but ultimately turning a great many fans against him in the process because of the boring, cautious style in which he fought. Next up was the middleweight prospect Steward had hailed as the second coming of Sugar Ray Robinson, Andy Lee, who was knocked out in March by a lightly-regarded graduate of “The Contender,” Brian Vera. Cintron’s knockout courtesy of Antonio Margarito came without Steward’s overblown hype, but left Steward with only one name among his crew of fighters who didn’t see his stock plummet in the last year: Cruiserweight (200 lbs.) Jonathan Banks. Steward’s to be commended for putting his fighters in tough bouts, with the exception of Banks, who is probably not far from a bigger fight. Those losses are going to happen, sometimes. Every trainer has a bad year where the wins and losses don’t work out in their favor. Buddy McGirt had a string of bad luck not long ago with Arturo Gatti, Antonio Tarver and others losing, but he’s bounced back with Paulie Malignaggi. None of this means Steward is a bad trainer — not at all. In fact, with the exception of Taylor, everyone who trains with Steward gets better. Cintron was much improved against Margarito, even though he lost. Klitschko has improved his own skills, however reluctant he is to use them to fan’s maximum enjoyment. But in almost every case, Steward gave his boxers good advice and they ignored it, as when Lee continued to brawl with Vera despite Steward’s wishes that he return to his jab; and in almost every case, Steward built up the expectations for his fighters tremendously, which meant they suffered a greater fall in esteem that they might have otherwise. Nobody asked me, but it seems that Steward’s boxers need to start listening to him, and then his run of bad luck will end. I don’t know how Steward makes that happen. If you have a Hall of Fame trainer in front of you and you don’t listen to his advice, there’s something weird going on in your head. And when he’s not giving advice to his boxers — or providing excellent ringside commentary for HBO — Steward should keep his ambitious pronouncements to himself. Now No One Else Cares About Mayweather, Either Less than two weeks ago, I wrote about why I don’t care about Floyd Mayweather Jr., anymore, responding to a few pieces out there about how neat it was that he was a crossover star and a businessman and at Wrestlemania, when all I want for him is to be a real fighter, too. How quickly things change! Now the line on Mayweather is, “Who cares about him?” I don’t see any hypocrisy in any of this, and I’m not alleging that somehow I changed everyone’s mind. Rather, it is the excellent performances of two other welterweights (147 lbs.) over the weekend, Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito, and the anticipation that they will fight one another July 26, that I believe has turned the tide against Mayweather. The Ring tipped me to the ultimate point of all this; William Dettloff wrote of Cotto-Margarito: “…there’s not a better fight that can be made in all of boxing.” It’s true. Mayweather-Cotto was, and remains, the most important fight in boxing, at least for now — and at least until I and others all run out of patience for Mayweather to defend his pound-for-pound #1 ranking, which won’t be too long at all. But Cotto-Margarito is the best fight that can be made in boxing, a guaranteed war. Isn’t that an awfully good substitute? Mayweather should stick that in his pipe and smoke it while he admires his Wall Street Journal clippings. The Weekend’s Other Television Fight (And Webcast Fight) I’ll preview the weekend’s big fight tomorrow, between light heavyweight (175 lbs.) champ Bernard Hopkins and super middleweight (168 lbs.) champ Joe Calzaghe. But you could watch boxing all day and night if you wanted, because ESPN Classic is airing a good one and DonKingTV.com is webcasting its second fight, too. At 6 p.m. on ESPN Classic, Tomasz Adamek gets his first real cruiserweight test against O’Neil Bell, and quite a test it is. Adamek was a good light heavyweight, and he’s had a good cruiserweight run so far. But Bell is the former division king, a real big puncher and a guy who can take a shot. Adamek is gutty, but “duck” isn’t in his repertoire. I expect it to be good for a few rounds at least, but Adamek’s best hope is that Bell is unfocused and permanently crazy, since “erratic behavior” is definitely in Bell’s repertoire. At 1:30 p.m. on DonKingTV.com, Adrian Diaconu, who may soon challenge for a light heavyweight title belt, goes to Romania to battle Chris Henry. Diaconu’s a fun fighter, but I know nothing of Henry. There are a bunch of other Romanians on the fight card, none of whom I’m familiar with, but I will say this: Romania’s been churning out some good ones of late. Half of Canada’s top fighters, including Diaconu and super middleweight titlist Lucian Bute, hail from there originally. Round And Round This week, we’ll divide up a breakdown of fights in the works by weight class. (From a professional standpoint, I wish I could credit and link to every single story that provided this information, but it’d be a mess and a ridiculous amount of work. There are weeks worth of proposed bouts that I’ve let back up. So I’m going to laze out and just say thanks to ESPN.com, TheSweetScience.com, BoxingScene.com and MaxBoxing.com, AOL.com’s Fanhouse, and Sherdog.com. I’ll only include dates where any have been set.) Middleweight/super middleweight (168)/light heavyweight: Lot of action here. Middleweight division king Kelly Pavlik’s year appears to be getting his 2008 fully mapped out. After Gary Lockett this summer, the next names on his calendar are either Ricardo Mayorga or Marco Antonio Rubio. Both, like Lockett, would stand little chance, making that two mismatches in a row. Then, the idea is to finish up 2008 or start 2009 with Arthur Abraham. That’s the fight everyone wants to see. Promoter Bob Arum is great at building up an attraction, so maybe there’s rhyme to his reason for putting Pavlik into easy matches where he can look good. As long as Abraham’s on the agenda, I suppose I can live with a couple easy matches, but three would be too many. Speaking of Abraham, he’s party to something of a wacky merry-go-round involving a few fighters. It’s all the result of super middleweight contender Mikkel Kessler having pulled out of a bout with Edison Miranda that had boxing fans salivating. Kessler thought he’d get a shot at Anthony Mundine at light heavyweight, a fight he could win because he’s already beat Mundine, and Mundine’s certainly less threatening than Miranda and his one-punch power. Mundine, though, is flirting with his own meaningless rematch, against Sam Soliman, whom he’s already defeated, even though the WBA may take Mundine’s belt away. Mundine’s also flirting with moving all the way down to middleweight and taking on Wright, Abraham or Pavlik. Miranda-Kessler may or may not be back in the works, because Miranda’s a possible for Abraham’s American debut in a meaningful rematch, since their last fight was controversial and disputed; in fact, it looks like that’s the bout for June 21. Miranda may also turn his attention to Fulgencio Zuniga, a tough guy and an entertaining fighter but probably no match for Miranda, ultimately. In the end, even though I once counted myself a Kessler fanboy, the way he’s handled himself of late is disgraceful — first dodging, then agreeing, then pulling out of that Miranda bout — and I would like to see him go unrewarded for a little while so that he realizes you can’t pull that crap. The proposed boxing match between light heavyweight contender Roy Jones, Jr. and mixed martial artist Anderson Silva is off, thanks to UFC boss Dana White. But Silva still wants it to happen in 2009. Glutton for punishment, I guess. Jermain Taylor and Jones may meet someday too, but the current focus for super middleweight Taylor is either Felix Trinidad or Brian Vera. I would expect Taylor to spank both of them, since Trinidad shouldn’t fight above middleweight but wants to meet Taylor somewhere between super middle and light heavy, and because Vera is limited. But, if Taylor gets Trinidad, that’s a fight that would make a little bank, and I suspect it would be competitive enough for me to watch, unless it was pay-per-view. And if Vera got Taylor, I’d take back my previous assertions that I doubt “The Contender” team could get Vera a better bout than Vera-Lee II. Light heavyweight titlist Chad Dawson may or may not take on Diaconu next instead of Antonio Tarver, since Diaconu’s his mandatory challenger. There’s word Diaconu may take step-aside money, however, to let Dawson-Tarver happen. Lightweight (135)/junior lightweight (130): It’s a little embarrassing that Ring magazine lightweight belt-holder Joel Casamayor and Juan Diaz are apparently going to fight each other in their next bouts. Tri-alphabet-belt-holder Nate Campbell gave young Diaz a lesson in March and is clearly more deserving of a match with Casamayor, or a rematch, as it would be in Campbell’s case. I’m not saying Casamayor-Diaz isn’t a good fight, but get real. Boxing fans would prefer Casamayor-Campbell II, and Casamayor-Diaz would be purely the result of the fact that both are promoted by Golden Boy, little more. How about Manny Pacquiao-Amir Khan at lightweight, once Pacquiao delivers the expected victory over David Diaz this summer? It’s under discussion. Same thing: Good fight, wrong fight. Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez III should be Pacquiao’s next date. Khan can wait, and probably needs to, for this match to be as good as it could, since Khan’s green. Lightweight Michael Katsidis, coming off yet another action-packed slugfest — a loss to Casamayor in March — may meet up with Jesus Chavez in his first real fight since making yet another comeback. Anything Katsidis is in, I’ll watch, but Chavez would add some spice himself. Gimme. My favorite prospect, Yuriorkis Gamboa, lost an experienced opponent in Marcos Ramirez, but his replacement, Darling Jimenez, has a comparable record and reputation. Gamboa is being moved very, very fast. I don’t see any reason he can’t handle it. See him. May 17, HBO. Seriously, watch him. Welterweight/junior welterweight (140): Long-suffering welterweight Joshua Clottey has been waiting and waiting and waiting for a title shot. Since Margarito is going to vacate the belt he just won from Cintron in order to fight Cotto instead of Clottey, that means Clottey will finally get his title shot. It looks like Clottey and Luis Collazo will fight for the vacant belt on the Cotto-Margarito undercard. I like that style match-up, and those two are on the same level, in the third tier of the crowded welterweight field. Down at junior welter, the long-overdue rematch between Ricardo Torres and Kendall Holt is finally going to happen, July 5. Their first, last year, was loaded up like one of those KFC bowls with irregularities of every stripe. It tarnished what was a pretty good fight. Glad it’s happening again. Speaking of long-suffering: Junior Witter may never get a hold of Ricky Hatton, but he’ll get a significant bout against Tim Bradley on May 10. Many believe this a mismatch for the more experienced Witter. I’ve got no clue. It’s hard to come by tape of Witter or Bradley.  All I know is, never underestimate dudes named Tim. Heavyweight (unlimited)/cruiserweight: Two-belted heavyweight Kltischko had a few options coming off his ugly Ibragimov win: Take on mandatory challenger Tony Thompson; take on other mandatory challenger Alexander Povetkin; try to unify more title belts. He stands to lose what belts he has unless he beats both Thompson and Povetkin, and the other two titlists are otherwise occupied, so he’s going to take Thompson first, in July, then Povetkin. I’ll watch him vs. Thompson, but reluctantly, because I’ve got PTSD from that Ibragimov fight. What happens after Bell-Adamek Saturday? The winner may fight Steve Cunningham, the cruiserweight titlist whose really grown on me, both for his style in the ring, his personality (he wrote a good piece in this month’s Ring mag) and his willingness to go anywhere to fight anyone. Or, Cunningham may get Mormeck. All of these are good fights. Darnell Wilson was the cruiserweight getting left out of the title race, then got beat by B.J. Flores, now is getting a title shot against Firat Arslan on May 3. Life’s funny.

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.