Quick Jabs: The Death Of Wednesday Night Fights; More Divisional Migration; The Value Of Denial; More

We’re still working through issues associated with switching over from the old site, Ring Report, to the new site, The Queensberry Rules, and for those of you who managed to find us and leave comments that disappeared into the ether: The overlords at MVN.com, the hosts of this modest boxing blog, are diligently doing everything they can to smooth out all the kinks. Thanks for your patience.

In the meantime, here’s your inaugural edition of “Quick Jabs” at the new site, the feature where I run tons of boxing news through the old typewriter. This will be the quickest version of “Quick Jabs,” because I have ambitions to do more frequent, but shorter, posts with the advent of the new site. Wish me luck, for your sake and mine…

Bernard Hopkins-Kelly Pavlik this past weekend kicked off a series of
year-end bouts that are more interesting for their storylines than for
the action they may or may not provide, but there are a few
opportunities here and there before 2009 for fights that offer more
action than storylines, and one of them is this weekend. On Showtime
Saturday Friday night, Lucian Bute and Librado Andrade go at it in my
darkhorse pick for Fight of the Year. The two 168-pounders are
burgeoning action stars, Bute for his big, big knockouts and Andrade
for his Antonio Margarito-caliber chin and all-offense approach. Bute
has shown he can fight with a little slickness — even though he’s
white, Bernard — but I doubt he has the capacity or desire to take on
a boring hit-and-run strategy. No, this should just be two people
hitting each other a lot, and well. Also, I didn’t even notice until
now that there was a Versus Network card on mid-week, the 23rd, when
Orlando Salido and Cristobal Cruz meet for a vacant alphabet title at
featherweight (126 lbs). Salido won a title once, but he tested
positive for ‘roids, so they stripped him. Cruz is one of my favorite
TV fighters, with the way he tries to rack up his punch count like it’s
a video game where you get a bonus if they go above 120 per round.
Demetrius Andrade (no relation), USA Boxing’s welterweight (147 lbs.)
in the Olympics, is on the undercard, but it’s not clear if Vs. will
televise his bout…

There’s been a lot of speculation about whether ESPN would cancel its Wednesday Night Fights program, and whether any savings would in turn go to Friday Night Fights.
Dan Rafael’s latest notebook says “yes” to the cancellation, “no” to
the money saved boosting ESPN’s other boxing program. That’s highly
disappointing. Sure, ESPN cards are sometimes loaded up with mismatches
for young fighters or bouts of questionable quality. But there are also
plenty of gems on the show, and young fighters have to get exposure
somewhere. There were also more upsets than ever on ESPN this year, and
it was nice to get a little mid-week boxing — now we’ll get less of
the former and none of the latter. And we don’t even get a little cash
injection to make FNF better in return…

Golden Boy Promotions is picking off tons of boxing free agents these
days, litigation threat from their former promoters be damned. Nate
Campbell, owner of three lightweight (135 lbs.) belts, is in talks with
Golden Boy, despite lawsuit threats from previous, recently-ditched
promoter Don King. If GBP gets ’em, we could see Campbell in against
other GBP stablemates Juan Diaz, or better yet, Juan Manuel Marquez for
all the lightweight marbles, since Marquez holds the Ring magazine
belt. As good a pickup as that would be for GBP, they’ve also shored
themselves up in an area where they had been in their weakest by making
plays for young potential superstars in James Kirkland (junior
middleweight, 154 lbs.) — complete with a litigation threat from Gary
Shaw Promotions — and Yuriorkis Gamboa (featherweight), to go along
with recent acquisition Victor Ortiz (junior welterweight, 140 lbs),
who looks like he’ll get a deserved and coveted slot on the Dec. 6
Oscar De La Hoya-Manny Pacquiao undercard Dec. 6. I confess this all
makes me skittish. On one hand too many prominent promoters is a recipe
for fights not getting made, but then, a virtual monopoly wouldn’t be ideal either…

The constantly mutating plans for welterweights Margarito and Miguel
Cotto are getting a little old. Margarito was going to fight Joshua
Clottey in the fall, then he wasn’t; then Cotto and Margarito were
going to have interim bouts to set up their rematch in early 2009; then
Margarito was looking at Shane Mosley, now that probably won’t happen
for monetary reasons, according to the boss at promoter Top Rank, Bob
Arum. The current status is that Margarito-Cotto II may go straight to
February, but if it doesn’t, Cotto could fight Kermit Cintron or Jesus
Soto-Karass and Margarito could fight, well, someone. Mosley may end up
with Paul Williams or Andre Berto out of the deal, especially because
all of Williams’ opponents keep falling through, like Delvin Rodriguez,
who plans to fight Isaac Hlatswayo in a title eliminator instead of
Williams to set up a bout for Clottey’s belt, so now Verno Phillips is
back in the picture as a Williams opponent for November. If all of that
bores the piss out of you, join my club…

Welterweight is still pretty stocked, no matter what happens with all
of the above, and lightweight and junior bantamweight (115 lbs.) round
out the top three divisions in the sport. But Pacquiao’s apparent
complete abandonment of lightweight really sucks some of the life out
of the division, because that happens any time you lose the best
pound-for-pound fighter in the game — the same thing that happened at
welterweight when Floyd Mayweather retired. And junior bantamweight
looks like it’s about to lose both Cristian Mijares and Fernando
Montiel, the top two men in the division who say they are are bailing
for 118 pounds, so it’s about to drop off substantially. I really do
wish that once a division really starts to get spicy, people would hang
around for a little while…

Speaking of Mijares, his next opponent, Vic Darchinyan, is going around
claiming that Nonito Donaire got lucky when he knocked him out last
year, and that up to that point, Darchinyan says he was just toying
with Donaire. I’ve always had a strange soft spot for Darchinyan’s
arrogance, and maybe a fighter has to tell himself something like that
when he’s on the receiving end of the consensus Knockout of the Year.
But if Darchinyan is even remotely interested in the truth, he should
check the tape again. Donaire did indeed land a helluva knockout punch,
but he also was owning Darchinyan up to that point…

Vitali Klitschko, surprisingly, may not hang around that long after a
scintillating comeback last weekend. Unless he can lure Lennox Lewis
back to the ring for a rematch, or maybe get a hold of Nicolay Valuev,
it might be back to retirement for Vitali. As disappointing as it is
that Vitali’s presence means we probably won’t get a true heavyweight
champ — Vitali’d have to fight little brother Wladimir for the vacant
Ring belt, and that won’t happen — Vitali looked so good bashing Sam
Peter that I confess I’d like him to stay and play. I deeply doubt
Klitschko-Lewis II happens, even if Don King somehow can deliver on his
proposed $50 million offer to Lewis, which I also find dubious. Lewis
is on the ballot for Hall of Fame consideration in 2009 because he’s
been retired for five years, and he could have made $50 mil fighting
over that span if he put his mind to it…

Maybe Ricardo Torres is simply the biggest-money fight out there for
Kendall Holt, given the twin bizarre wars the two junior welterweights
have waged against one another. But I really think Holt deserves some
credit for giving Torres a rubber match in December, after berating
Torres into the initial rematch, where Holt avenged his loss. Torres
has knocked Holt down numerous times, so it’s not like Holt isn’t
taking a risk here. It’s also just the honorable thing to do — Torres
won controversially the first time, Holt won controversially the second
time. The winner moves on, per a deal with Showtime, to a fight with
Timothy Bradley, a nice clash no matter who comes out of Torres-Holt

As for little brother, Wladimir Klitschko is in talks for a fight
against David Haye as soon as next June. It’s dependent on Haye looking
good against Monte Barrett next month in his heavyweight re-debut. It
should be. If Haye can’t handle Barrett sensationally, then Klitschko
will ruin him. Repeat: Ruin him…

On one hand, you have to give it up for Gerry Penalosa being one of
the bravest little fellas in the sport. He said he wanted to fight Juan
Manuel Lopez at 122 lbs. on the De La Hoya-Pacquiao undercard, and
Penalosa once again demonstrated he is game to fight anyone, even guys
others would prefer not to fight. On the other hand, there are
allegations from Lopez’ camp that he wanted too much money, more even
than Lopez. I don’t know which is true. Lopez is hyping ambitious plans
to move all the way up to lightweight someday. But as obvious a
superstar-in-waiting as he is, he’ll need to pick off someone like
Israel Vazquez on his way up, or he may find himself in a “fight a
bunch of nobodies” pattern that isn’t helpful. Vazquez says he’s happy
to fight Lopez one day, but wants Lopez to become more of an
established star first. From the sound of things, Lopez may be in a
difficult “need experience to get a job, can’t get experience without a
job” nook…

If you were wondering what the hell was going on with Peter against Vitali, I commend you to this rather plausible explanation
from his trainer, courtesy the ultra-diligent and fair-minded Michael
Woods. The reason he looked bad, summed up: It was a little bit of
everything, including some mysteries…

Another Winky Wright fight has fallen through, this one his proposed
middleweight bout with Arthur Abraham in January. There are differing
accounts of who’s to blame, but I ask you this: Are you surprised?

(Sources: ESPN; Boxingtalk.com; Maxboxing.com; TheSweetScience.com; BoxingScene.com; The London Daily Telegraph)

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.