It’s time for “Round and Round,” where I take a look at developments in upcoming fights. Bigger names and/or more important combatants get top billing, so stop reading at any time your head gets too full of info.
–For whatever reason, welterweight (147 lbs.) boss Antonio Margarito — my #5 best boxer on the planet, regardless of division — isn’t doing the Josh Clottey rematch this fall anymore. I’ve read that Clottey asked for too much money, that Margarito was tired, all kinds of things. Instead, he’ll take the rest of 2008 off and then, according to his promoters, do a double-header with recently vanquished foe Miguel Cotto — still in the pound-for-pound top 10 — to set up their rematch for summer of 09. It’s unclear who their opponents will be in the interim. I’ve read Shane Mosley is possible for Margarito, but no names at all for Cotto, although there’d been talk of Kermit Cintron before. That both men wanted a fight at all in 08 after their grueling war — a candidate for Fight of the Year — is a tribute to the stern stuff they’re made of, but I’m glad they’re taking a break. And that both men want to fight each other again is plenty tribute to their stern stuff as well. I like this set-up. We get a look in the double-header at both to see how they’re holding up from the July artillery they unloaded on each other, and it builds hype for a rematch if both look good. I still wish we could make Paul Williams-Margarito II happen, since it’s among the handful of best fights in the sport, period, but Margarito-Cotto II isn’t bad at all, per se.
–Cristian Mijares-Vic Darchinyan is a go for November in the hot 115-pound weight class. Dan Rafael called it a “dream” fight, but I’ve never once dreamed about it. To its credit, they are two of the best in the division, and both hold title belts. Alas, I also think it’s a total mismatch and not the most important fight in the division. Maybe I’m crazy for writing off Darchinyan, but I’m usually right on my feelings in matters like this when I’m ultra-confident about the outcome. Nonito Donaire, a speedy boxer type, rather easily dismantled Darchinyan. Mijares, I think, is more well-rounded in his boxing skills than Donaire, and bigger, since Donaire-Darchinyan was at 112. That matters because Z Gorres — not the hardest-hitting 115-pounder in the world — hurt Darchinyan repeatedly. Judging from Darchinyan promoter Gary Shaw’s comments, he knows this is a bad match-up for his man. But Darchinyan wants it. Hand it to him for wanting to fight the best, anyway; Mijares is the #1 guy in his division and one of the 10 or so best boxers alive. Too bad Mijares isn’t fighting Fernando Montiel, the clear #2 in the division. Like Williams-Margarito II, it’s way up there on the list of most important fights in boxing.
–Guess what? For his December 147-pound showdown with pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao, Oscar De La Hoya is looking for a new trainer. The guy goes through them like tissue paper. There are differing accounts out there about why Floyd Mayweather, Sr. is out of De La Hoya’s corner — Did he want too much money? Was De La Hoya worried he was preoccupied with his new Ricky Hatton gig? — but unlike a lot of other De La Hoya/trainer splits, this one doesn’t look like there’s any animosity. Word is the Golden Boy’s leaning toward Nacho Bernstein, trainer of Pacquiao nemesis Juan Manuel Marquez. You could do worse than the guy who’s helped put Pacquiao so close to the brink of defeat, and someone as all-around brilliant in the corner as Bernstein.
–If anyone still cares about Winky Wright, the woefully inactive man who not long ago was considered the second-best fighter alive is now not acting like a total prick about having to fight someone as lowly as Arthur Abraham, only the #2 middleweight (160 lbs.) around. The fight would be in January. It’s a compelling bout; my only hope is that it doesn’t somehow sidetrack Kelly Pavlik-Abraham — once again, one of the best fights that can be made in the sport.
–It now looks very much indeed like the winner of this weekend’s Joel Casamayor-Juan Manuel Marquez (#3 on my pound-for-pound list) bout will give a shot to fellow lightweight (135 lbs.) Juan Diaz.¬ That’s a good fight in its own right: The legit, lineal Ring champ, be it Casa or JMM, against a top division contender, Monsieur Diaz. Both Casa and JMM are pining at some future point for a Pacquiao fight, but the only thing I see making that a reality is if Pacquaio just gets toasted by De La Hoya and goes, “to hell with anything north of 135.”
–Williams, unable to lure Margarito into a second showdown so far because of b.s. boxing politics, is looking at a possible bid for Verno Phillips’ 154-pound title; either that or defend his welterweight belt against mandatory challenger Michael Jennings. That’ll be after he fights at 160 this month. I like Williams a lot, but I worry about this weight class three-card monte. Also, I can’t believe that Michael Jennings, a fighter I’d never heard of until he became Williams’ mandatory challenger and whose record shows him beating no one else I’ve ever heard of, is somehow Williams’ mandatory challenger. Boxing is stupid sometimes. To Jennings’ credit, he did once fight someone named “Young Mutley.” Sounds like a Hanna-Barbara character. By the way, I have very little interest in Williams-Phillips, but if it’s the best Williams (#17 pound-for-pound) can find, I say take it.
–David Haye, a borderline top-20 pound-for-pounder, is still a-searchin’ for an opponent for his heavyweight coming out party in November, but it looks now like he’s settled on Kevin Johnson, a not-so-heavy-punching heavyweight with seven knockouts in 27 wins. I don’t have a huge problem with this choice as a water-testing kind of fight, although it is worth noting that Haye had promised a top-10 heavyweight, which Johnson is not either in the real world or in the fevered imaginings of the alphabet sanctioning bodies. Ray Mercer, age 47, wanted him some Haye, and if you think about it that way, it could’ve been a lot worse.
–Another exciting young heavyweight, Chris Arreola, also lacks opponents for his post-September double-header on Versus with Williams. Sultan Ibragimov wants some, and Travis Walker’s name has been thrown around. I think either fight could be rather interesting, which is more than I can say for Ibragimov’s previous fight, his February coma-inducer against Vladimir Klitschko.
–Chris John, the featherweight (126 lbs.) titlist who never seems to fight anyone but still is ranked in some people’s pound-for-pound top 20 based largely on his dubious win over JMM, apparently isn’t going to fight Rocky Juarez, who is coming off a pretty amazing come-from-behind knockout against Jorge Barrios and now says he would prefer to go after newly-minted 130-pound titlist Nicky Cook. My guess is that leaves John fighting someone from the cast of Sesame Street, which would be a distinct step up from his recent competition. Jorge Solis is one name in the running, although I know him to have too much of a pulse for John, which is not to say he’s all that worthy a contender, either.
–Montiel-Gorres II is on deck for December. The first had glimmers of awesomeness, and Montiel came out with a controversial win. Maybe Mijares-Montiel isn’t on the fast track it should be, but hey, at least everyone’s fighting everyone else in the division’s top 10, for the most part.
–At 122 lbs., the sensational Juan Manuel Lopez will not be fighting talented but defense-deficient Rey Bautista, to my pleasure. But one or both could still be on the De La Hoya-Pacquiao undercard in December, which is a good thing, given that both are television-friendly youngsters.
–Abner Mares-Gerry Penalosa for Penalosa’s 118-pound belt just dumbfounds me. Why would Penalosa want Mares, ultra-talented prospect, at his age? I love me some Penalosa. It would be on the undercard of Pavlik’s 170-pound battle with Bernard Hopkins in October.
–John Duddy-Ronald Hearns is also a go, for a January mandatory title shot at junior lightweight (154 lbs). I think this is a pretty entertaining battle for as long as it lasts, even if it doesn’t rate very highly on the significance meter. On the undercard would be Glen Johnson-Shaun George, which I think is also an interesting battle, at 175 lbs.
–“The Hawaiian Punch” is shooting at the elite again! After some career fumbles and subsequent recoveries, Brian Viloria is on track to fight Ulises Solis at 108 pounds in October in a battle of pint-sized punchers. It’s better than it sounds, trust me.
–My disdain for Mikkel Kessler, once a fave of mine, has reached such a level that I can’t bring myself to put the Dane up higher than this. Carl Froch is asking for a piece of the 168-pound self-career-ruiner. Meh.
–Likewise at 168 would be Andre Dirrell-Victor Oganov. Ultra-talented ex-Olympian versus sheltered, over-hyped knockout artist who was exposed by the tough but limited Fulgencio Zuniga… hmm, I wonder how this one will turn out on the Mijares-Darchinyan undercard.
–James Toney, one of my all-time faves, is maybe gonna fight fellow heavyweight Audley Harrison in a battle to see who is the most washed up.
–The only thing that could scrape the bottom of the barrel any worse than Toney-Harrison is malaria. That’s right, malaria. Malaria has done in the triumphant ring return of Joseph Agbeko, who was going to defend his bantamweight (118 lbs.) title this weekend for the first time since wining it forever ago. Too bad. I liked what I saw of Agbeko. I hope he gets well soon. Malaria’s nothing to screw with where Agbeko comes from. This marks postponement #4 of his title reign.
(Sources: ESPN.com, BoxingScene.com, FightNews.com, Maxboxing.com and papers all ’round the world)