Let’s go “Round And Round” to check out some fights in the works that range anywhere from “hell yeah” to “what the?”
–The biggest news out there is that consensus middleweight (160 lbs.) champ Kelly Pavlik has apparently reached a deal to make Paul Williams his next opponent on Sept. 27. Honestly, I don’t see this being much of a fight, even if both men are big enough attractions to be the “A-side” to most cards they’re on. Williams is a welterweight, which means he’d be moving up 13 pounds. He’s a good fighter, Williams, but I don’t think he’s a middleweight. Yes, he’s had trouble getting down to 147 with that gangly frame of his, and would probably be about the height of the tall-for-a-middleweight Pavlik (Pavlik’s 6’2″ and a half, while Williams is almost certainly taller than his listed height of 6’1″). I think Williams may have enough pop to be a factor at 154, but he’s not a huge puncher even at welterweight, despite his recent 1st round knockout of Carlos Quintana. And Pavlik is as big a puncher as they come at middleweight, so this has the feel of an utter mismatch. I can’t blame either side for wanting to make it happen, though, especially if, as reported, HBO’s interested. It’s not like there were a ton of good alternatives for Pavlik as he waits around for Arthur Abraham to finish up his mandatory title defense against Raul Marquez nor Williams while he waited for another welterweight star to become available and want to fight him. The options for Pavlik were the pricey Winky Wright, the best fight he could make if only Wright wasn’t so difficult to negotiate with; John Duddy, who’s thinking of skipping down to 154; Sergio Mora, who’s tied up in rematch clauses and mandatory title defenses; Marco Antonio Rubio, who has no hope; Bernard Hopkins, who is too old and boring; Joe Calzaghe, who’s basically ducked Pavlik in eight different ways for eight different reasons; and Allan Green, whom I didn’t know was even in the running and probably would have been a better option than Williams in many regards.
–There is now talk that one of the opponents in the running for Manny Pacquiao in November is Humberto Soto, where once it appeared Edwin Valero was as sure-fire an opponent for the new lightweight (135 lbs.) titleholder as could be. Strange. The official reason is that getting Valero’s health problems cleared in Nevada would be difficult. Maybe Pacquiao’s team realized they were gonna have a tough time selling Pacquiao-Valero, a fun match-up but one where one of the combatants, Valero, hasn’t fought in the U.S. in forever and is known only to the hardest of the hardcore fans, compared to Soto, who’s at least been on HBO some. Soto, who, like Valero, is a 130-pounder now, would pose more of a threat to Pacquiao, I think, but would not be a major step up in terms of pay-per-view sales. That’s important, because word is that Pacquiao’s pay-per-view against David Diaz didn’t do well — in the neighborhood of less than 200,000 buys, including a very reluctant yours truly — and Diaz, who got a share of pay-per-view revenue, promoted his ass off for this one. Does Soto bring the same personality Diaz did? No, nor does Valero, since both speak little English. Can we just make this next Pacquiao fight on regular HBO, kids? Is that too much to ask? Oh, and one more thing on Pacquiao — it’s been said here and elsewhere that Pacquiao has few options for his fall date with so many lightweights tied up, but Nate Campbell, maybe the best of all the lightweights before Pacquiao arrived, apparently made it clear he wouldn’t sign to fight Joan Guzman Sept. 6 if he could get a hold of Pacquiao post-Diaz. Why Pacquiao wouldn’t take that fight if true is beyond me.
–Comes word as well in the juicy Steve Kim piece that all this info comes from so far that the long-awaited Antonio Tarver-Chad Dawson fight is finally on. I’ll believe it the day it happens, since Tarver has avoided this one for more than a year. It’s a decent fight between two of the top light heavyweights (175 lbs.), with Tarver looking fresher in his last outing against Clinton Woods and the younger Dawson looking a little shaky against the tough Glen Johnson. Once, I might have predicted a blowout. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that Tarver doesn’t pull another of his diva temper tantrums.
–The side effect of that bout is that Johnson, who arguably deserved the decision over Dawson, would get a title shot against Adrian Diaconu, who would have been Dawson’s mandatory challenger. Dawson and Tarver both hold belts, so Dawson must be reasoning that he can skip his mandatory and take Tarver’s title. It’s good to see Johnson get a very deserved chance to win another belt. He’s one of the more admirable men in the sport.
–On the same Oct. 11 card for Tarver-Dawson comes, finally, maybe, the heavyweight title fight betwixt Sam Peter and the unretiring Vitali Klitschko. You know, this would be a very good fight to get people excited about the heavyweight division again — two mega-punchers, the family saga of Peter having lost to Klitschko’s brother Vladimir, etc., but with Klitschko’s injury history, any enthusiasm is totally, totally dampened. If this Oct. 11 card comes off, though — a big “if” — it’s a really good one for Showtime.
–Jermain Taylor knows a little about dampening enthusiasm, but more and more, it looks like the ex-middleweight champ is going to fight Jeff Lacy Nov. 8. HBO is interested in matching the two super middleweights (168 lbs), both of whom were on the star track and have fallen off, Lacy in particular. For that reason, it’s mildly intriguing, but little more. Again, file this under “believe it when it happens,” what with the way Taylor’s been dicking around for, basically, forever on his next opponent.
–It is indeed a dream double-header if Top Rank’s Bob Arum can pull it off: Cristian Mijares vs. Fernando Montiel, the two best 115-pounders, alongside Jorge Arce vs. Nonito Donaire, Arce being an exciting 115-pound contender and Donaire being a seriously good 112-pound titlist. Godspeed.
–The fact that “The Contender” is getting picked up on Versus after falling off ESPN2 might not usually warrant mention in a column such as this, but the potential match-ups in the expected lineup of fighters for the boxing reality show is highly noteworthy. It includes some of the best cruiserweight (200 lbs.) contenders out there, instead of some dregs with a few promising types. It’s a mix of vets like O’Neil Bell and Darnell Wilson and up-and-comers like Johnathon Banks and B.J. Flores. The match-ups are plentiful and intriguing.
–I gather somebody thought the welterweight superfight between Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito was plenty enough to sell their July 26 pay-per-view, because the undercard is, to say the least, underwhelming. The undercard is junior featherweights (122 lbs.) Bernabe Concepcion and Adam Carrera; junior welterweights (140 lbs.) Mike Alvarado and Cesar Bazan; and junior flyweights (108 lbs.) Giovanni Segura and Cesar Canchila. Ouch.
–The idea of Marco Antonio Barrera’s comeback continues to depress me. I was a very big fan of the Mexican great, but man, hang ’em up and leave ’em up. So far, he hasn’t been able to make a fight. Barrera turned down Alex Arthur (130 lbs.), apparently, and couldn’t make a fight with Soto because Barrera’s tied up in a dispute with Golden Boy Promotions, a company in which he is a partner. I usually don’t cheer on promotional disputes that handicap a fighter’s options, but here’s one instance where I will do so. Long may this promotional struggle continue.
–Two boxers infamous for their body issues are squaring off really soon, July 30 on ESPN2: Jose Luis “I have now ruined three fights for failing to make weight” Castillo and Sebastian “I once literally got my ear punched off” Lujan are talking about fighting at welterweight. Castillo has lost considerable amounts of good will from being a participant in the greatest fight of all time, Castillo-Diego Corrales I, because of his battle against the scale. I wish he’d just quit, because he’s also looked bad in the last couple years when he’s managed to fight. Lujan, I root for. He’s had a rough go of it for reasons that are less his fault — nothing you can do about Margarito slicing your ear off your head, and Lujan wasn’t the one who stopped the fight, so he’s tough, and he scored himself a meaningful win over Walter Matthysse recently. That said, it’s very sad to me that Castillo is at this point in his career, fighting a commendable but unremarkable opponent at yet another weight that probably won’t pay him much on the clear, clear downside of his boxing life.
–Would the IBF really order an elimination bout between Joel Julio and Cory Spinks for Verno Phillips’ 154-pound title? That’s what Boxingtalk is hearing. Spinks has no shot at landing a big fight again unless an opponent is forced to fight him, because he’s boring and difficult to fight. Julio’s exciting and good enough to get his chance at some point, whether against Spinks or someone else. I might still avoid this one like the plague if it somehow gets on television, though, simply because Spinks is the most terrible fighter to watch in the whole wide universe.
(Sources: Maxboxing; ESPN; BoxingScene; Boxingtalk; news releases)