Not since I began following boxing has there been such a concentrated spate of people pulling out of fights. The latest is what could have been the best fight on the coming weekend’s pay-per-view card, the lightweight (135 lbs.) bout between rising Anthony Peterson and exciting Edner Cherry.
When combined with the news that negotiations for a big-time summer heavyweight match-up between Wladimir Klitschko and David Haye have been suspended — and I don’t want to make too much of that, because it could just be gamesmanship — and other fights falling through, 2009 is already beginning to look, at this very early juncture, like the year of “might have been.” [UPDATE: And now the March light heavyweight (175 lbs.) bout between Chad Dawson and Antonio Tarver is off, for the time being. Not that anyone will miss that one much, but it’s yet another big fight falling through. Seriously, what’s the deal?]
A trip to the graveyard:
The Done And Gone
First up is a category of fights that were as done as done can be, or that were as close to done as can be, only to disappear.
Nonito Donaire-Fernando Montiel (junior bantamweight, 115 lbs.): This one was scheduled in December for March on Showtime, then Montiel pulled out last month, saying he couldn’t make the junior bantamweight limit again. Then, just a few weeks later, Montiel said he wanted to fight Vic Darchinyan at 115. Huh? It’s too bad, because I think this had the chance to be the Fight of the Year for a fan like me, who likes boxers with skill, speed and power and are elite, pound-for-pound players. Both have shuffled through replacement opponents like nobody’s business, but it looks like Donaire will end up with at least a solid opponent in Raul Martinez, while Montiel appears likely to end up with a near mismatch.
Alfredo Angulo-Ricardo Mayorga (junior middleweight, 154 lbs.): Last weekend’s scheduled HBO main event, another potential Fight of the Year candidate, turned into a sad mismatch after Angulo was left fighting Cosme Rivera, a game but outgunned, undersized and underprepared vet. Rivera was actually the second replacement opponent. Mayorga reportedly made a power play for more money, then explained that the reports were false and it was a rib injury courtesy Shane Mosley. Of course, that fight was in December, and it seems like he might have discovered a rib injury before that. This one, like Donaire-Montiel, was one of the most anticipated fights of the first quarter of 2009, and could have been a “star is born” kind of emergence for Angulo.
Sergio Martinez-Joe Greene/Daniel Santos (junior middleweight): Either of these would just have been very solid match-ups, with Martinez-Greene being an interesting step-up for a prospect and Martinez-Santos being a bout between top-10 fighters in one of boxing’s most interesting divisions. Greene dropped out first with kidney stones, then Santos claimed he’d never accepted the fight and his promoter, Don King, jumped the gun. Instead, last weekend gave us Martinez against Kermit Cintron, a potentially interesting and meaningful fight on paper that sucked in practice. In retrospect, Martinez-Greene/Santos would have offered a better style match between “slick boxers with power” as opposed to “slick boxer versus raw and erratic talent.”
Carlos Quintana-Eromosele Albert (junior middleweight): This ESPN2 Friday Night Fights main event degenerated from “intriguing test for a quality fighter in a new division” when Quintana bailed out with to “not-bad revenge rematch of good 2008 bout” when Ossie Duran stepped in to “one-sided and unappealing beatdown” when Duran pulled out and Albert was left pounding on Germaine Sanders.
Anthony Peterson-Edner Cherry (lightweight): As I mentioned, this had the chance to steal the show this weekend from dual-headliners Miguel Cotto and Kelly Pavlik, but Peterson’s knee got all funky. Cherry’s always fun and Peterson’s one of the top prospects in the sport. Peterson had actually been mentioned for a couple other nice potential fights, such as with Julio Diaz, who in turn had been mentioned for a couple of his own potential nice fights, such as with Michael Katsidis. Fortunately, Diaz will be back in action in April as part of the so-called “lightweight tournament,” fighting Joel Casayamor. But it would have been nice if Peterson had not been left out of the early 2009 line-up, too. What’s more, a card I might have bought for $24.95 or even $35 is going to be priced at $44.95, and I’m now wondering whether I shouldn’t skip it. Right now, the ppv has the look of a couple seriuos mismatches, one likely mismatch and one decent scrap between guys who aren’t very skilled.
Also backed out, but of lesser import: Tomasz Adamek-B.J. Flores at cruiserweight (200 lbs.), although Flores’ replacement, Jonathon Banks, is probably an upgrade; Odlanier Solis-Owen Beck at heavyweight in what would have been Solis’ biggest test; and former cruiserweight king O’Neil Bell’s attempt at becoming a heavyweight vanished from the schedule.
The Discussed And Dropped
These fights were as good as done at one point.
Miguel Cotto-Antonio Margarito II (welterweight, 147 lbs.): No matter what happened in Margarito’s fight against Mosley in January, promoter Bob Arum said, Cotto-Margarito II was a surefire “go” this summer. And if you weren’t looking forward to that, you must not have seen their Fight of the Year finalist in 2008. This was among the most promising fights of the entire year. Then, Margarito got busted with loaded gloves, and unless there’s a successful appeal of his year-long license revocation, the fight won’t happen, and even then it would be unlikely, given Cotto’s anger at his promoter for siding with Margarito in the ugly affair. Even if it did happen, it would have lost a lot of its luster, since Margarito’s win now may be tainted forever. Cotto instead may end up with Andre Berto or Kermit Cintron this summer, not bad fights but not the super-fight Margarito-Cotto II would have been pre-cheating scandal. Margarito may end up in Mexico against Carlos Baldomir this summer, a disgusting proposition all around.
David Haye-The Klitschko Brothers (heavyweight): First, Haye said a fight with Vitali was effectively a done deal, which would have instantly become the most meaningful heavyweight fight in years. Then, the brothers flipped a coin, and Wladimir stepped up to the negotiating table. That fight is even more interesting, given both men’s exceptional power and shaky chins. Now, feuds over money are jeopardizing this one, and negotiations are officially suspended not long after Wladimir trainer Manny Steward said it looked like it was about to be signed. Again, the fight may still happen in June. This could be a negotiating ploy by one of the sides. But if Haye-Klitschko doesn’t happen this year, 2009 looks a lot worse for it. Vitali has moved on to his mandatory challenger, Juan Carlos Gomez, in what may very well be a decent fight. Wladimir is threatening to meet up with Chris Arreola, an exciting fighter whom most everyone think isn’t nearly as dangerous to Wladimir as Haye. Haye, by constrast, might have to end up climbing the ladder more slowly, which might be a good thing for his heavyweight career, but I confess I wanted to see him against one of the Klitschkos ASAP.
Joshua Clottey-Kermit Cintron (welterweight): Everyone seemed to be on board with Clottey-Cintron — a bout between two of the best fighters in the loaded welterweight division — except a television network or pay-per-view card. Then Cintron got an offer for double the pay to fight on HBO against Martinez, and Clottey, as underappreciated a fighter as there is in the sport, was left with no one. As I said before, in retrospect, Martinez-Cintron was a good fight on paper that was horrible in practice, and I think the styles of Clottey and Cintron would have made for a far more compatible clash. Martinez’ movement gave Cintron all kinds of trouble, and Clottey doesn’t move except to put his gloves up or launch a combo.
Victor Ortiz-Vivian Harris (junior welterweight, 140 lbs.): Harris would have been the toughest opponent of star-in-the-making Ortiz, but Harris, all sides agreed, wanted more cash for this March 7 fight, so those plans, pretty far along, were abandoned. Fortunately, the replacement opponent for Ortiz, Mike Arnaoutis, is probably a better fighter at this point in his career than Harris, so this one looks saved for the time being.
Also backed out, but of lesser import: All three mentioned for this weekend’s card — junior welterweight contender Paulie Malignaggi was maybe going to fight Mike Alvarado; junior flyweight (108 lbs.) champion Ivan Calderon was maybe going to fight someone
or the other; and excellent but relatively unproven featherweight (126 lbs.) Chris John had looked at a bout with Steve Luevano, and instead will be ending up in a pretty good fight with Rocky Juarez on Feb. 28.
As bad as all that is, it could be a lot, lot worse. The biggest and best fight of the year, pound-for-pound #1 man Pacquiao vs. junior welterweight champion Hatton, was officially dead for a while there, but a deal is now in place for May 2. The best fight of the past weekend, lightweight Nate Campbell against Ali Funeka, could have been canceled when Campbell failed to make weight, but Funeka agreed to go on with the match. But 2009 might not live up to its promise, if, for instance, all the best middleweights (160 lbs.) Kelly Pavlik, Arthur Abraham and Felix Sturm, continue to avoid one another in favor of taking on lesser opponents who offer good money at lesser risk. There are a lot of fights not happening for stupid boxing politics reasons, like a rematch between Darchinyan and Donaire. But that’s a subject for another day. For now, a promising first part of the year that still has some nice fights on the schedule has been diminished somewhat, and I’ll hope for the best for the rest of ’09.