Quick Jabs: A Dizzying April – May Stretch For Boxing; Paul Williams Avoided, Again; (Insert Name Here); More

So what do we have on tap tonight? On a pay-per-view not worth the money, there’s junior middleweight Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr., junior lightweight Humberto Soto and bantamweight Fernando Montiel in against weak competition. I don’t complain much about Chavez’ soft competition because he has no amateur career and he’s 23, but I don’t think he’ll ever be very good and I don’t care to watch him, and while I like the other two guys, I don’t care to see them in sparring sessions. Yahoo’s Kevin Iole has said he expects a good card, but I don’t know why. (An aside: Chavez has a little pride, and wants to fight John Duddy and Oscar De La Hoya, so I give him credit for wanting better competition that his handlers wisely have given him.)

On Shobox, I also like super middleweight Andre Dirrell, but why he’s taking a step back instead of forward, I can’t understand; his opponent’s last opponent was 1-18. Derrick Findley probably doesn’t have a chance. Meanwhile, junior middleweight Ron Hearns is taking on an opponent with a puffed up-looking record Harry Joe Yorgey.

So it ends badly, this month, but it hasn’t been a bad one overall, considering how interested boxing was in avoiding competition with March Madness. The next month? Oh, the next month is GOOD, my friends. That’s where we’ll start, plus we’ll look at the appeal of Marco Antonio Barrera-Amir Khan, the collapse of Bernard Hopkins-Tomasz Adamek and some other Quick Jabs in an edition that’s kinda Round and Round-y.

nile.jpgYou are hereby warned: At the end of this blog entry is a picture of a cut that resembles the Nile. Also, on a related point, denial is not just a river in Egypt.

April Punches Bring May Knockouts

Look out, because just around the corner could be the finest stretch of boxing all year long. Every time I think about it, I start tapping my foot like a schoolboy anxious for playground recess. In chronological order, I’ll hit the highest points first of a calendar period that runs from early April to early May, then hit the rest.

April 4

Showtime’s card is the perfect appetizer to get the stretch started, and it’s not because it’s a small fight — it’s just a matter of scale compared to some of the other evenings. Top-10 junior welterweights Timothy Bradley and Kendall Holt meet in a quality match-up where the winner takes a nice step forward in the “next American superstar” sweepstakes.

April 11

It’s HBO’s turn the next week when it broadcasts the middleweight fight between Paul Williams and Winky Wright. There are people who are skeptical this will be a good fight, but I’m not among them, and it’s got all kinds of fascinating subplots. Either way, it’s a bout between two top-10 pound-for-pound-caliber opponents, with Wright’s long layoff the only thing keeping him off the list. (The rest of this date is absolutely amazing, but I’ll get to that in a second.)

April 25

HBO and Showtime go head-to-head, 10 p.m. and 9 p.m. respectively, with dueling cards. That they’re overlapping is the only bad mark on the month. On Showtime, there’s a super middleweight bout between Carl Froch and Jermain Taylor, another quality match-up. On HBO, rising junior featherweight superstar Juan Manuel Lopez takes on the historically underrated Gerry Penalosa in what is probably Lopez’ toughest fight to date.

May 2

The motherlode: Manny Pacquiao-Ricky Hatton. It’s the best fight on the 2009 calendar — between the two biggest stars in the sport –and it’s sure to be brawlariffic. It’s also a chance for Pacquiao to make history by taking Hatton’s junior welterweight lineal championship belt, giving him a never-before-done championships in four divisions.

There are enough leftovers to whip up a seriously tasty meal. Also on April 4 is the “Lightweight Lightning” pay-per-view card. It’s been diminished somewhat by injuries, but two of the more exciting performers in the sport — Edwin Valero and Michael Katsidis — are in against opponents in Antonio Pitalua and Jesus Chavez, respectively, who could give them some stiff opposition. On April 17 on Showtime, YURIORKIS GAMBOA! steps up to the title belt level against Jose Rojas. The month offers opportunities to see entertaining fighters at other junctures, too, like super middleweight Librado Andrade (April 4), flyweight Nonito Donaire and junior flyweight Ulises Solis (April 18) and junior middleweight James Kirkland (May 2).

But as good as Pacquiao-Hatton should be, April 11 is a fight fan’s feast. It ends with Williams-Wright, but on the undercard is a bout featuring one of the two most exciting heavyweights, Chris Arreola (the other being David Haye) in a step-up fight against Jameel McCline. Before that, HBO will air the start of the Pacquiao/Hatton 24/7 semi-documentary series, which will reappear throughout the month, plus a documentary about a candidate for the best fight of all time, the Thrilla in Manila.

Seriously. I can hardly sit still.

Quicker Jabs

For this edition of Quick Jabs, I’ll mention when I already Twittered about some of this and linked to the original source, so people can go get the links there (at the right or via twitter.com/tqbr) if they want. It’ll save me time, because linking to this stuff once is already time-consuming enough…

The star of the month, Pacquiao, had a great week. First, he won the award for Fighter of the Year from the Boxing Writers Association of America. It was a no-brainer, but it’s still a good thing to get. His trainer, Freddie Roach, also deservedly won Trainer of the Year. (And Israel Vazquez-Rafael Marquez III won Fight of the Year, appropriately.) Even better, he he was named a finalist for TIME’s 100 Most Influential. I’d encourage everyone to go vote for him. I think there’s a good case he deserves to make the top 100. No athlete alive is as influential in his country as Pacquiao is. Everyone should go vote for him. [Twittered]…

A few notes on the plans for the winner of Pacquiao-Hatton. Pacquiao’s team is talking very much about not fighting Floyd Mayweather, Jr. next. There are two ways to interpret this: They’re playing hardball for negotiations, or there’s genuine animosity between Bob Arum and Mayweather that’s going to be difficult to overcome. I lean toward the latter. If that sounds implausible to you, consider that Arum for years avoided making fights that would enrich him over a grudge with Golden Boy Promotions. I’m not saying Pacquiao-Mayweather won’t happen eventually, but Roach is apparently against it, too, so there would have to be some kind of riotous demand to overcome the hurdles before it. Arum is talking about Pacquiao against Miguel Cotto at welterweight, another of his promotional charges. But that may not be easy either. Cotto is talking about becoming a promotional free agent, maybe starting his own company, and his hostility toward Arum probably only got worse because of the recent revelations that Arum fave/Cotto conqueror Antonio Margarito had ingredients of plaster in his hand wraps prior to his last fight, and Cotto said that Margarito should be banned for life. That may leave Juan Manuel Marquez for Pacquiao assuming he beats Hatton, which is great as far as I’m concerned. Hatton wants Marquez if he wins, too, followed by Mayweather. [Twittered the next bit.] Hatton trainer Floyd Mayweather, Sr. says he’s had (yet another) fallout with his son, so he would work for Hatton in that fight. The Mayweather family drama continues to amuse. I find it a little far-fetched to imagine Hatton beating both Pacquiao and Marquez, though, so Mayweather may end up with Shane Mosley. That’s also more than fine with me….

Another April-May star, Paul Williams, is being avoided by yet another big name. Per Ring’s website: “Mosley has said he wants no part of Williams. Too tall, too awkward, too left-handed. ‘I’d fight anyone,’ Mosley said, ‘but I really wouldn’t want to fight him.'” What’s that you say? Williams is being a hypocrite by saying he wouldn’t fight James Kirkland? Not at all. He’s said he’ll fight Kirkland when he becomes a big money-maker. Look at the people Williams is targeting — it’s all the top names. Williams-Kirkland may happen someday…

When it becomes official, if it becomes official, Oscar Larios’ retirement will get a respectable write-up from me. I know I’ve been hard on the featherweight for continuing to fight with a brain bleed, but it’s only because I like the dude and don’t want him to get badly hurt. He’s had an underrated, highly entertaining career. Word is he’ll decide soon on whether to call it quits, and of course I hope he hangs up the gloves….

So there will be no Bernard Hopkins-Tomasz Adamek for Adamek’s cruiserweight crown, and that’s too bad. Talks are off. At first, ESPN’s write-up by Dan Rafael [Twittered] was very one-sided against B-Hop. But Ring’s website confirmed that Hopkins lowballed Adamek, even if Golden Boy didn’t call it that. Hopkins shouldn’t have. It was a chance at tying a little history with three lineal championships for Hopkins, a chance to make some good money against a good ticket-seller, and Hopkins most definitely wouldn’t have been the draw in a very winnable bout. The most interesting news out of this all — more interesting than the fight being off, because frankly I’d rather see Adamek-Steve Cunningham II — is that Hopkins may now retire for good, and Golden Boy reportedly asked fo
r a piece of Joel Julio for the Kirkland fight. Adamek promoter Main Events said asking for rights to a minimal draw like Julio is unprecedented and speaks to Golden Boy’s near monopoly-like power. I’ve constantly warned before that this scares me. If it’s true that they did that, it’s very concerning. (P.S. Glen Johnson says he wants Adamek in Hopkins’ place. That sounds like a good time)…

At least some good fights continue to be made, though. Vic Darchinyan against bantamweight Joseph Agbeko looks very much like it’s in the cards, and that is a really nice slugfest-in-waiting. Everyone says it’s a deal for June. Darchinyan may be the pound-for-pound player in the fight, but don’t count Agbeko out. He’s naturally bigger, I suspect, with Darchinyan’s chin showing some chinks at junior bantam and him having never been at bantam before…

Rafael’s notebook [Twittered] had some interesting news on the “fights being made” tip. The biggest was that a welterweight fight between Andre Berto and Juan Urango had collapsed for May 30, but Urango’s been talked back off the ledge according to BoxingScene. Another was a switcheroo for middleweight Arthur Abraham, who won’t be fighting Vernon Forrest this summer and instead will take on his mandatory title challenger Giovanni Lorenzo. I have to admit this downgrade in opponent doesn’t bother me much. Forrest posed a threat to Abraham that Lorenzo doesn’t, and softer opposition for Abraham increases the likelihood that Abraham will meet middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik this fall in one of the best fights that can be made in the sport. Lastly, the other switcheroo is that underappreciated junior featherweight titlist Celestino Caballero is sadly off Showtime because his native Panama offered him a ton of money for his next fight April 24 to be hosted there. Good for Caballero, bad for us, especially since the replacement bout is the boring-fighting Cory Spinks against St. Louis rival and more enjoyable fighter Deandre Latimore for a vacant junior middleweight belt…

It’s good to see junior featherweight Steve Molitor coming back against decent opposition after his lifeless loss to Caballero. Heriberto Ruiz has beaten some decent foes, like Rey Bautista, and been in against some quality ones who beat him, like Rafael Marquez. But I found this news release quote from Molitor’s promoter Allan Tremblay mighty amusing. Unedited, taken directly from the BoxingScene website, they kinda telegraphed that they were going to pump up anyone Molitor fought: “I also wanted him to come back at the top end of the division so he’d be right back in the mix. And there’s no denying that (insert name) is as tough as they come. The winner will either go into an eliminator, or straight into a title shot”…

A little bit of a hangover from the “March Badness” split boxing/mixed martial arts card. First, if you care, cruiserweight B.J. Flores said he sucked entertainment-wise in a winning effort because he injured a knuckle. [Twittered] That doesn’t explain the other non-entertaining Flores showings, though. Second, if you care, Roy Jones, Jr. is looking at moving down to super middleweight to fight either Jeff Lacy or Taylor. I’ve got no problems with Jones keeping himself busy with fellow has-beens like Lacy, but I wish he’d leave prime fighters like Taylor alone. Third, if you care, the dumb Jones-Anderson Silva boxing match idea continues to percolate, and unless Jones is too old by the time they fight, the lifelong boxer will beat the MMA dabbler. K.J. Noons recently discovered that by losing to a boxer of limited resume. [Twittered] I can only see an MMA fighter beating a boxer in a boxing match in a bout like the one proposed between heavyweight Ray Mercer and MMA dabbler Tim Sylvia, recently rejected by the New Jersey commission. Mercer’s real, real old…

Now, concluding with the bloody stuff. Don King, promoter of lightweight Marco Antonio Barrera, has filed a protest over the decision not to stop the Amir Khan fight due to the big cut he suffered, a decision that would have resulted in a no contest and automatic rematch. Instead, it was allowed to go five rounds, just enough for the fight to go to the scorecards. It is not that I’m unsympathetic to the injustice done to Barrera here. I think it is indisputable. But let’s face it: There is virtually no chance of the decision loss Barrera suffered being overturned. King surely knows this. This is about keeping Barrera viable as a moneymaker. By making hay about how Barrera might have won had the cut not happened, he’s capitalizing on any sentiment out there that Barrera was robbed and might have beat Khan. I don’t think he would’ve. But because I’m offended about the way the issue of the cut was handled, I’ll pass along this image. If people want to be pissed off about it, I can’t blame them. I’m moderately pissed myself. Just don’t get anything confused here — Barrera is over the hill and would be beaten by even borderline top-10 lightweights. Khan, meanwhile, wants a rematch with Breidis Prescott — a commendable proposal, a good fight for both men and one I wouldn’t necessarily favor Prescott to win — and there’s been some talk of him fighting Valero. BWAHAHAHAHA. Valero’s greatest strength, punching power, is Khan’s greatest weakness, and he’d get knocked out in a couple rounds, I’m guessing. Don’t be stupid, team Khan. Even if trainer Roach doesn’t think much of Valero, an understandable notion, he is the perfectly wrong opponent.

barreracut.jpgQ: What’s grosser than gross? A: Barrera’s scalp cut.

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.