Quick Jabs: Manny Pacquiao On The Verge Of Making Big History; More Weekend Fight Predictions: Don’t Worry — Tijuana’s Safe According To Boxing Promoters (But Not The State Department); More

Bute_Zuniga.jpg(Herby Whyne for sportzframe)

There are your combatants for the evening: Ring #2-ranked super middleweight Lucian Bute on the right and tough fringe contender Fulgencio Zuniga, scheduled to go on Shobox. More on those two men “tk,” as we say in the publishing industry, in what will be a very special TRI-VIDEO edition of Quick Jabs.

Also in this edition, beyond the headline: fights in the works; video game news; some attention for one of this week’s “Unjustly Unloved;” and generally, just a bunch more than a person can read in one sitting.

Pacquiao’s History-Making Title Shot

I spent some time recently explaining that what makes Manny Pacquiao great is not the number of titles he’s won in an era diluted with belts, but the quality of the competition he’s fought. That remains essentially true.

What Pacquiao DOES deserve additional credit for, though, is winning THE belt — the lineal, Ring belt — in three different divisions. And if he beats Ricky Hatton May 2, he will have picked up a fourth lineal Ring belt, at junior welterweight. Search though I might, I can’t find an example of anyone having done anything comparable. (Dan Rafael at ESPN this week called it “unheard-of,” while Cliff Rold at BoxingScene this week said he would be “arguably” the first four-division lineal champion; Rold’s promising a series of articles on the subject of Pacquiao’s belt legacy.)

And I can’t find anything about this that deserves an asterisk. For instance, there are more divisions in boxing these days than there were back in the olden days. And that indeed does make it possible for people to win Ring belts in more divisions than long ago. But Pacquiao’s specific title-grabbing reign, assuming he beats Hatton, does not take particular advantage of that proliferation of weight divisions. Why? Because he skipped a division. He’s won lineal belts at flyweight, featherweight, junior lightweight and is up for junior welter, the last two relatively new divisions, in the history of boxing. He left out bantamweight. In other words, his reign of belts post-Hatton would have spanned the same approximate range of weights as if would had he fought only in the legacy weight divisions.

Perhaps Pacquiao nonetheless benefited from diluted competition that is the result of diluted weight classes, what with them being more of of them, or perhaps he ducked some danger at bantamweight. No and no. He beat Juan Manuel Marquez and Marco Antonio Barrera for two of his belts, two all-time great fighters, and he will have beaten Hatton, who’s Hall of Fame bound. The worst fighter on his belt resume is Chatchai Sasakul, and although he’s not in the same league as the other three, he is still considered one of the best fighters to ever come out of Thailand. And even back in the old days, not every single person who won a championship belt was Hall of Fame material. So Pacquiao’s legacy holds up on that score. As for the men at bantamweight Pacquiao skipped over, the four belt-holders from the time period he was near the division were Tim Austin, Johnny Tapia, Paulie Ayala and Veeraphol Sahaprom. All good fighters, some arguably better than Sasakul, but none, arguably, in the Marquez/Barrera/Hatton ballpark. So his competition is actually BETTER than had he not skipped bantamweight.

I wonder if the world realizes what a truly special fighter we’re all witnessing right now in the Pacman.

For the first of the promised tri-videos, here are Bob Arum and a U.K. fight scribe being interviewed about Pacquiao’s stature. They are completely right. Muhammad Ali is the bigger global figure, but probably no fighter in the history of his country (and its people) has had the kind of stature Pacquiao has with his. It’s really remarkable stuff.

Mini-Predictions For The Weekend

Bute-Zuniga. I like both fighters, but I think Bute has a whole different physical talent level than Zuniga. Zuniga is crafty, sure, and hits pretty hard, sure. But Bute is fairly skilled, hits pretty hard himself, and has better tools with which to ply those trades. On a side note, Bute, to his credit, is saying that a rematch with Librado Andrade is a must. On another side note, his trainer is saying Bute made a mistake in the final round of their controversial fight by going after Andrade; in fact, his trainer told him to, so way to CYA with your own fighter, dude. But back the the fight. I like Bute to win a unanimous decision with the occasional moment of trouble but not too much. The only question I have is whether Bute is suffering any ill effects of his brutal battering in the 12th against Andrade. If he is, Zuniga is good enough to exploit that. That’s in part because I also don’t see Zuniga getting knocked out. Only Kelly Pavlik has done that to him, and Zuniga’s been in against other heavy hitters. Zuniga is good practice for Bute if he does rematch with Andrade, given some of their similarities, although Zuniga’s not as good as Andrade.

Cesar Canchila-Giovani Segura
II. I want to launch into a cursing fit every time Azteca America has a good card, since I can’t get it with my television setup, and Canchila-Segura II at junior flyweight is a rematch of one of the best fights of 2008. Segura was good early before Canchila took over, and I second a sentiment I read somewhere on Maxboxing that Segura, after knocking Canchila down, got a little overly enamored of his power and got outboxed. Canchila’s the better boxer, but I like Segura to win the rematch Saturday night by split or unanimous decision with a better blend of boxing and power punching.

Quicker Jabs

If you haven’t seen, the Fight Night Round 4 video game cover will feature Mike Tyson and Ali. Usually I get irritated at this kind of “dwelling on the past” affliction that’s common to boxing and all sports, really, but I don’t mind it this go-round. That’s because Tyson and Ali will probably bring more fans to the game than would putting any current fighter on the cover would, and the resulting boost it will offer to the current fighters in the game is bigger than the boost that one current fighter on the cover would bring. Although Pacquiao would have been a good choice…

On a related point, Tyson tried to get a job at the Wild Card gym to help train Pacquiao, but trainer Freddie Roach said no, arguing that he already had an assistant, former heavyweight titlist Michael Moorer, and suggesting Tyson might not have the patience to be a trainer. The latter may be true, but it’s not as if Moorer has been a picture of patience and discipline in his boxing career, either. I root for Mike a little, having just watched a SportsCentury feature on him where, trying to get his boxing license renewed, he remarked that he didn’t have a friend in the world. I hope he does get a shot at training fighters some day, or, as I’ve openly hoped for in the past, he gets a gig as a broadcaster. He truly understands the sport, and if he’s got his head on straight — no incidents for a while with him — I bet he’d do better than nearly any other ex-fighter in the job…

I’ve probably spent too much time on the whole question of junior lightweight Robert Guerrero and his cut from last weekend, but two Ring articles are worth noting. The first has Guerrero saying he was only answering the ref’s question about whether he could see, and didn’t want out or in. Bullshit. He obviously motioned for the ref several times, and could have protested if he really wanted to continue. The second has the ref saying the point is moot because he intended to halt the fight at the end of the round anyway. Which doesn’t absolve Guerrero, because he should have at least, in my opinion, tried to make it out of the round…

Kevin Iole has a good piece up about the decline in newspaper coverage of boxing hurting the sport, and he is of course right. He makes any number of salient points, but I’ve got to disagree with a couple: Of boxing websites, he says, “The problem is, most of the fans who go to those sites are already hardcore fans.” Maybe; I try to write my previews and a lot of other pieces with an eye to the casual fan. People who come here range from hardcore to casual, and I’ve had a lot of casual fans tell me they appreciate my site for the explanations of things it provides. So I’m speaking for myself here. He also says — “But the days when boxers became larger-than-life icons, like Joe Louis and Sugar Ray Robinson and Rocky Marciano and Muhammad Ali and ‘Big’ George Foreman and Sugar Ray Leonard and Oscar De La Hoya are gone, probably forever.” I disagree with that. De La Hoya’s career thrived in this era of less newspaper coverage. Clearly, it can be done. But it’s harder, that’s for sure…

One thing that could help bring in new fans is something like the ridiculously low priced $200 ringside seats for the quality super middleweight fight between Jermain Taylor and Carl Froch in Connecticut on April 25, per a news release. What’s happening to my sport?…

It is, however, hard to convince people to come to Tijuana with the violence ravaging Mexico, which is why Top Rank held a press conference to tout the safety of U.S. citizens coming over for its March 28 card. Ring magazine did a nice article about this, noting that Top Rank Bob Arum got asked, in light of recent State Department warnings, “Are we to believe you or the state department?” Fact-checking is a good thing, man…

Department of Sanctioning Belt Politics: Lightweight Ali Funeka is reportedly getting passed over for an IBF title shot, and instead Yuri Romanov will fight a totally, 100% undeserving opponent for the vacant belt. Seriously, read up about how unqualified the opponent is. Is it me, or is the universe conspiring to screw Funeka — a very good, exciting fighter who appears to have gone above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to playing by the rules of the sport — over and over and over again? Second, Oscar Larios, the WBC’s brain-bleed featherweight titlist, lost his belt the other day to Takahiro Aoh, thus ending one of the sorrier episodes of that particular sanctioning organization. That the WBC wanted so desperately for Larios, on medical suspension in the U.S., to be its “champion,” was disgusting. Hopefully now, for his own good, Larios will retire…

On the same Tokyo card as Larios-Aoh, bantamweight Hozumi Hasegawa was sensational in destroying his opponent. Here’s video #2:

Earlier this week, I wrote about nine elite fighters who aren’t getting the love they deserve. One of them was junior featherweight Celestino Caballero. Per a news release, Showtime is stepping up to the plate by making him the headliner of a Showbox card on April 24 when he defends one of his belts. Good for Showtime, and good for Caballero…

Middleweight champion Pavlik and welterweight star Miguel Cotto reportedly did less than 200,000 buys for their February pay-per-view. I’m not surprised. The price was way too steep for the number of uncompetitive fights it offered, whether they were appropriate fights for the two headliners at this point in their career or not. (Oh, and Pavlik’s team is saying a Sergio Mora fight is far from made)…

Floyd Mayweather, Jr.’s been caught sparring, y’all. I know there are a lot of theories out there about whether he’ll return or not, and mostly, I could give a damn to speculate. But I will feed the beast by pointing this out…

In video #3, below, junior welterweight Timothy Bradley gets some tips on trash talking from a bunch of Showtime types. It’s as much an ad for Showtime as it is for the Bradley-Kendall Holt fight April 4, but I don’t mind that much because it gives Bradley a chance to show off a little personality, and
as I’ve said over and over again, a personality and story will sell a fighter as much as what he does in the ring. That said, Bradley’s trash talk — something he hadn’t done much before — has been pretty high-quality stuff for the fight build-up. “Bernie Madoff’s investors have a better chance of recouping their money than Kendall Holt has against me.” Of course, it hasn’t exactly been Roach vs. Floyd Mayweather, Sr. Mayweather can mouth OFF, yo. “They’ve got him in the Hall of Fame. He should be in the Hall of Shame. Let’s tell the truth like it is. You see Freddie Roach training, you see me training — it is night and day. Don’t even compare, don’t even come close. I mean, let’s be for real. Tell the truth. Freddie Roach is a joke. And that’s what I say, that’s why his name is ‘Freddie the joke coach Roach,’ as far as I’m concerned.” For the record, I think both are good trainers, but Freddie’s better, and I give Mayweather the edge in trash talk. Anyway, enjoy the Bradley trash talking lesson video:

Round and Round

Fights in the works!

The weirdest is that Golden Boy Promotions is looking at matching lightweight champion Juan Manuel Marquez against Amir Khan, with featherweights Robert Guerrero and Nicky Cook on the undercard, assuming Khan and Cook win this weekend. Huh? Marquez-Khan???

The most unfortunate is that heavyweights Wladimir Klitschko and David Haye STILL haven’t come to a deal for their fight. I’m getting sick of it. Just fight already, boys.

Let me take that back. The most unfortunate is that Don King wants to match cruiserweight Tomasz Adamek against heavyweight Andrew Golota in the “Polish Fight of the Century.” I don’t doubt it would sell, but as I’ve said plenty, Adamek should stay at cruiser. Fortunately, talks with Bernard Hopkins have reportedly accelerated.

At long last, junior middleweights Vernon Forrest and Sergio Martinez have reportedly reached an agreement to fight, although Forrest, the belt-holder, will get a tune-up if he wants it, and so will Martinez, the mandatory challenger. It’s not the alleviation of sanctioning belt politics here that relieves me, so much as it is that I think Forrest-Martinez could be a really high-quality bout.

Coming off their awesome wins, the promoter of junior middleweight James Kirkland and junior welterweight Victor Ortiz want to move their guys into title shots by summer, possibly on the same June 27 card. I think both are ready for what Golden Boy wants for them, especially given the opponents under consideration — Sergei Dzindziruk for Kirkland and Andreas Kotelnik for Ortiz. In other words, a step up from their recent competition, but not the most dangerous titlists in their divisions. Kirkland’s other option is Daniel Santos, but I think he would be a particularly dangerous opponent for Kirkland. given his speed, power and boxing skill. Still, I think Kirkland-Santos is viable as well.

Welterweight Andre Berto could fight one of the following three men this summer, says his promoter Lou DiBella: Zab Judah, Juan Urango, Carlos Quintana. If you ask me: Yes, yes, and yes.

Jorge Barrios, one of the stars of the April 4 “Lightweight Lightning” card, is out with a broken jaw. That’s too bad. He would have been one of the highlights of the show.

We conclude with YURIORKIS GAMBOA. news. (He remains downgraded from exclamation point to period status.) The talented, mercurial featherweight will get his first title shot April 17 against Jose Rojas. Come through for me, Yuriorkis. I don’t want to have to downgrade you to all lower-case.

(Sources: ESPN; Ring; Fightnews; AP; Yahoo! Sports; BoxingScene; The London Daily Telegraph; Maxboxing; The Sweet Science)

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.