Quick Jabs: So, Yeah, That Mouth-Watering Super Middleweight Tournament IS Happening, Somehow; Golden Boy Promotions Lashes Out; More

As good as this weekend looks, it is the unlikely, daring, exciting super middleweight tournament that now looks for real that has me daydreaming about what’ll happen between now and 2011. That, of course, is the major subject of this week’s news roundup, but we’ve got a good deal more on the plate than some lil tournament in what is arguably boxing’s best division. Things like what’s next for Shane Mosley, the Klitschko brothers and others. Things like sympathy from unexpected quarters for a boxer whose reputation has taken a hit. And so on. Buckle down for a heavy dose of Quick Jabs, jive turkeys.

Round And Round

We’ll spend two giant paragraphs on this tournament, then move on to other fights in the works or being discussed. There are a lot of them, many of them quite good. Feel free to skim. (Also, I’m not going to wait on Dan Rafael’s notebook before publishing it. Check the Twitter feed at your right for thoughts on it after the notebook comes out.)
On Monday at Madison Square Garden, Mikkel Kessler (pictured just below), Carl Froch, Arthur Abraham, Jermain Taylor, Andre Ward and Andre Dirrell will gather with their promoters at a news conference hosted by Showtime to make a “major boxing announcement.” It can only be to make official a super middleweight tournament featuring all of the above boxers. The anticipated match-ups, as reported by BoxingScene, ESPN and others, would begin Oct. 11 with a double-header pitting Froch against Dirrell in Germany and Abraham against Taylor in Germany. We’ll go rapid-fire from here on out, with noteworthy ambiguities about turf and dates placed in quotes: Nov. 7, likely Oakland, Kessler-Ward; January, Abraham-Dirrell, United States; March, Kessler-Froch, “Europe;” “spring,” Taylor-Ward, “United States;” Ward-Dirrell, “United States;” “summer,” Froch-Abraham, “Europe;” “fall,” Kessler-Taylor, United States; semi-finals January 2011, final May or June ’11. It’s not a single-elimination tournament, so semi-finalists are determined by points, with two points for a win, one extra point for a knockout, one point for a draw and no points for a loss. Are there any of those match-ups that are bad? Even if you are skeptical of Taylor or one or two of the others, I think you’d have to say, no, no way. Bonus praise to the event for contractual requirements that mandatory alphabet title belt defenses can’t interfere with the tournament, which sticks it to those roadside bandits the way they deserve to have it stuck to them.


There remain reasons for skepticism. Like the fact that Lucian Bute isn’t included and Taylor is, although it must be noted Taylor has arguably the toughest “seed” in the tourney. Like the potential that Kessler, whose promoter switch was apparently the last piece in the equation, could still have some legal issues and has a mandatory due before the tournament starts. Like the way it drags out over two whopping years. Like the possibility that as much as it is working now, it may, at some point, collapse, even though there are reportedly all kinds of contingencies for mishaps. But even if they pull off one round of this, we’ll get three excellent fights out of it. If they pull off two rounds, three more good fights. And if they get that far, why wouldn’t the finalists finish things? Showtime and the other networks involved, not to mention the boxers themselves and their promoters, deserve massive props for their balls, ingenuity and ambition — we’re talking about a $50 million venture here that requires an absurd level of cooperation among people in a sport where cooperation isn’t the norm. Here’s hoping it pays off. If it does, it should be a wild ride.
It is my suspicion that the biggest single fight in boxing on the prospective calendar, Manny Pacquiao-Miguel Cotto, will probably happen. But in the meantime we have to put up with what is an increasingly tired routine out of the Pacquiao camp, where they have been demanding a bigger revenue split, trying to change the date from October and aspiring to beat down the weight to 143 pounds from 145 pounds, the latter of which Cotto can deal with and Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach says he can deal with. Is the degree to which people are talking about the fight negotiations and thereby hypothetically building anticipation for the event, or any concessions Pacquiao gets out of Cotto, worth the tradeoff in good will Pacquiao sacrifices when he goes all finicky on us? Maybe in the short-term, but let’s not forget how quickly people can turn against “The Man,” as Pacquiao assuredly is in boxing right now, when “The Man” starts behaving like a little boy. Ask Floyd Mayweather, Jr.

Mosley, who’d been desperately chasing Pacquiao, has given up all hope according to his promotional company Golden Boy, and has turned his attention to welterweights Andre Berto, Kermit Cintron, Joshua Clottey or Paul Williams. My vote is for Williams, despite him not being a welterweight so much as a divisional chameleon. We’re talking two top-5 pound-for-pound men here, two guys who have a decent following in Southern California, and Williams insists his best weight is welter. Some people don’t believe him, but any reason he shouldn’t get a chance to prove it? It’s certain to be an exciting bout, and as good as Berto, Cintron and Clottey are, wouldn’t Williams be the most competitive against Mosley?
Williams, for his part, is also still interested in fighting Sergei Dzinziruk at junior middleweight, if Mosley’s not an option. There are contradictory reports about whether HBO would like that fight. The latest report available says they would be interested, just not as much as they are in Williams-Clottey. Williams’ people argue that since Clottey is coming off a loss, that’s not an attractive option to them. I beg to differ — Clottey arguably beat Miguel Cotto in his last fight — but as much as I’d rather see Williams-Clottey than Williams-Dzinziruk, it’s not like it’s worth spending much time picking that bone, as they do have a decent case.
Vic Darchinyan, fighting this weekend at bantamweight, said his first choice after that would be to fight Nonito Donaire (wife Rachel pictured below, gratuitously) in a rematch. But if he can’t make that happen, he’ll move up to junior featherweight and fight someone there. Everyone who thinks Darchinyan has avoided Donaire is wrong — Darchinyan has repeatedly said he wants Donaire again, and I believe him, because it’s not like Darchinyan keeps picking easy fights, is it? It’s Darchinyan’s petty promoter, Gary Shaw, who’s historically rejected the idea of that rematch because he’s got a grudge against Donaire for leaving him for Top Rank Promotions. Funny thing is, I don’t think there will be many good fights for Darchinyan at junior featherweight. Which is a more attractive bout: Darchinyan-Fernando Montiel/Gerry Penalosa/Hozumi Hasegawa, or Darchinyan versus what’s left of junior feather after Israel Vazquez, Rafael Marquez, Celestino Caballero and Juan Manuel Lopez depart for featherweight?
rachel_donaire.jpgTop Rank’s Twitter feed warned us to be ready for news about a fight in October for middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik. Obviously it’s not Abraham, who’s busy now. And despite Top Rank mentioning a “rumor” on said Twitter page that it’s Froch Oct. 3, Froch is reportedly busy, too. It could be Sergio Mora, his originally scheduled opponent for this summer before it was postponed or cancelled, which remains unclear. It could be Felix Sturm, b
ut HBO didn’t want to spend more than $2 million on that fight, a reasonable sum if you ask me, but Pavlik turned his nose up at it and Sturm makes good cash fighting weaker competition than Pavlik in Germany. I have to say, as much as I like Pavlik and as much as I think Top Rank has mismanaged him, Pavlik has himself to blame for some of his career misfires. If Pavlik is going to sit around waiting for HBO to offer him more than $1 million for a fight, I’d ask him — how’s he going to find a more legitimate, desirable middleweight opponent than Sturm? Answer: He ain’t. Pavlik’s reasoning is that the Showtime tournament will drive up the price of Pavlik-Sturm, but I’m guessing not by much. And, as much as I’m not a fan of Mora, I’m angry about the way Pavlik and Top Rank have jerked him around. Top Rank’s Bob Arum flagrantly lied about the reason for the postponement, citing a staph infection when the real reason, they admitted later, was a contract dispute between Arum and Pavlik. Some people seem to think Arum’s routine lying is cute and charming, but it has really played havoc in this case with a man’s career, that man being Mora. It’s not cute.
Emmanuel Steward, trainer of Wladimir Klitschko, says he isn’t so much interested in the heavyweight champion defending his alphabet belts against mandatory challengers Alexander Povetkin then Eddie Chambers, so much as he is interested in seeing Klitschko fight Chris Arreola then Nicolay Valuev. I actually agree with Steward here. His two preferred fights are better than those being pushed by the sanctioning organizations. Will Klitschko reverse himself on his alphabet title belt allegiance now that he’s the lineal Ring champion? That would be a huge boost to the lineal championship concept if so.
David Haye, last seen bailing out of a June fight with Wladimir citing a back injury, is very close to a fight with Wlad’s big bro Vitali, according to Haye’s team. I’ll believe it when Vitali’s team says it. Haye’s team is prone to overstatement in matters such as these.
The more I think about it, the more things are looking up for the heavyweights. Exhibit C in this column is the signing of Kevin Johnson-Odlanier Solis for August 15 on the undercard of Donaire’s next fight. I could care less about whether the card is called “Pinoy Power” and Johnson’s an American and Solis is a Cuban. The addition of that fight to the card makes me infinitely more likely to buy that pay-per-view. They match up well — TWO skilled heavyweights in one fight? Shocking. Kudos to both undefeated heavyweights for taking a fight that required some testicles to take.

Contrary to rumors, the fight between Amir Khan and Andreas Kotelnik WILL happen July 18, everyone involved swears, after one postponement (Kotelnik’s fight-postponing toothache pictured below). Having watched Kotelnik in action against Marcos Maidana, this is far from an easy fight for Khan — maybe he’s the most vulnerable available junior welterweight title-holder, but he’s a real fighter, and Khan is not being babied with this matchmaking. Khan trainer Roach keeps insisting that Ricky Hatton wants a piece of Khan, but I’m not going to pay it much mind until I hear those words coming out of Hatton’s mouth.
toothache.jpgThe infinitely delayed Montiel-Eric Morel bantamweight bout appears headed for September. Montiel says he doesn’t want it on turf friendly to the Puerto Rican Morel, which I have to imagine is doable.
Another bantamweight, Gerry Penalosa, says opponents under consideration for his next fight include Morel, Jorge Arce or Daniel Ponce De Leon in a rematch. All of those bouts are intriguing to me, although not all of them would meet his requirement of a title fight, exactly. I know a lot of people want to see Penalosa retire, but he didn’t show me any decline in his loss to Lopez — he just ran into a prime, young, physically superior superstar. The bigger question is how much that beating took out of him, but I don’t think Penalosa’s in danger of death or permanent injury imminently, or, at least, nobody’s presented any evidence of that.
Ali Funeka hopes to get a shot at the winner of Fernando Angulo-Yuri Romanov for a vacant lightweight title. He deserves it. He’s a good fighter and he hasn’t deserved the treatment he’s gotten from his home country, the sanctioning organizations, or, if you ask me, the judges in his last fight, a loss to Nate Campbell.
I’m about to start ignoring everything Roy Jones, Jr. says. His list of future opponents includes the Klitschkos (a one-sided destructions where Jones health IS in danger), Bernard Hopkins (haven’t we heard this rematch talk for, like, a decade?) and Glen Johnson (the best of the bunch, I guess, but does anyone think this wouldn’t end the way the first fight did, with Jones savagely KO’d?). Seriously, he’s a decent light heavyweight at this point in his career and nothing more. If his name wasn’t Jones, nobody would pay attention to any of his frequent pronouncements. It’s nearing the time where I stop.

Quicker Jabs

If you didn’t see this Oscar De La Hoya interview, it’s worth checking out. Some have reacted by saying De La Hoya is being whiny, and they’re partly right, but I think he makes some good points. They are: A. If Arum thinks Victor Ortiz is such a joke, why doesn’t he give up his financial interest in him? Granted, it’s free money, but Arum’s hurting his own financial interest by crapping on Ortiz the way he has. B. Golden Boy doesn’t get the free ride from HBO everyone seems to think it does, as De La Hoya claims HBO would only approve Marcos Maidana for Ortiz, a very difficult matchup. I tend to agree here. Yes, there have been slight signs of favoritism to Golden Boy, but I think it’s vastly overstated, especially by Arum. It’s not as if HBO has hated on Arum favorites like Pacquiao, Cotto, Lopez and plenty of others. C. There may be something to be said for the way Top Rank goes it on its own with pay-per-view shows sometimes, but there’s a downside, too: The pay-per-views frequently divide the boxing audience, as De La Hoya mentions, and Arum often puts his charges in extremely soft. Time and again, Top Rank has gotten praise for how it develops prospects, much of it deserved. But Top Rank also spends a TON of time putting its fighters in against terrible competition. If Top Rank had its way with HBO, you know what would happen? Well, take a look at the Top Rank-Versus network alliance and tell me if you can remember more than one awesome, ultra-competitive fight from that period. I can only remember one, involving Montiel, and that one was kind of a surprise (approximate fight quality from Top Rank-Versus alliance pictured below). Still, the exchange of harsh words between GBP and Top Rank isn’t a good thing. Let’s hope it doesn’t bode for another cold war… 


Staying on the Ortiz tip, Darchinyan and Vazquez have offered their own advice to Ortiz on how he might rebound from quitting in his loss to Maidana. Darchinyan’s is surprisingly compassionate. Vazquez, who knows from quitting as he quit in his first fight against Marquez, has recommended a bold course of action I once half-heartedly proposed — immediate rematch…
Jose Sulaiman, the boss of the WBC, attacked the WBA for its awarding of multiple “championship” belts per division — you know, like “super champion,” “regular champion,” interim champion.” Maybe the WBA does it worse than anyone, but try typing “WBC” and “interim champion” into Google and see what comes up. And now that I’ve mocked Sulaiman, all is right once more in the universe; last week, I (gasp) had the same thought as him on something, even if it was Alexis Arguello…
Johnny Tapia is back in jail. I’ve run out of sadness over this. It’s just pity now. His continuing legal and substance abuse problems will not grace this blog again, absent something fatal or hilarious…

There are a couple polls going that warrant attention. First, Pacquiao and Mosley are up for an ESPY for “fighter of the year,” a category that also includes mixed martial artists. Pacquiao probably doesn’t need any help, given the online presence of Filipinos, but he’s a good pick. Today is the last day for voting. Also, you can now vote for the best boxers ever in each division — as selected by a jury of exceptionally qualified folk — through a promotional tie-in for an event in October, itself tied in to the Retired Boxers Foundation. Read more here
I was sad to learn the “Lightweight Lightning” pay-per-view did poorly, although there were no specifics mentioned. I loved the show and think more like it would be good for boxing. Maybe this is why boxing promoters don’t stack their cards with quality fights from top to bottom, huh?

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.