Quick Jabs: The Return Of Rafael Marquez, The Debut Of Guillermo Rigondeaux; Versus Network Resurfaces With Purpose; Fights In The Works; More

In this edition of Quick Jabs: We’ll summarize the key weekend bouts; examine some fallout, good and bad, from Andre Ward-Edison Miranda; rejoice in the possible revival of Bernard Hopkins-Tomasz Adamek and Chad Dawson-Glen Johnson II; and take a look at what’s up next — or isn’t — for Paul Williams, Timothy Bradley and others.

Boxing is kind of insane. I confess that’s one of the reasons I’m drawn to it. There’s a big part of me that’s devoted to figuring out why I like something, decoding it, analyzing it, explaining it. And boxing, in so very many ways, makes no sense. Why would anyone want to do that to themselves? I make fun of marathon runners; the human body wasn’t designed to run 26 miles, which is why people get bloody nipples and hallucinate and all that strangeness. Fitness is one thing, but anything that ends in me throwing up, I usually regret. Boxing? That’s an exceptionally weird thing to inflict on a human body.

vasquezmarquez3_hogan_25_240x230_20080416.jpgTake a look at Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez — the latter of whom returns this weekend, which got me to thinking — at your right. That’s them, smiling, happy as can be, after beating each other half to death last March. Their faces wouldn’t look out of place in a police report with photos of a particularly grisly assault case. And if you saw their fight, you’ll never forget it. These two junior featherweights fought with the kind of determination that I’m guessing a mere fraction of humanity possesses. Their paychecks were already secured, so they fought for something else, for something I find difficult to fathom. They completed arguably the finest trilogy in the history of the sport with Vazquez digging for a little extra reserve, somehow, to deck Marquez in the final seconds of the bout, thereby securing a one-point margin on the winning scorecard.

I never want to see them fight each other again. It was beautiful, what they did, but it was frightening, too. Is there any doubt that they wouldn’t fight each other until their last breath if no one stopped them? Which makes the picture just below all the more insane. That’s Vazquez and Marquez each holding up four fingers, for Vazquez-Marquez IV. And smiling. So weird to me, still, that they’d want to do that again.


Weekend Schedule

In the two biggest cards of the weekend, an undercard bout features the bouts that arguably matter the most, but the main event is expected to be the better scrap.

Marquez is fighting on the undercard of an Azteca show Saturday; I’ve read different things in different places about whether it will broadcast on Azteca America, with some discussion on boxing boards suggesting you’ll probably be able to see the show if you live in California. His opponent is Jose Mendoza, who is 0-2-1 in his last three fights, and is 0-2 outside of Colombia overall, but then, he is from Colombia, which means he has a ton of knockouts and may or may not have power. If he does, he’s a dangerous opponent for Marquez’ return. The last thing you want to do when it’s unclear whether you’re totally shot is fight a banger. I say this fight is significant, despite the dicey-ness of the Marquez opposition, because the only thing keeping Marquez out of some pound-for-pound top-10 lists is his long layoff. If he wins the fight, he goes back on mine. Also, it’s a WBC title eliminator for some reason, which becomes important after the next paragraph.

On Friday Night Fights, the most important bout is the pro debut of Guillermo Rigondeaux (sometimes spelled Rigondiaux), the most acclaimed amateur boxer in just about forever. The featherweight defected from Cuba, where they don’t have pro boxing, and now stands as a 28-year-old prospect coming off a two-year layoff owing to Cuba’s government getting mad at him and punishing him for a failed defection. If he’s all he’s cracked up to be, watch out. His opponent won’t in any way give us a full measure of him as a pro, but I personally am eager to put some eyeballs on him.

In the Azteca headliner, junior featherweight Jhonny Gonzalez fights Toshiaki Nishioka for the WBC belt, and many are expecting a good war. Some of that has to do with Gonzalez being one of the more television-friendly fighters of recent times. And if Gonzalez wins, it would set up a bout with Marquez should he win his title eliminator against Mendoza. Assuming both men look good — both Marquez and Gonzalez took nasty beatings from Vazquez — that could be some kind of fight, considering how television-friendly Marquez is his damn self.

In the FNF headliner, welterweight Richard Gutierrez (name spelled all kinds of different ways) — who’s not been in a bad fight that I’ve seen — takes on Antwone Smith, last seen on ESPN2 in February in a really fun fight against Norberto Gonzalez. The fight doesn’t mean much, since we know Gutierrez’ ceiling and Smith looks like his is lower still, but I bet it’s a good one.

Also in action this weekend: on FNF, another ultra-talented Cuban prospect, junior middleweight Erislandry Lara, against a foe who he should beat but who went the distance with Zab Judah and Matthew Hatton in 2007; super middleweight Joe Spina; heavyweight Oliver McCall; junior welterweight Dmitriy Salita.

Quicker Jabs

How neat is this: the Versus network, which disappeared arbitrarily from live boxing almost entirely between January to May, just did another good deed by picking up the June 19 Adrian Diaconu-Jean Pascal light heavyweight fight. Nice work, Versus. That should be a good fight, and I’m glad I’ll now get a chance to see it on my BIRTHDAY And don’t forget Versus is going to start airing that regular prospect-oriented show soon, too…

The listed attendance for last weekend’s super middleweight Ward-Miranda bout was 7,818. That’s a great number for such an unproven fighter. Ward threatens to be a big ticket seller in California, which should give him an upper hand as he pursues big fights, because now people will know they can probably make a little cash fighting him, proven or no. As for Miranda, no word still on that alleged “suspicious substance” that was confiscated from his corner, but his trainer said it was nothing. I’m not taking the trainer at his word or anything, I’m just not saying the evidence is damning enough as of now for me to jump all over Miranda the way I did welterweight Antonio Margarito when he was busted with those illegal hand wraps in January…

Did somebody say “Margarito?” His manager said he has filed an appeal of his license revocation in California. The manager also offered his thoughts on the June fight between Miguel Cotto and Joshua Clottey, two men Margarito beat. “The person who cheats will come out the winner,” the manager said. “Cheating is the weakness of each fighter. They have no defense against it.” OK, he didn’t say that, but still…

Didja see that the WBC finally stripped Vernon Forrest of his junior middleweight belt and gave it to Sergio Martinez? I’m so impressed. It only took them two years to follow their own rules. What did Forrest get out of it? The WBC named him “Ambassador of Peace and Good Will in the World Through Sports.” Even by sanctioning organization standards, that’s some esoteric trade off there…

I was glad to see that I wasn’t the only one who had praise instead of criticism for heavyweight prospect Devin Vargas in his losing effort last weekend against Kevin Johnson. Said Ring’s Eric Raskin: “Good for heavyweights Kevin Johnson and Devin Vargas for risking their unbeaten records and accepting a fight with each other on short notice. Even though Vargas lost, he took a chance and I’m no less interested in watching his next fight”…

Junior bantamweight Jorge Arce has not retired. He’s fighting again in June, against someone or the other…

Junior welterweight champion and pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao has picked Floyd Mayweather, Jr. to beat Juan Manuel Marquez in July, citing Mayweather’s speed as the difference. I do think it’ll be a huge advantage, don’t get me wrong, but twice, Pacquiao has learned first-hand that speed alone doesn’t guarantee an easy time against Marquez…

Golden Boy Promotions has a five-fight deal with Mayweather. Kind of interesting, but I wouldn’t assume it means he’s going to fight everyone on his so-called “hit list,” which includes Pacquiao, Miguel Cotto, Shane Mosley and Victor Ortiz.

Round And Round

Junior welterweight champion and pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao has mainly been circling with top welterweight Cotto for his next fight. Cotto says he won’t go below 145. Pacquiao’s team is talking about 142. I don’t see how Cotto gets down that low, considering how hard it was for him to make 140 a couple years ago. Make no mistake, Cotto is a physically strong welterweight now. I know Pacquiao is sitting in the catbird seat, and he’s earned the upper hand in negotiations, but if he wants to fight Cotto, I have a tough time imagining how it happens at the weight he’s choosing. If I was Cotto, I wouldn’t go all the way down to 142. And I understand why Pacquiao would be hesitant about going up; he was awesome at 140. But if they can’t agree on a middle ground, they’re going to have to go their separate ways. Pacquiao’s insistence on fighting close to 14
0 limits his options considerably, actually. His best hope is Marquez upsetting Mayweather, because I don’t think Mayweather would want to go down to 142, either. Marquez is the biggest name that would be comfortable around 140.

Way to man up, Dawson. The light heavyweight talent is now in negotiations for a rematch with his toughest opponent, Johnson. Johnson’s promoter said the first offer was “shockingly low,” but that subsequent offers have been more in the ballpark. It would be sometime in the fall. I really hope it happens, and kudos to Dawson if he takes it. Allan Green wants a piece of Dawson if he moves down to super middleweight. I’m not saying it isn’t an interesting fight, but I have no idea why Dawson would want to fight Green, so it’s kind of a
fruitless call-out. Green flashes serious talent, so he’s dangerous, but offers less money to Dawson than about five to 10 other guys.

Another fight people wanted but that looked like it was off is under discussion again — Hopkins-Adamek, for Adamek’s cruiserweight championship belt. It would probably happen in 2010, though. In the meantime, Adamek’s next fight won’t be televised nationally, which means he’s probably going to fight a tomato can, but I applaud Adamek for staying busy with or without a big fight in line, since he’s definitely not ducking anyone. James Toney recently called out Hopkins for a fight at cruiserweight.
That’s the same Toney who weighed 257 a couple years ago for a fight.

The Marquez-Mayweather undercard remains unsettled, but as of now, Judah-Matthew Hatton at junior welterweight appears likely, and bantamweight A.J. Banal is slated to fight a “formidable opponent,” a description a member of his management team said it received from Golden Boy Promotions. It may end up being Jose Lopez, who was slated to fight Nonito Donaire in August. But really, the undercard has been shifting considerably. Judah was to fight Randall Bailey at one point, and Joan Guzman was offered a fight he refused, and now he’s ending up with a guy he ought to slaughter. There was a report that Guzman might end up fighting Juan Diaz at lightweight, then it was immediately debunked.

Diaz might instead end up with Rolando Reyes, who’s coming off the biggest win of his career, in August. I like that fight for both men; Diaz is coming off a knockout loss and Reyes, despite scoring a knockout in his last fight, isn’t a major puncher, while Reyes is ready for a bigger challenge, which Diaz is. It’s a nice match-up, too, with Reyes the counterpuncher and Diaz the aggressive, busy brawler.

Weight shapeshifter Williams, having trouble finding fights from welterweight to super middleweight, is eyeing junior middleweight Sergei Dzindziruk, a rare fighter actually wants to fight Williams. I don’t see why this fight shouldn’t happen. Williams might as well stay busy while everyone who offers him a huge paycheck avoids him. Every time he fights he impresses everyone and stirs up talk about how he deserves a big fight. He’s also interested in fighting Martinez, an even better bout than the one against Dzindziruk.

Bradley’s name has been bandied about for all kinds of junior welterweight bouts, with Nate Campbell in then out and Guzman in then out now maybe in again, with Guzman in line perhaps for Aug. 1 on Showtime. It’s too bad if one of those don’t happen. Both of those are interesting bouts.

So many Andres want a piece of super middleweight Karoly Balzay, it’s not funny. Ward is one of them, because his team thinks it can force a title shot with Balzay sooner than it can Carl Froch. 2004 Olympic teammate Dirrell is the other Andre, though, and he is ahead of Ward in the WBO rankings, by my reading.

Vitali Klitschko-Chris Arreola at heavyweight isn’t going anywhere, since there is some pending “litigation” that Oleg Maskaev is using to force a fight with Klitschko via the WBC. Any themes to this edition of Round and Round? Belt politics suck. Good news, though — Arreola has hired a personal trainer. That’s really great to hear. He’s a talented, fun boxer, and he’s fun even when he’s fat, but he’ll never maximize that talent until he gets in shape. Klitschko still tears him up, but he gives himself a better chance as a non-fattie.

The Filipino-oriented boxing card in San Francisco in August now won’t be in San Francisco, but the lack of a location hasn’t apparently disrupted the likelihood that it will feature junior bantamweight Nonito Donaire and junior flyweight Brian Viloria.

Roy Jones, Jr.-Jeff Lacy is a go for August at light heavyweight. Should you be one of the people that is thrilled about that one.

(Round and Round sources: Maxboxing; Boxingtalk; news releases; ESPN; BoxingScene; Fightnews)

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.