Just when you thought it was dead, Manny Pacquiao-Ricky Hatton has sprung back to life. Again. But unlike in a zombie movie when they think they’ve killed the zombie but then the zombie gets back up and keeps coming, I’m glad Pacquiao-Hatton has returned. Apparently. I probably won’t believe it until I have a signed copy in my hand. And maybe not even until I get a tremendous amount of additional evidence, a la the Dave Chappelle sketch about how Dave would refuse to concede R. Kelly touched that girl unless he saw the Pied Piper of R and B’s grandmother standing in the video and saying, “That’s my Robert.”
We’ll use that as our lead in to this week’s Round and Round, the column where I examine fights in the works.
(Side note on a whole different matter: I wrote a little something over at Bleacher Report expanding on the wacky strategy Shane Mosley plans to use when he fights fellow welterweight [147 lbs.] Antonio Margarito Saturday. Check it out here.)
The Pacquiao-Hatton Saga
Pound-for-pound king Pacquiao has reportedly signed the contract to fight Hatton, according to a variety of media outlets ranging from Philboxing to BoxingScene to Yahoo! Sports. We still haven’t heard from junior welterweight (140 lbs.) champion Hatton, but I assume he’ll be on board.
This all happened, apparently, without any additional compromise of note beyond the 52-48 split and $12 million guarantee that had been on the table. Gone, apparently, is the rhetoric about “disrespect,” and I don’t intend to spend any additional time debating whether Pacquiao deserved yet more than 52 percent. I would, however, point anyone who’s still skeptical of Hatton’s drawing power to read some of the eye-popping numbers from previous Hatton fights mentioned in this article and this one.
The main thing is, Pacquiao’s apparently come to his senses, and maybe it was all brinksmanship to start. Now — again, if it sticks — we can focus on the buildup to this fight instead of having to focus on whether it’s going to happen or not. I don’t think the haggling did boxing any favors. Nobody (OK, maybe somebody, but certainly not me and certainly not some of the boxing board remarks I’ve read) wants to see millionaires fighting over money, whether in boxing or when baseball players and baseball teams get into unappetizing money spats.
I worry slightly about Pacquiao’s relationship with Bob Arum and Freddie Roach, with the way he ignored them for weeks. But perhaps we can chalk this up to a personality quirk of Pacquiao. He’s a great fighter, one of my favorites, and overall a great guy, based on his charitable donations and interest in the well-being of the Filipino people. But he is prone to fits of indecision. On the other hand, you have to wonder why Arum’s fighters — Pacquiao twice and Antonio Margarito recently — keep balking at the deals Arum negotiates for them.
I want to breathe a sigh of relief, but I won’t. Not until I see a YouTube video of Pacquiao signing the contract while holding up his driver’s license.
Fights That Are Well On Their Way
Let’s take this in chronological order. I gotta admit — if I wasn’t already writing about Pacquiao-Hatton, I’m not sure I’d be doing a Round and Round column this week, because there are a lot of dregs here.
Lightweight (135 lbs.) Czar Amonsot has been cleared to fight after doctors in the Philippines said the brain bleed he got in his bloody war with Michael Katsidis in 2007 has disappeared. I can’t say I’m an expert on brain bleeds, but this worries me. I seem to remember people being skeptical of a similar plot point for the Rocky Balboa movie. I wish Amonsot the best in his fight Jan. 31 against a fairly anonymous opponent, because you hate to see a good fighter give his all and have his career end as a result. It just worries me.
Light heavyweight (175 lbs.) Shaun George returns Feb. 25 against his own underqualified opponent, and as good as he looked knocking out Chris Byrd, I wish he’d get a top-notch light heavy into the ring. Like Glen Johnson. Is he busy in late February? Oh, wait.
Johnson’s opponent for his Feb. 27 ESPN2 date is Daniel Judah, with whom he shares a controversial 2003 draw. I didn’t see that bout, but the career arcs of both men have gone in opposite directions since. Nonetheless, Judah’s a better class of opponent than I might have feared, and at least the bout has a storyline.
Super middlweight (168 lbs.) Lucian Bute has selected his next opponent, and it’s Fulgencio Zuniga on March 13. I like Bute. I like Zuniga. But I still very much want to see a rematch between Bute and Librado Andrade. Bute’s people think Zuniga’s an opponent who can get them some U.S. television time, and I’d certainly watch, but I suspect that Zuniga’s not a big enough opponent to draw in U.S. television, even if, as Bute’s team said, Zuniga’s upset of Victor Oganov got good ratings on Showtime.
If you’re not detecting a trend yet, get ready: Both Cristian Mijares (bantamweight, 118 lbs.) and Jorge Linares (junior lightweight, 130 lbs.) will fight on a March 14 card against their own anonymous opponents. I understand Mijares easing into his new weight and slowly coming back from a knockout loss, but seriously, somebody needs to get Linares on television against a quality opponent.
Middleweight (160 lbs.) prospect Andy Lee might fight Walid Smichet on March 16. I like this fight. Lee’s still not ready to step up to killers as he showed when he suffered his first loss in 2008, nor should he be fighting patsies. Smichet, as he showed by giving John Duddy all he could handle last year, also deserves another payday.
Light heavyweight former great Roy Jones, Jr. will likely fight Omar Sheika in a March 21 pay-per-view that will also feature mixed martial arts. I can’t even begin to describe everything that’s wrong with this one. I already write entries that go on too long. I’m just not going to try.
Some time in late March or early April, junior featherweight (122 lbs.) titlist Celestino Caballero defends his title against some mandatory challenger or the other. I hate to see Caballero not getting a shot at one of the elite junior featherweights, but if they aren’t going to give it to him, I guess he might as well defend against mandatory challengers for his belts.
Some time in April, super middleweight Mikkel Kessler is heading toward a possible fight with Mads Larsen, against whom he could make piles upon piles of cash in their mutual homeland. Kessler frustrates me to no end. It’s not that I could blame him for taking piles upon piles of cash, but he talks about how much he wants to make it in the United States then the next thing you hear is that he’s negotiating to fight his third straight lackluster opponent. Stop teasing us, Mikkel. Just stay in Denmark and make all the money you want and leave us alone.
Fighters That Are In A Little Limbo
Oh, about Duddy — his promotional struggles are detailed here. The account is sympathetic to Duddy, and presents compelling evidence that we should be, too, but it’s disheartening no matter who’s to blame. As I’ve said many times before, Duddy’s a good television fighter whose guts I admire and who is a big draw with Irish fans. I wish he’d be fighting boxers instead of businessmen.
Former featherweight (126 lbs.) great Naseem Hamed is talking about a comeback. At age 35, after a looooooong layoff. Stay put, Naseem.
Promising super middleweight Shawn Estrada, a 2008 U.S. Olympic team grad, is out until April with shoulder surgery. It doesn’t sound like it’s anything serious, but you never know with these things. Just ask former U.S. Olympian super middleweight Jeff Lacy.
Fighters Who Want To Fight Other Fighters
The best of the bunch here is Ivan Calderon saying he wants to fight Ulises Solis. Calderon, the pint-sized Ring magazine champion at 108 lbs., is one of boxing’s underrated best, and the exciting Solis is his clearest threat. Calderon-Solis has been discussed before but, obviously, has never happened. Calderon vocalizing that he wants Solis is a good development for one of the better fights that can be made in the sport.
Two others are pretty good, too. Super middleweight Edison Miranda is saying he wants Jermain Taylor. There was some heat on this fight back before Kelly Pavlik knocked both of them out, but I still see it as an interesting match-up. There are better opponents out there for Taylor, like Carl Froch, but there are worse ones, too. The other bout that wouldn’t be bad is Daniel Ponce De Leon saying he wants Rafael Marquez. That fight would definitely give us a sense of where Marquez is in his career, and as with Taylor,
there are better opponents out there for Marquez, like Caballero or Juan Manuel Lopez, but I’d take Marquez-De Leon in a pinch.
Also, cruiserweight (200 lbs.) champion Tomasz Adamek says his team has talked about a possible bout with Roy Jones, Jr. for June. Adamek wants to get a bigger name for himself thta a win over Jones would bring, but at this point in Jones’ diminished career, I bet he could get more of a name winning that rematch with Steve Cunningham everyone wants to see.
(Sources: News releases; Yahoo; Philboxing; BoxingScene; Fightnews; Ring)