Let’s take a brief break from the 2009 awards to break down the last week of even semi-significant fights for the rest of the year. So, let’s call it this week’s boxing schedule, plus beyond.
- Kelly Pavlik-Miguel Espino, Saturday, Top Rank pay-per-view, Ohio. The middleweight champion of the world has plainly wasted a year and counting since his 2008 loss to Bernard Hopkins, having fought only borderline top-10 160-pounder Marco Antonio Rubio and now, Saturday, Espino. Pavlik’s team says he still can’t close his left hand all the way and may never as a result of the staph infection that they say is the culprit for him twice postponing the Paul Williams fight, prompting Williams to move on to a different opponent. But the alphabet sanctioning organizations apparently sent word to Pavlik that he needed to fight soon or he’d be in jeopardy of losing his titles. Enter Espino. Espino has a heart-warming story, but he has virtually no chance of winning. The two best opponents of his career were fringe contenders Peter Manfredo, Jr. and Daniel Edouard, and he lost to both of them. The best opponent he’s beaten is Alejandro Garcia, who was beyond shot, having won only once in his last five bouts — and the light-punching Espino stopped him, which should tell you something. Here’s how bad it’s gotten for Pavlik: He could always count on Youngstown to turn out for his fights, but BoxingScene’s reliable T.K. Stewart reports this one isn’t selling well (although maybe it’s just the economy). And while last year it was Hillary Clinton name-checking Pavlik on the presidential trail, the biggest politician name-checking Pavlik these days is convicted felon James Traficant. I’m not sure I can recall off the top of my head a fighter who rose as fast as Pavlik and fell so far so quickly. (h/t on the Traficant item — friend-of-the-site Greg G)
- Top Rank pay-per-view undercard, Saturday, Ohio and Mexico. The biggest name on the undercard is Humberto Soto, who’s moving up to lightweight to fight Jesus Chavez. As gutty as Chavez is at times — he earned another nice-sized fight with his losing but game effort against David Diaz — I fear this one could be a depressing affair, with the younger, fresher fighter putting it to the older one, but then, Soto is moderately inconsistent. The fight on the undercard that BoxingScene’s reliable Cliff Rold likes best is Nehomar Cermano-Alejandro Valdez at bantamweight. Also on the undercard is junior middleweight Vanes Martirosyan, heavyweight Sam Peter, middleweight prospect Matt Korobov and welterweight Jose Luis Castillo.
- ShoBox, Friday, Minnesota. Exciting middleweight prospect Fernando Guerrero headlines this Showtime card, taking on old amateur rival Jesse Nicklow, who fought him five times with headgear and won twice. Nicklow, though, has a loss and a draw in his last two, so he’s the same level of professional fighter Guerrero has proven to be. Also on the card is junior middleweight Shawn Porter, best known as one of Manny Pacquiao’s sparring partners. He’s fighting Jamar Patterson, who’s undefeated but hasn’t fought anybody, so who knows what he brings. Guerrero’s opponent may not be as good as his last few, but still, this is a pretty good ShoBox card — prospects in fights that stack up as authentic tests — and a continuation of things getting back to normal on the program after a recent setback.
- Edwin Valero, Saturday, Venezuela; Jean-Marc Mormeck, Thursday, France; Hozumi Hasegawa, Friday, Japan. All three of these men are in fights that are a notch above stay-busy bouts, ones with slight elements of danger. Lightweight puncher Valero’s opponent is Hector Velazquez, whom you might remember for losing to Manny Pacquiao back in 2005, but he beat Bobby Pacquiao the next year and hasn’t lost by knockout in four years, so he’s of journeyman quality, certainly, but not terrible. Mormeck is moving up to heavyweight after a very long two–year layoff, and his opponent, Vinny Maddalone, is tough enough to maybe give him some trouble under those circumstances and perhaps give us a feel whether Mormeck can compete above cruiserweight. Bantamweight Hasegawa has specialized in these “elements of danger” fights, but Alvaro Perez’ record suggests he is a level below the fringe contender types he’s been fighting, with a knockout loss to William Gonzalez and not much else of note. Actually, the biggest note is that he has THREE no-contests in three years — one stopped because his opponent suffered a cut from an unintentional head butt, another because he and his opponent were cut because of an accidental head butt and yet another because “both boxers were disqualified for unsportsmanlike conduct,” according to BoxRec. The main thing I’d be worried about danger-wise from Perez is that some crazy shit would happen with him.
- The Rest. One of the best stories of the last year or so, featherweight Cristobal Cruz, fights perennial contender Ricardo Castillo Saturday… Unfairly KO’d flyweight Cesar Canchila gets back into action for a version of some belt or the other Saturday… and on Dec. 31, Denkaosen Kaowichit rematches with Takefumi Sakata for Kaowichit’s flyweight alphabet belt. Kaowichit is the #3 man in the division and Sakata #6, per Ring mag.