I’m usually all, like — standards, guidelines, consistent principles, etc. etc., blah blah blah. But I’ve had three frozen pineapple margaritas at the sushi place, I’m still bitter about writing a full blog entry last night that I then failed to save and therefore lost, and I’m thinking to myself, “What the hell fights do I want to see this year?” So I picked 10, and here they are. All right, I have a couple rules — don’t use the same fighter twice, don’t count fights that are already likely, put them in order by division. That’s it.
You should add your own choices, mofos.
Wladimir Klitschko-David Haye, heavyweight
Why: Because it would be the first time in forever I thought anybody had a chance to beat Klitschko, and because yes, I candidly admit I’d like to see the Klitschko era end. It bores me. Respect, yes; like, no. Strangely, I’m the other way around on Haye — respect, not so much; like, yes. Haye’s a punk but I could live with him as the heavyweight champion because he’s exciting more often than not. Is it a long shot that Haye beats Klitschko? Sure. But it’s the best hope out there.
Chances: Pretty good, I’d say. Where’s Klitschko go after Eddie Chambers in March? Where’s Haye go after John Ruiz in early 2010? They’re both likely to win their fights, and both sides say they still wanna rumble. The biggest potential impediment is Haye fighting Wladimir’s brother, Vitali, who, by virtue of his rock-solid jaw, isn’t as vulnerable to Haye’s power as the chinny Wladimir.
Chris Arreola-David Tua, heavyweight
Why: Gasp! Two heavyweight fights I wanna see! Maybe things are getting better, per our recent discussion on this topic. But think about this one — both men hit like they’re fighting with hammers, and neither man cares whether you hit them with a hammer. We’re talking about a first-rate war of attrition here, and if their bellies jiggle — both have questionable devotions to training — well, that just makes it funnier.
Chances: They’ve talked about it before, but it never happens because Tua always wants so much money. Now that Tua’s on an alphabet title-shot track, I don’t see it in 2010, that’s for sure.
Tomasz Adamek-Steve Cunningham II, cruiserweight
Why: I hate unfinished business, especially when the business was so damned good to start. Adamek-Cunningham II seemed like a must in 2008 after the first fight was a Fight of the Year nominee, and after Adamek only barely edged it out on the scorecards. Plus I have a soft spot for the cruisers, who will be the best mixture of “big men” with “action” out there until the Klitschkos and their ilk go away.
Chances: Highly unlikely. Everything Adamek has done since 2008 seems designed to avoid this fight, which offers a high deal of risk and little money. You know what’s annoying? Nobody at any of the networks ever really showed much interest in forking over some bucks for this fight. As good a year as HBO and Showtime had in 2009 with budget management, I still can’t believe nobody wanted to pay for a surefire great fight.
Paul Williams-Sergio Martinez II, middleweight
Why: I just told you that I hate unfinished business. This business was also quite damned good to start. Some people might put Williams-Kelly Pavlik here, and I admit I want to see that fight too, but Williams-Martinez II should go first. Because it’s unfinished business. Start new business later.
Chances: Both sides say they want to do it at some point in 2010. I believe them. And good for them. These two men — you can’t say they lack for guts. We need more like them.
Alfredo Angulo-James Kirkland, junior middleweight
Why: No defense, all offense, no awareness of the concept of backwards-walking — Angulo-Kirkland has been one of the best potential wars between young stars-to-be for forever, and it will remain so until one of them is shot, I’m guessing.
Chances: It all depends on whether Jesse James Kirkland gets out of jail in 2010 as expected, after serving some time for loving guns too much while on parole. Also, it depends on whether promoter Gary Shaw decides to put two of his prizes in the ring at the same time. He’s said he’s willing, he just wants it to build up. Name a boxing fan who doesn’t want Angulo-Kirkland. Anyone? That’s what I thought.
The winner of Shane Mosley-Andre Berto vs. the winner of Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao, welterweight
Why: Maybe I’m assuming this moderator will have more luck than is likely toward making Mayweather-Pacquiao, but I’m assuming it for today. Mayweather-Mosley and Pacquiao-Mosley would be two of the best possible fights in boxing excitement-wise and meaning-wise, the next logical step for either man. If Berto beats Mosley, well, he deserves the big time, right?
Chances: If Mayweather beats Pacquiao, I think the winner of Mosley-Berto is a natural, and not altogether out of the question. If Pacquiao wins, I’m not sure he ever fights again, cuz he wants to be a congressman and president and stuff.
Marcos Maidana-Edwin Valero, junior welterweight
Why: Friend of the site Dan P. turned me on to this idea. Valero and Maidana are two of the best pure KO artists in the business, and while Valero’s a lightweight right now, Valero’s biggest fan, Dougie Fischer, says he’s convinced Valero’s power is superior now to Pacquiao’s. I have my doubts — Fischer calls Valero his “son,” and isn’t exactly clear-eyed about the fellow, in my view — but if Valero’s knocking people out at lightweight like he is now, I bet most of that carries up to 140.
Chances: Maybe if they fought in South America? The problem is both of them seem obsessed with two of Freddie Roach’s babies, Amir Khan for Maidana and Pacquiao for Valero, and may see one another as not worth the trouble when somebody different offers more money. Also, Valero would have to get over his visa problems/DUI legal woes/brain bleed/paranoid conspiracy theories in order for it to be somewhere outside of South America.
Juan Manuel Lopez-Celestino Caballero, featherweight
Why: This has for a long time been THE fight in a junior featherweight division that had been pretty interesting until recently, an oft-avoided freak of nature (Caballero) against one of the brightest couple upcoming stars in the sport (Lopez). If Lopez beats Caballero, he instantly becomes one of the top men in boxing; if Caballero beats Lopez, he finally starts getting the paydays that long seemed overdue. And given both men’s styles, I bet it would be a good fight, too, even a division higher.
Chances: Next to none. I hate to use the word “ducked,” because it’s often wrong, but Lopez has ducked Caballero as surely as any man has ever ducked another. First he spent a bunch of time talking up Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez when both were on the shelf with health problems; then he complained about not getting a big fight even as he fought sucky nobodies; then, when pressure finally mounted in earnest for Lopez to fight Caballero, Lopez asked for an amount of money no network would ever pay. I like Lopez, but it was a chicken move and it still embitters me to this day.
Chris John-Yuriorkis Gamboa, featherweight
Why: I freaking love Gamboa in every way. I have come around to liking John’s skills, improved action fight credentials and toughness. I like this fight in part because if Gamboa wins it, he has to be considered a top-tier boxer, regardless of size, although he gets that in some measure by fighting Lopez, too. Mainly I like it because I think they’re be a ton of speed and offensive acumen on display.
Chances: Maybe if Gamboa makes it out of the Rogers Mtagwa/Lopez gauntlet he’s scheduled for in 2010. HBO loves both men, and if Gamboa emerged in late 2010 unscathed, we’d be talking the best fight at featherweight after that.
Nonito Donaire-Vic Darchinyan II, junior bantamweight
Why: Darchinyan’s gotten better since Donaire knocked him out, Donaire’s regressed in some ways, it’d be at a weight more comfortable to Darchinyan and it might not end up being as one-sided this time. One reason I want it is because Gary Shaw, Darchinyan’s promoter and Donaire’s ex-promoter blocked it for so long. And is there a better fight for either man, each in or around the pound-for-pound top 20? No. Also, as much as I love Darchinyan’s big mouth, that doesn’t mean I don’t like seeing big mouths shut up. Darchinyan’s big mouth has been flapping at Donaire ever since they first fought.
Chances: Getting better all the time. Both men say they want it. Shaw no longer is standing in the way.