Nine Boxers Who Should Be Fighting Better Opponents, But Aren’t For Some Stupid Reason

Here’s some more stuff to hate. Every week in this space, we round up the latest rumors about who wants to fight whom, and while there are plenty of boxers out there who routinely fight the best opposition, there are a good many who don’t. No one thinks every fight should have to be against a killer opponent, although it’s always awesome when someone takes on that strength of schedule, like with the Super Six tournament on Showtime. But there are guys who, for one reason or another, don’t do it at all. On rare occasions, it’s not their fault. Most of the time, as you’ll see, it is.

As often is the case with lists of this sort, contenders are drawn from Ring magazine’s divisional top 10. Not much point picking on non-elite fighters or prospects too young to step it up. And as is often the case also, your nominations are most welcome. In no particular order:

Ivan Calderon, junior flyweight

What he’s been up to: Calderon’s reign as the 108-pound lineal champ started honorably enough, twice fighting Hugo Cazares in 2008. Since then, he’s talked about fighting the other top men in the division over the last two years — Ulises Solis, then Brian Viloria. The current top contender to his championship is Giovanni Segura. Calderon didn’t fight the first two when he should’ve and there’s little talk of him fighting the third. Granted, Rodel Mayol’s record since giving Calderon two tough fights has made Calderon’s decision to fight him look less crappy, but when you’ve been the division kingpin for two years without fighting the #1 challenger, you’re not being cool. It’s not clear what the problem is.

He ought to be fighting: Segura

Nonito Donaire, junior bantamweight

What he’s been up to: Three years ago, Donaire made his mark by knocking out highly-regarded Vic Darchinyan. Three years later, we’re still waiting for him to fight anyone remotely as good as Darchinyan. Beating top-10 divisional foes like Luis Maldonado and Moruti Mthalane ain’t half-bad, and beating a wildly overweight Rafael Concepcion had is own valors, but Raul Martinez, Manuel Vargas and Hernan Marquez — the latter up next — amount to total wastes of time. When Donaire’s been in a division with Darchinyan, Fernando Montiel and other standouts, it becomes offensive. Donaire has repeatedly said he wants to fight those men, but hasn’t. Promoter Top Rank may deserve some of the blame for milking Donaire’s Filipino following for some easy cash, and it’s hard to say who’s most to blame for the Darchinyan rematch falling through, but at a certain point Donaire simply has to find a way to fight the best opposition.

He ought to be fighting: Darchinyan, Montiel

Celestino Caballero, featherweight

What he’s been up to: Of the people on this list, Caballero may be least to blame for fighting lackluster competition. He’s been lowballed by both Juan Manuel Lopez and Yuriorkis Gamboa, two of several fighters who haven’t seemed interested in fighting the tall volume-punching freak. It’s hard to blame him for wanting to move up another division to fight Jorge Solis. When he’s gotten good contenders in the ring, like Steve Molitor, he’s been impressive. But he deserves an elite opponent along the lines of Lopez and Gamboa. Next time he gets a lowball offer, he might want to take it. If he wins, he’ll be in a better position to get paid well next time around.

He ought to be fighting: Lopez, Gamboa, Chris John

David Haye, heavyweight

What he’s been up to: Haye has a totally respectable win over Nicolay Valuev, a top-5 heavyweight when Haye beat him last year. And his cruiserweight reign was impressive. The problem here is that Haye has been talking about fighting the Klitschko brothers since 2008, and that’s the only fight hardcore fans want to see him take. Instead, he’s twice bailed out of agreements to fight them, once each, and when offered very, very favorable-sounding contract terms by Wladimir this year, it’s like he’d been struck mute by the Lawd Jes-us Kee-rist himself. Now Wladimir’s moved on and everyone agrees with the big Ukrainian: Haye beetched out. Some people would like to see Haye fight Tomasz Adamek, and it would assuredly be a brawl, but Haye-Klitschko is beyond late.

He ought to be fighting: Klitschko, Klitschko

Andre Berto, welterweight

What he’s been up to: Through last year, I’d defended Berto’s opponent choice. Fellow 2004 Olympians Andre Ward and Andre Dirrell hadn’t fought anyone as good as Berto’s opposition until late 2009, and Berto signed to fight Shane Mosley in January. Even his choice of opponent after pulling out of the Mosley fight because of the earthquake in his native Haiti, Carlos Quintana, was marginally defensible. But it was beyond galling when his promoter, Lou DiBella, tried to make a fight with Alfonso Gomez, only to rightly be turned down by HBO. C’mon, man. Alfonso Gomez? Berto gets a lot of money from HBO and maybe he’s spoiled on it. But Berto’s overdue to fight someone elite and earn that cash.

He ought to be fighting: Mosley, Timothy Bradley, Paul Williams

Humberto Soto, lightweight

What he’s been up to: Soto is on a 10-fight streak of fighting subpar opponents. Oh, sure, the 2010 version of David Diaz isn’t some no-talent, but when he’s the best opponent on your resume, and you’ve inhabited divisions with people like Juan Manuel Marquez and Robert Guerrero, you’re clearly slumming it. What’s so nonsensical about it all is that Top Rank has talked about matching everyone under the sun with Soto, most recently (and most offensively, given that the younger and better Anthony Peterson has been waiting in line forever for a mandatory title shot) Marco Antonio Barrera. What seems to be the case is that Soto revealed himself as a limited fighter in a 2007 loss against Joan Guzman and Top Rank wants to squeeze every drop of Soto being a Mexican out of whatever appeal Soto has with Mexicans — without risking a loss for him.

He ought to be fighting: Peterson, Guerrero, Michael Katsidis, Ali Funeka, the winner of Marquez-Juan Diaz II

Sakio Bika, super middleweight

What he’s been up to: Not all Australian fighters are duckers, but boxers who live Down Under account for the final three men on this list. Bika is blameless. Actually, he’s more blameless than Caballero. Since winning The Contender tournament in 2007 in a wildly entertaining brawl with Jaidon Codrington, he’s only gotten one decent-money fight, against Peter Manfredo, Jr., and was destructive. It used to be you could say, by way of dismissing the hard-headed Bika, that he was in ugly fights. Not anymore. He recently got jobbed out of a mandatory title shot at Lucian Bute when the IBF arbitrarily gave the opportunity to Jesse Brinkley, after Brinkley bailed out of the eliminator with Bika due to an injury. And there’s not a lot out there for him at 168 pounds beyond Bute, with the Super Six tournament tying up some of the top men in the division.

He ought to be fighting: Anyone ranked in the division’s top 10 who will fight him, since he hasn’t even been able to get that — Librado Andrade sounds good

Danny Green, cruiserweight

What he’s been up to: Green isn’t so blameful himself. He tried to make a fight with Bernard Hopkins after his upset win over Roy Jones, Jr. last year, but Hopkins instead went after a lousy rematch with Jones. Lousy fight, lousy result, lousy cynical move to put that fight on pay-per-view given the circumstances. Green has also tried to make fights with Antonio Tarver in the recent past. His upcoming bout with the smaller, unretired Paul Briggs may sell in Australia, but surely he could find a more worthy contender at 175 or 200.

He ought to be fighting: Any top-10 cruiserweight or light heavyweight

Anthony Mundine, middleweight

What he’s been up to lately: Mundine this week said he wanted to fight Miguel Cotto or Antonio Margarito. When I saw that I scoffed so hard I nearly coughed up my liver. You have to go back to 2005 (Mikkel Kessler) or 2006 (Green) to find someone all that good that he’d fought, or if you wanted to be generous you could give him Sam Soliman in 2007. When he fights this week, he will have taken on his 14th opponent since losing to Kessler who wasn’t viewed as having much of a shot. And counting Daniel Geale is cheating. Geale is only ranked in the middleweight top 10 because he did decently against Mundine in a loss; he has proven nothing before or since to suggest he’s all that good.

He ought to be fighting: Any top-10 middleweight or junior middleweight

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.