Unified and Undisputed in 2008
2007 was another great year for the sweet science, and historians will trace the renaissance of boxing to this decade. Who can honestly say boxing is dying, just look at the pay per view numbers for Mayweather vs. Hatton and Oscar De La Hoya, Cotto vs. Zab Judah and Mosley, Pavlik vs. Taylor, and they Calzaghe vs. Kessler mega fights that we all had they pleasure of viewing this year.
They promotion of these fights were elevated almost to an art form using all kinds of multi media with full court press along with HBO and Showtime turning the combatants into celebrities with its expanded pre-fight promotional tales before these bouts. The combination of all these events has brought boxing back into the public eye almost comparable to the golden era of the sixties and seventies.
Despite these landmarks, there are early warning signs about the quality of the fights we are getting, it is easy to be blinded by media blitz super fights sold to us as they real deal. Sure they are good for PPV earnings and TV ratings but they do not help boxing because no dominant champion has emerged in most divisions, and the ring magazine’s tradition of enthroning May weather, Hopkins, Pavlik, Manny Pacquaio, Calzaghe and etc in its pound for pound rankings is not fair to all the other contenders when a clear the deck unification showdown in each division has not occurred yet.
It is my hope that boxing fans, promoters and TV networks conspire to give us more unification fights in 2008 to clear they crowded deck of championship pretenders in each division. Any unification fight can be made at a profit for all involved with some expert promotion and cooperation pre-fight, and I must add that boxing scribes would reward any such venture with free publicity at the very least.
Lastly, fighters like Oscar De La Hoya, Mayweather should not be rewarded with super paydays anymore and they must be compelled to take risky fights against their contemporaries in their respective divisions; one has to wonder why fighters these days no longer hunger for the moniker “Unified and Undisputed”. It must not be all about they money at this stage in some careers, and we they paying loyal fans should hold them to a higher standard so we can forgive their flashy lifestyles. Here are a few observations for each division;
The most star studded and talent ridden in boxing, there is so much talent here that there have been several turf battles in all the alphabet organizations even as the division is being held hostage by the whims and caprices of the now glorified Floyd Mayweather who has slowed down the momentum for unification with his ventures against De la Hoya at 154, while thankfully sending Hatton back to 140 were he rightfully belongs. But you cannot stop the talent from spilling over as Cotto manhandled Zab Judah and Shane Mosley to my surprise. Cintron brutalized Feliciano to remain in our consciousness, and Paul Williams removed the pretender Margarito from the welterweight equation. Right now all the turf battles in the alphabet organization have been completed more or less leaving us four legitimate champions, with Mayweather (WBC), Cotto (WBA), Williams (WBO) and Cintron (IBF).
The logical next fight would be unification context among these champions; and do not be surprised if Mayweather is not the last man standing after the dust settles. These fights will be made cause of the marquee value of these champions, any match up be it Mayweather vs. Cotto, Mayweather vs. Cintron, or Cotto vs. Williams to a lesser degree or vice versa…or Cotto vs. Cintron, will deliver a truck load of gold for all participants. I’ll place my bet on the dark horses…Paul Williams and Cintron to be the last men standing.
CRUISERWEIGHTS (200) - MY PERSONAL FAVORITE IN BOXING.
The top ranked contenders are the most competitive in boxing today, all the combatants have fought and defeated each other at one time or the other, and they are all extremely heavy handed making for dramatic stoppages or shocking knockouts ala Wilson of Nwodo. Most unfortunately for the division, none of these contenders has the star power to attract idle observers back to boxing, perhaps David Haye does, but he is moving up to the heavyweight division, and keeping up with the tradition of cruiserweight champs searching in vain for the green in the heavyweight division. I could go on about that subject that inspired me to write "Back to the Cruiserweight Division" but that would be for another day.
There could be some excitement if David Haye vacates the WBA and WBC titles as we would see a dog fight by the other fighters for each belt, many funny things could happen as Darnell Wilson, Herbie Hide, Jeremy Williams could fight for the titles. And yes Chris Byrd; who if he had any sense would come down to the cruiserweight division were he missed a great fight with O’Neil Bell, may be convinced to campaign in the division to earn some dough.
Thankfully Firat Arslan got rid of “parallel champ for no reason” Virgil Hill who got defeated by Henry Maske straight from over ten years in retirement...terrible. I like tough as nails Steve Cunningham, Darnell Wilson, Jonathan Banks, Matt Godfrey and O’Neil Bell, whose career just seemed to fizzle out after unifying the belts, but he could be back, Mormeck is exciting to watch too, and If David Haye remains, we could see him perhaps fight Cunningham or be shocked by another cruiserweight contender. Either way I see no dominant champion emerging in 2008
LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT (175)
I take it back, this division is the worst in boxing today after the heavyweight division and is filled with a couple of star fighters way past their prime. To make matters worse the division is already being held hostage by my former idol but now boring 43 year old Hopkins who has been inexplicably declared the best in the division after beating the burnt out Antonio Tarver and defeating the hapless Wright to settle nothing for the division. The top ten fighters are all spent forces with careers looking to go downhill from here on, if not explain the cancelled match up between Reggie Johnson and Glen Johnson. There are no whispers for unification anywhere, and the best fighter Zsolt Erdei is happily unknown and virtually unseen outside the clubs he must be fighting in somewhere in Europe. Newest entrant champ Chad Dawson may be good but his potential mandatories at the WBC are virtually unknown outside the clubs in Europe and I am further confounded by the scarcity of information or clips from their previous fights to wet my appetite about them. Still they terrify me due to the skills they must have obtained from KGB training camps - so there is a real possibility that Dawson may get surprised by one of them, if that happens, the division would be unheard of in 2008. Pathetic
SUPER MIDDLEWEIGHT (168)
Calzaghe has already stamped his supremacy in the division after out-hustling Kessler to settle all questions. But in 2008 they only fight that would excite him would be a mega fight against Bernard Hopkins, in what promises to be a bore fest. But that fight can only be made at Light Heavyweight, so that leaves the division struggling to find itself.
Although Calzaghe did what he had to do by remaining undefeated till now, I gripe against him for dimming the emerging shooting stars of Mikkel Kessler and Jeff Lacy who would have brought some star appeal back to the division and boxing in general. Even revived and newly minted contender champion Sakio Bika got bested by Calzaghe, so who are the unbeaten contenders to get everybody excited and trooping into the arena to watch the super fight. No one
The only hope for the division is if Calzaghe moves up to fight Hopkins; a real possibility giving all the taunting and face offs between the two recently. We could really some sparks fly if Kessler, Bika and the dangerous Carl Froch have a dog fight for all the vacated belts assuming Calzaghe gives them up. If the Hopkins fight falls through we may see another dreadful mismatch in Manfredo vs. Calzaghe II, but then Pavlik may step up to the plate for a mega fight, I dare say I like his chances against Calzaghe in a US vs. UK contest with cross over appeal to a wider and whiter American audience.
Jermain Taylor seemed like the savior of the division a very long time ago after getting through Hopkins twice and surviving a war of attrition with Winky Wright, but he almost killed his career with style disasters against the sprinting Spinks, and the hit and run trained former rebel soldier Kasim Ouma; I blame Taylor’s promoters for these publicity disasters; because when you put a boxer puncher in front of Taylor he fights back hard, and many pundits changed their minds about him after Pavlik. Either way the division got the needed boost after Pavlik knocked him out to remind fans this was once the division ruled by Hagler, Mugabe, Sugar Ray etc. Look for Pavlik to beat Taylor in the rematch, I hope Pavlik remains at 160 though so we could see a possible unification against Felix Sturm or the tenacious Arthur Abraham – there may be no money in these fights but it would be the next logical fights out there keeping unification as the overriding objective.
Light Middleweights (154):
After the Light Heavyweight division I rank this division very low as it is filled with declining fighters past their prime named Mayorga, Roberto Garcia, Spinks and the great Oscar De la Hoya to name a few. They situation is further complicated by they fact that Oscar could really awaken the division with some fights within the division, but who can he fight to ignite the spark. His loss to Mayweather already tarnishes anything he could further achieve in the division, and nobody wants to see him fight Spinks or the revived Vernon Forest. Forest may actually be the savior of the division, but if Forest losses to Mayorga in another mega fight we would be left with the dreadful Cory Spinks as the last man standing. Look forward to an un-televised rematch between Spinks and Mayorga if that happens.
140 and below
Except for the fact that these fighters weigh far below what I consider healthy, all they fights in these divisions are fast and furious, there is no stop in the flow of punches thrown and there is always the bloodied Jorge Arce, or the fast paced Manny Pacquaio to remind us all what boxing is all about. These divisions are the very bedrock of boxing if only these fights were televised stateside for me to watch.
HEAVYWEIGHTS (Unlimited lbs)
This division is usually used as the benchmark to gauge the popularity of boxing since Jack Johnson, Dempsey, Sonny Listen to name a few, so I am left with no choice but to score the division as the worst and most uninspiring among the divisions today; all the ranked contenders are not even athletic, flat footed and plodding comes to mind, and they essentially lack real boxing skills, they seem to rely on a power punch that just isn’t there. No unification fights were made in 2007 and they Soviet’s seized all the belts to my mortification. As an American resident I still have cold war phobias about visiting the soviet union least they KGB grabbing me on a on a visit for a fight in Kiev if I keep on researching their secret boxing training programs. I cringe when I think about they time I will be forced to buy a ticket bound for Uzbekistan to do a story on Chagaev if he ever decides to defend there in the future, but I will be forced to go, and will probably have the greatest time of my life with all the women while sampling vodka martinis, albeit with eyes in my back waiting for they KGB to show up.
To make matters worse CHAGEAV VS IBRAGIMOV and PETERS VS MASKEAV got cancelled and Sam PETERS barely escaped with his interim belt against MCCLINE basically killing all momentum of expectations that Peter was the hope of the heavyweight division at they end of 2007. The fallout from that performance has Peters vs Maskeav headed for the Cancun instead of Madison Square garden.
Hopefully, Klitschko should annihilate the undersized Sultan Ibragimov in 2008, but what then, another pointless defense against another journey man ala Ray Austin (where is he now) comes to mind. I almost forgot he has to fight the winner of rising American contender Eddie Chambers vs. the unknown Alexander Povetkin who. Nobody will watch those fights, how do you promote it, they victor Klitchko is so obvious until more clips of the soviet becomes available. There may be some interest if Maskeav gets through Sam Peter, but if Peter wins by anything except a knockout, there will be no interest in Klitchko vs. Peters 2.
There is glimmer of hope for the division as Chageav battles Matt Skelton in his first defense, an upset either way could further darken they clarity of the landscape, but the winner of that fight may have to fight the winner of Liahovich vs.Valuez, that could be fun.
All said and done 2008 may still beat our expectations, Punch On