2008 Fight Previews: The Best is Yet to Come - Jones Trinidad, Klitschko Ibragimov, Pavlik Taylor, Pacquiao Marquez, Diaz Katsidis, Malignaggi Ngoudjo, More

wladimir klitschko06.12.07 - By David Janke: With the boxing world counting the hours – rather than months, weeks, or days - until Floyd Mayweather meets Ricky Hatton, it’s hard to look past Saturday night. The anticipation for this fight has been nothing short of amazing. But with all of the buildup, one risk looms – that the fight turns out less entertaining than the hype built it up to be.

Occasionally after a big fight, a fan might feel a momentary disappointment: it’s the moment the fan realizes that they no longer have this great fight to look forward to each and every day. That shouldn’t be the case Saturday night after the fight is in the books. Thankfully, many good fights are in the pipeline for 2008. As good as 2007 was, I must ask the question: “Can 2008 be better?”

Many great fights are already scheduled for 2008. Others are agreed upon in principle, simply waiting on the fighters to sign the contract. And even more great fights have good chances of being put together. Here’s a preview of what’s in store:


Paulie Malignaggi vs. Herman Ngoudjo, January 5

Paulie is a really entertaining boxer to watch. Although he is no knockout threat (that’s an understatement), his technical skills have become more and more apparent, and he’s even winning over fans who previously were turned off by his boasting. After he showed so much heart and determination against Miguel Cotto, then gracefully admitting defeat acknowledging he lost to the better man, it became hard not to root for Malignaggi. He had this to say about his upcoming opponent, Herman Ngoudjo: “Another workmanlike fighter…He’s never been given anything and has come up the hard way. I’m looking forward to fighting him.” This should be an entertaining fight.

Roy Jones, Jr vs. Felix Trinidad, January 19

Well, it might turn out to be a good fight. A huge weight disparity existed between these two boxers when they were most active. Forgetting Jones’ fight against John Ruiz in which he weighed 193, he is a light heavyweight. Trinidad was a welterweight for most of his career before moving up to light middleweight and ultimately middleweight in 2001 against William Joppy. The most Trinidad has officially weighed for a fight was 160; the result was a lopsided loss against Winky Wright in 2005. More accurately, Wright put on a boxing clinic against Trinidad.

Kelly Pavlik vs. Jermain Taylor (Rematch), February 16

If the rematch is as good as the original, it will be a 2008 fight of the year candidate. As if these two guys leaving everything in the ring isn’t enough, expect a solid card from top to bottom. Nothing is close to official, but some of the names being discussed for the undercard fights are very promising: Andre Ward, Allan Green, Jab Judah, and Carlos Quintana are some possibilities.

Promoter J. Russell Peltz was quoted in the recent issue of The Ring magazine (with Pavlik on the cover, no less) saying, “This was boxing at its best, the kind of action and drama I fell in love with as a kid.” Praising the atmosphere at the fight, Peltz said, “When was the last time you saw a crowd that was just so ‘up’ before, during, and after? It was like…the British…for Ricky Hatton.” I can attest to his statements: reportedly over 5,000 Pavlik fans made the trip from Ohio, and they went absolutely crazy when their hero knocked Taylor out in the seventh. It certainly seemed like everyone I met in Atlantic City over the weekend was in town from Youngstown for the fight.

I hate to sound like a broken record, but Jermain Taylor looked better in defeat than he did winning (and tying, in the case of Wright) his last four fights. It seems like every article about this fight echoes the same sentiments about Taylor, but I agree. He showed flashes of his former confidence and punching power.

Wladimir Klitschko vs. Sultan Ibragimov, February 23

This is a much-needed heavyweight unification fight. Klitschko is ranked the number one heavyweight contender, while Ibragimov is the number six contender according to The Ring magazine. Ibragimov looked pretty good against an aging Evander Holyfield, showing a quickness that his semi-flabby physique does not seem capable of. He also has a quick, stiff jab. To make the bout more interesting, The Ring magazine ranks his challenger, Klitschko, the biggest puncher in the sport ahead of the likes of Edwin Valero, Manny Pacquiao, Kelly Pavlik, and Daniel Ponce De Leon.

Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez, March 15

The Ring’s second and third ranked pound for pound boxers going head to head: need I say more? Boxing fans around the world rejoiced when this fight was officially announced – rumors went back and forth about who Pac-man was fighting next: will it be David Diaz or Marquez? Boxing fans, analysts, and scribes alike all seemed to agree that the only fight Pacquiao should take was the rematch with Marquez. Sure, David Diaz would be a good match-up. But so would Valero, Guzman, and Juan Diaz. Those fights will come in time: the fight that needed to happen next is Pacquiao vs. Marquez. Marquez seemed to help things along being exceptionally flexible during negotiations and claiming that Manny was scared to fight him.

This fight has been building for years, since their classic first encounter in 2004. The fight saw Marquez down three times in the first round, only to counterpunch his way to a draw with Pacquiao. The rematch is sure to be as good as the last.


Israel Vazquez vs. Rafael Marquez

This fight is being talked about for March 1st on Showtime. Promoter Gary Shaw mentioned it was a “done deal” for March 1st, but Vazquez and his trainer recently mentioned that the contract has not been signed yet. (Note to Gary: Please, make this fight happen. We’ll forgive you for how Nonito was treated if you get this fight signed.) If you saw the first two installments of Vazquez vs. Marquez, you’ll understand how important this fight is. This is the third leg of the trilogy; the rubber match. The two men are so equally matched its amazing. When thinking of these two fighting, I have flashbacks of Castillo-Corrales I. That’s almost blasphemy, I know; but their fights have been that good.

Juan Diaz vs. Michael Katsidis

This should take place on or around January 26th. This is another match-up that has fans excited. Both fighters throw non-stop punches, and while Diaz is remarkably accurate with his combination punching, Katsidis is a glutton for punishment. Katsidis has been unofficially billed the new Arturo Gatti, referring to the sheer amount of punches he can take and keep coming. He is more than likely the harder puncher; his two most recent fights against Graham Earl and Czar Amonsot showed his power. Juan Diaz, on the other hand, has the quicker hands and can land five and six punch combinations in rapid succession. He doesn’t appear to be a particularly hard puncher, but obviously his punches achieve the desired effect. Julio Diaz was supposed to be a fairly even match-up, but Juan “The Baby Bull” handily dispatched of him. This will almost certainly be an amazing fight.


Joe Calzaghe vs. Winky Wright, March

Winky Wright recently told G. Leon in an interview that he had a date set aside with HBO in March. Dan Birmingham, Wright’s trainer, thought the Calzaghe fight was a good idea for Winky, mentioning that they’d even fight Calzaghe on his home turf. The weight could present a slight problem here; Calzaghe was considering moving up to light heavyweight, but he’ll stay at super middleweight for the right opponent and money. Wright looked out of shape at 170 against Hopkins, but he’d have to go up to 168 to fight Calzaghe. Joe would not fight under 168; if anything, he’d fight at a higher weight.

Bernard Hopkins vs. Joe Calzaghe, June – July Yankee Stadium

Obviously, this would be a huge fight. Two lineal champions of adjacent weight classes fighting almost always makes for a good fight. It would be similar to Mayweather-Hatton (plus 21 pounds). Calzaghe was not pleased when Hopkins mentioned he would not be ready to fight until June or July, prompting him to mention a March match-up with Wright. The Wright camp seemed to welcome this suggestion with open arms, so we could possibly see Joe Calzaghe fighting two American top ten fighters in a span of four months. Stylistically, the Calzaghe-Wright fight should be more entertaining for the fans, but a Hopkins defeat on his resume might speak a little louder, not to mention taking all of the light heavyweight belts.

Ricky Hatton vs. Oscar De La Hoya

Not to be outdone by the 50,000 plus fans at the Calzaghe-Kessler unification fight, Oscar wants to set the attendance record, and believes he can do an 80,000 plus live gate at Wembley according to a report by the BBC. With ticket sales for Mayweather-Hatton selling out in less than an hour, Oscar had to be wondering exactly how many tickets could have been sold if they weren’t constrained to the relatively small capacity of the MGM Grand. Certainly they could have sold many thousands more tickets than were available.

Last but not least: Manny Pacquiao vs. Oscar De La Hoya

This fight was dreamed up by Dan Rafael at and HBO’s Larry Merchant. Apparently, Rafael telephoned Bob Arum of Top Rank about this fight, and Arum basically said that Manny would fight him. Obviously, Oscar heard about the speculation and agreed that is would be a great fight. What began as casual, joking suggestion now seems to have some measure of validity. Bob Arum told Jake Donovan, “I give Pacquiao a shot with Oscar. Oscar laughed, but now everybody is seriously considering it.” Manny’s trainer Freddie Roach seemed opposed to the idea, but he seems to be the only one. He mentioned that at 147 Pacquiao would look similar to a ‘beach ball’. Could this fight actually happen? Well, this is boxing after all. Stranger things have happened.

All of these match-ups are interesting, some more so than others. Injuries and egos will cancel some fights, money disputes will cancel others. But 2008 is sure to hold countless great matches for fans.

Article posted on 07.12.2007

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