Five exciting stars and the paths the lie ahead…

07.04.08 - By Michael Montero: I wanted to take a look at five of my favorite fighters to watch and talk about what lies ahead for each of them. Where do I see their careers going over the immediate future? Which fights make the most sense financially? Which do the fans want to see? What don’t we want to see??

ISRAEL VASQUEZ: 43-4 (31), Undisputed Super Bantamweight Champion of the world
He’s #5 on my current Pound For Pound List and the legitimate champ at Super Bantamweight (122 pounds). The first thing Israel needs is a long, well deserved rest – which he is currently taking. But then what? There has been talk about “El Magnifico” moving up in weight to test the waters at Featherweight, but why? There are plenty of matches for him at his proven weight that will not only make fans happy and further secure his legacy, but pad his bank account as well.

First of all, there’s the winner of this June’s match between Daniel Ponce De Leon 34-1 (30) and Juan Manuel Lopez 21-0 (19) in Texas. Should Ponce De Leon beat Lopez and defend his WBO title – it sets up a big, all Mexican showdown with Vasquez late this year. On the flip side, should the Puerto Rican Lopez snatch the WBO title this June, it sets up a chance for Vasquez to defend Mexico’s honor and try to win the belt back for his countrymen. Either way, it’s a win-win situation for Israel to fight the winner of this bout in attempt to unify his WBC title with the WBO.

Another direction may be Canada’s Steve Molitor 27-0 (10), the current IBF titlist. This would be a big bout in Toronto, Ontario and who doesn’t love unification? Of course there’s always a lucrative forth match with Rafael Marquez, which I wouldn’t blame either man for taking in the beginning of 2009. They could go Pay Per View this time around and even with only a modest turn out of 200,000 or so buys, would stand to make the seven-figure paydays they deserve. Either way, there are plenty of options for Senior Vasquez. Whatever path he chooses, I just pray that his handlers don’t let him fight too long past his primes. This guy wears his heart on his sleeve when he’s in the ring and I don’t want to see him go out like a Fernando Vargas or Arturo Gatti (and no I’m not comparing Vasquez to those fighters in terms of skill, just in regards to getting hit a lot).

MANNY PACQUIAO: 46-3-2 (35), Undisputed Super Featherweight Champion of the world
Manny’s made it clear that his next fight will be at Lightweight and that’s where he’ll stay. He’s scheduled to face WBC titlist David Diaz 34-1 (17) this June in Las Vegas and is already a betting favorite. Should he be successful and add yet another title in a different division to his collection, where does he go from there? A sure-fire, all action bout with Juan Diaz 33-1 (17) is always a possibility. Diaz just signed with Golden Boy Promotions, who’s never been afraid to put their guys in the ring with “The Pacman”, so a deal wouldn’t be hard to make. Then there’s the linear, RING Magazine Champion, Joel Casamayor – who’s also a Golden Boy fighter. What if Manny were to beat Diaz this June, then fight and beat Casamayor toward the end of the year? He’d be the linear, undisputed champion of yet another weight class! It could happen. However nobody could call him undisputed until he faced newly crowned champion Nate Campbell 32-5-1 (25), who scooped up the WBA, IBF and WBO titles when he upset Juan Diaz last month. This would be a tougher fight to make though because Campbell is promoted by the infamous Don King, who would make negotiations hell for such a match. In fact, don’t be surprised to see Campbell sit on the sidelines for the rest of the year and be stripped of at least one of his belts. But I digress…

If none of those bouts interest Manny or his handlers, there’s always the possibility of a very lucrative third match with Juan Manuel Marquez. Who wouldn’t want to see those two do it again? This time, the fight would be at Lightweight, everything else would be the same though – the same rivalry the same passion, the same action, guts and heart. All of the bouts I’ve listed above make sense for Pacquiao – but the one that doesn’t is the one I’ve heard the most about and has me concerned. There is absolutely NO SENSE in an Oscar De La Hoya-Manny Pacquiao match, which there have been talks of on both sides. Pacquiao is 5’6” and fought his first pro bout at 106 pounds. He’s not even a proven Lightweight (135 pounds) yet, the same division in which De La Hoya started his career. Not only is Oscar four inches taller, but has a substantial reach advantage and has fought at 147 pounds or greater since 1997! No folks, this is not just some internet rumor, there have actually been talks between Golden Boy Promotions and Bob Arum (who handles Manny) to make this fight happen! With all the available legitimate, realistic matches out there for Pacquiao that make sense for all parties involved, I really hope all this De La Hoya talk goes away.

KELLY PAVLIK: 33-0 (29), Undisputed Middleweight Champion of the world
Undoubtedly, Pavlik will end up moving to 168 and more than likely 175 before it’s all over – but for now, there’s unfinished business at 160 pounds. Sure, he’s the linear, undisputed middleweight champ, but he needs to defend that title a few times and secure his legacy in the weight class before moving up. The obvious #1 contender right now is Germany’s Arthur Abraham 26-0 (21), the current IBF titlist. Abraham’s handlers claim to want a fight with Pavlik and further claim to be willing to come to the states to make it happen. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in boxing, it’s not to trust these German promoters. In other words, I’ll believe it when I see it. The same can be said for another German titlist, current WBA belt-holder Felix Sturm 29-2-1 (13). Sturm is a good boxer, and has shown a willingness to come to the states before as he did to face De la Hoya in 2004, a fight in which he was robbed of victory by the judges. If Sturm were to come to the USA again to fight Pavlik, he’d probably want to do his best to keep it out of the judges’ hands and that might make for a more entertaining bout than expected.

But if the Germans don’t want to play along, there’s always Winky Wright 51-4-1 (25), who needs a fight right now in the worst way. Wright is a big name, multi-divisional champ, has faced numerous future hall-of-famers and is yet to be soundly defeated in his 18 year career. Imagine if Pavlik became the first to stop Wright - he was the first to stop Zertuche, Miranda and Taylor so it’s not out of the realm of possibility. A couple defenses of his championship and a dominant win over Wright would firmly secure Pavlik’s legacy at Middleweight, then he could move up in weight leaving no stone unturned.

One fight being discussed that I’m firmly against is a match with Joe Calzaghe; in my opinion it just doesn’t work. Kelly is on the way up; Joe is on the way down. Not only that, but Calzaghe has made it clear that he intends to stay at 175 pounds, should he be successful when he fights Bernard Hopkins in a couple weeks – Pavlik isn’t even proven at 168 yet. It’s just an unnecessary bout on so many levels, especially with potential matches for “The Ghost” against numerous young opponents at 160-168.

JOE CALZAGHE: 44-0 (32), Undisputed Super Middleweight Champion of the world
Of course there’s the aforementioned fight with Hopkins 48-4-1 (32) coming up on the 19th, but then what? Should he be successful, he would be the linear light heavyweight champion, but hardly undisputed. There are only two directions that make sense for Joe if he beats Hopkins. The first (and more likely) scenario is to immediately call out Roy Jones Junior – and I mean immediately. Right after the fight with Hopkins, when Joe is standing in the ring and Max Kellerman asks him, “Joe, who do you want next?” – Calzaghe should start talking trash about Jones right then and there. Roy’s win over Felix Trinidad earlier this year, combined with a Calzaghe victory over the living legend that is Bernard Hopkins, sets up a mega, Pay Per View, Calzaghe-Jones bout at year’s end. I could see HBO going all out on that one, “24/7” series and all. Both fighters are in the twilight of their careers and this fight makes too much sense NOT to happen. Of course if Hopkins should be victorious on the 19th, he should do the exact same thing I suggested of Joe and immediately call out Jones. But back to Calzaghe (who I pick by UD over B-Hop by the way)...

The second scenario for the undefeated Welshman would be to sit back and let the victors of this weekend’s Dawson-Johnson and Woods-Tarver bouts face each other, then call out the last man standing. If this scenario actually plays out, I suspect Joe would be calling out “Bad” Chad Dawson. The winner of this fight would be not only the linear, unified champ – but the undisputed champion of the world at light heavy. What I DON’T want to see happen is Joe beat Hopkins, then fight Clinton Woods in the UK for the IBF title (should Woods beat Tarver this Saturday). That bout may do well in the UK, but nobody else would really care about it. Sure, a win over Woods would give Joe the IBF strap at 175, but it would do very little for his legacy worldwide. In my opinion, Roy Jones Junior is the best direction for Joe to go in – not just for the celebrity status or financial benefit, but for his legacy as an all time great as well.

DAVID HAYE: 21-1 (20), Undisputed Cruiserweight Champion of the world
The best Cruiserweight since Evander Holyfield is making his way up to Heavyweight and fans worldwide are buzzing about it. “The Haymaker” hasn’t been quiet bout his goals in boxing’s most storied division, having already called out the heavyweight elite. But we all know he’s unproven with the big boys and needs a few fights before going up against the likes of Wladimir Klitschko 50-3 (44), the best Heavyweight this side of Lennox Lewis. David should make his Heavyweight splash in the UK against a B-level opponent from that side of the pond; why not call out Danny Williams, Matt Skelton or even Audley Harrison? Then it’s on to the states…

For his American Heavyweight debut, I’d like to see him in the ring against a faded veteran like Hasim Rahman or Andrew Golota, but that probably won’t happen as those two are currently pining for one last title shot of their own. However, serviceable vets like James Toney or even Lamon Brewster would prove a stern test for Haye. Either fight would be fairly easy to make, both men are durable and would give him some valuable rounds and both were top five heavyweights just a couple years back. A win over either or those two (or the like) and he’s in the mix as a legitimate top ten heavyweight. Of course what would be ideal is for Haye to take on a fellow up-and-comer like Alexander Povetkin 15-0 (11), Chris Arreola 23-0 (21), Vladimir Virchis 24-1 (20), Eddie Chambers 30-1 (16), etc. This is what the division needs more than anything else; the top rising prospects/contenders to fight one another in order to find a definitive challenger for the world heavyweight champion, Wladimir Klitschko.

What worries me is that we may see David Haye never leave the UK, fight a few bums, work his way into a bogus mandatory position and go after Klitschko too soon. Guys like Haye and Povetkin should be facing each other, NOT Klitschko. If Haye were to go for any title belt at heavy right now, he should try with the WBA. By next year he could probably work his way into a mandatory position, probably against John Ruiz or Ruslan Chagaev. The heavy-handed Londoner is only 27; time is on his side.

Questions, comments, hate mail – you know what to do:


Article posted on 08.04.2008

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