The 'Left-Hook Lounge': Vivek Wallace's Weekly Q&A Mailbag Featuring, Pacquiao, Cotto, Calzaghe, Pavlik, Jones and Many More!

Manny PacquiaoThis weeks 'Left-Hook Lounge' installment is nothing short of a blockbuster. Tons of topics on the tab and each holding a great relevance to everything the average fight fan wants to know. Everything from Manny Pacquiao's greatness, to who has the edge in the Margarito/Cotto bonanza?, to the top 5 fights I'd love to see if I were a matchmaker in the sport, and much, much, more. With no time to waist, we initiate a true Lenny Kravitz moment and "Dig In"! Our first question comes from Southern California......

Fred Solomon (Los Angeles): Many See Calzaghe as the sports P4P King. Does Pacquiao's victory over Diaz change that decision?

Vivek W. (ESB): First and foremost, I'd like to congratulate Manny Pacquiao on a job well done. This guy has quickly become the most adored Asian fighter on the planet since Bruce Lee. (Smiles). As far as Pacquiao being the P4P King goes, I see an argument to support him and I see an argument that negates that choice to a degree as well. A 'for-Pacquiao' argument would be that aside from being an absolute class act, Pacquiao brings basically everything that a fighter should bring to the table, and after spending most of his camp honing his speed-related skills, I think the transition in weight was easier than anyone previously thought - (myself included) - and it helped him display skills that I hadn't previously seen. Only a year or two ago Pacquaio was a basic left, left, right, eat a jab, throw a hook, type fighter. Very vanilla. Now, you can actually see him grouping his shots, picking his spots, and mechanically taking an opponent apart with speed, traps, and even a little defense (which to me he NEVER displayed much in the past). When you package all of those things together with a heart in the ring that won't allow him to back up, I don't know how you deny him the P4P crown. The flipside of this argument is the fact that we're all going bananas over his destruction of arguably one of the slowest boxers I've ever seen. Initially, I gave Diaz much more a chance than he probably deserved. Maybe he was simply being over methodical in his approach due to the magnitude of the fight, but on that night, the guy made Carlos Baldomir look like Roy Jones Jr. in there. Before I give Pacquaio the P4P crown without question, I'd like to see him face a fundamentally better fighter who can match his speed, power, and grit. Someone like a Nate Campbell, an Edwin Valero, or someone cut from that cloth. A decisive victory over that kinda fighter in my book clearly gives him the edge. Who I think owns the crown is irrelevant, as I'm only one opinion in a million. There's a reason why they call it the 'mythical' crown. That being said, to quote a very applicable song lyric, "It's ya option, pick like Malone and Stockton"!

Maurice Williams (Philadelphia, PA): Which options of those available do you think Manny Pacquaio takes next, and which would you PERSONALLY like to see him pursue?

Vivek W. (ESB): A week ago I had a fight fan say that everyone was lining up to face Pavlik. Now that Pacquiao is the flavor of the month, options are in heavy abundance for him as well. I'd personally like to see Pacquiao do more in his current division. He says he feels stronger there and it's closer to his comfortable walk around weight. If that's the case, I don't know that I see the urgency to really go anywhere any time soon. Put him in against Nate Campbell, let Edwin Valero come north from the Super Featherweight division, hell, my feelings wouldn't be hurt if you even threw Juan Diaz in against him. Any of these options work for me personally. That being said, this is a business, and when you're talking business, you're talking money. When we get into the money fights, I think Pacquiao has to entertain Hatton because none of the options listed would do better financially. Hatton is an instant global attraction because you have one nation (Philippines) against another (U.K.), and it's all hosted in the fight mecca, which is totally another nation (U.S.A.). So it all depends on what Arum and Pacquiao's agenda really is. Do they want to prove his legitimacy and let him attempt to clean out the lightweight division?, or do they wanna roll the dice and gamble on a big payday at the potential expense of future payday's after having to deal with a possible loss to a heavier fighter like Hatton or God forbid, someone in the welterweight division? It's hard to say where they go next, until we have a better idea for where Arum's head is. Personally, I'll take Pacquiao in the ring against any fighter I mentioned in this segment. Regardless of what any ones thoughts are on Pacquiao, every fight he comes to bring the pain and fans from row to row leave entertained! What more can any of us ask for?

Rene' Russo (Chicago, IL): Considering all of the great talent in the sport, what are the top 5 fights you would like to see made?

Vivek W. (ESB): I'll start by saying the neither of these fights do I see actually taking place soon, if at all, but here goes. 1.) Eventually, after a maturation process in the heavyweight ranks, I'd love to see a more polished David Haye take on Wladimir Klitschko. This fight to me is the best to be made in the Heavyweight division, and easily pairs the best two athletes there. 2.) Kelly Pavlik/Winky Wright. This fight I think is important because it'll tell me how disciplined Pavlik really is. Taking a punch and returning one is the easy part if you have a chin and some heart. The real trait that separates the pretenders from the contenders in boxing is the discipline to develop and soundly execute a Plan "B" during a fight when Plan "A" and all else fails. None of Pavliks highly notable past opponents - in my observation - has made him consider a Plan "B" yet. Taylor was target practice, Miranda was target practice, Lockett, well, we won't even go there. Not to take away from his accomplishments, but I like to gauge fighters on what I term their 'video game' skills. All my gamers out there know that when you master one level, you have to gradually entertain and master many more to reach the peak - (Blast from the past.....Think Mike Tyson Punch Out...Don Flamenco as opposed to Bald Bull, or "Iron" Mike Tyson himself) 3.) Cotto/Margarito winner versus Floyd Mayweather Jr. Yeah, I know, the 'Money' man has cashed in his chips, but for those of you out there that's spent any time in a casino, when has that ever stopped you from ending up back at that Poker table or on the slots? Unlike most, I don't care to see the guy try to clean out the division, his heart is obviously not in it anymore, but fighting the winner of that fight solidifies his greatness in the mind of even the harshest critic. 4.) I fall in the silent majority that's actually pumped about the Roy Jones Jr./Joe Calzaghe fight for the same reason I mentioned earlier about questioning Pacquiao's greatness. I want to see Calzaghe face someone with just as much speed and skill as he has. Some out there are gonna say that Jones is a has-been, but say what you want fellas, I was in NYC covering the fight with Trinidad, and regardless of how out of shape you feel Trinidad was, Roy proved he was in shape. Consider this. We adore Pacquiao, Pavlik, Cotto, and many others, but from a skills standpoint, how many of them have you seen throw a 6 or 7 punch combination? Roy just did 'em in bunches as recent as January. Love him or hate him, even in his older age, the guy is still more talented than half the fighters we pay to watch, so the fact that he isn't always as exciting means very little to me. Bring it on! 5.) Last but not least, is Miguel Cotto/Oscar De La Hoya. Win, lose, or draw against Margarito, I'd like to see Cotto take this fight. For all the talk about Oscar being old and no longer at the top of his game, the guy has only been soundly defeated once, and that was against Hopkins. I can't think of another fight where it wasn't questionable, or not close enough to want to see him in a rematch. Cotto is a beast, and I'd like to see that match as a final farewell for Oscar to gauge his ability and for personal reasons, answer questions about his at-times-questionable legacy.

David Shaw (Seattle, WA): Do you think that Antonio Margarito being a career welterweight gives him an advantage over Miguel Cotto, and what do you think willl be the deciding factor in the end result?

Vivek W. (ESB): I think you have to consider a few things. The fact that Cotto started out smaller doesn't mean that he's necessarily smaller. Pacquiao is living proof of that. Some fighters go up in weight to make mega-fights but in appearance you know they are obviously not better off at the higher weight - (think Hatton). Then you have guys like Cotto who go up in weight because they gradually fill out their frame to it's natural structure. That being said, the fact that Margarito has fought at this weight most of his whole career - (welterweight since '96) - has got to account for something, but how much remains to be seen. In the ring on the night of July 26th, it'll all come down to skill. Fighters hydrate the night before fights and come in the ring heavier all the time anyway so I find this to be very much a non-issue. Margarito said that Cotto will abandon his normal routine of coming forward all night and try to box, therefore his plan is to combat this by throwing more punches and applying more pressure than he has in any fight of his career from the first bell. A great boxer typically defeats a great brawler all day long, but honestly, as much as I like Cotto in this fight, if Margarito gets him hurt, he'll close the show. Mos def. In order to win, Cotto will need to lose his pride and fight the kind of fight Floyd Mayweather did from time to time by picking his spots, landing his shots, and getting on that good ole fashioned bike by letting his footwork speak for itself. That's the only way to beat a guy like Margo. The only issue with this is that it will nullify Cotto's main weapon, because you can't throw vicious body shots going backwards, you have to be stationary. The natural weight fighter in this fight will have very little bearing on the end result. Due to reach, height, and work rate advantages, I think Cotto will have his work cut out for him.

Mayra De Los Santos (NYC/Puerto Rico): Does Bob Arum and Miguel Cotto entice Mayweather back to the sport if Cotto does the impossible and knocks Antonio Margarito out?

Vivek W. (ESB): I don't think neither Arum or Cotto can or care to entice Mayweather back regardless of how he defeats Margarito (if he does), but I do think at some point the pride factor kicks in for Mayweather and in what I would view as a rare G.E.W.T.W. moment (Pronounced JUDO - meaning Given 'Em What They Want), I see him returning to risk it all under those Vegas spot lights again for indisputable greatness and another larger than life payday. The very things he always wanted will have finally happened by then to set it all up. Remember, he said in so many words that if and when Cotto makes a bigger name for himself and defeats Margarito, he'll consider the fight but not until. He will have taken the extended time away from the sport he wanted, Cotto (if he wins) will have earned the respect of fight fans, the buzz for such a fight will have peaked, and the end culmination is that the pot will have sweetened while the plot slowly thickens. Sure, Mayweather will be back under the right circumstances. No enticing necessary. And as a huge fan who recognizes that there's still some unsettled business, I'd love to see it happen.

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Article posted on 03.07.2008

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