Midway through 2011: looking back and looking ahead

By Mark Klimaszewski: So far, 2011 has been a pretty good year for boxing. Some unexpectedly good match-ups and fights have taken place. We’ve had some thoroughly entertaining contests in the first half of this year like Rios v Acosta, Lee v McEwan, Ortiz v Berto, Salido v Lopez, Morales v Maidana, Katsidis v Guerrero and Arce v Vasquez among others. Out of the above, it’s hard to pick a standout that should get fight of the year honours.

Most fans I speak to would go for Ortiz v Berto. Indeed, it was a great fight with all the drama one could ask for. Early knockdowns, back and forth action, some good exchanges, both guys hitting the canvas; yes it was certainly a war.
Rios v Acosta was a damn good number too. A classic ‘head-down brawler versus quick counter puncher’ fight. The Bull against the Matador. Rios won himself alot of respect and a boatload of fans with his dramatic, crowd pleasing effort that saw him take the WBA Lightweight strap from the Venezualan after dropping him several times in an all action fight.

Then there was the shocking first defeat of Juanma Lopez. In what turned into a shoot-out for pretty much all of the 8 rounds it lasted, Salido caused the upset and stopped the previously unbeaten Puerto Rican in a somewhat controversial ending. Gripes about a premature stoppage aside, it was a great battle and certainly one to remember.

The other fights mentioned all had their fair share of drama and action aswell. Arce proved he still has the grit and determination to capture another belt (up at super bantamweight) in a superb fight against Vasquez. Katsidis got outclassed by an excellent Guerrero but still made the fight an exciting one (as he is known to do). Morales shocked us all by displaying his warrior spirit once again in a ‘turn back the clock’ effort against hard hitting Maidana, losing a wafer thin MD on the cards (where many feared for his safety before the fight and claimed he would be KO’d badly).

So what can we look forward to in the latter half of 2011?

In terms of all action, ‘fight of the year- type fights, my money is on Rios v Antillon. Urbano gave Soto all he could handle in December of last year and fights in a similar, rugged, head-down style to the WBA champ Rios. What’s not to love about this match-up? Expect toe to toe action from the start as both men try to outwork each other and out-muscle each other. Talk about war of attrition; this could be the best fight of its type since Gatti v Ward I.

Unbeaten European lightweight champ John Murray (who never gives a dud performance in my book) will face off against former world title challenger Kevin Mitchell in a British showdown that could very well end up being a classic. All depending on what Mitchell can bring to the table (in his first showing since losing to Katsidis) of course. If Mitchell isn’t rusty and has the hunger back he could turn the heat up and draw Murray into a firefight (which is just how Murray likes it) and we could end up with another candidate for fight of the year.

King Kong Agbeko will face undefeated Abner Mares in the final of Showtime’s bantamweight tournament that started last year. Mares has impressed in a brilliant scrap against Yohnny Perez (a pitched battle to a draw that was one of 2010’s candidates for F.O.T.Y honours) and narrowly outpointing a game Vic Darchinyan in the first round of the tournament last December. Agbeko has proved he is a tough -as-nails, awkward opponent for anyone by decisioning Darchinyan back in 2009 and beating Perez (after losing to him on points previously) in a tough fight in December. Round 6 of that match up was the best round of last year in my book! These two finalists squaring off will decide the last man standing in the tournament, and could be a belter. Agbeko is a hard man to look good against due to his off the wall style and willingness to mix it up. He will take shots to get them off and has a granite chin (only hitting the deck once in his career against Perez in their first fight). Mares has proved he has the skillset and heart to be in this position and will give the Ghanaian all sorts of problems. Showing he can battle it out in a clinch-less, top drawer effort against Perez and proving he could go through the trenches with Darchinyan, Mares certainly has me excited and this could be a classic fight to finish off the tournament.

Then of course we have the mainstream fights getting all the press. Haye V Klitschko and Pacquiao v Marquez III. There’s not much I can add about these much discussed fights. I feel whilst Haye v Klitschko is certainly an intriguing match-up, in my opinion it’s never going to live up to all the stratospheric expectations surrounding it. I guess that’s the downside of over hyping something. And when was the last time we saw a heavyweight contest that could be seriously considered for F.O.T.Y honours, eh? My guess is Klitschko will control the fight with his reach and make it an unexciting jab-led affair. However, if Haye can close the distance and land some flurries? Well, then it could turn it into something else entirely. Wouldn’t it be great if David managed to draw Wladimir into a firefight? Wouldn’t it be great to see Wlad go to war like he did against Samuel Peter in their first meeting (way back in 2005)? If the Hayemaker manages to bring out Dr Steelhammer’s aggressive side, then we could be in for a treat. I will reserve judgement and just wait to see what unfolds on fight night.
As for the rubber match between Marquez and Pacquiao? Well, I’ve already voiced my opinion on this match up previously on these very pages, and I just don’t see it being anywhere near as competitive as the first two fights. Lord, I hope I’m wrong. Because if Marquez can pull it out and the weight differential has no bearing on things then it just might surprise me and be better than all the others I’ve mentioned........

Watch this space.

Article posted on 12.06.2011

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