Looking ahead to a cracking year of boxing in 2004!

09.01.04 - By Jeff Day: As we say farewell to 2003 and the usual mixture of great fights, upsets and controversies, we can look ahead to a cracking year of boxing in 2004. Some things I would like to think will happen in the coming 12 months in the sweet science: Please, please, please retire Evander Holyfield. You have been one of the truly great warriors in the history of the game and enough is enough! Yes, you proved us wrong when coming back to regain the world heavyweight championship against Riddick Bowe in 1993.

Yes, you proved us wrong when everyone said you should retire after the 1994 loss to Michael Moorer after you suffered heart trouble. You again proved many of us wrong when taming Mike Tyson in 1996. At the time I remember thinking the fight with Iron Mike would be fun while it lasted, but I could not see you lasting past the third round. Even after the gift draw you received against Lennox Lewis in 1999, you came back in the rematch and probably did enough to earn a decision.

However, with only two wins in your last seven fights and without a stoppage win since the rematch victory over Michael Moorer in 1997, you must leave now while you still have to wherewithal to play with your kids and enjoy your vast fortune.

Defeats against the likes of John Ruiz, Chris Byrd and a 35-year-old former MIDDLEWEIGHT champion, James Toney will not affect the legacy you have left. At 41, it is time to put your feet up and ensure the rest of your life remains as happy and healthy as is possible. 20 years in the ring is more than sufficient for anyone and your resume reads like a who’s who of the fight game: Dwight Qawi (twice), Henry Tillman, Ossie Ocasio, Carlos DeLeon, Pinklon Thomas, Mike Dokes, Alex Stewart, James Douglas, George Foreman, Larry Holmes and Ray Mercer. Not to mention the aforementioned Bowe, Tyson, Lewis trio.

Since your debut on 15 November 1984 at Madison Square Garden you have been the ultimate fighting machine: too darn brave for your own good. I do not want to see you fight again!

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Where are you Lennox? Please spit or get off the pot. My guess is that Lennox Lewis has been chilling out in the Caribbean and put on 50 pounds. By the time he comes back he will have to lose weight to make heavyweight!!

Lewis, despite what the alphabet boys might say or do is still the world heavyweight champion, but must meet Vitali Klitschko in a return bout in 2004 if he is to retain credibility. My guess is that he is waiting for Riddick Bowe to come back. Bowe it is rumoured will return to the ring in June and Lewis would like nothing better than to destroy the remnants of the once superb Bowe.

I recently heard George Foreman state that Lennox Lewis was better than Ali. Well, as much Lennox has proved himself a modern great, his opposition pales in comparison to ‘The Greatest’s’. The greatest heavyweight of all time does not get blown away by the likes of Oliver McCall and Hasim Rahman, though both defeats were subsequently avenged.

As I write this, Lennox has announced that he intends to return against Vitali Klitschko in a rematch, but is looking for around 25-30 million dollars. If Lewis can whip his 38-year-old body into the condition it was in the rematch with Rahman and his meeting with Tyson, I still believe he can take out the giant Ukrainian by the halfway mark. Vitali may have had his best opportunity. Lewis is unlikely to take him lightly again.

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Joe Calzaghe surely deserves a superfight in 2004. Unfortunately, it is looking increasingly unlikely that the Welshman will obtain the career defining fight he yearns for: Bernard Hopkins is looking for smaller guys like Shane Mosley, Oscar De La Hoya and Ronald ‘Winky’ Wright; Sven Ottke will not touch Joe even in Germany. A move to light-heavyweight looks likely in 2004 for the current WBO super-middleweight king, although with Roy Jones set to move back to heavyweight and Antonio Tarver likely to move up to cruiser, Calzaghe would appear thwarted no matter what way he turns. At 30, time is running out for Calzaghe, but unbeaten in nearly ten years as a pro and with a 36-0 (29 inside schedule), I hope the next 12 months sees Calzaghe in a mega fight somehow, somewhere.

As Calzaghe has confirmed he will move to light-heavyweight if successful in his next defence against Armenia’s Mger Mkrtchian (no I did not type the name with my eyes closed. That is his name). Mger ‘earned’ his title chance by beating then number one WBO contender Freeman Barr. As long as the champion makes the weight without too many problems, he should have too much of everything for Mr Mkrtchian.

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Although former WBO heavyweight champion Herbie Hide may not necessarily look for trouble it does seem to find him with some ease. He states that he was attacked by 6 men at a nightclub in Norfolk (eastern England) last month and that he picked up a knife only after he was assaulted. He has been fined ?750.00.

Incidentally, Hide, having called out British rivals Danny Williams and Audley Harrison now seems to have turned his attention to a possible showdown with IBF king Chris Byrd. With Herbie’s china chin it would seem the best high profile match for him as Byrd punches about as hard as Britney Spears!

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Robin Reid and his camp have launched a protest to the IBF following his Reid’s controversial points defeat by Sven Ottke in Germany (where else) last month. Quite frankly, the officiating by referee Roger Tillermann was a disgrace. With Reid not having been officially credited with a knockdown together with the fact that he had a point deducted for a foul that simply did not happen is outrageous and is yet another black eye for boxing’s already battered image.

We await the decision of the IBF on 22 January to see if the Englishman is given the rematch he richly deserves. Even if he gets his just reward, the former WBC champion is likely to have to return to Germany. Ottke may decide to retire anyway and from what I have seen of him in his recent fights this is probably advisable anyway.

Ottke must be the luckiest champion of the modern era. He has received debatable decisions against Charles Brewer (twice by split decision), Thomas Tate (technical decision), Anthony Mundine (coming from behind to flatten Mundine in the tenth round), Byron Mitchell (split decision), David Starie (unanimous decision), Mads Larsen (majority decision) and the aforementioned Christmas gift against Robin Reid.

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If Lou DiBella, who guides the career of former Olympian Jermain Taylor has anything to do with it, his man will challenge Bernard Hopkins for the World middleweight championship some time in 2004.

The Arkansas man has a record of 18-3 (13 inside schedule) and is coming along nicely. However, If Taylor does get badly beaten by the mercurial champion then DiBella will receive a hammering from the boxing press. If Taylor pulls off what will likely to be the result of the year, DiBella will be applauded for his timing and insight. Such is the fine line between disaster and triumph in the noble art. Hopkins will be 39 next week and even he will be outfoxed by father time at some stage if he does not quit when ahead.

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The first big fight here in Britain of 2004 must be the third meeting between British and Commonwealth heavyweight champion Danny Williams and Michael Sprott. When they first met in February 2002, Williams retained his titles with a 7th round stoppage. Sprott had taken the fight at short notice and basically ran out of steam. That is not to say that Danny may not have been victorious anyway, however.

Michael then went on an eight fight winning streak before meeting Williams again in September 2003. The challenger was seemingly ahead when Williams began to hit Sprott low. The 28-year-old Sprott was actually given a count in round 4.

Despite being warned previously by referee Terry O’Connor, Danny hit Sprott low again in the fifth round. At this point Michael turned to the referee to complain with his hands down, thus committing the cardinal sin of not protecting himself at all times. Danny showed his gratitude by throwing a left hook flush on Sprott’s chin which knocked his man out. Therefore, due to the controversial nature of the ending the British Boxing Board of Control have mandated this third meeting.

I expect Danny to win once more, but he may have to travel into the last third of the fight on this occasion. It will be interesting to see what route Williams then takes. He was taken apart by then European king Sinan Samil Sam in Germany in February last year. The obvious match is a summer meeting with Audley Harrison or with English champion (yes, we English champions again after a century or more) Matt Skelton. At 30, 2004 is surely make or break for Danny.

Article posted on 09.01.2004

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