Clearing the Waters - 5 fights that need to happen over the next 18 months

26.06.06 - By Derek Cowan: With some potentially meaningful fights having taken place during 2006, not much has really been determined in several of boxing's divisions. While many of the match-ups have been topnotch, several of the fights have been either dull, controversial, or meaningless in a sport that needs clarity in order to attract the casual fan. The diehard followers will always be tuning in and keeping up, but boxing is drowning in an attempt to recapture it's place among the most popular sports in America and the world, simply because there seems to be no consistency..

Seventeen weight classes, four recognized boxing federations, and some promoter/boxer combinations who seem to be more interested in lining their own pockets rather than being concerned with the state of boxing have muddled things up over the last twenty years. With all that being said, there has actually been ample opportunity THIS year to clarify things.

In March we saw Joe Calzaghe destroy Jeff Lacy only to fall back into inactivity with yet another injury, and we are now going on four months since that fight with no scheduled match in sight. Jose Luis Castillo knocked out Diego Corrales in October 2005 in a contoversial bout after Castillo failed to make weight, and then of course created the debacle of failing to make weight yet again in a third fight in 2006 that was properly canceled. Floyd Mayweather defeated Zab Judah on April 8th in comfortable fashion, but this bout already had onlookers scratching their heads to begin with, since Zab had just been upset by Carlos Baldomir in January.

Since then we have seen Mayweather and Antonio Margarito fail to make a deal, presumably because Mayweather was in the process of making a fight with Oscar De La Hoya, who has now put his career on hold. Wladimir Klitschko pummeled Chris Byrd to reclaim one of the four pieces of the heavyweight title, while James Toney and Hasim Rahman stumbled around the ring to a draw in a bout that more accurately resembled a "Huggie Bear" contest instead of a championship fight. In May we saw Ricky Hatton make his welterweight debut, only to squeak out a win against a relatively unknown fighter in Luis Collazo in a fight that many believed should have been a draw or even a Collazo win. A week later, we were all treated to a great fight between Marco Antonio Barrera and Rocky Juarez only for it to be called a draw, and then a win for Barrera due to a mathematical error on one of the judges scoring cards.

Can we not make a rule to allow a calculator to be present at ringside? And most recently on June 17th, we saw another good fight between Jermain Taylor and Winky Wright end in a draw that left everyone feeling dissatisfied. In all fairness, we did get to see Oscar De La Hoya completely dominate Ricardo Mayorga, and Bernard Hopkins do the same to Antonio Tarver, but both of the winners have decided to either put their careers on hold, or retire leaving their respective weight divisions in somewhat of a quagmire. All of these matches, and again many of them quality, yet what questions have actually been answered? I am afraid not many.

So, what is to be done? Over the next eighteen months there are five fights that need to take place that will not only provide fans with exciting contests, but also help boxing make some sense of itself. Here they are in no particular order:

Jermaine Taylor vs. Winky Wright

This fight is an absolute must, not only because the first resulted in a draw, but because it deserved to be scored a draw. These are the two best fighters in the world at 160lbs., and they fought a very exciting fight right down to the wire. I scored the fight (115-114) for Winky, but only because I had one round even. This fight was as close and difficult to call as I have seen this year, and despite Winky's protest, there should be a rematch. Both fighters have something to prove in my opinion. While they both did most of what they had planned at certain points during the fight, both also failed to maintain their tactics. Winky might feel that he was robbed, but if he hadn't taken a few of the late rounds off by attempting to stay away, he could have sealed the deal. On the other hand, and much to the dismay of Emmanuel Steward, Taylor refused to stop backing into a corner and allowing Wright to dictate the pace, rather than staying in the middle of the ring where he was having much more success. We need a winner in this fight to call the best among the middleweights. It could also set up a potential match with the winner of the Arthur Abraham/Edison Miranda fight set to take place in August, which would go even further in the attempt clear things up at 160.

Floyd Mayweather vs. Ricky Hatton

This has been a fight that many have wanted for a while. Both hold welter weight titles, and a win for either would go far in straightening out a loaded division. With Hatton having what many believed to be a sub-par performance against Collazo, it is believed by many that this would be an easy fight for PBF. I disagree, as styles make fights, and these two are complete contrasts of each other. Mayweather is the best in the world, but not unstoppable. A style like Hatton's is the only way to beat Floyd at 147 and below. You simply cannot plan to fight him from the outside. A good boxer like Zab tried and could not do it. A bomber like Gatti tried (for reasons I am still unsure of) and got cut to pieces. You must put pressure on Floyd by cutting down the distance and keeping it cut down for 12 rounds. This is Hatton's type of fight, and regardless of the outcome, it would be a sensational action packed match. Castillo had a similar style and gave Mayweather the best two fights of his career. It gives us a chance to see if Hatton's struggles during his first fight at welter were simply due to a tricky opponent at a new weight, or if Hatton needs to drop back down to 140. Either way it will entertain and clarify, and while Margarito may seem to be a more dangerous threat to Floyd, it is the style match-up that Hatton presents that is most appealing.

Wladimir Klitschko vs. Nikolay Valuev

After watching Calvin Brock look very average against Timor Ibragimov, I am even more concerned with the heavyweight division than before. Rahman, Lyakhovich, Toney, Byrd, Maskaev, Brewster, and several others are simply not that good, or past their prime. Samuel Peter might be a real threat, but still has much to learn, and I fear that as he ages he will really begin to battle weight problems. Klitschko is simply the class of the division, and Valuev is a freak show that many will tune in to see. Having seen Valuev struggle and maybe even lose to Larry Donald, a relatively slick boxer, I don't see how he can survive with Wladimir. Valuev has a decent punch due to his immense size, and we have all seen Wlad fall victim to his suspect chin, but that is the only real chance I can see Nikolay having. Regardless of the chances of this being a great fight, it is very interesting, and would again go along way in beginning to sort through the heavyweight division that is thick in mediocrity.

Manny Pacquiao vs. Rocky Juarez

In order for this fight to happen, several things must take place. First, Manny must defeat Oscar Larios on July 2nd, and then possibly Eric Morales in a tentatively scheduled match set for November. Next, Juarez must beat Marco Antonio Barrera in a rematch looking to happen in September. The latter seems to be the more difficult task, but I predict it will happen. In a rematch you can bet that Juarez will get it going a lot sooner than he did the last time out when he gave up critical rounds early in the fight. I also think that Barrera being the older fighter by six years, and having nearly 40 more fights on the odometer is going to begin to show the wear even more in a rematch. If all of this pans out, we could be treated to a match with these two in the spring or summer of 2007, provided everyone stays put at an agreed upon weight. WOW! What a fight this would be. I get excited simply thinking about the possibilities!

Joe Calzaghe vs. Mikkel Kessler

This match would depend on Kessler defeating Beyer in October, assuming it goes through. Both of these guys seem to have trouble making it to actual fight dates. It would seem that if Kessler is able to defeat Beyer, this fight would be a no brainer. Right? But this fight may be the most difficult to match. Both like to fight on their own turf and don't stray away from home too often. It is definitely the best match at 168, and if Kessler beats Beyer and Calzaghe fights once prior to this possible bout, you could have two guys with a combined record of 80-0 fighting to unify titles. Now that is boxing! With this division being a little thin, the winner might need to move up to 175 for better action eventually, but wouldn't it be great to actually have a winner!

I am sure there are other exciting fights that can and will be made to finish out 2006, and lead into 2007. I just hope they do something in clearing up the mucky waters of our beloved sport. I long to see boxing reach the level it deserves among the other elite sports being watched on our televisions, but too often matches are made that mean absolutely nothing to anyone other than those receiving the checks. This is an insult to us the fans, and another right hook in a series of combinations to the face of boxing.

Article posted on 26.06.2006

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