Fights That Keep Me Awake at Night

21.01.07 - By Chris Acosta: Every once in a while, a bout comes up that seems too good to be true. The circumstances are so impossibly perfect that you expect several sets of strings to be attached. As the days lead up to the fight, you feel a buzz that consumes your internal energy and makes the time slow to an almost unbearable crawl.

In my lifetime, it was Julio Cesar Chavez and Meldrick Taylor. You had two undefeated men with powerful reputations, willful styles and the kind of talent that took on a mystical quality. Of course we all know how it turned out and those final two seconds will be the subject of debate until that big meteor sends us into extinction.

But that situation was a cosmic favor and we know better than to expect the result to match our hopes. But this year could be a great one. I’m not speaking on behalf of too many prescription drugs or belated New Year optimism. I really mean this; from the heart even.

If the right fights are put together and I have a strong feeling they will, we could be looking at the kind of resurgence that might even return boxing to the pages of Sports Illustrated. For fans of boxing, it doesn’t get any better than the lighter weight classes which has been in a suspended state of bloom. Manny Pacquiao finished up his trilogy with Erik Morales in dazzling fashion and does one thing little guys at the world class level rarely do: knock each other out. Oh yes, the little guys can punch and they provide the most excitement but they also tend to usually go the distance. Manny goes for the finish every time. If he can get a re-match with the great Marco Antonio Barrera (whom he beat so decisively the first time) it’s a strong possibility that he’ll stop the Mexican again- only sooner. May 5th is a date I don’t even need to mark on my calendar because as we all know that’s the day the sports most popular fighter returns. When Oscar De La Hoya shows up somewhere, so do the crowds. The fact that he’s facing the man who most sane people regard as the best pound for pound fighter in boxing makes it all the better. This is going to be huge. Godzilla huge. It works on so many levels that I probably can’t even point them all out. I’ll try anyway.

It will be the highest grossing bout in the history of the sport. It will take boxing out of that tiny little Associated Press results column, that little two- inch piece of type tucked away in a corner that no one ever reads, and make the front page. It will give Floyd the chance to perform in front of his biggest stage, meaning that if he wins the casual fan will know who he is. And most importantly, it will be a good fight.

If we men put our jealousy issues away for a moment and look at what De La Hoya has done, we have no course but to give the guy respect. Think about it this way: if he were some bent –nosed pug with the same ability we’d be praising his fearlessness to fight the best. But he’s a good-looking cat who is way too popular and for some reason our wives or girlfriends (or boyfriends, nowadays) suddenly want to watch boxing when he’s on. That’s a tough pill to swallow.

Oscar has been a tremendous face for the sport and he’s fought so many world –class fighters that you wonder how in the hell that face is still symmetrical. I wouldn’t say he’s an all –time great in terms of accomplishments being as how he’s failed to definitively close the show in some of his bigger bouts. But the “Golden Boy” is talented, fights hard and has never squandered his prime years. You can’t ask for a whole lot more than that.

I was one of the dodos that picked Carlos Quintana to beat Miguel Cotto. I thought the southpaw would outbox the smaller man the way he did to the fearsomely reputed Joel Julio and for two rounds it looked that way. But Cotto quickly overwhelmed his fellow Puerto Rican with accurate blows to the head and body. Cotto is one of those rare fighters whose punches catch up with an opponent all at once. They’re not punches that can be shrugged off. Miguel’s fists are like guilt trips that just hang on you until you burst from the pressure. His win over Quintana was so potent that you wonder if those scares against DeMarcus Corley and Ricardo Torres were the result of the difficulty in making weight. If all goes right this year hopefully we can see him against Paul Williams. Dubbed “The Punisher”, Williams is the worst of many worlds. He’s too tall at 6’1” for most guys to get to, he’s incredibly aggressive and unlike most high volume punchers, he hits with imposing force. He does have some defensive holes but his chin appears strong. Could he run through Cotto the way he does everyone else? With a reach advantage of over a foot, is he just too big for the shorter man to land those painful body blows? Something tells me that their styles and wills to win will have that stinky stuff hitting the fan almost immediately. The heavyweights. Hmmmm. Now I know that most of you truly believe that guys like Bert Sugar are right and that we are in the midst of the worst heavyweight division ever but I disagree completely. I’ll admit that it lacks depth but the heavies have seen worse, namely that endless jab-a-thon that took place between the eras of Larry Holmes and Mike Tyson. In terms of entertainment value, it can work out for us fans if matched correctly. Wladimir Klitschko is the best we’ve got but it seems that in our assessments of all that is wrong with him, we’ve forgotten what’s right with him. Hey people! We have a giant-sized version of Roger Mayweather to watch and we’re complaining? Call me weird but I love a guy whose success and failure hinges, quite dramatically, on a couple of punches.

Admit it: you were waiting for Calvin Brock to land that same left hook hit Zuri Lawrence like an overdose of Ny-Quil.

But my heavyweight hope lies in two other guys named Sam Peter and Lamon Brewster. If this comes off it will make up for the fact that we never got to see Mike Tyson and David Tua get it on in the 90’s. What better way to jump-start the division than a fight with its two most reckless warriors? If I want something sweet I’ll drink a soda and if I want science, I’ll shake that soda up before I open it.

This is a fight that won’t have anyone moaning about the lack of jabs. Both of these men can punch, they’re both tough as hell and the only steps they ever take backwards are so that their opponents don’t fall on them. Let’s cross our fingers.

Edison Miranda reminds me more of Nigel Benn than Julian Jackson. He falls into the category of a fast puncher. He has decent skills and a mean disposition but I still don’t think anyone can match Jackson’s one-punch KO ratio against world-class fighters. Still, Edison has good stamina and is durable and he is on a course to meet Jermain Taylor who is the consensus as the world’s best middleweight.

What’s interesting here is that Taylor has yet to face a puncher like Miranda. He’s fought much better technical fighters like Bernard Hopkins and Winky Wright. But in each of those contests he showed a tendency to allow his emotions to get the best of him. Bad idea if the other guy is Edison Miranda. My suspicion is that the Colombian star will find the mark and score a sensational kayo. Feel free to comment on my lack of boxing knowledge for that prediction.

This is also the year that Bernard Hopkins will both waste our time and then give it back to us. Once he tunes up by fighting a completely shot Roy Jones, he says he wants Welsh phenom Joe Calzaghe. Talk about some intriguing sub-plots. Assuming he gets past Contender star Peter Manfredo Jr. (and we all know how smart it is to assume in this sport), Calzaghe and B-Hop will enter their mega-fight with a total of forty title defenses between them! More compelling than those title defenses are the parallels within them. There are the standard gimmes but many opponents like Robert Allen, Antwun Echols, Segundo Mercado (Hopkins side) and Sakio Bika, Byron Mitchell and Charles Brewer (Joe’s side) are the kind of tough foes who could easily snatch the title away from an unfocused champion. And both Hopkins and Calzaghe shined when presented with their biggest threats in Felix Trinidad and Jeff Lacy. Both boxers tend to fight to the level of their opposition which makes this assignment a salivating proposal. I mean, does the level of opposition get any higher for each man? Bernard has a knack for clock killing and sometimes Joe can be dragged into the doldrums by rivals who aren’t keen on opening up so this isn’t a sure thing in terms of action. But with so many commonalities and the knowledge that their careers are winding down, maybe that will inspire them to bring their best games.

These are just a few of the fights that pop into my head. There are more that we want to see and there are explosions that we won’t even see coming. No matter what the case may be, I am obviously feeling optimistic about boxing for the coming year.

Article posted on 22.01.2007

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