Rising and Falling: June 2008

I think I'll make this a monthly feature. It's a fun way to kill some time and talk some boxing. Let's get to it.

up_arrow_medium.gif One of my favorite Jim Lampley calls ever came in the first round of Pacquiao-Marquez I: "Manny Pacquiao is a storm!" You're damn right he is. Pacquiao's brutal dismantling of David Diaz on Saturday night took out any doubt about whether or not Pacquiao deserves to already be talked about with the all-time greats. Manny is an immensely significant fighter in historical terms now. A four-division titleholder (112, 122, 130, 135) who has fought the best and beaten them. Manny should be treasured while he's still fighting. And what's great is that at age 29, he's not slowing down, really. He did look a little off in his second win over Barrera last year, but he also dominated that fight and won an easy decision.

Pacquiao says he felt stronger and faster at lightweight. And he looked every bit like that statement was true. I mean, we knew Diaz wasn't on Manny's level.  Not really, anyway. But he made Diaz look like a slug in there. David made no bones about it, talking Pacquiao up as though he'd just fought the best boxer in the world. For my money, right now, he did. Pacquiao is No. 1 until someone does something really special, and that's with all due respect to Calzaghe or Cotto or anyone else. He beat the daylights out of Diaz, and after nine rounds of fighting a rugged guy, Manny didn't look like he'd taken a single shot.

down_arrow_medium.gif Edison Miranda's days where folks will take him seriously as a contender against top-flight opposition are over. Done. Kaput. Finito. The next time Miranda has a fight coming up, maybe he should just keep quiet. Try that strategy out. He talked big last year against Pavlik, and got manhandled. He talked big this month against Arthur Abraham, and Abraham unquestionably shut his mouth with a vicious fourth round TKO.

"Pantera" is what he is, a big-punching guy with very limited skills. He will always be very exciting to watch, because any one of his right hands could signal goodnight for his opponent. But guys that can box and punch are going to rip him up. Simple as that. If he fights Jermain Taylor -- which HBO is interested in -- then I'd expect Taylor to eat his lunch.

up_arrow_medium.gif Before the month of June started, no one knew who in the hell Deandre Latimore was. Now we know. Latimore scored the Upset of the Month on the 11th of June, outworking Sechew Powell on Wednesday Night Fights in the main event, stunning the IBF's No. 1-rated contender at 154 pounds. Latimore now may be in line to face red-hot James Kirkland on October 4, which is the tentative date for another Gamboa/Kirkland/Angulo triple-header on Boxing After Dark. (Angulo is rumored to be facing punch machine Andrey Tsurkan in what could be a barnburner.)

You know what the difference was? Latimore showed up to do his job. Powell showed up thinking the fight was an easy pickin's header into a shot at IBF titleholder Verno Phillips. Powell also had marijuana in his system and is now suspended. What a moron. Hopefully it'll take longer than just his suspension to see him on TV again. He has been very unimpressive during his run at a title, which came crashing down two weeks ago, having a LOT of trouble with Ishe Smith in between losses to Latimore and Kassim Ouma, who destroyed him back in 2006.

down_arrow_medium.gif But even more than Miranda and yes, even more than Powell, one other fighter saw his career hit the wall on Saturday night. Heavyweight Tye Fields was always a project, a 6'8" basketball player that started boxing at 24 when his hoop dreams petered out. With a series of uninspiring knockout wins over bums, tomato cans, washed-up shells, and nobodies, Bob Arum loved to dream big on the whitebread giant from Missoula, Montana. Maybe he saw Fields as an All-American boy, a two-sport athlete that would bring heavyweight boxing back into the hearts of middle class America.

Well, that'd be all well and good if Fields had any natural ability in a ring. Any at all. A single shred of it might have been nice. He's a lumbering galoot whose punches are not only slow, but completely mechanical, like a guy that learned to throw a football without ever having seen a football game, merely studied an instructional manual. His footwork was non-existant. Nothing about Tye Fields was going to make him a real contender in pro boxing.

So thank you, Monte Barrett, for ending the charade. Never again in the middle of a show for which boxing fans have plunked down 50 hard-earned bones will we have to see this pud fight.

up_arrow_medium.gif Big gainer this month? Sergio Mora. In the past, I have been very harsh on Mora. He earned a good lot of it. Last December, I named Mora as boxing's biggest loser of 2007. Bad business decisions and then a bad performance near the end of the year had left Mora's career dead in the water. Toilet water, at that.

But his win over Vernon Forrest this month did more than just give him the WBC 154-pound title. He earned the respect of a lot of people -- I'll be honest, one of them was me. I'm sure Sergio Mora doesn't care whether or not I respect him as a fighter, but he showed up and out-fought Forrest on June 7. I hope Vernon respects him now, following his distasteful and obscene comments about Mora and Jeff Wald prior to the fight. Not only did Mora not leave on a stretcher, he left with Forrest's belt.

Vernon wants a rematch because of the contract calling for one. Something has to be done about all these rematch clauses. Look, Mora won, and that was a pretty big deal. But does anyone really want to see them fight again? The fight wasn't any good. It'd be a lot like Malignaggi-N'dou II, a rematch of a one-sided fight that nobody had any interest in seeing besides Lovemore N'dou. That fight never should have been allowed to happen. Mora-Forrest II is similarly unwanted. Rematch clauses are for suckers. If a rematch is desired by the paying public, it will be made, because it will make dollars and sense, y'all.

down_arrow_medium.gif Joe Calzaghe worked long and hard to gain respect in America, and he finally did it for most true boxing fans in the States, either against Lacy, Kessler or Hopkins. But now that we've largely accepted him as one of the best in the world -- and in my opinion, the best 168-pound fighter ever -- it looks like he's back to some of his old tricks.

He's split with Frank Warren, which may get in the way of his September showdown with Roy Jones, Jr. HBO wants Golden Boy to help promote it, but both Joe and Roy are totally against the idea, wanting no big-name promoters involved -- that is, no Golden Boy, no Top Rank, no King.

Calzaghe's last two fights have not exactly done gangbusters business in the States. The fight with Kessler drew a terrible rating on HBO despite the network's best efforts in promoting the fight as a real event, and HBO wound up gravely overpaying for the Hopkins fight, perhaps in an effort to save themselves from an embarrassing buyrate had they taken the bout to pay-per-view.

Assuming it actually goes down, Joe is saying that the fight with Jones will be his last. What? He's going to fight a very faded, 39-year old Jones and call that his legacy? The human being in me definitely sees this as pretty admirable, don't get me wrong. Joe's a guy obsessed with his "0," but more than that he's getting older himself, doesn't want to get hurt, doesn't want to hang on past his relevance expiration, and all that jazz. I understand that, and if he does say goodbye, I will doff my cap to him.

But the boxing fan in me wants Joe to fight on. So many good fights to be made. And he's such a great competitor. When Calzaghe gets his gameface on, he's a lot of fun.

up_arrow_medium.gif Barring perhaps the Vazquez-Marquez rematches, when's the last time you were so anxiously anticipating a fight the way I have to guess we all are with the July 26 showdown between Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito? If any fight can top Vazquez-Marquez III for Fight of the Year in 2008, it's this one. Two of the toughest, most active fighters in the sport today going toe-to-toe? God, who's going to miss this baby? We're a month out and I just cannot wait.

down_arrow_medium.gif Back to the Calzaghes, but this time let's talk about Enzo Calzaghe. He's got several fighters under his wing, but the big boys in his camp are definitely his son Joe, Enzo Maccarinelli, Gavin Rees and Gary Lockett, the latter of whom only joined the first three thanks to a ridiculous mandatory wipeout against Kelly Pavlik this month.

It's been a rough year for Papa Enzo, hasn't it? First, Macca was hammered out within two rounds against David Haye on March 8. Two weeks later, Rees dropped the WBA 140-pound strap to Andreas Kotelnik via 12th round TKO. And this month, Lockett was annihilated by Kelly Pavlik inside of three rounds.

You can drop Lockett off, he's not a global fighter. You might want to drop Rees off from being considered a serious contender, too, because his upset of Souleymane M'baye last year was absolutely a big upset. So that leaves Macca and Joe. Maccarinelli has never really shown anything terribly special, though he remains a top 10 cruiser. That means we have Joe. "Team Calzaghe" is certainly all about Calzaghes.

up_arrow_medium.gif Good for Nonito Donaire and James Kirkland getting out of their deals with Gary Shaw. I honestly try to shut up most of the time about promoters, because they take a lot of heat, much of it deserved. But Gary Shaw has always come off as the worst of the worst to me. Shaw pitched a fit after Vazquez-Marquez III about what was a great officiating job. Shaw's the guy trying to infiltrate mixed martial arts and put a black eye on that sport with EliteXC. Shaw's had plenty of nasty splits with fighters, that always sound more personal than most splits do, and that's saying something. Both Donaire and Kirkland -- represented by Cameron Dunkin, who also manages Kelly Pavlik -- complained that Shaw simply wasn't living up to promises to keep them active, which both need to do. Fair enough. Donaire has moved on to Top Rank, and hopefully Kirkland will find a new home soon enough. Here's to seeing both of these exciting young fighters more often.

down_arrow_medium.gif This isn't a falling stock, really, but big, big, big, big thumbs down to FOX Sports Net for choosing to air the July 16 rematch between Hasim Rahman and James Toney. If FSN wants to air boxing, they should try to find something better than junk rehashes between dead-fist fighters like these or Tony Thompson-Timur Ibragimov at the Playboy Mansion. FSN's view of the sport is hopelessly stuck in the past, as they think -- they really think -- that people want to watch these God awful boring heavyweight fights. And I guarantee that Rahman-Toney II stinks out the joint. Toney in particular deserves no more shots at redemption or glory.

up_arrow_medium.gif Big kudos to Golden Boy Promotions for setting up two excellent lightweight fights in September on back-to-back weekends. On September 6, former three-body titlist Juan Diaz looks to rebound from his first career loss when he fights bruiser/bleeder Michael Katsidis in what is, on paper, a Fight of the Year-type of deal. Both guys punch in bunches and are relentless at their best, neither with one shot power in their gloves. And the following weekend, we get Ring champion Joel Casamayor facing pound-for-pound star Juan Manuel Marquez in what could be a sensational fight if both guys show up strong, which I think they will. Like Pacquiao-Diaz last night, that's not a fight I'm terribly excited to be paying 50 bucks for, but I'll do it. For one thing, I'd like to throw my 50 dollars in toward fighters like Marquez and Pacquiao. If I'm going to pay for PPV shows -- and I will -- then at least give me the good fighters, and not the dregs.

No kudos for the fact that Campbell-Guzman is taking place on September 13 on Showtime, though, up against that pay-per-view. I get the feeling a lot of folks will skip Casa-JMM in favor of the "free" Nate-Joan fight, but I can't do it. I like Nate Campbell a lot and I think Guzman is a hell of a boxer, but I'm 95% certain that Casa-Marquez will be the much better fight. Guzman is exceptionally talented, but rarely makes for compelling TV. And I don't think Nate can outpoint him, so he'll have to knock Joan out. Tough thing to do.

down_arrow_medium.gif Carlos Quintana is back in the position where he's going to find it damn hard to get good fights. After beating Paul Williams in February, he found himself a titleholder in what was considered boxing's best division (a distinction that now has to go to the 135-pounders). After being blown out in less than a round in the rematch, he's now in the dreaded spot of being too risky for a lot of guys to take a shot against. A rumored fight is pitting Quintana against fellow Puerto Rican Kermit Cintron, who lost brutally to Margarito in April. Perfect spot for both guys, but Quintana might be tailor-made for Cintron's power punching.

up_arrow_medium.gif Good news for the Puerto Rican fans, though, came in the form of Juan Manuel Lopez, who bombed Daniel Ponce de Leon with right hooks on the Pavlik-Lockett undercard. Lopez has the tools and explosiveness to challenge anyone at 122 pounds right now. And I mean anyone. He's the real deal.

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