As we wait impatiently for March to roll around and pit the two best pound-for-pound fighters in boxing against one another, I got to thinking about what one single fight in any given division would be most desirable for me as a boxing fan.
It's not always just the guys I have ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in my personal rankings, or the guys ranked 1-2 in anyone's rankings. It's not always about significance. Sometimes it's just about making a great fight. So I figured, why not run through the divisions and figure out what fight I'd most want to see in every division?
Heavyweight: Wladimir Klitschko v. David Haye
Not Wlad-Vitali, even though that would "settle it" and would surely be a huge, totally unique fight in the history of major boxing. For me, it's Wlad-Haye, because I think that is potentially the most exciting bout out there. Haye's speed, power and ability to move around the ring makes him a threat. Neither he nor Wladimir have the best chins on the planet. The last time I saw Wladimir consider himself to be in any danger was against Calvin Brock, who had opened up a pretty nasty cut. For as much guff as Wlad takes for being too cautious when it seems he could turn up the heat and put someone away, it's understandable that people think this way. Because when Wlad turned up the heat on Brock, he knocked him out fierce.
I get the feeling Haye would get Wladimir in a bit of a spot, and get him out of his comfort zone. They've also built up some real animosity over the last year or so, and Wlad might take more than his usual business-like approach to this matchup.
Cruiserweight: Tomasz Adamek v. Steve Cunningham II
I know Adamek is campaigning at heavy now, but it's no doubt he can still make the cruiserweight limit, and his team has said that if the right fight (money) came along, they'd do it. I still feel a bit miffed that we never got a rematch of this fight, one of the all-time greatest in the relatively short history of the division. I like Marco Huck just fine, and Cunningham-Huck II would be my second choice, but Adamek-Cunningham still seems unfinished to me. That's a fight that could have turned into a great, great rivalry, and it just didn't come about. I still foolishly hold out hope we'll see it happen.
My 1-2 here are Bernard Hopkins and Chad Dawson. To be totally honest, as much as I respect both of them and feel that fight should happen, it's not exactly one I'd be clamoring to see. Given their styles, it would run the risk of being not just a "disappointing" fight, but a downright horrible style clash.
Given the likelihood of Hopkins-Dawson being a stinker and the fact that I don't expect to see either of them in too exciting a fight, I turn to my Nos. 3 and 4 guys in the division. Pascal has a run of exciting fights going for him, and Cloud was an awesome ball of energy when he got a chance to step up and face Clinton Woods on ESPN2 this summer. Cloud had a non-stop motor and I'd love to see him take that aggressive nature into the ring against Pascal. Simply put, I think this is a fight that could be just magnificent fun to watch.
Super Middleweight: Lucian Bute v. Arthur Abraham
I don't mean to short Andre Ward, but I'd love to see Bute and Abraham match tactics. I think this could be an explosive sort of chess match fight. We've seen Bute hurt, and I think Abraham is stronger and far better than Librado Andrade. This is one of the harder divisions to pick, because I have to shut off my brain telling me how impossible many things are given the ongoing Super Six World Boxing Classic.
Honorable Mention: Carl Froch v. Librado Andrade
This. Would be. A war. Either man against Sakio Bika would also be awesome, and I hope Bika-Andrade happens now that both of them could use one another.
Middleweight: Kelly Pavlik v. Paul Williams
Almost happened several times now, but hasn't. Now, it has to. Look, not only do they have a score to settle with all the outside the ring back-and-forth, but it's easily the best possible fight at 160 pounds, and tremendously intriguing on paper. Yes, PW is a hell of a fighter and has shown he can get through a war, but Pavlik is a legit middleweight and still hits like all hell. Plus his best punch (the straight right) is commonly known as the southpaw killer. Styles make fights, and I think these styles might make a Fight of the Year contender.
Junior Middleweight: James Kirkland v. Alfredo Angulo
I'm not saying these are the two best fighters in the division, but this division is awful. I'm not saying there aren't good fighters, it's just that almost all of them are unlikely to match up with another one and give you a pleasing fight to watch. So I'm willing to put off any decision and wait for Kirkland to get back in the ring. There's really nothing I'm rooting for more than JK getting out of jail, getting his career back on track, and keeping it on track. He's SO much fun to watch, so ferocious and reckless and fearless. He's very, very strong, takes a good shot, and fights like it's what he was born to do. Angulo's no slouch as a pressure fighter and this is a fight I can't see going past four or five rounds, but my God what a scrap it could be.
Alternate Choice: Sergio Martinez-Kermit Cintron II
I thought their first fight stunk, but after the weird restart when they kicked up the fire, it got better. Who knows? There's nothing else I think would be much better among the relevant fighters, either.
Welterweight: Manny Pacquiao v. Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Backup Choice: Shane Mosley v. Joshua Clottey
I was nearly as bummed about this potential fight getting scrapped as I was by the Pavlik-Williams disaster. Clottey is tougher than leather left out in the desert sun, and Mosley still has gas in the tank. I thought this was a terrific fight on paper.
Junior Welterweight: Timothy Bradley v. Marcos Maidana
Plenty of attractive fights to be made in this division, many centering on Tim Bradley. Bradley-Devon Alexander, Bradley-Hatton, Bradley-Khan, Bradley-Holt II. But mixing the ever-improving game of Bradley with the explosive Maidana sounds like a killer deal. Bradley's got a lot of guts and has some of that Shane Mosley blood in him, a guy who can really box but has that desire to throw down when it gets right down to it. And Maidana is perfectly willing to get into a war, trusting his firepower to win out.
Marquez is on the last leg of his career, probably, and Valero is as dangerous a puncher as we've seen in years. Part of me thinks that Marquez would have his lights turned out early at this point. But Valero has never faced a boxer near Marquez's level, either.
This is another division where there are plenty of really good fights on paper. Marquez-Diaz II, Marquez-Soto, Valero-Soto (really might be the best), Valero-Funeka, Marquez-Funeka, Valero-Katsidis, etc.
Junior Lightweight: Robert Guerrero v. Malcolm Klassen II
One of the year's most underrated fights was Klassen-Guerrero on the Diaz-Malignaggi I undercard. The HBO team played it as though Guerrero routed Klassen; he didn't. Klassen fell into a hole early, but stormed back into the fight and was right there until the end, giving Guerrero a hell of a fight. I'd love to see these two hook up again.
Featherweight: Chris John v. Cristobal Cruz
I know this probably isn't anyone else's pick, but I think this one could be an absolute blast and a wild, wild fight. John came to the U.S. this year and beat Rocky Juarez twice, though the fight in Houston was scored a draw. But in both fights, John got into trouble when Juarez let his hands go.
Cristobal Cruz has no trouble letting his hands go. He's as reckless and relentless as they come, and I get the feeling he'd be absolute hell for John, who also showed a willingness to mix it up that many of us didn't know was there before the first Juarez fight.
Junior Featherweight: Celestino Caballero v. Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym
Juan Manuel Lopez is going to featherweight, so he's out here. My pick in his coming absence is Caballero-Poonsawat, which would be quite a sight. Caballero is a bit under six feet tall, while Poonsawat is listed at 5'3" or so and might not even be that tall.
Bantamweight: Yonnhy Perez v. Joseph Agbeko II
Much as I'd like to see Hozumi Hasegawa face Perez, I think I'd rather see a rematch of this fantastic war even more. It's just a better fight on paper, I feel. Perez and Agbeko proved their worth in their amazing Halloween scrap, and I hope we see it again in 2010.
Junior Bantamweight: Nonito Donaire v. Vic Darchinyan II
Only fight in the division I'm really interested in. There are plenty of fights I'd be happy to watch, but this one kind of has to happen. I think Nonito beats Vic basically every time, but Vic's power is always going to be a potential game-changer. Still, they've been talking about each other for over two years now, and it's time they settle it in the ring.
Flyweight: Koki Kameda v. Pongsaklek Wonjongkam
Pong and Daisuke Naito had a hell of a rivalry, but with Kameda putting Naito on the back burner, Pong now has a different WBC titlist to chase. I think Kameda dominates this fight; he clearly beat Naito, and Pong has probably lost a step or two. Kameda is too strong and too fast. Really, it's a bit of a waiting game I think. I expect Kameda to put this division out to pasture for a while until someone else rises, or he moves up in weight.
Junior Flyweight: Ivan Calderon v. Brian Viloria
Really, I think I'd rather see Viloria-Solis II, but the potential torch-passing here is too much for me to pass up. Given that Calderon has clearly slowed down some, I think a focused Viloria might well put an exclamation point on this one. For years, Brian was frustrating. He seems to finally "get it" fully now, and with Calderon struggling twice this year with the more limited Rodel Mayol, this one could see the Hall of Fame-bound "Iron Boy" in real trouble.
Strawweight: Roman Gonzalez v. Raul Garcia
My 1-2 in the division. I've never had any problem admitting this is easily the hardest division in the sport to follow and to accurately analyze unless you specifically make it your mission to follow it, which is difficult enough.
Those being my picks, what are yours?