Vitali Klitschko and Shannon Briggs will drop the smiles on Saturday in Germany. (Photo by Krafft Angerer/Bongarts/Getty Images)
This weekend we'll have live round-by-round coverage of three cards, starting with two on Friday and then one on early Saturday evening. Let's take a look at the "big" three for the weekend. At least it's something.
What a miserable month this has been for boxing fans. The last time I truly sat down and watched a fight live, it was that Mosley-Mora card. That's been the taste in my mouth for almost a full month. I'm really glad we're getting some fights, and that in a few weeks we start an insane schedule littered with terrific fights, but this has been rotten.
Super Middleweights - 12 Rounds
Lucian Bute v. Jesse Brinkley
With all respect to Jesse Brinkley, who is a tough veteran, this is no challenge for Bute. Though I have Bute No. 1 in the BLH rankings at super middleweight, and truly feel he's a very good fighter who deserves that ranking, I'm not as impressed by his resume as I am his skills. The best fighter he's beaten was Sakio Bika in 2007. Since then, he's beaten Alejandro Berrio, William Joppy, Librado Andrade twice, Fulgencio Zuniga and Edison Miranda. He's beaten these guys impressively, except the first Andrade fight which had some controversy at the end (and we've been over it enough, so I'm not starting that again), but he should have. None of them are really very good fighters. They're all roughly the same level as Brinkley. Berrio, Zuniga and Miranda can all really punch, but they're severely limited fighters and we all know that. They're one-dimensional guys. Andrade's greatest asset is his toughness. Offensively, he's slow and relies on his ability to wear down opponents while they fail to wear him down. He's got rudimentary skills, especially compared to a guy like Bute, who just seems to get slicker, better and stronger as he advances.
So I'm not trying to bash Bute, but it's hard to defend his resume, and Brinkley isn't going to add much to it. He will beat Brinkley, and probably knock him out. But there's some of the rub, and why I think Bute has gained so many fans not just at home, but in hardcore fan circles, too. A lot of top guys in Bute's position -- with limited prospects for opponents for the time being -- tend to box up and down to the ability of their opponents. Bute doesn't do that. He always comes out looking like he's prepared to face the absolute best competition he possibly could, even if it's just someone like Fulgencio Zuniga or washed-up Joppy. Expect nothing less against Brinkley. Bute TKO-5
Heavyweights - 10 Rounds
Antonio Tarver v. Nagy Aguilera
For my money, this is the most intriguing fight of the weekend. That's not because I think Tarver has any real future as a heavyweight, because I don't. He's a 42-year-old light heavyweight, and Aguilera's claim to fame is a fluke win over a cold, faded, and unreliable Oleg Maskaev. Aguilera has returned to earth since then, getting demolished by Samuel Peter (TKO-2) and losing a 12-round decision to journeyman Maurice Harris.
Skills-wise, Tarver still has a bit in the tank, and he's a smart fighter. But in his two wide and boring losses to Chad Dawson, you could just see that time has taken its toll on him physically. Hell, you could see it in wins over Elvir Muriqi and Danny Santiago, too. He's not beaten up, just aged, slowed down, and that bit reluctant or unable to pull the trigger. The only time Tarver has looked good in the last few years came against Clinton Woods, who himself looked absolutely rotten in that fight and was dealing with some tragedy in his personal life at the time. That's no excuse, it's just what it is.
Years ago, I wouldn't even have to think about this. Tarver was a really good fighter and even undersized would have given Aguilera an easy boxing lesson. But I've seen him have trouble with Elvir Muriqi in recent years. He wasn't even close to being in the fights with Chad Dawson. Given that Tarver is going to be putting on somewhere around 40 pounds at age 42 for his first fight really over light heavyweight as a pro, it's fair to wonder if maybe this is just one fight and one risk too many. Aguilera has absolutely nothing to lose here. If he comes out winging power shots, there's a chance he catches old Tarver cold and puts him to sleep, same as he did Maskaev. I'm taking Tarver by cautious decision in a fight that looks more like sparring than a fight, but there's a lot of risk here, even against someone as mediocre as Aguilera. It will not surprise me in the least if we see Tarver knocked out and retired. Tarver UD-10
Heavyweights - 12 Rounds
Vitali Klitschko v. Shannon Briggs
We've said it plenty here, but I just can't really argue with this fight. There just aren't many guys willing to actually fight the brothers anymore. Briggs at least had the sand to step up for a big payday and take his shot. This is going to be a brutally ugly fight, as Vitali does not take risks anymore unless he's totally certain there's no danger, like against Albert Sosnowski, and even then he wasn't exactly reckless. Briggs is tentative to the point that he sometimes only barely resembles a boxer. He'll shoot that big right hand -- and it is still a big right hand -- but he doesn't do a lot to set it up. That'll work against the likes of Rob Calloway, Dominique Alexander, and Rafael Pedro, but this is Vitali Klitschko. Expect no fireworks, a lot of Vitali jabs, and an overmatched-looking Briggs. It's worth noting that Briggs hasn't been stopped since 1998 (Lennox Lewis), and that run could end here, though it seems like it might be more likely a corner stoppage than a beatdown. Klitschko RTD-9