Something I thought might be fun to do is look at the full month's schedule of fights, and rank them in order of awesomeness, for lack of a better word. Those who believe that the November 13 fight between Manny Pacquiao and Antonio Margarito is really the best fight of the month are, well, sorely mistaken. So here's a look at what are, in my opinion, the 15 best fights of November.
15. Robert Stieglitz v. Enrique Ornelas (Nov. 20)
Stieglitz (38-2, 23 KO) and Ornelas (30-6, 20 KO) fight for Stieglitz's WBO super middleweight title in Germany on the 20th. It's what I would call a three-star fight on a five-star scale. It's competitive on paper, should be a decent scrap in terms of action, and has some relevance in its division. It's certainly not the level of fight we're going to get into later on this list, but I'll probably set aside some time that afternoon to catch this one. Ornelas, like his brother Librado Andrade, is a hard-working, likable fighter. And he'll be looking to pick up his first major title at age 30, in what is his first shot at a major title. His brother beat Stieglitz in 2008 on HBO, and Enrique will be looking to make the family 2-0 against the titleholder, who seems content to avoid fighting the division's top-tier names for the time being.
14. Celestino Caballero v. Jason Litzau (HBO, Nov. 27)
I like this fight because I like that Caballero (34-2, 23 KO) backs up his big talk. It's not that Litzau (27-2, 21 KO) is some great fighter or anything, but this has some spoiler potential on paper for Caballero. Litzau, at 5'10", will not be dwarfed by the 5'11" Caballero as many fighters have been, and it will be Caballero's first real fight at the 130 pound limit (he fought there in 1999 for one fight in his fourth pro bout). Caballero is madly chasing the big-name featherweights, none of whom seem to want anything to do with him. Litzau is the major underdog and hasn't been much fun to watch in a while now, but a win for him would give him a career rebirth of sorts. I like this one, even though the fight could be a stinker.
13. Edwin Rodriguez v. James McGirt Jr. (SHO, Nov. 5)
A nice fight between a guy on the rise (Rodriguez) and a guy looking to regain his status as a fighter to watch (McGirt). The son of Buddy McGirt has hit the wall, it would seem. He was stopped by Carlos de Leon Jr. in 2008, and last year was upset by journeyman Angel Hernandez. He also drew with Marcus Upshaw between those losses. Right now, he's won three in a row, but the tough and strong Rodriguez (16-0, 12 KO) is his first real test since his last loss. Rodriguez has been hammering his competition in the northeast so far, and the 25-year-old prospect is starting to turn a few heads.
12. Tommy Oosthuizen vs. Isaac Chilemba (SuperSport 2, Nov. 6)
Brick mentioned this one in this week's schedule, and I'll just quote him. This might be the best fight of the month that so few people will notice even happened.
On paper, this is a spectacular matchup between two very good super middleweight prospects for the IBO title. While it's likely that very few have heard of these two outside of South Africa, this one has built up significant buzz within the nation. After an early career loss, Chilemba has rattled off dominant wins over Charles Adamu, Doudou Ngumbu and Charles Bolling, against whom he won the IBO title. Oosthuizen was originally supposed to face Bolling for that title, but when Oozsthuizen had to pull out due to a car accident, Chilemba swooped in and dominated one of Australia's better prospects. This usurpation has led to some serious bad blood between Chilemba and Oosthuizen, and the hype probably isn't hurt by the Afrikaner vs. native aspect of the fight either. This could be an incredible style matchup, as Oosthuizen is a 6'4" southpaw who can punch, and Chilemba is a flashy speed merchant who has enough power to keep opponents honest. Regardless of the winner, it seems that both men have the talent to make noise on the world stage.
11. Zab Judah v. Lucas Matthysse (HBO, Nov. 6)
Judah is making a bit of noise as he's probably on his last life as a potential major-scale player in the sport. 33 doesn't sound old in black-and-white terms, but boxing is a whole different ball of wax, and Super Judah has been so up-and-down since 2006 that he really better be focused and serious about this second run at 140 pounds. Judah (39-6, 27 KO) will be facing the hard-punching Matthysse (27-0, 25 KO). Matthysse had some real trouble the shadow of Vivian Harris earlier this year, while Judah came back to spectacularly lay waste to Jose Armando Santa Cruz. No one is going to argue that the Santa Cruz fight was a super serious matchup for Zab, but he looked fit, focused, and determined for the first time in years. He's signed with Main Events, the promotional company that might be most operating at the peak of its capacity these days. They're not messing around in keeping their fighters active and building live audiences for them. Judah canceled a lesser fight on October 2 to step into this HBO date, so it appears he's finally committed to his career.
10. Raul Martinez v. Rodrigo Guerrero (Fox Deportes, Nov. 20)
This is another one likely to largely go unnoticed, but it's a really good matchup. Quietly, Martinez (27-1, 16 KO) has become one of the best super flyweights in the world. His only career loss came to Nonito Donaire in 2009, and he's gone 3-0 since then. Guerrero (14-2-1, 9 KO) is better than his record. He started his career 2-1-1 and scored an upset of long-time contender Luis Maldonado in 2009. In March, he was despicably matched up with Vic Darchinyan, which resulted in one of the worst beatings of 2010, but miraculously, he stood up to Darchinyan's relentless barrage for 12 full rounds. It remains to be seen if Guerrero is going to become a long-term top guy, or if he's more likely to go the way of Rafael Concepcion and turn into a one-upset journeyman before his time. This fight will tell us more about the young "Gatito," who beat veteran Federico Catubay in July.
9. Robert Guerrero v. Vicente Escobedo (HBO, Nov. 6)
WARNING! This fight could be Dullsville, USA. Guerrero (27-1-1, 18 KO) is not exactly known for his exciting bouts, including his last stink bomb against Joel Casamayor in July. Currently, Guerrero is working his way up the lightweight ladder, looking to win a recognized title in his third weight class (he's won belts at 126 and 130). But Escobedo (22-2, 14 KO) is no pushover. The worry about Escobedo is the same as it's always been. He just doesn't fight enough. He fought in March, beating veteran Mexican Carlos Urias, and before that was last seen in a slugfest loss to Michael Katsidis on the Mayweather-Marquez card last year. This fight does lean toward snoozer, but there's that chance it's a competitive, watchable fight. It's not likely to be too great or anything, but if nothing else it's a fight between two pretty good fighters.
8. Guillermo Rigondeaux v. Ricardo Cordoba (HBO PPV, Nov. 13)
I like this one more than a lot might, I suppose, but Rigondeaux (6-0, 5 KO) is just one of those exceptionally talented guys I like watching, and Cordoba (37-2-2, 23 KO) is by far the best opponent he's faced as a pro. Of course, as we've noted here before, he's also exactly the sort of guy that the Cuban amateur legend tends to dice up, but at least if this resembles Rigondeaux's first six pro fights, we'll know we've got a legitimate top super bantamweight on our hands instead of just a guy who seems like one.
7. Andre Ward v. Sakio Bika (SHO, Nov. 27)
Another one I like more than most might, because I think this could be the dirtiest fight of the year. Andre Ward is very good, but he is not going to bully Sakio Bika the way he did the soft Mikkel Kessler or the easily-discouraged Allan Green. Bika is a mean dude. Check out what happened last time he felt he'd been wronged in a fight:
As good as Andre Ward is, I don't think he'd like Sakio Bika when he's angry, and all that chippy stuff that Ward likes to employ is sure to get under Bika's skin.
6. Hozumi Hasegawa v. Juan Carlos Burgos (NTV, Nov. 26)
Very interesting fight, this one. Hasegawa (28-3, 12 KO) is jumping up two weight classes to go after the WBC featherweight title after a big TKO loss earlier this year to Fernando Montiel at bantamweight. Word was that he'd been struggling with the weight for a while, even during his very impressive run of KOs that had him creeping up P4P lists before the Montiel bout. Burgos (25-0, 18 KO) is 22, but has faced a bit better competition than a lot of 22-year-old unbeaten prospects. He can punch, and is a legitimate featherweight. He's also seven years younger than Hasegawa, who will be giving up two inches of height to Burgos. If Hasegawa can't get it done against the youngster, then his future starts getting pretty murky. A loss could mean an attempt to go down to 122 pounds for the Japanese star, which might be ill-advised. This might simply be a case of a good fighter who can't make his optimum weight anymore and doesn't have it to truly compete higher than that. We saw it with Arturo Gatti as a welterweight, for instance.
5. Carl Froch v. Arthur Abraham (SHO, Nov. 27)
A lot of folks think this has Fight of the Year potential, and truthfully, every one of these top five fights do have the ingredients for that type of memorable night. Froch (26-1, 20 KO) and Abraham (31-1, 25 KO) are both coming off of their first career losses, and are two of the three original Super Six participants that remain in the tournament. With Kessler and Dirrell dropping out, this fight doesn't have the do-or-die type implications it used to. In fact, chances are quite high that their next fight is going to be a rematch, which is going to look pretty awful if one of the dominates this fight, and might even ring the church bells to signal the Super Six's inevitable premature demise. If they were to be scheduled into a semifinal rematch after a one-sided first bout, would the loser want to come back for more? Even more than usual, the folks at Showtime must be praying that this is a great fight.
4. Manny Pacquiao v. Antonio Margarito (HBO PPV, Nov. 13)
We'll have plenty more on this. I'll say you could even argue that this fight should be No. 5. As you may be able to tell, I have not yet caught Pacquiao-Margarito Fever, and with each passing day it seems less and less likely that it's going to get me. But stranger things have happened. I got Mayweather-Marquez Fever, after all. In short, I am a real dumbass sometimes when it comes to getting excited for boxing.
3. Juan Manuel Lopez v. Rafael Marquez (SHO, Nov. 6)
The big one this weekend, and you know it's a hell of a month when this is the third-best fight. I'll also note before I go into any praise that I think along the same lines as Jake Donovan's latest column at BoxingScene.com. In short (and I do recommend clicking and reading), don't bow down and kiss the feet of the U.S. networks for a couple of great months to close out 2010. We sat through 10 months that alternated between mediocre and nearly non-existent. We as boxing fans deserve good fights. It's nice that we're getting them, but don't run out to buy the HBO and Showtime execs a Christmas present.
But this is a great fight. Our full preview has my more detailed thoughts.
2. Sergio Martinez v. Paul Williams II (HBO, Nov. 20)
Does it get much better than this? Legitimate middleweight championship, rematch of a great fight from last December, and we're also talking about two guys who are good arguments for top five pound-for-pound status in the sport. This is a marvelous fight, and it almost seems like The Lost Fight of the month's big four. Martinez was once a guy I thought had built up a nothing, fluffed-up record. Another Argentine fighter who would fail if he ever bothered to step up. Not only was I wrong about Martinez's ability, but gloriously so, and given the way he fights and carries himself, I couldn't be happier to have been so wrong about him. He's a wonderful fighter, and Tall Paul seems to thrive when he's tested (the first against Martinez, the Margarito bout, the rematch with Quintana). Martinez will test him. Chances are this one is a lot more tactical than the first shocking slugfest, but you never know until they hit each other, as they proved 11 months ago.
1. Juan Manuel Marquez v. Michael Katsidis (HBO, Nov. 27)
If you have a problem with this fight, I have a problem with you. Reigning lineal lightweight champion Marquez (51-5-1, 37 KO) defends his title against hard-charging, never-surrender Aussie Katsidis (27-2, 22 KO) in a fight that -- knock on wood -- cannot be a bad fight. Marquez has slowed to the point that he almost seems to prefer getting into slugfests where he can still use his excellent counter-punching accuracy, while Katsidis has never been one to turn down a blood-drenched war. Add in the fact that Katsidis has dedicated this, the biggest fight of his career, to the memory of his late brother Stathi, and you've got the recipe for an emotional, memorable night, and an utter war of a fight. There has not been a fight in 2010 I have looked forward to more.