Amir Khan and Freddie Roach will go back to work on December 11 against Marcos Maidana, live on HBO. (Photo by John Gichigi/Bongarts/Getty Images)
I did a thing in October highlighting some of the best fights to come for the rest of the year, and I liked doing that so much that I think I'll do this on the first of every month now, unless the first of the month happens to be a Friday or Saturday, in which case I'll do it a couple days prior. So a few days before the first fights of any given month. Some months will stink, some will be great, but there's always fights out there to be found.
10. Said Ouali v. Randall Bailey, Dec. 10
Ouali (27-3, 19 KO) and Bailey (41-7, 36 KO) aren't super serious contenders at 147 pounds, but both have their fun qualities. Bailey, of course, is famous for his rocket launcher right hand. He may still be the best one-punch puncher in the sport today
As for Ouali, he's just a lot of chippy action. His fight with Hector David Saldivia on the Mayweather-Mosley card was great fun for as long as it lasted (all 1:47 of it), with both men hitting the canvas. This is an IBF eliminator in Belgium, which would set the winner up for a shot at weak titlist Jan Zaveck. Bailey actually won an eliminator in his last fight for the IBF belt, knocking out Sugar Jackson Bonsu in one. Ouali's win over Saldivia was a WBA eliminator, so maybe he's collecting those the same way that some fighters collect belts, and he'll have his kids walk to the ring with a bunch of pieces of paper that confirm his mandatory challenger statuses.
9. Luis Alberto Lazarte v. Ulises Solis, Dec. 18
Lazarte (48-9-1, 18 KO) was a hand-picked opponent for Carlos Tamara in May, as Tamara, who needed to defend the IBF 108-pound belt he'd won from Brian Viloria in January, basically admitted they took what they felt was the easiest challenger that the IBF would approve from their rankings. Instead of a gimme defense, Tamara lost the belt in a split decision. The 39-year-old Lazarte defended against Nerys Espinoza on September 4, but now he's in with one of the long-running big dogs at 108 pounds. Solis (32-2-2, 21 KO) has taken it pretty easy since losing to Viloria in 2009, but lo and behold, here he is knocking on the door of his second IBF title. "Archi" Solis is a quality fighter who should be fairly heavily favored, but his fights are usually at least a little fun.
DeGale (8-0, 6 KO) is in my opinion Britain's best prospect, regardless of weight class. In just his ninth pro fight, he's challenging Smith (29-1, 15 KO) for the British super middleweight belt. DeGale toned down the theatrics and nonsense a bit at the first Magnificent Seven show, wiping out solid veteran Carl Dilks in 2:54, and if he comes with that sort of fire again, Smith is in huge trouble. It's not that Smith can't fight, because he can, but talent-wise, DeGale is on a different level from the general domestic-level fighters. Smith's last fight saw him bleed a good amount from head clashes against Tony Dodson, but he soldiered through the gore and won a 12-round decision. Maybe he'll give an overconfident DeGale a scare, or maybe DeGale rips through him. It's the best fight of the "Return of the Magnificent Seven" show.
7. Humberto Soto v. Urbano Antillon, Dec. 4 (Top Rank PPV)
Soto (53-7-2, 32 KO) has been roundly criticized by a few vocal writers and bloggers recently, yours truly included, for his crap level of competition. But he's a good fighter. That's why we care that he doesn't fight the best. Antillon (28-1, 20 KO) is the best opponent Soto has faced since Joan Guzman beat him in 2007. Urbano lost in an upset last year to unheralded Miguel Acosta, but that doesn't look so bad now that Acosta has also knocked the crap out of Paulus Moses to win the WBA lightweight title. If you consider Antillon an underdog here, he's a live one. As an aside, doesn't it seem weird to think that in 2007 a lot of us really wanted to see Soto fight Manny Pacquiao?
6. Lamont Peterson v. Victor Ortiz, Dec. 11 (HBO)
Ortiz is back into the big leagues with this one. Peterson is not exactly a special fighter, but he's good and talented, and I remain unconvinced that Ortiz is anything special himself. Since losing to Marcos Maidana when he quit last year, Ortiz has gone 4-0, beating three washed-up guys and one journeyman. He has been "impressive" because nobody presented any resistance. Peterson (28-1, 14 KO) should at least give him more of a fight than Nate Campbell, Vivian Harris and Antonio Diaz did, and we won't even mention that Hector Alatorre fight (oh, oops). If Ortiz is impressive against Peterson, then he becomes a legitimate contender at 140, and he becomes one because he'll have earned it against a good fighter. If he fails against Peterson, he can still come out looking good, but it will just add to the lingering doubts about his future.
5. Jean Pascal v. Bernard Hopkins, Dec. 18 (Showtime)
This could and likely will be an ugly, dull, downright goddamned boring fight. I know I'm not Bernard Hopkins' biggest fan, but I still point to his struggles against Joe Calzaghe and Jermain Taylor as the way to beat him: guys who can move and don't let Bernard lock into a pattern give him trouble. I thought that made Roy Jones an improbably live dog against B-Hop, but then Roy decided that moving was for suckers, and that standing on the ropes and staring into Bernard's beautiful eyes was the way to go. Oh well. Pascal is a dumb fighter. I realize that sounds harsh, but how else do you want me to put it? He wears himself out, takes really unnecessary risks with his bizarre lunging in and running out, and just doesn't do anything the smart way. What saves him is athleticism and toughness, and frankly he could have the sort of awkward, annoying style to take the old man out of this fight. Or else Hopkins and Naazim Richardson will look at the tape, figure it out, and take Pascal to school. I think this fight will suck, but I'm kind of eager to see it play out. I've only got so many more chances to watch Bernard Hopkins fight, and though I've never really counted myself as a fan of his, I admire his career greatly and will probably miss his presence when he's gone, and he should have been gone about five years ago.
4. Vic Darchinyan v. Abner Mares, Dec. 11 (Showtime)
3. Yonnhy Perez v. Joseph Agbeko II, Dec. 11 (Showtime)
Both very good fights. Darchinyan is a hoot, of course. The last time he fought a really good boxer was Cristian Mijares, a fight I felt favored Darchinyan greatly, which was one of the rare times I'm really right about something. Almost everyone was picking Mijares, who had risen into P4P top 10 lists based on the strength of his decimation of Jorge Arce, who hadn't really been good in years. I never really saw it with Mijares. But I do like Mares quite a bit. He showed toughness against Perez earlier this year in a very good fight, and he's got credentials. If Vic doesn't go overboard with his stupid uppercuts and all that jive, I think he ekes out a good win in a good fight. But if he's overly arrogant about his chances, Mares would box his ears off. It's not that Vic cant' box, he just likes to forget that he can sometimes. Perez-Agbeko I was a great fight on Halloween night 2009, and the rematch has plenty of potential, too. The only thing I'd note as a possible spoiler for a quality bout is that Agbeko hasn't fought since then.
2. Marco Huck v. Denis Lebedev, Dec. 18 (ARD)
It will get no pub in the States and little anywhere but Germany, but this could be lights the hell out. Huck (30-1, 23 KO) has feasted upon Americans this year, blitzing Adam "Swamp Donkey" Richards, Brian Minto and Matt Godfrey in three, nine and five rounds. All those guys did come to fight, but Huck's power and roughneck style overwhelmed them in the end. Lebedev (21-0, 16 KO) is owner of a Knockout of the Year candidate from July over Alexander Alexeev (go to about 9:30):
1. Amir Khan v. Marcos Maidana, Dec. 11 (HBO)
Everyone said Khan was ducking Maidana, so here it is. Maidana really struggled in his last fight and, I've got to be honest, I think we've probably overrated him as boxing fans -- all of us. He's a really crude fighter with great power. Of course Khan's chin sucks (and I'm a huge Khan fan), so maybe that's all Maidana will need. Maidana may not be as good as he got made out to be after beating Victor Ortiz, but he is as fun as he's made out to be. He's tough, too. But the difference in pure skills and especially hand speed will be striking. But it's the fight people wanted Khan to take, and he's taken it. Hopefully he'll get at least a shred of credit for that.
Sleepers, Name Fights, Etc.
20-year-old phenom Saul Alvarez takes on undersized, aged Lovemore N'dou on December 4 in Mexico ... The rest of the Top Rank PPV features Nontio Donaire against Wladimir Sidorenko at 118 pounds, Pawel Wolak against Jorge Pinzon at 154 (or some catchweight around there) and Mikey Garcia against Olivier Lontchi at 126 ... Antonio Pitalua faces Ed Paredes on December 10 in Kissimmee, Fla. in what could be a wicked little fight ... Kell Brook (v. Philip Kotey), Nathan Cleverly (v. Alejandro Lakatos), and Matthew Macklin (v. Ruben Varon) are all in action at The Return of the Magnificent Seven on December 11 ... Ryan Rhodes returns to action on December 4 against completely untested Brazilian Rocky Junior (11-0, 6 KO), who is 39 years old and has never fought outside of South America ... Lukas Konecny defends the European 154-pound title against Hamlet Petrosyan on December 3 ... Joksan Hernandez fights for the sixth time in 2010 when he faces Jorge Lacierva on December 11 in Mexico ... Ricky Burns defends his WBO super featherweight belt against Andreas Evensen on December 4, with a Paul Appleby-Joseph Laryea fight as the co-feature, likely an attempt to set up an all-Scottish showdown between Burns and Appleby ... Chris John faces no-punching Fernando David Saucedo on December 3, which means John is back up to his old tricks ... Fernando Montiel faces Eduardo Garcia in a non-title fight on December 11, which will be a co-feature to another possible sleeper fight, as Cristian Mijares challenges Juan Alberto Rosas for the IBF super flyweight belt ... Hugo Cazares defends his super flyweight trinket on December 23 against soft touch Hiroyuki Hisataka.
Heavyweights in December
I'll admit something: I'm unlikely to ever consider a heavyweight fight these days to be one of the ten best fights globally in a single month. I don't like watching heavyweight boxing and for all the talk of "anything can happen with the heavyweights," it's all quite predictable these days. But there are plenty of notable fights in what used to be the sport's glory division, at least notable for the division as a whole. At this point I almost consider heavyweight boxing a totally different thing than the rest of the sport, so save for the rare actual promising heavyweight matchup that might somehow result in a good fight, heavyweight fights will just go in their own section.
Champion Wladimir Klitschko defends against underprepared Dereck Chisora on December 11 in Germany ... Odlanier Solis and Ray Austin meet in a WBC eliminator on December 17 in Miami ... Tomasz Adamek faces Vinny Maddalone in Atlantic City on December 9 ... Alexander Dimitrenko and Albert Sosnowski meet December 4 in Germany ... former cruiserweight champ Jean Marc Mormeck has home field in Paris on December 2 against Timur Ibragimov ... and veterans Fres Oquendo and Oliver McCall are scheduled to fight on December 7 in Hollywood, Fla.
Honorable (?) Mentions: Veterans Keep Kicking
There are a handful of fights that basically feature The Stars of Yesteryear this month, too.
The best of these fights is probably the December 18 bout at 140 pounds between Erik Morales (50-6, 35 KO) and Jorge Barrios (50-4-1, 35 KO). Both Morales and Barrios are warriors, and age can't take that from them. Their speed and reflexes may be withered, but they still come to fight, and I honestly expect this is going to wind up being quite a little war. Morales is 2-0 in 2010, his comeback year after retiring following five losses in six fights between 2004 and 2007. Neither of his wins (Jose Alfaro and Willie Limond) were all that impressive, but neither of those guys are complete pushovers either, so I'll give him that much. Barrios, on the other hand, just returned in October with a 10-round win in Argentina over veteran can Wilson Alcorro, making 135 pounds. So he'll still be going up in weight to face Morales, but neither of them are really junior welters (or even lightweights) to begin with, so it's basically a couple of old, worn-out guys fighting heavy. Still, when you put TWO worn-out guys together, you have what amounts to an even matchup. Two bad fighters -- which these are not -- can still put on a tremendous scrap, so there's no reason Morales-Barrios shouldn't be fun to watch, really, even considering Morales' quest for that world title in a fourth class is kind of nuts.
Also in action: Ricardo Mayorga fights December 17 in Miami against Michael Walker, who is 1-5-1 in his last seven and has seen his once-formidable beard get cracked in the process. Keep in mind all Ricardo Mayorga fights are extra, extra "card subject to change" material ... Jeff Lacy is fighting on December 11 in Saint Petersburg, Fla., for something called the "Universal Boxing Organization" super middleweight title, which quite frankly is just sad. Lacy's opponent is Dhafir Smith (23-19-7, 4 KO), and despite his record, I wouldn't count him out. Lacy is just beyond finished and hasn't fought since his August 2009 embarrassment against Roy Jones Jr. ... Paul Malignaggi makes his welterweight and Golden Boy debuts on December 18 in Quebec City against Michael Lozada ... Mike Anchondo keeps trying to get back when he faces Dmitriy Salita on December 16.