Zsolt Erdei will face Tavoris Cloud on December 31. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Showtime has put the finishing touches on a pair of shows to close the 2011 calendar year in boxing, and while the December 30 show may worry more folks than it intrigues, the New Year's Eve double-header has some zip.
On Friday, December 30, former middleweight world champion and super middleweight contender Jermain Taylor will return to the ring, as has been previously reported on numerous occasions. Taylor (28-4-1, 17 KO) will fight for the first time since his troublesome KO-12 loss to Arthur Abraham on October 17, 2009.
Though I'm in the camp that worries about a Taylor comeback, one thing that should be noted is that Taylor almost surely would have fought again by now if it weren't for his contractual ties to the Super Six World Boxing Classic. It's probably no coincidence that with the tournament wrapping up on December 17, both Taylor and Andre Dirrell are in return talks.
The 33-year-old Taylor will be facing Jessie Nicklow (22-2-3, 8 KO) in a return to the middleweight division, and Taylor has also reunited with Pat Burns. Burns said he wouldn't work with Taylor again if he couldn't pass medical tests, and Taylor did so. He also went to Nevada to do it, and not West Virginia or some other state with notoriously lax commissions. Taylor vs Nicklow will be taking place at the Verizon Center in Taylor's hometown of Little Rock, Arkansas. As an opponent, Nicklow is probably just decent enough to beat Taylor if Taylor has nothing left, but isn't a big puncher and isn't a big risk. Jermain wouldn't be expected to take a tough opponent in a normal, off-TV comeback fight, and this is about as good a fighter as you could expect for a "special ShoBox."
The New Year's Eve show may get a few more people excited, as a pair of major titles will be on the line.
In the main event, IBF light heavyweight titleholder Tavoris Cloud (23-0, 19 KO) will return to action against Zsolt Erdei (33-0, 18 KO). Erdei, 37, has become a more exciting fighter in recent years, mostly due to losing a step, and has proven he can win a tough fight. Cloud, 29, is of course a high-energy guy who will press the older fighter and give him plenty to attempt to hold off.
It's a good fight for both. Erdei has been trying to get a title shot or a bigger fight, and with this matchup he gets both at once. Cloud just keeps plugging away -- eventually, he might be the guy that the division's champ, whoever it is, will have to face.
Also on the card will be the 122-pound title fight between Rico Ramos (20-0, 11 KO) and Cuba's Guillermo Rigondeaux (8-0, 6 KO). The 24-year-old Ramos won the WBA super bantamweight belt with a comeback knockout of Akifumi Shimoda on July 9, a performance that met overall mixed reviews in Ramos' first real stab at the big stage, and a fight that is somewhat forgotten since it was the HBO co-feature to the infamous Williams vs Lara fight.
Rigondeaux, 31, has made a pro career of mixed reviews, with almost everyone seeing his obvious boxing skill and enormous ring IQ, but many feeling that the amateur legend plays it exceedingly safe, and is all too happy to win boring, uneventful fights.
Both are significant fights, and I'm thrilled that Showtime is introducing a New Year's Eve card. Maybe it wouldn't happen if it wasn't a Saturday night, but New Year's Eve fight shows and pro wrestling shows have been a big deal in Japan for years, and I see no harm that comes of getting these guys on the TV that night. It would be a fun tradition for Showtime to pick up. Promoters pushed had to get their fighters on this show, so the interest was there.
Cloud vs Erdei and Ramos vs Rigondeaux will take place at the Convention Center in Anaheim.