As we start July, it's time for the summer boxing schedule to heat up. The biggest fight this month, obviously, is Mosley/Vargas II, on Saturday, July 15, from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Their first fight, in February, was a war, with Vargas' left eye swollen to grotesque proportions and the fight stopped as a result of the physical damage he took.
But for as good as he got, he gave pretty well, too. Mosley took a hell of a beating of his own in that fight, and may have been lucky to have had the fight stopped when it was. If it hadn't been, Fernando Vargas may well have been able to pull out the victory. The scores at the time of the stoppage had Mosley ahead 86-85 on two cards, and behind by the same score on the other.
Mosley/Vargas II is the centerpiece of the month and of the summer. Vargas has not scored a truly impressive win in years, since beating Ike Quartey in 2000. Since then, he's beaten Ross Thompson, Wilfredo Rivera, Jose Alfredo Flores, Fitz Vanderpool, Tony Marshall, Raymond Joval and Javier Castillejo, while losing to Felix Trinidad, Oscar de la Hoya and Mosley. If Vargas is to remain a serious player, he needs this win. He'd hardly be washed up at 28, but his reputation could use a shot in the arm right now, badly.
As for Sugar Shane, the 34-year old has won three straight fights after being humbled two times by Winky Wright in 2004. Mosley beat David Estrada and Jose Luis Cruz before stopping Vargas.
Truth be told, Mosley and Vargas likely both had their marketability given new life because of their February clash. It was a brutal, outstanding battle that proved the mettle of both guys. To expect something similar in the rematch may be letting expectations get the better of you, though. Both camps will have learned from the mistakes made in the first fight, and I'd actually expect something a little more cautious from the two fighters, at least through the early rounds. If they come out firing, I'll be surprised.
On the same night, Felix Sturm will put his WBA middleweight title on the line against Javier Castillejo. Sturm, at 25-1, has only lost to Oscar de la Hoya in his career, and while de la Hoya did come in soft, it was a close fight, and many will argue that Sturm won the bout. This fight will take place in Hamburg, as most Sturm fights do. He has only once fought in the US (against Oscar), and only three other times outside of Germany (twice in Hungary, once in Croatia).
I consider the journeyman Castillejo somewhat dangerous here. He's 38 years old, but a lot of fighters are peaking late these days. Javier went a full ten with Vargas last August, so his chin is still there, and Sturm is no big hitter to begin with. If Castillejo can overcome the home field advantage for Sturm, he could win the fight. He probably won't do it if it goes to the cards without a dominating performance, but Castillejo has a shot, I think. Just not a very good one. For a Felix Sturm fight, I'm more interested in this one than usual.
The Saturday before those fights, Roman Karmazin and Cory Spinks will square off for the IBF light middleweight title on Showtime, from the Savvis Center in St. Louis. Spinks (34-3) has not fought since losing the WBC, WBA and IBF welterweight titles to Zab Judah in their rematch via ninth round TKO in February 2005, and has fought just three times since 2003.
The Russian Karmazin hasn't lost since Castillejo (who seems to have fought somebody in every fight ever) beat him in 2002, but he honestly hasn't fought anyone as good as Spinks, or at least as good as Spinks used to be. This one is interesting because you're taking a still unproven fighter in Karmazin and placing him against a bit of a wildcard in Spinks. You could either get something of a coming out party or a triumphant return.
On July 22, HBO presents Carlos Baldomir and Arturo Gatti duking it out for Baldomir's WBC welterweight title in Atlantic City. The last time Thunder Gatti didn't fight at Boardwalk Hall was May 18, 2002, at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, CT, which was of course Gatti/Ward I. I mean Gatti even got Pretty Boy Floyd on his home turf -- not that it mattered, as Mayweather disposed of him quite handily.
Baldomir has not lost a fight since 1998. He doesn't have a lot of high profile wins in that time, but a 20-fight unbeaten streak is impressive nonetheless, especially considering that his last fight was the shocking upset victory over Judah in January at Madison Square Garden.
Baldomir/Gatti should be fun, as most Gatti fights tend to be. It's a couple of journeyman veterans, with 16 losses between them, fighting it out for a major title. If you'd said in January, before the Judah fight, that Baldomir would be headlining an HBO card in July, most people would have thought you to be a little crazy.
But here we are. Gatti doesn't have the world's best track record against top-flight competition, lasting a combined 11 rounds against Oscar and Pretty Boy Floyd, but Baldomir (and this is not disrespect) is not Oscar or Pretty Boy Floyd. Gatti is going to be an HBO favorite as long as he's at all viable, and the cynical part of me thinks this is a way to get a belt on Gatti and squeeze some more fights out of him. If he wins, then so be it, but if anyone is looking for Baldomir to be a stepping stone, give Zab a call.
To wrap up the month, one of the greatest fighters to ever put on a pair of gloves returns to the ring against a 34-year old nobody from Camden, New Jersey, who currently holds the WBO NABO light heavyweight title, whatever in the hell that is.
Roy Jones, Jr., is ending his career, perhaps, on a $25 pay-per-view against Prince Badi Ajamu. I don't mean to sound disrespectful to Ajamu, because for all I know he's going to beat Roy and wrap up a supreme fall from grace, but who is Prince Badi Ajamu, and why is Roy Jones, Jr., charging me to see the two of them fight? At $25 curiousity is going to kill the cat for me, and I'm probably going to order it. I think at some point, any boxing fan that was coming of age in the 1990s and early 2000s has been a Jones fan. The man made everything look ridiculously easy.
And then? Controversial decision over Tarver. Knocked right the hell out by Tarver. Knocked out by Glen Johnson. Dominated again by Tarver. This is a man that once appeared like he might have been the greatest fighter to ever live. Maybe he didn't fight all the top-tier opponents, but Roy could make a fight against the most overmatched guy in the world entertaining when he was on top of his game.
That's been a while, though. When I see Roy Jones, Jr., now, it's sort of like watching a ghost. There are sparks of what made him so special -- occasionally his combos really pop, or you see a small piece of his old confidence. But it's not the same guy. It's a weathered, weakened legend on his last legs, and as always, it's a little bit sad.
I hope Roy wins, and then I hope he says, "Well, there's 50 wins. What more can I really do?" I don't want to see Jones/Tarver IV, although I'm sure if Roy can beat Ajamu, both guys would take that fight as they're sporting damaged reps right now.
So there you go -- five fights in which I can find something to care about, even if it's just the hope that a falling star burns out with one last twinkle or Castillejo pulls the upset on Sturm in Germany, though that one is obviously holding my interest the least. It should be a fun month for the sport so long as nobody fails to make weight or anything.