As I mentioned yesterday, 2007 is set to start off with a bang. Peter-Toney, Adamek-Dawson, Mosley-Collazo and De La Hoya-Mayweather all are pretty much signed and ready to go. In addition to these, here's a look at five big match-ups that are rumored to be in the works for the first half of 2007. All of them are fights that I would love to see, and I think that, right now, it would be hard to pick a clear-cut favorite in any of them. They are, in no particular order:
- Ricky Hatton vs. Jose Luis Castillo
- Miguel Cotto vs. Antonio Margarito
- Fernando Vargas vs. Ricardo Mayorga
- Rafael Marquez vs. Israel Vasquez
- Bernard Hopkins vs. Roy Jones Jr.
And to prove I'm serious about this, here's the first match-up:
1. Ricky Hatton vs. Jose Luis Castillo
This one seems very likely to happen, with Hatton and Castillo set to fight on the same HBO telecast later this month. They will both come in as overwhelming favorites, and should neither one stumble, they will probably face off against each other this summer.
I think this is a fight that Hatton needs to win in order to solidify himself as a top Pound-for-Pound fighter. Ever since his victory over Kosta Tszyu, Hatton's stock has gone down in my book. A controversial decision victory of Luis Collazo and a move back down to 140 haven't really helped his cause. Now that Cotto, the other top dog at 140, has moved up in weight, Castillo seems to be the best possible opponent for Hatton. This is also an opportunity for Hatton to silence all the critics that argued that Tszyu was well past-his-prime when they fought.
As for Castillo, he has already proven to be a tough customer at lightweight, having taken on (and beaten) the best that division had to offer (Casamayor, Diaz, Lazcano, Corrales). His move to 140 was undoubtedly prompted by the fact that he can't make 135 any longer, but, still, it was time to move on. Against Hatton, he will be looking to become a two-division champion.
Style-wise, both of these guys come forward, and are hard punchers with high knockout ratios, so this promises to be a slugfest. If I had to make a pick right now, I would probably pick Hatton to win a very close decision. He proved he could take a punch against Tszyu, and I think he'd be able to tire out Castillo with his smothering style. Castillo has been around seemingly forever, and his sixty-plus professional bouts might just be getting to him. On the other hand, I wouldn't be surprised if Castillo came into this fight with more energy than we've seen from him in the last couple of years. The move up in weight might do him good, since he won't have to dehydrate as much as he previously had to.
A Hatton victory might set him up for yet another unification bout against Junior Witter (the only other worthy opponent at 140). Witter has been calling out Hatton for years now, and it would probably be the biggest fight in the history of the UK.
Should Castillo come out on top, I don't think he'd have anything else to look for at 140 (except, perhaps, a possible third fight with Corrales). Therefore, I wouldn't be surprised to see him go up for the big fights at 147, which is the deepest division in boxing.