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News & Views for October 29, 2007

(Credit goes to Dan Rafael and Kevin Iole for the scoops)

News: Since we're in full Calzaghe-Kessler promotional mode right now, let's start off with this: Mikkel Kessler has been a ghost of late, failing to appear on a conference call with reporters and declining almost all interview requests. This has greatly angered both his opponent, Joe Calzaghe (who has been gracious with his time), and HBO, who put a lot of stock into the bout.

Views: Kessler and management -- Mogens Palle and his daughter, Bettina -- deserve every single bit of flak they have taken and will continue to take for this. Calzaghe has done his part in promoting this huge fight. Kessler has not. Simple as that.

Also, HBO has invested a lot of money into not just this fight, but in making Kessler a name in the States. By televising his bout against Librado Andrade earlier this year on Boxing After Dark, HBO gave Kessler his very first American exposure. And while he did, indeed, earn that, it was something of a favor from HBO. They wanted a Calzaghe-Kessler fight down the road, so they got Mikkel some airtime here beforehand. Kessler was impressive that night, and after a lot of hard work, some jumping through hoops with both sides' management, and a lot of money and scheduling hassles, we've got the fight, one of the year's most important. Now, Kessler, who wanted the fight more than Calzaghe, it appeared at first, doesn't carry his weight promoting it? That's bush league.

News: The final tally from HBO is that the Mayweather-de la Hoya fight from May 5 did 2.4 million buys, not 2.15 million.

Views: Anyone else up for "boxing is dead"? Anyone else up for how Kelly Pavlik or whichever young American fighter wins a big fight needs to "save boxing"? Bueller?

Look, 2.15 million was a staggering number. 2.4 million means it not only eclipsed the former top PPV number ever (1.99 million for Holyfield-Tyson II), it blew it out of the water. Floyd-Oscar beat Holyfield-Tyson II by 400,000 -- that difference is more than the total number of buys for Pacquiao-Morales III (350,000).

Oscar is now the all-time leader in PPV buys, passing Holyfield, although it doesn't count Holyfield's total against Ibragimov, though the expected number of buys there (less than 100,000) won't make a difference. Oscar de la Hoya is the all-time, undisputed king of pay-per-view boxing. Tell me again how we need a strong heavyweight division?

Don't discount the impact that Mayweather had, or the impact that HBO's "24/7" series had. That was an unparalleled amount of hype (and good hype) for a PPV bout. Mayweather-Hatton will receive the same treatment, and I'll tell you right now: I think Mayweather-Hatton will beat the Oscar-Trinidad number of 1.4 million buys, which was formerly the best non-heavyweight number ever.

To further put it in perspective, Oscar-Floyd did the combined number of buys of Oscar-Tito and Oscar-Hopkins. It's an enormous achievement, and one that everyone involved should be eternally proud of.

News: James Toney will return to the ring, as Dan Goossen wants him back in action in either December or January.

Views: I'll be blunt: Fuck James Toney. He's a multiple-time cheater, and not only that, but a washed-up, infalted middleweight that can't beat any of the world's best heavies anymore. Toney had a phenomenal career, one that has a really strong Hall of Fame case. But enough. Pack your shit and get out, as far as I'm concerned. That said, he is still a name, and he'll get more chances at big fights if he can get himself in line for them. I wouldn't be stunned to see Holyfield-Toney again.

News: The two sides are very, very close to making Wladimir Klitschko-Sultan Ibragimov for February 23. The fight would take place at Madison Square Garden, live on HBO.

Views: It's smart business from Team Ibragimov's standpoint, and good business from Team Klitschko's. Ibragimov is never going to have a hotter name, and any big fight he takes is one he could lose. His WBO title has a mandatory defense due by June against Tony Thompson, so ignoring "The Tiger" is a good move for now. Ibragimov is a huge underdog against Klitschko, but he's going to make a lot more money fighting Wlad than he would fighting Thompson. For Klitschko, he's taking a real step in unifying the heavyweight titles, instead of just saying he wants to. Ray Austin was a mandatory, and I don't blame him for that. But where has Wlad been the rest of the year? By the time he gets into the ring in February, he will have been off for close to a full year. In that same timeframe, Ibragimov will be 3-0, with wins over Javier Mora, Shannon Briggs and Evander Holyfield, all three fights dominant victories for the WBO champ. I don't think a ton of Ibragimov's ability, but he's been busy and won decisively. Not much more you can ask. So, yeah, count me as one in great support of Klitschko-Ibragimov. And, hey, never say never.

News: Bob Arum isn't at all worried about Showtime's December 1 card running against his Top Rank-branded PPV from Albuquerque, featuring Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr., Jorge Arce and Ivan Calderon.

Views: I absolutely love Arum's stance on this: "(Showtime's) card has absolutely no appeal for the fan who is going to be attracted to our card. And let's be honest: Who gives a shit about Tarver against some Australian guy nobody has heard of. And Forrest is fighting a guy I literally thought retired three or four years ago. It will have zero impact."

I don't know how much Arum plans to charge for his card, but I'll admit I'd rather watch his show than the Showtime card. I'll end up watching the Showtime card because it's free. But, in theory, I think he's absolutely right. Chavez against Ray Sanchez could be a lot more competitive than anyone thinks, and Arce is always fun, plus Calderon is a legitimate champion.

As for the Showtime card, let me echo Dan Rafael and most everyone on this one: Showtime claiming Antonio Tarver as "the light heavyweight champion" is a joke. The IBO is the same body that handed out a belt a couple weekends back when Vic Darchinyan roughed up a 20-13 fighter. Look, bill it as Antonio Tarver being on the road to fighting for the light heavyweight title again, and then actually schedule Tarver-Dawson, unless, of course, Tarver wants nothing to do with Chad Dawson, which I think might be the biggest issue here.

At any rate, Tarver is no champion. Bernard Hopkins is the light heavyweight champion, and everyone knows it. Saying otherwise just makes you and your commentators look stupid. Tarver isn't even a "legitimate" alphabet titleholder. But all vitriol aside, Danny Green is no chump, and I think he'll give Tarver as much as Tarver can handle, maybe more. Forrest-Piccirillo has snoozer written all over it, but so did Forrest-Baldomir, which was entertaining while one-sided.

On paper, Arum's card is a lot more fun for the fight fan that wants good fights. But charging for it? That's where it hits a snag for most of us, I think.

News: The new weight limit for the Ricardo Mayorga-Fernando Vargas PPV fight on November 23 is 166 pounds. Previously, it was 162.

View: The request came from Vargas' side, and Mayorga agreed to it. The closer this fight goes, the less I'm inclined to order it. My long fascination with Mayorga is coming to a screeching halt, because this is now looking like two out-of-shape guys going for a paycheck and trying to sell the fight as something they both want, when I don't think either of them really gives a shit about the other whatsoever.

Vargas needing to make this 166 pounds (which, by the way, will be the same catchweight for Pavlik-Taylor II, making that a non-title bout) says to me that he's not prepared. Mayorga agreeing to it just tells me that Ricardo wants (and probably needs) the money. I have no problem with any of that. But do I want to see two blown-up fighters probably gas themselves out by the fifth round? Not for my money. The most intriguing bout on that card is Cintron-Feliciano, which should be a cakewalk for Kermit, but is now a fight he needs to win to secure the agreed-to welterweight title unification bout with Paul Williams on February 2.

News: A rematch between Dmitri Kirilov and Jose Navarro could be added to the Pavlik-Taylor II undercard, as promoters Lou DiBella (Navarro) and Cedric Kushner (Kirilov) are in talks.

Views: Their first bout, with Kirilov winning one of the junior bantamweight titles on the Ibragimov-Holyfield undercard, was called "crowd-pleasing" by Rafael, and heralded by everyone as the best fight of the night, or the only good one. Navarro is 0-3 in title fights, and a rematch could be his last real shot. From the little I've seen of both, I'd love to see them on the Pavlik-Taylor undercard.

News: Miguel Cotto and Ricky Hatton are the leading candidates to face Oscar de la Hoya on May 3, 2008.

Views: We've heard for a while that Oscar would love to fight Hatton at Wembley Stadium. Oscar has hinted, though, that he only wants that fight if Hatton upsets Mayweather. Bob Arum has proposed to Oscar that he should fight Miguel Cotto, should Cotto retain against Shane Mosley.

Arum, who has had his differences in the past with Oscar and Floyd, to say the least, said that a Hatton win is "as unlikely as the sun not coming up tomorrow."

So let's think about this: If Hatton beats Floyd, it's Oscar-Hatton, no doubt about it. That would be huge money, both live gate and on pay-per-view. If Floyd wins, and Cotto beats Mosley, it appears as though we could get Oscar-Cotto. That fight could make its biggest bag of cash at Madison Square Garden, where Oscar has only fought twice in his illustrious career, in 1995 against Jesse James Leija (TKO-2), and in 2000 against Derrell Coley (KO-7). But Oscar's date is tentatively scheduled to be in Vegas, which is where he always fights, and to be fair, Cotto needs to get a foothold out there, too.

But let's say Hatton loses, as expected, and Sugar Shane beats Cotto, which is no stretch at all. What then? Oscar-Shane III isn't really possible at this point, and I don't think either guy would be that interested in it even if it were. Oscar-Floyd II is out there, but at 147 pounds I think the vast speed difference becomes a bigger problem for de la Hoya.

Frankly, Hatton and Cotto, barring Floyd, are the only real possibilities. I don't think Oscar would want anything to do with a rugged banger like Margarito, with the five losses on Tony's record. Williams and Cintron aren't big enough stars, and the three-month turnaround likely wouldn't be good for either of them anyway.

How about Zab Judah? Oscar has said he wants to fight twice next year. A Judah bout is cosmically similar to Oscar-Mayorga -- it's a should-win for Oscar, against an opponent that people love to hate. It could also give time for Hatton to get a win in, which would, in theory (and I don't think people actually give a shit), give people time to forget a Hatton loss to Mayweather. Then you can do Oscar-Ricky in the winter of 2008, at Wembley, big money for everyone.

But we'll have to see how it all shakes out. I think Oscar-Floyd II is going to become a more realistic possibility if both guys find themselves without opponents that are to their liking. They know they can make money together.

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