The landscape of boxing has now changed post-Oscar/Floyd. Hopefully, more eyes turn to the sweet science again. With that said, it's summer now, and that means the fight schedule is packed. We at Bad Left Hook will be here for every big fight, with coverage, pre- and post-fight analysis, and scoring. Here's what's on tap.
May 16 - Glen Johnson v. Montell Griffin (ESPN2)
Johnson (44-11-2) and Griffin (48-6) square off in an IBF light heavyweight title eliminator. Both are aging -- Johnson is 38, Griffin is nearly 37 -- and this could be the loser's last shot. Johnson is the favorite going in, having last fought in September, a tough split decision loss to Clinton Woods. And in Johnson's case, the age thing seems to matter less. He was a highly-regarded fighter until he ran into the brick wall that was Bernard Hopkins in 1997, a fight in which he was completely dominated, and after which he kind of went into a spiral, losing his next two and seven of his next eleven. The fact that Johnson is still relevant in 2007 is pretty astonishing, really. His comeback trail is littered with big wins -- a dominant knockout of Roy Jones, a title win over Antonio Tarver, and a 1-1-1 trilogy with Woods. Griffin has lost two of his last four and hasn't beaten a quality opponent in years. Nevertheless, he's getting another chance.
May 19 - Jermain Taylor v. Cory Spinks and Kelly Pavlik v. Edison Miranda (HBO)
This is a really solid card for HBO. Pavlik/Miranda has fight of the year-type potential, with lots of people envisioning something of a buffed-up Gatti/Ward. We'll see just how tough Pavlik really is, because Miranda's power is lethal. We'll also see if Miranda has the complete skills to be a championship-caliber fighter, as Allan Green put Miranda on the mat in his last fight, and Pavlik is really a better fighter than Green, in my estimation. Taylor/Spinks is a better fight than Taylor/Mora, so I'm glad that's the replacement, but I'd still rather see Taylor fighting either of the other two. There's nothing wrong with Pavlik and Miranda fighting to get to Taylor, but this is going to mark the second straight fight where Jermain Taylor fights a guy who should not be at 160. Spinks is a quality fighter and could give Jermain some trouble, but in the end the natural power of Taylor and his superior athleticism probably overmatches the smaller Spinks. Kassim Ouma was no challenge for Taylor, and I don't think Spinks will be either. Pavlik/Miranda is the fight to watch on this night.
May 26 - Joan Guzman v. Michael Katsidis and Oscar Larios v. Jorge Linares (HBO)
Guzman/Katsidis is what Boxing After Dark should be all about. Frankly, the B.A.D. schedule in recent months has been much more reminiscent of the series' glory days, and that's a very good thing. Guzman is a Floyd Mayweather, Sr., fighter, and a very good one. Katsidis is getting his first American break, and this 26-year old Aussie can slug, with 20 knockouts adding seasoning to his 22-0 record. The 31-year old Guzman should beware Katsidis' power if he hopes to win in this jump to lightweight, but he's also the more experienced fighter, especially in terms of quality opposition faced. Katsidis' only noteworthy opponent thus far is Graham Earl. This is a fight that could have real fireworks and, if it goes his way, make a star out of Katsidis.
The undercard features gritty veteran Oscar Larios against rising contender Jorge Linares. Credit should be given in spades to Larios for accepting Linares as a replacement opponent after WBC featherweight champion In Jin Chi had to drop out due to injury. Larios has three straight wins against lackluster opponents coming off of two convincing losses to Israel Vazquez and Manny Pacquiao (a fight that Larios shouldn't have taken, but gutted out for 12 rounds in a division where he didn't belong). If the veteran Mexican warrior isn't too battle-worn, he could handle the younger Linares, who has the same problem as Katsidis in terms of not facing top fighters. Linares is a Venezuelan that has taken up residence in Japan, and has fought most of his career over there. He's not a terribly heavy puncher, but youth and less mileage could serve him well against Larios. Personally, I'll be rooting for Larios, of whom I have long been a fan, but I am excited to see what Linares has.
June 9 - Antonio Tarver v. Elvir Muriqi and Chad Dawson v. Jesus Ruiz (Showtime)
Honestly, neither fight is all that compelling. Tarver and Dawson should be considered very heavy favorites. But Tarver has been out of action since being humbled by Bernard Hopkins, and Muriqi will push the action and make him fight if nothing else. Dawson's first title defense could have been against a better fighter. He thoroughly dominated Tomasz Adamek, and this is a step down.
June 9 - Miguel Cotto v. Zab Judah, Bobby Pacquiao v. Humberto Soto, Anthony Thompson v. Yuri Foreman and Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. v. Grover Wiley (HBO PPV)
Cotto/Judah is a very interesting matchup. The power of Cotto is established, but Judah is a very good fighter when his head's in the game, and presents a much different matchup than anyone Cotto has beaten thus far. If Judah's really prepared for this fight, he could very well beat Cotto convincingly. He's faster, more experienced, and not yet washed up. His 2006 losses to a red-hot and underestimated Carlos Baldomir and the simply better Mayweather are in the past -- Zab can get right back in the game on June 9th.
The undercard is decent. I think Soto is going to hammer Bobby Pacquiao, but Thompson/Foreman is a nice matchup, and Wiley presents the toughest challenge of the super-protected Junior Chavez's career. This is another showcase fight, really, but at least this time it's someone against whom you can prove anything at all.
So that's what we've got for the next month, and after that, there's still Hatton/Castillo, Wright/Hopkins, Margarito/Williams, Gatti's return, Klitschko/Brewster II, N'dou/Malignaggi, and the rematch between Marquez and Vazquez, plus Juan Manuel Marquez may get back into the ring this fall against either Barrera or Pacquiao. News on the next fights for Mosley, Calzaghe, Kessler, and many others should come relatively soon.
There are good things to look forward to in boxing right now. It should be a hell of a summer.