Not sure if one of the upcoming fights on the docket will be worth being glued to the TV on a Saturday night? Did Oscar/Floyd get you interested, and now you want to see what the deal is with the rest of this crazy sport of ours? We've got you covered.
Summer is generally the best time of the year for big fights. Much like Hollywood throwing all their surefire box office smashes into theaters, boxing promoters know that it's just a fact that summer makes people want to spend more money on entertainment.
Boxing's summer started on Cinco de Mayo with Floyd and Oscar, and may have truly kicked off (in critical terms) with Saturday night's Cotto/Judah showdown. But there's a lot more coming up this summer, and it all starts on Saturday night.
Paulie Malignaggi will get his second shot at a 140-pound title on Boxing After Dark on June 16 when he faces recently-crowned IBF champion Lovemore N'dou. Both N'dou and Malignaggi have fought and lost to Miguel Cotto, though that probably won't give us a ton of insight into how their bout will unfold. Malignaggi is a very tough fighter with youth on his side, but N'dou can hurl some bombs and hurt people. Like Malignaggi, N'dou went all 12 rounds with Cotto in defeat. He beat Naoufel Ben Rabah in what was originally an eliminator fight in February, then was awarded the IBF strap after Ricky Hatton chose to fight Jose Luis Castillo instead of making a pointless mandatory that would have cost him money.
N'dou also lobbied to be the opponent for Arturo Gatti's July 14 comeback, but to no avail. While I don't think anyone was out there looking for a match between these two fighters, I do think N'dou/Malignaggi presents a good style contrast and should be a really entertaining fight. Malignaggi has the ability to be a star even without knockout power, and N'dou is the type of fighter who does deserve to have at least a moment in the sun.
HBO did the right thing for June 23's bout between Ricky Hatton and Jose Luis Castillo by not putting it on pay-per-view. I'd rather pay $44.95 to see Hatton/Castillo than Wright/Hopkins any day of the week, and I would have paid for this fight. But to truly inject boxing with more life, fights like Hatton/Castillo have to be available for those that aren't ardent supporters of the sport to see. Hatton is a personable, fun fighter, and Castillo is still highly-regarded as one of the sport's most exciting punchers.
Also, it kind of goes without saying that this fight features arguably the two best 140-pounders in the world, with possible mild apologies to Junior Witter, who will likely never escape Hatton's shadow without actually getting to fight Hatton while the two are in their primes. Ricky Hatton still has a few detractors, and while I'm not totally crazy about his skills, nobody who isn't pretty damn good winds up with a 42-0 record, and nobody who isn't willing to fight the best would risk that against someone as dangerous as Castillo. Hatton has spoken recently about wanting badly to fight Mayweather, which will never happen because Mayweather probably couldn't give half a shit less about Ricky Hatton.
But forget about Floyd or anything else in Ricky Hatton's potential future, because he's got to get past Castillo. It's a matchup of two fighters that have a ton of grit and this is the type of thing that could develop into a rivalry. I think we're going to see a really good fight, maybe even something truly sensational.
Wladimir Klitschko has one more demon to exorcise: Lamon Brewster. The 34-year old Brewster is the last man to have beaten the current IBF/IBO heavyweight champ, when he drilled Wlad in the fifth round in 2004. After that, Brewster topped Kali Meehan, Andrew Golota and Luan Krasniqi before losing a terrific fight against Sergei Liakhovich last year.
Some will go ahead and say that Brewster probably should have been forced to prove himself again before being given another title fight, but what the hell were the alternatives? Another fight against someone like Ray Austin, where Klitschko grossly outclasses his opponent and there isn't even a background story to go with the predictable win? The Steelhammer is on top of his game right now, and should realistically make quick work of Brewster this time around, but at least there's the revenge factor. It's not like we're going to see Wlad/Peter II any time soon, so we might as well just accept what we get. At least it's not Holyfield.
After HBO presents their matinee heavyweight title fight, the night of July 7 will belong to Showtime. Undefeated 154-pounders Travis Simms and Joachim Alcine headline the evening in a bout for Simms' WBA championship, and punishing flyweight champion Vic Darchinyan puts his title on the line against Nonito Donaire. Simms and Alcine are both good fighters, though neither is great, but the guy to watch is Darchinyan. He is one of boxing's most aggressive fighters and a pleasure to watch in the ring. He just never stops coming forward, and this fight has a story of its own, as the 24-year old Donaire attempts to avenge his brother Glenn's defeat at the hands of Darchinyan last October. Good luck, Nonito. You'll need it.
Picks: Alcine, Darchinyan
Again, I love Roy Jones, Jr. for what he once was, but it's all a distant memory. Trying to schedule a pay-per-view for July 14 on short notice against a no-name (if pretty good) fighter like Anthony "Tyger" Hanshaw is not in anybody's best interests except Roy's, if he can win. And to tell you the God's honest truth, I don't think he can. Hanshaw is a much better fighter than Jones' last eye-rollable opponent, Prince Badi Ajamu. And while Hanshaw's career grade will probably top out at a B or B-, Jones isn't near the fighter he used to be. He's old, he's arrogant, and he probably thinks this is another walk in the park. Hanshaw is looking to be the guy that retires a legend; Jones is just looking to not be retired.
If you really want to, you can factor in a rumored Zahir Raheem fight on the undercard. If Raheem's style doesn't scream, "Don't you wish you were paying for this?!" then I don't know what does.
And it's not only that Jones is an old fighter just trying to hang on that makes the date and pay-per-view status a bad idea, either. July 14 will see HBO present a two-site tripleheader of welterweight action featuring a title fight that many want to see, and the return to the ring of one of the generation's greatest ratings-grabbers, Arturo Gatti. Gatti's fight with "Contender" sorta-star Alfonso Gomez is already seen as little more than a tune-up for Gatti to get his sea legs back en route to a November pay-per-view fight against Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. But Gomez is tough if not terribly skilled, and he's exactly the type of fighter you want to see Arturo Gatti against, since that's exactly the type of fighter Arturo Gatti is.
On the undercard at Boardwalk Hall, Kermit Cintron defends his welterweight title against Walter Matthysse in a mandatory. It's not too often that you get a three-fight HBO card that has a welterweight title being contested in the opener.
In what amounts to the night's main event, Antonio Margarito defends the WBO welterweight title against 6-foot, 1-inch American challenger Paul "The Punisher" Williams, a man with a 32-0 record that boasts 24 knockouts. This is a fight that has come about after Margarito, once hyped as the most-ducked fighter in the sport, tried to duck Williams, who seems willing to fight anyone. In his last five bouts, Williams has disposed of Alfonso Sanchez, Sergio Rios, Matthysse, Sharmba Mitchell and Santos Pakau in pretty convincing fashion. At 25, the southpaw from Augusta, GA, will be the most outright dangerous fighter that Margarito has faced since his title reign started in 2005, and that's counting Cintron. His February 2006 defense against Manuel Gomez just ate up time, and he didn't look all that great in December against Joshua Clottey, who hurt both hands during the bout. From the moment the fight was even rumored, I didn't think the overhyped Margarito could beat Williams. I still don't. But it does have the makings of an action-packed, crowd-pleasing fight. And if Margarito proves me wrong, then get geared up for Cotto/Margarito this fall.
Picks: Williams, Gatti, Cintron
Golden Boy and HBO team up again on July 21 for a pay-per-view event between two of boxing's greatest technicians, and two of the absolute cream of their generation's crop when Bernard Hopkins takes on Winky Wright. They also promise to put the Vegas crowd to sleep with 12 mind-numbing rounds of tactical, scientific boxing that is absolutely beautiful to watch as long as both fighters aren't doing it.
There is nobody that is legitimately excited about this fight, which is incredibly hard to accomplish for two fighters that are almost universally considered to be among boxing's ten best pound-for-pound. Look, we all love Bernard Hopkins, and many of us love Winky Wright. It can be a joy to watch them dismantle an opponent. But if either guy ever seriously dents the other in this one, I'll be genuinely surprised. Even the addition of a rescheduled bout between veteran warrior Oscar Larios and undefeated Jorge Linares and something involving lightweight knockout artist Michael Katsidis couldn't convince me to spend 50 bones on this one -- after all, we were supposed to get those fights on B.A.D. before an injury to Joan Guzman took him out of the fight against Katsidis.
I can't stress enough that nobody should pay to see this fight. It's not that the fighters don't deserve it, it's just that their fight against one another won't, and even if the undercard delivers, you'll still be left at the end of the night having seen a boring, pointless fight that ultimately boils down to an exhibition.
Picks: Wright, Linares
Similarly, the less said about July 28's Boxing After Dark bout between former welterweight champions Vernon Forrest and Carlos Baldomir, the better. It's a 154-pound title eliminator between a guy (Baldomir) who came almost out of nowhere last year to upset Zab Judah and destroy Gatti before being walked on by Mayweather and another guy (Forrest) who hasn't been reliable in five years, since twice beating Shane Mosley. Forrest's two wins over Sugar Shane are now just a reminder of what could have been and never actually panned out.
Two 36-year old ex-champions that the public is hardly begging to see in the spotlight anymore is not what the B.A.D. series should be about, but Forrest's people have always had HBO's ear, for many reasons, including that they also represent Mayweather and Jermain Taylor. Baldomir is a late bloomer whose great year -- and it was a wonderful run that had us all rooting for him -- came in like a lion and went out like a lamb. Forrest is just a washed-up fighter who twice happened to present a bad matchup for a true great, before meeting his own kryptonite in his next two bouts. Part of me still likes Forrest because of what we saw he was capable of years ago, and part of me likes Baldomir because he's a rugged, tough fighter. But this fight isn't going to be anything to get excited about.
Uh oh, we're getting into a theme, and it's not a good one. The August 4 Top Rank pay-per-view (to be distributed by HBO) is titled "The War for Four," and will be main evented by legendary Mexican battler Erik Morales and 135-pound paper champion David Diaz, in Morales' quest to be Mexico's first four-division champion. Hopefully, the crowd is good in Chicago, which is a decent bet. The Latino population is large in the city, boxing is perfectly alive there, and Diaz is a Windy City native. The buyrate will likely be dismal, however.
I love Morales, but even I don't really need to see him fight again, or at least that's the way I feel right now. If he makes mincemeat of Diaz (which the old Morales would have done), then I'd be perfectly game to see him take on Joel Casamayor (the real champion) later on. I can't recommend this fight, though. Diaz's record is pretty, but it's not all it's cracked up to be at 32-1-1.
The undercard will feature Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr., coming off of a great performance against Grover Wiley and looking to score one more victory before hopefully fighting Gatti, and a decent 140-pound title bout between inconsistent champion Ricardo Torres and talented-but-dull challenger Kendall Holt. When I look at a card and I am placing my bets on Torres/Holt being the night's best fight, I can't justify spending money. You shouldn't try to, either.
But back to the main event before we stop talking about this entirely until the week before it happens. Morales was once a great fighter, but he's an old 30 after years and years of wars with Barrera, Pacquiao, and so many others. He's lost four of his last five fights. The reason this is on pay-per-view is two-fold: (1) There's nobody that really wants to put this fight on their network, and (2) Morales can still juice some money from the Mexican audience because he's a legitimate hero to so many Mexican fight fans, and to many fans of any race, for that matter. I'm rooting for El Terrible to find success at 135 and extend his career because he's given so much to boxing, but there's no good reason to spend money to watch him fight David Diaz.
Picks: Morales, Torres, Chavez (no matter what chump he fights)
And just when you thought there was nothing left that was worth your time, Showtime comes to the rescue on the same night as Morales/Diaz. Rafael Marquez and Israel Vazquez lace up their gloves for the rematch of what was shaping up to be a magnificent war in March before a broken nose (suffered in the first round, mind you) caused Vazquez to retire from the fight after seven outstanding rounds of heavy artillery combat. Vazquez is one of the most dangerous punchers in the sport, and he proved that when he floored Marquez in the third round, a shot which Marquez would say was the first time he'd ever been knocked down on a punch to the jaw.
At the time of the stoppage, I had the fight scored a draw, with Vazquez coming on strong, which is pretty remarkable given that the man couldn't breathe from his nose. I was pumped for their first fight, and I'm even more excited for this one, because chances are nobody's nose gets broken in the opening round this time out, and we'll see a decisive finish. Marquez is one of boxing's best all-around fighters, and what Vazquez doesn't have in skill to match Marquez, he makes up for with sheer power. It is a dynamite combination that almost cannot produce a bad fight. I would pay $100 to see this fight in my living room if I had to, but nobody will have to. All you need to have is Showtime.
And if the stellar rematch for the WBC super bantamweight title wasn't enough for you, WBA super bantamweight titleholder Celestino Caballero will be defending against Jorge Lacierva on the undercard. Caballero -- a 30-year old Panamanian southpaw -- will likely be next up for Marquez should the champion retain against Vazquez. If Vazquez wins, look for a third fight, with the winner of the series taking on Caballero after that. My pick may be skewed by the fact that I want to see Marquez/Vazquez as many times as I possibly can.
Picks: Vazquez, Caballero
September 8 might be slightly stretching most peoples' notions of summer, but let's throw this one out there, too. Styles make fights. That's why a fight between undistinguished names like Samuel Miller and Darrell Woods on a random Friday Night Fights can be more purely exciting than Mayweather and de la Hoya. That's why Hopkins and Wright, despite their greatness, projects to be a snoozefest. And that's why the long-rumored pay-per-view fight between Fernando Vargas and Ricardo Mayorga -- two hopelessly flawed boxers at or very near the end of their careers -- should be worth seeing.
I make no bones about the fact that I love watching Mayorga. His reckless style is fascinating. He's not in any shape or form a true boxer. Oscar proved that when he obliterated Mayorga last year. He's not even the biggest puncher around, as his wild swings rarely connect with the power that a textbook straight right hand from Kelly Pavlik or Humberto Soto provides. But you're always going to get a fight when Mayorga's in the ring.
And Fernando Vargas, in what he is selling as his last fight, might be the type of guy to just flat-out go to war with Mayorga. Vargas, like Vernon Forrest, was once going to be a huge part of boxing's future. It hasn't turned out that way. He's been wildly inconsistent and is coming off of two losses to Shane Mosley, the second of which was so convincing that I didn't know if we'd ever see Vargas in the ring again. Unlike many fighters, Vargas wisely branched outside of the sport and has become a solid businessman. He's no de la Hoya, but he's going to be able to live comfortably the rest of his life, probably. For him, this really could be it, and the Vargas that his fans will want to remember is the guy who was willing to fight tooth-and-nail. This leads me to believe that if Vargas is going to be carried out, he'll go out on his shield. He picked a time bomb for an opponent, and we could be treated to a true brawl between guys who are fighting for little more than pride and a paycheck.
This could also feature a decent undercard, with rumored bouts between Luis Collazo and Sharmba Mitchell, Paul Briggs and Hugo Garay, and Daniel Santos and Jose Antonio Rivera.
That's what we've got on the schedule for now. More is sure to be added, and it's not like the year just stops when the summer sun sets, either. But as you can see, there are plenty of good fights on the horizon, making for what should be a strong summer for the sweet science. As in any sport, there are also a few clunkers lined up. Hopefully, we've helped you pick out a fight or five that you have to see.