Boxing is a sport that features constant change, from one fight to the next, and sometimes even completely outside of the ring. The status of one fighter can be altered simply because of the result of a fight he's not even in, and he can become the top dog in a weight class just because someone else lost.
Today, let's take a look at some of the recent developments, and see who's rising and who's falling in the aftermath. You can probably guess how our friend on the right is faring right now.
Vic Darchinyan saw his reputation take a big hit on Saturday night with his first career loss, as he was cleanly knocked out on a massive counter left hook by lightly-regarded Nonito Donaire. Darchinyan beat Donaire's older brother, Glenn, last year via technical decision, and held a grudge afterward because he didn't get the chance to knock Glenn Donaire out. But constantly seeking the KO shot is what did Darchinyan in in Bridgeport. Nonito Donaire was too fast and way too confident. Darchinyan has now admitted (after his unfortunate post-fight interview, which it can be reasoned he shouldn't have been giving in the firs tplace) that he was trying too hard to "load up" on his punches. The Armenian ex-champ is an exciting and alluring fighter because of his unorthodox style, but even though he looks like a video game character responding to the R2 command often enough, he was even more overstated on Saturday, and it cost him his perfect record, and delayed any move to the super flyweight division. He's also going to have to adjust now, because Donaire clearly exposed Darchinyan's weaknesses. His defensive lapses have always been an issue, but now his line of previous opposition will come into question. Was Darchinyan simply a coddled fighter? A rematch of this fight is probably very likely, because it was such a shocking upset -- no doubt the 2007 Upset of the Year thus far -- that Vic almost has to be allowed to get his revenge. I don't know that he can do it.
Nonito Donaire is the new IBF/IBO flyweight champion. This is a win nobody saw coming. Nobody except for Donaire, anyway. He was wildly cocky leading up to the fight, which may have gotten into Darchinyan's head somewhat. Vic always looks for the KO, but he was off his game and flustered from the opening bell on Saturday. I thought Donaire would be competitive before losing, but I was unsure, to say the least, if his trash-talking before the bout was going to wind up paying off. Turns out Nonito Donaire knew something we didn't. Congratulations again to Nonito, and with the way he adjusted to flyweight after years spent a division up, we could be seeing a new star. If he were to beat Darchinyan again, Showtime would be all over this kid. It's rare that one of the two major boxing networks gets to "make" a star.
New WBA super welterweight champion Joachim Alcine and ex-champ Travis Simms both fall after their ugly main event last night. It was a terrible fight. Not bad boxing like you see sometimes, and not a total lack of action, but two styles that did not come together. If fighters can be too evenly-matched in terms of skill, this was a case in point. Neither guy is going to set the world on fire, anyway, but the 154-pound division is pretty wide open with Mayweather returning to welterweight and Oscar being sort of a non-factor and exhibition fighter for the most part from here on out. Who else does the division have? Don King mentioned setting up Spinks/Alcine, and you can count me right the hell out. Sergiy Dzinziruk is, in my opinion, the best non-de la Hoya fighter in the division, but he's an unknown in the States and that's not going to change. Alcine and Simms had a chance to make a mark, and they put on a fine display of grabass and footsie.
Wladimir Klitschko is the ruler at heavyweight. No questions asked. Sam Peter has become a popular "guy who's not the popular pick" pick, but Peter doesn't have a case. Two wins over an old ass James Toney (one of them questionable) who basically ended his own career because of a negative steroids test to fight Danny Batchelder doesn't make you the No. 1 heavyweight. Sadly, it does make you the No. 2 heavyweight. Klitschko/Peter II would be great, but that's probably two years off at best. Wlad destroyed a game Lamon Brewster, and he has nothing on the horizon that can challenge him. He has become a savvy, slick boxer with legit heavyweight power to boot. I don't think it's insane to start thinking about Wladimir Klitschko when pound-for-pound rankings come up. And I don't think it's insane to start talking about Wladimir Klitschko as legitimately one of the best heavyweights of the last 15 years, either, which some people want to avoid for whatever reason. Are you telling me that this Wladimir Klitschko couldn't beat a prime Lennox Lewis? I'm not saying Lewis couldn't beat him, either, just that it's not crazy talk. He's one of the elite heavyweights of the era, and has overcome struggles with aplomb. Lewis did the same a couple of times.
Ricky Hatton is a sensation. But he's letting his mouth write checks his ass won't be able to cash. To those that think Hatton's style will be able to overcome Mayweather, I pose to you a question: What are you on? Crack? Drugs? Hatton doesn't have a prayer against Mayweather. Floyd has embarrassed tough, head-first fighters like Gatti and Baldomir, and he beat a prime Jose Luis Castillo two times. Hatton's style is a mix of Baldomir and Castillo in many respects. It's not a bad style. He's a good fighter. But Floyd Mayweather, Jr., is a great boxer. And now he's a legitimate star. Mayweather is a businessman, and he knows how much money there is to be made. He took a look at the Hatton situation, with this working class hero calling him out, and has decided that it's "easy money," as he put it. It probably will be. Hatton can't back off now. He has to step up to 147 again and try his luck. Luis Collazo gave him enough trouble. Mayweather is Collazo times twenty. Hatton is one of the sport's most humble, engaging, and outright likeable figures. But he doesn't have a hope in hell against Floyd.
Humberto Soto will get the old grassroots treatment after all. With the pointless Pacquiao/Barrera II showdown scheduled for October 6 in Vegas, Soto is left out in the cold for the time being. You can't find a better upper class of a division in boxing than the one at junior lightweight. Pacquiao, Juan Manuel Marquez, Barrera, Soto and the urban myth that is Edwin Valero -- beat that top five. Jim Lampley called Soto the new Tony Margarito, and it applies in some respects, but this isn't a case of Pacquiao ducking him. After Pacquiao is done putting the finishing touches on the career of Marco Antonio Barrera, he'll fight Soto. Top Rank and Golden Boy's truce will only last so long, anyway. Let's hope we can get some superfights in the interim, and let's also hope that they're more intriguing on paper than Pacquiao/Barrera looks to be.
Demetrius Hopkins will be hidden on the non-televised undercard of the Winky Wright/Bernard Hopkins pay-per-view, which is pretty ice cold considering the level of the fighters in the main event. To address the main event first, everyone probably hates to say they told you so, but, well, everyone told you so. Wright/Hopkins is an exhibition at a catchweight that means nothing. As for Demetrius, non-televised fights are where this pretender belongs. His win over Stevie Forbes in March is still one of the worst decisions of the year, although it was trumped by the Kid Diamond/Miguel Huerta catastrophe last month. Forbes, incidentally, will be on the undercard of the Marquez/Barrios pay-per-view in September, fighting Francisco Bojado. Kassim Ouma will hopefully rid us of Sergio Mora on the same night. Demetrius Hopkins, though, is just living off of his last name and his pedigree. As a fighter, he leaves a lot to be desired.
Evander Holyfield actually has people believing that a 44-year old, undersized heavyweight can win a title. I don't personally agree, but the public sentiment is shifting into nostalgia overdrive and allowing for "The Real Deal" to continue his charade. Beating Vinny Madalone and Lou Savarese proves absolutely nothing. Don't forget that Holyfield struggled against Fres Oquendo on this same amazing road to the championship. I love Evander Holyfield, and he's welcome to charge people $30 for every crap ass fight he can put on in the state of Texas for as long as he wants to, as far as I'm concerned, but let's not pretend he stands a chance against a fighter in his prime who can punch. His best shot would be against the 38-year old Oleg Maskaev, whose reign is about to end. And I think Maskaev would beat him fairly easily just because he's tough. But the promotional team backing Holyfield deserves some props. Some boxing writers are actually buying into this smoke and mirrors bullshit.
"Irish" John Duddy is returning home for a pay-per-view bout on July 14. Who's he facing? Alessio Furlan (19-8-5). Yeah, another made-to-order opponent for the undefeated Duddy. The problem isn't that he's fighting Furlan. The problem is they're trying to charge me money for it. That is Friday Night Fights main event on its best day.
Speaking of bad PPV choices on July 14, we are now just six days away from Roy Jones, Jr. taking on Anthony Hanshaw, with an exciting Derrick Gainer fight on the undercard. Again, thank the Gods above that we won't see Gainer/Raheem. That rumor nearly had me alternately falling asleep and throwing popcorn at the television just thinking about it. 30 bones for Jones and Hanshaw? Pass. Jones/Trinidad is another story, however.
Meanwhile, as the little fellas want you to pony up cash to see their rinky-dink fights, HBO comes at us with Margarito/Williams, Gatti/Gomez and Cintron/Matthysse. For free. There aren't many full pay-per-view cards that have this sort of overall bang for your buck quality. Margarito/Williams is a legit welterweight title fight, and a good one on paper. Gatti is Gatti, the guy will bring excitement, and Alfonso Gomez isn't going to try to get away from him. And Cintron/Matthysse is pretty quality for a mandatory title fight. Kudos to HBO for giving us cards like this, Taylor/Wright last year, and Hatton/Castillo without the $54.95 pricetag. It seems as though at least somebody is responding to the idea that maybe it's a good plan to let people see these fights for free now and then. If you get people more familiar with name fighters, they'll pay to see them later.
There's not a more anticipated fight on the schedule than Marquez/Vazquez II, and Showtime is doing a good job promoting it, which is Showtime's main weakness in comparison with HBO. The first fight was a barnburner before Vazquez had to concede to his broken nose. Sequels are rarely better than the original, but this looks like it could be X2 to the first fight's X-Men. It's a hardcore fan's matchup that will win over anyone that bothers to give it a look. Not bad for a couple of little guys in a "dying sport."
Every week that a fight with Mikkel Kessler isn't announced, Joe Calzaghe loses another supporter in word-of-mouth battle for being the king at 168. I think we've all heard enough, "Well if this happens" B.S. from every angle -- from Warren, from Pelle, from HBO, from Showtime, from everybody. Make the fight. Neither guy needs another tune-up. Showtime's budget doesn't allow for it, so go back to HBO, whose budget apparently does and the only quibbling there was the date. More political garbage that threatens to rob us of a desired fight.
Buddy McGirt may not be the best trainer in boxing, but he would appear to be both the most passionate and compassionate. McGirt's work with Malignaggi has turned "The Magic Man" into a different fighter, and a much better boxer. And his calling of the Klitschko/Brewster fight, despite the unsatisfying end it left and the fact that it's never easy to tell your guy that he should just give it up, was necessary. We've seen him do the same for Arturo Gatti, which he won't get to do any longer now that Gatti is working with Micky Ward. That's a situation, also, that I'm really looking forward to seeing. I'm intrigued by what style Ward is looking for Gatti to employ, and how he'll do as the cornerman.
Andre Dirrell is like Demetrius Hopkins without all the excitement of Demetrius Hopkins. Andre Dirrell climbed right up to the top of my least favorite fighters after that embarrassing slapfight with Curtis Stevens on June 16. And the fact is, despite some obvious natural talent and a decent skill set, he's never going to be an interesting fighter. It's not in him. He's a runner, he's arrogant, and he doesn't feel the need to change. He may well become very good, but he's never going to be a star, because no one will ever want to see him fight. And any comparison to Mayweather is absurd. Floyd can punch with decent power and deadly accuracy. Dirrell doesn't punch, period.
He's never going to be a great fighter, but Peter Manfredo, Jr., will go down trying, that's a guarantee. He might be the hardest-working guy in boxing. Since the Calzaghe fight in April, he's fought two times, and is already penciled in to face Allan Green in October. Manfredo has will and he has guts, and those can go a long way.
It's not just hyperbole: "Ding-a-Ling Man" Darnell Wilson is the hottest cruiserweight in boxing, if there can be such a thing in one of the sport's most ignored divisions. Don't expect any of the cruiser champs to fight him without being forced into it.