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HBO-Showtime feud returns tonight

As much as the boxing public hates it, HBO and Showtime are always going to run head-to-head cards. Last year, almost all of these nights were no-brainers on which card to choose, and HBO was victorious. The only exception that went to Showtime's corner was Vazquez-Marquez I, which matched up with Cotto-Urkal and Miranda-Green.

What's interesting about tonight is it really just depends on the person. There are four alphabet soup titles on the line, two in the welterweight division on HBO, and two in the light heavyweight division on Showtime. So let's shake this out, and then make some picks.

Best Fight: Kermit Cintron-Antonio Margarito II, HBO

This is the test for Kermit Cintron (29-1, 27 KO), the IBF welterweight champion. The first time these two met, Cintron got the crap kicked out of him, and that's putting it nicely. Margarito put the Puerto Rican on the mat four times en route to a fifth round TKO.

But that was 2005, and even the biggest Margarito fans are willing to concede that the 30-year old Tijuana native may not quite be what he was then. And most are willing to concede at this point that it's 2008, and Margarito-Cintron is still really Margarito's career highlight.

Since beating Cintron, the biggest news in Margarito's career has come from lobbying fruitlessly to fight Floyd Mayweather, Jr., and losing to Paul Williams. He's 3-1 since the Cintron destruction, but two of those wins came against vastly overmatched opposition. His victory over Joshua Clottey was a good, solid win, but there was nothing especially memorable about it.

Margarito (35-5, 25 KO) is fighting to get a shot at Cotto, simple as that. Cintron is fighting to get a shot at Cotto and to get revenge, not to mention to prove that the hype around him being a much better, more mature, more well-rounded fighter isn't just hype from Manny Steward and those of us (including me) that believe such talk.

On paper, it's a toss-up. Margarito is older and probably a touch slower, and Cintron is a better fighter than he was back then. Of course, Cintron has done this better fighting against opposition that isn't as good as Tony Margarito, so the jury is still deliberating a little bit. Either way, don't expect this one to go the distance. We're getting a knockout.

Worst Fight: Clinton Woods v. Antonio Tarver, Showtime

Showtime is back to their old tricks. In what has been a really good bounce-back year for the network boxing-wise, with good fights and good matchups all around, it's frustrating to see them continue to so feverishly back the cooked Tarver, whose mouth is the only thing he's got left if you watch those last two fights of his, which Showtime is for some reason replaying this week. Who on earth needs to see his death crawl to knocking out Danny Santiago again? I've never seen Tarver look so slow and so sloppy, with no zip on his punches. Had he fought Danny Green as originally planned that night, Antonio Tarver might be retired right now.

It's also annoying that Showtime is billing their night as featuring "the four best light heavyweights in the world" -- come on, guys. Bernard Hopkins, maybe? It's also a bit upsetting that HBO isn't advertising Hopkins-Calzaghe as being for THE light heavyweight championship next weekend, but I'm sure once it's live, Jim Lampley and Max Kellerman will make the point abundantly clear.

I like Clinton Woods (41-3-1, 24 KO), I do. He's a good guy, a tough cookie, and he doesn't back down. We all remember Roy Jones, Jr., beating the tar out of him. But Clinton never stopped trying to get at Roy. It was as admirable a one-sided loss as you'll see.

Tarver hasn't won a big fight in almost three years. I think it's nice that he's not fighting Elvir Muriqi or Santiago-level fighters again. But the matchup just doesn't excite me. I'm glad Clinton Woods is getting a good payday.

And beware the Tarver hometown advantage. I don't think we're getting a knockout, so I've got a bad feeling about this fight.

Now how about some picks?

HBO: Miguel Cotto v. Alfonso Gomez

I've discussed this one plenty. I give Alfonso Gomez about the same shot that I do Steve Forbes, which is to say I give him a shot, but it's a Rocky over Apollo Creed kind of deal. Gomez is a bigger guy than Cotto, but doesn't hit nearly as hard, doesn't hit as accurately, isn't as good a boxer...

The things that Gomez does well, Cotto does better. Gomez waxed a beyond shot Arturo Gatti and looked so-so against a pretty washed up Ben Tackie after that. I like Gomez because he's a hell of a guy, he's got a lot of balls, and he's going to come to fight. But Cotto is going to hurt him, and though it will probably be fairly exciting, it's not going to last all that long. This is a good old-fashioned mismatch, a stay-busy fight.

Oktay Urkal hung in with Cotto last March, as many have noted, and then they ask, "Do you think Urkal is that much better than Gomez?" It's a tricky question. I think Urkal is smarter than Gomez. I think Urkal is craftier than Gomez. I think Urkal knows how to stay alive for an entire fight with a guy like Cotto. Do I think Urkal would beat Gomez? Probably. Do I think that makes him "better"? Not necessarily.

This has nothing to do with Urkal. It has everything to do with Gomez, a guy the press loves to talk about reveling in his underdog role, getting creamed tonight. Gomez isn't Urkal, he's not going to do everything he can just to survive. He's going to pick a fight with Cotto. Good for him, and good for us.

He's also slooooow. Miguel Cotto's last two fights have been against the rare energized modern day version of Zab Judah and a still-great Sugar Shane Mosley. Gomez is going to be like target practice for Cotto. Cotto TKO-6

HBO: Kermit Cintron v. Antonio Margarito II

This one's got me hyped up, I'll admit. I really do think this, combined with Cotto-Gomez (which will be entertaining even if it's as one-sided as I think it will be), is going to make for a hell of a night in Atlantic City on HBO.

Margarito is a notoriously slow starter at times. Paul Williams beat Margarito not because Paul Williams is better than Margarito, but because Tony basically forfeited a lot of the earlygoing in that fight. He wasn't punching, he wasn't landing, he wasn't doing anything but eating peppered jabs from Chef Paul. Once Margarito stepped up the pressure, he wailed on Williams and looked like he might score a late comeback TKO. It didn't happen because Williams got the hell away from him at the right times, but if Margarito had come out hot, he would've beaten Williams, I think, and without a ton of trouble.

When he returned to the ring against journeyman Golden Johnson on the Cotto-Mosley undercard, he was all business and clearly auditioning to jump right back into the welterweight mix. Well, a good two-minute, twenty-eight-second ass kicking later, and Margarito is back in the mix against Cintron.

Kermit is a fantastic puncher, one of the very best punchers in the sport. He hurt himself against Jesse Feliciano, which is the only reason Feliciano hung around as long as he did. I'm not saying Jesse isn't a tough kid, because he is. That's also a fight that would've been stopped a lot sooner by many referees.

To beat Margarito, Cintron should go ahead and storm right out of the gates. If he's lucky, Tony won't be prepared for it, and he can lay a licking on him in the early rounds. This ain't Paul Williams, this is a guy who can put your lights out. Or maybe Margarito comes out ready to go, too, and we get a shootout from the opening bell.

This one promises fireworks. Of all the welterweights, Cintron is probably the most overlooked. I know Joshua Clottey would be the popular pick there in most circles, but Cintron can actually beat the top guys, if only because of his big punching. Clottey is a pain in the ass fight in more ways than one, but Cintron can be a beast.

I'm taking a stab at this one, and I'm not all that confident. So don't take this as advice for a bet with your mortgage or anything, OK? Cintron TKO-8

SHO: Clinton Woods v. Antonio Tarver

Woods' IBF light heavyweight title is matched up against Tarver's completely irrelevant IBO title. The IBO, honestly, isn' bad as far as a lot of things go. But in most ways, they're as full of shit as every other sanctioning body. Tarver's title is meaningless, so if you're sort of new to the sport and you've seen Tarver talking in Showtime clips about "his world title," then please just ignore him. The man is talking nonsense.

The British Woods is best known for getting his ass handed to him by Jones, but also had a three-fight series with Glen Johnson in which the two combatants went 1-1-1. Since losing to Jones in 2002, Woods is 9-1-1, and though he'll never erase the memory of that night, he's done a great job just keeping on keeping on, if you will. The man has become a bona fide, world class fighter at 175 pounds.

And I think he's going to beat Tarver thoroughly over 12 rounds. Woods via UD

HBO: Chad Dawson v. Glen Johnson

I love this fight. Dawson hasn't had a terribly good defense since dismantling Tomasz Adamek in shocking fashion last year to win the WBC's light heavyweight belt, and it's not really his fault. Adrian Diaconu was on the schedule, but injury prevented it. Instead, Dawson wound up fighting Epifanio Mendoza in his second defense, the first against Jesus Ruiz. While neither challenger was particularly qualified, the good news is Dawson did with them as he should have: Mendoza went down in the fourth, Ruiz in the sixth. Dawson didn't take it easy either night.

Now the 39-year old Johnson is a different story. "The Road Warrior" has been in the ring with Bernard Hopkins, Roy Jones, Woods (three times), Tarver (twice), the dreaded Sven Ottke, Silvio Branco, Julio Cesar Gonzalez, Thomas Ulrich, Syd Vanderpool, Eric Harding, Montell Griffin, an inflated Hugo Pineda, Merqui Sosa, Derrick Harmon...

In short, name a type of fighter, and Johnson has seen it up close and personal. I still maintain that THE shocking loss of Jones' career was not Tarver's early bomb of a KO on Jones. It was Johnson manhandling Jones for eight-plus rounds before knocking him out.

Dawson is fourteen years younger, he's got good speed, good power, fights smart, and is one of the really exciting young and established fighters out there. Some are picking Johnson in an upset -- Dan Rafael, for instance, has stated he's taking Johnson.

I don't see it. And I don't think it's going to be all that close. As good as Glen Johnson has been, he's 39. Not everyone is Bernard Hopkins, and Johnson certainly isn't Bernard Hopkins. I really think Dawson is about to put the fear of God into the 175-pound division. The future is here. Dawson via UD

We'll be here tonight with live, round-by-round coverage and scoring of the HBO card (Cotto-Gomez, Cintron-Margarito II), so make sure to stop by for that and add your comments. Should be a good night.

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