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Tomato Cans: January 6, 2009

Here we are in 2009, and while I've been super busy of late, it's time to buckle in and get ready for what we all hope will be a great year for boxing. We'll get back into the round-by-round on Friday night with Yuriorkis Gamboa on ESPN2, and the premium networks return to action on January 17 with Berto-Collazo, followed by the highly-anticipated Margarito-Mosley on the 24th, both fights on HBO.

World_light_heavyweight_fight_bernard_hopkins_0_z19mnvmyhl_medium Speaking of welters (kind of), Paul Williams and Winky Wright are talking fight, but the Williams camp says it's not quite ready to go from their side just yet.

Williams (36-1, 27 KO) holds the interim WBO junior middleweight title, which he won against Verno Phillips in November after giving up his WBO 147-pound title. Wright (51-4-1, 25 KO) hasn't fought since losing to Bernard Hopkins at 170 pounds in July 2007, meaning that if this fight does get the green light for March, it'll have been nearly two years out of the ring for Winky. has the fight listed as being for Williams' interim 154-pound title, but Winky hasn't fought below 160 since his back-to-back wins over Shane Mosley in 2004. He certainly didn't care the 170 all that well against Hopkins, as he clearly tired late in the bout, but jumping all the way back down to 154 after admitting he's gotten up to nearly 200 pounds during his time off seems unlikely.

I figure if they do fight -- and neither has a better option out there, really -- then they'll do it at 160 pounds. Williams has talked about being willing to fight 147 to 168, which has become 147 to 160.

Williams' manager-trainer George Peterson does have one eyebrow-raising quote, though: "We don't play those hide and go seek kind of games. We play a game called spank butt."

Erm, OK, George.

Middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik has started training camp for his February fight with Marco Antonio Rubio. The clash -- on February 21 at the Chevrolet Center in Youngstown, Ohio -- will be a sort of make-or-break moments for Pavlik, at least in the short term. With HBO deciding to pass on both that fight and the Cotto-Jennings bout in Atlantic City it will share PPV main event status with, Pavlik really needs an impressive win. Though Rubio is no superstar, he's not a pushover either. He certainly beats the hell out of Gary Lockett. At least Rubio is a legit contender that won a rugged brawl over Enrique Ornelas to get this shot.

The PPV, also, will apparently be offered for $29.95. Early reports were Arum was thinking $39.95, and there's no truly official word that I've seen just yet, but here's hoping for $29.95. That's a price I think almost all hardcore boxing fans would be willing to pay to see the bounce-back fights of Pavlik and Cotto, both very popular young stars.

Floyd Mayweather, Sr., is already all but promising Ricky Hatton will be the first man to beat Manny Pacquiao since Erik Morales outpointed the Filipino icon in 2005. Pacquiao has gone on a nine-fight win streak since then, including two stoppages of Morales, a beatdown on Oscar de la Hoya, an easy points win over Marco Antonio Barrera, and a classic rematch victory over Juan Manuel Marquez.

While I certainly believe Pacquiao should be the favorite, there's been enough time to let the hyperbole of his stunning domination of Oscar die down that I do think Ricky has a chance. As even Freddie Roach has recently said, there's no doubt that Ricky Hatton can pull the trigger, and Ricky's a strong, active fight at 140 pounds. Pacquiao is faster and has sting in his shots, and he punches better in combinations, but he's been kept away from dangerous bangers for a while now. Hatton will present him a challenge. It's a challenge I think he'll win, but it's both a big fight and a great one on paper.

From the "Please God, Give it a Rest" Files: there is talk of Roy Jones, Jr., fighting at heavyweight again, this time against...Evander Holyfield. Jones turns 40 on January 16 and was embarrassed by Joe Calzaghe. He looked every bit his age. Holyfield was hideous in that abomination of a "fight" against Nikolai Valuev, and he turns 47 next October. What an awful idea for a fight that I hope doesn't come to fruition. Holyfield has become ancient (he wasn't much better against Ibragimov than he was against Valuev), and Jones would simply be working his way into some heavyweight fight where someone puts his lights out. Both should retire. Evander, of course, kind of can't. All I can say about that is at least when now 50-year old Tommy Hearns kept fighting this decade, he didn't pretend a mass audience was waiting to see it.

Vitali Klitschko will face Juan Carlos Gomez on March 21 in Germany, it looks like, honoring the WBC's mandatory challenger. Gomez (44-1, 35 KO) is a perfectly legitimate contender in this heavyweight era, which may say more about one thing than it does any other. At 35, Gomez is no spring chicken, but still younger than Vitali (37). Hopefully he provides a little more resistance than Sam Peter did.

Vitali giving Gomez his rightful shot means that Vitali-David Haye will likely be on the backburner for a while longer, since it's doubtful that the injury-risky Klitschko will want to go right back out three months later or whatever. With brother Wladimir probably (maybe?) facing Mexican-American slugger Chris Arreola next, it might also mean that David Haye has to find a stay-busy fight.

For kicks, here are a few maybe not so obvious fights I'd love to see in 2009:

1. Edwin Valero v. Humberto Soto: Let's find out what Valero really has against a tough, talented fighter. Soto isn't exactly one of the sport's elite, but he's merely the rung below that. And he'd be the best opponent of Valero's near-mythical, 24 fights and 24 knockouts career. People have often talked about Pacquiao-Valero; I say let's see Valero against someone like Soto first. Plus, Pacquiao is now just slightly beyond Edwin's range in terms of money.

2. Chris John v. Israel Vazquez: John is regarded by almost everyone as the best featherweight in the world. Vazquez is the champion at junior featherweight. Obviously there are other fights for Vazquez that probably promise more action (Juan Manuel Lopez, a fourth fight with Rafael Marquez, etc.) but given the situation with his eye, he may want to try and extend his career and max out his earning potential. A fight with John would hopefully be enough to lure Chris overseas and get him on American TV. Probably not, but these are just wishes.

3. Zab Judah v. Paulie Malignaggi: You know what's weird? I'm not even that crazy about either guy. Zab annoys the hell out of me, and Malignaggi's limitations are so obvious that Helen Keller could figure them out. But these guys can both box, Judah needs to go back to 140 or just give up the championship ghost, and it's a fight with a New York state of mind. Plus, even though they're both rather full of it (and themselves), they can both trash talk with the best of the best.

4. Sakio Bika v. Edison Miranda: Bika's "Contender" title hasn't been enough to get him any marquee fights, and Miranda's still on the mend after having his big mouth shut by Arthur Abraham. Two guys that love to bomb and are in need of building up some career momentum.

5. Ivan Calderon v. Daisuke Naito: With Nonito Donaire moving up to 115 pounds, that puts Naito at the top of the 112-pound heap in my view. Calderon is 32-0 over his career, and with not much going on at 108, one more weight jump would be interesting to see. Fans in either Japan or Puerto Rico would come out for this one. Naito's a heck of a good fighter, and Calderon's so good I just wish to see him against the best competition possible. Since Archie Solis and Calderon seem to have no intention to fight one another, Calderon-Naito would be next on my "Iron Boy" wish list.

6. Rafael Marquez v. Vic Darchinyan: This one has been mentioned by Gary Shaw, and I'd love to see it. Marquez has never been a big name outside of his series with Vazquez, and even that one was mostly known only by the people that actually pay attention, sad as it is. Instead of Vazquez-Marquez being hyped, it's Oscar against Steve Forbes. But anyway, Vic seems confident he could skip two divisions and get away with it. I'd love to see him try. Darchinyan is one of those guys whose genuine grit has won me over. I think he'd be overmatched by the technically excellent and hard-punching Marquez, who is far more dangerous than Cristian Mijares was. Vic has to get by Jorge Arce first, though.

7. Juan Manuel Lopez v. Daniel Ponce de Leon II: Most wouldn't want to see a rematch of a one-round TKO, but this is one I'd really like to see. Lopez wants to fight the best, and even though he already beat Ponce, one-round fights between guys at this level are so fluky that it's hard to put much stock into them. Yes, Lopez stopped both Cesar Figueroa and Sergio Medina in one in his next two fights, but let's not go confusing Figueroa and Medina with Ponce de Leon, either. Something tells me Daniel might put up a better fight the second time around. Lopez is not infallible -- he's been taken deep by Hugo Dianzo, and fairly deep by Jorge Otero, Edel Ruiz, and someone named Gilberto Bolanos.

8. Oscar de la Hoya v. Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr.: Yes, it's been a lukewarm topic of late, since Oscar isn't exactly in a rush to declare his retirement from boxing, and JC Jr. is apparently all for getting a measure of revenge for his father now that Oscar looks old, washed-up, and finished. But as great as Pacquiao was, there's no doubt Oscar's conditioning played a serious role in that fight. At this stage of his career, and taking it all into account after the fact, I think Manny pretty routinely beats Oscar at 147 pounds, period, even if Oscar showed up in great shape. But even during the weigh-in, when Oscar came in at 145, I thought that was peculiar. It's documented. Anyway, I'd like to see this fight at 154 because I think Oscar, even in his weakened state, is still a lot better than Chavez. If JC Jr. wants to make a name for himself with Oscar, I'd like to see him try. Storybook endings don't always happen in the real world.

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