The title pretty much says it all, but a few "ground rules," if you will:
- I'm going to avoid rematches. Yeah, Pacquiao-Marquez III would be on this list otherwise, but I want to stay away from that sort of thing, or a lot of these fights would be rematches. Adamek-Cunningham II would also be on the list otherwise, and Donaire-Darchinyan II, and on and on.
- One fight per fighter. Nobody needs to know which 10 Manny Pacquiao or Juan Manuel Marquez fights I most want to see.
- Weight division jumps are kept to a minimum, and they have to be things that are inevitable (like Kelly Pavlik or Juan Manuel Lopez moving up) or absolutely necessary to make what would be a great fight.
- Nothing that's currently scheduled, but some fights that have been rumored or at least ideas that have been bandied about.
- Nobody coming out of retirement, so that means no Joe Calzaghe, Oscar de la Hoya, etc.
- Not going to bother with Wladimir Klitschko against his brother Vitali. It's pointless.
With that said, let's get started.
10. Ivan Calderon v. Edgar Sosa (Junior Flyweight)
Undefeated Calderon is on his way to the Hall of Fame, a two-division ruler (105 and 108) who has made his mark in boxing history, albeit very quietly for most people who don't pay attention to the lower weight classes. For those that are casual fans and find Floyd Mayweather Jr. a joy to watch perform due to his prowess and pure skill, seek out some prime era Calderon. The little man was even slicker, even more dominant at his best. Today, Calderon is aging (he's 34), he's got a recurring cut problem, and even though he's the legit 108-pound champion of the world, there are signs that his best days are definitely behind him. He's come close to losing some fights, though he's yet to get an L. His last fight was a technical draw after six rounds with Rodel Mayol due to a cut halting the action.
Sosa, 29, is a late-blooming Mexican fighter who started his career 12-5 over his first 17 fights, and has gone 24-0 since then. He's a fringe pound-for-pound guy who has made nine straight successful defenses of the WBC title he won in 2007 against Brian Viloria. Calderon-Sosa could be part of any card, but would be brilliantly suited to a night renewing the Puerto Rico-Mexico boxing rivalry that has so thoroughly entertained us all over the years. Sosa deserves a crack at the top dog, and Calderon is the top dog.
9. Amir Khan v. Marcos Maidana (Junior Welterweight)
Freddie Roach knows it's a bad idea and I'd bet a toe that promoter Frank Warren works any magic he has to to keep this fight from never, ever happening. Maidana took his lumps against Victor Ortiz after some felt he deserved a win over Andriy Kotelnik, who lost his next fight to Khan this past Saturday.
There are reasons it's unlikely, and a big one is money, but it's not so much that there's no money in a Khan-Maidana fight, but rather that Frank Warren and Khan would like to make a lot of it over a period of several years, and Maidana could ruin that in a heartbeat. Khan would have physical advantages. Maidana is taller than Kotelnik, but still an inch shorter than Khan, who showed for most of his win on Saturday a great ability to use what he's learning from Freddie Roach and box at range, then get the hell away. Khan is also about three times faster with the hands than Maidana is, and he could pepper and move all night if he played his cards right.
Still, Khan's chin is not fixable, at least not directly, and Maidana can throw some bombs. I think for as much praise as Khan deserves for the Kotelnik win, there were moments where he showed some genuine fear, and Kotelnik is no puncher. He played it all quite well, but some of those clean shots Kotelnik landed could put Khan out cold coming from Maidana.
The other wrinkle to getting Khan able to avoid this? Khan holds the WBA title now. Maidana holds the WBA's interim title thanks to his win over Victor Ortiz. At some point, the WBA will order the fight to happen if they both hold onto the straps. What then? Does Khan vacate and get called a coward? Does he risk his marketability, perhaps for good, on a fight with Maidana?
Khan can beat Maidana. He's a far better boxer. But is he a better figher?
I know, I know, I know. Hatton's "washed up" and Judah's half a gatekeeper. But I figure there's good money here if you hold the fight in the UK, and it's kind of do or die for both of them, and even though I'm biased toward Hatton and biased against Judah, I've generally always enjoyed watching both of them fight. Zab's a guy I love to root against. Hatton's a guy I love to root for.
Zab is tentatively scheduled to fight Ricky's brother, Matthew, on September 19, which could even serve as a nice set-up. Judah likely beats Matthew on pure talent, and if he did so impressively, I can already hear Zab calling Ricky out to be his next victim.
As for Ricky Hatton, I have the feeling he's going to fight again. My heart and head combine to say it's about 96% likely that he does. RIcky Hatton will never have another huge money fight like he did with Mayweather or Pacquiao again, but the man's a fighter and there are a lot of guys he can still beat. But right this moment, I'd call Ricky-Zab a good toss-up fight. We don't know where Ricky's head is at. We don't know if the Pacquiao implosion took some of his punch resistance (combined with the Mayweather beatdown). And you never really know what you're getting out of Judah these days, who tends to fight up and down to the level of his opposition and has a habit of fading after the first half of a fight if it's not really easy for him.
7. Sakio Bika v. Librado Andrade (Super Middleweight)
I'm almost totally certain that Andrade will get dominated over 12 rounds by Lucian Bute in their November 4 rematch, but it's not like he's going to go away after that. Bika is constantly looking for opposition and nobody's willing to fight him. My reasons for wanting to see this fight are simple: It'd be a freaking war. Bika is a hot-tempered fighter; watch him turn into The Incredible Hulk when he feels wronged against Peter Manfredo Jr., it's epic stuff. Andrade has the best chin in boxing, for my money, and both guys will trade shots if the opportunity presents itself. It'd wind up, I think, being who could outlast the other guy.
6. Tomasz Adamek v. Bernard Hopkins (Cruiserweight)
The renewed talk of this in the past couple months seems to indicate that this is a fight that really might come off in January 2010, and that's great, but at this point with B-Hop, I'll believe it when they hold the press conference, and even then I'll retain a small bit of doubt.
It's a really compelling fight for a lot of reasons. Adamek is a legit champ, which would give Hopkins a chance to win a third true championship, having already dominated at middleweight and been light heavyweight champion of the world. Adamek is a good fighter, too, but he's not great, he's quite vulnerable, and though he's far younger than Hopkins (who turns 45 in January), he's no spring chicken and fighters get old sometime (unless they're Bernard Hopkins, of course).
I think like most Hopkins fights it wouldn't be terribly attractive to watch, but there's some historical significance to it and even though Hopkins has usually annoyed me over his career, I do appreciate that we've most likely only got one or two more fights left from this living legend, one of the greatest fighters of his generation. If he's going to fight on, I say make it interesting and try Adamek. Hell, I'd watch Bernard try to out-fox a Klitschko, but that's just crazy, right?
I don't like Edwin Valero. I'm just being honest. There's just something about him that rubs me the wrong way, and it isn't the Dirk Diggler haircut. He seems really full of himself, like he feels entitled to a big money fight despite having zero following in the U.S. and being half a myth as it is. Yeah, he's got nasty, monster power, but who's he beaten? There are scattered decent fighters on his record, but whatever.
Katsidis is one of those guys whose flaws are absolutely obvious to anyone that watches him fight, but I'd love to see this one simply because he's tougher than all hell and takes a good shot. Joel Casamayor knocked him down early in their fight (twice, in fact), but Katsidis looked really cold, really nervous in that fight. I think he learned something that night, and I also think Casamayor got into his head to a big degree when he jumped in his face upon Katsidis' entrance into the ring. Here he is buying his own hype with that stupid gladiator outfit he wears, and he turns around and there's Casamayor. Seemed to genuinely throw him off a bit.
Chances are Valero knocks Katsidis out because Katsidis isn't terribly talented or anything, but I'd like to see Valero in with guys like this before Top Rank just hands him a fight with Manny Pacquiao or something like that. My dislike of Valero is almost surely entirely superficial fan B.S., but we all have our fighters we just don't care for and damn it, I don't care for him.
4. Chris John v. Yuriorkis Gamboa (Featherweight)
Gamboa has been matched kind of aggressively considering he's only 15 fights into his pro career, but you know, the Cuban guys like Gamboa, Erislandy Lara, Guillermo Rigondeaux, etc., how much seasoning do we really need to put up with? They're exceptionally skilled fighters that came from what is arguably the world's best amateur boxing program. Gamboa is far beyond the skill level of even the best guys he's fought so far, so let's just cut the crap and get him in there with someone who might actually be his speed.
Chris John is a really good, really smart fighter, and even though he doesn't hold the Ring Magazine championship, he's almost universally regarded as the No. 1 featherweight in the sport today. Gamboa is already in a lot of peoples' top five at the weight, and rightfully so, really. He's a massive talent, a super exciting fighter to watch, and unless something goes really wrong for him quickly, he's going to rain money down if he keeps building a following. He's been promoted quite well so far and working with Top Rank will only help his exposure.
I actually think he'd beat John if that was the next fight for both of them. John isn't heavy handed, isn't really an exceptional fighter, he's just damn solid in every area of the game. Gamboa has his sloppy mistakes, but I don't think Chris John is the fighter to truly "expose" him, really. Gamboa is tremendously fast, could physically overwhelm John if he fought smart, and could perhaps even stop him. It'd make Gamboa the new No. 1 featherweight in the game today, which a lot of people think is his immediate destiny anyway.
3. Juan Manuel Lopez v. Rafael Marquez (Junior Featherweight / Featherweight)
Marquez made his comeback at 126 pounds, but I haven't seen him explicitly say it's because he can't do 122 anymore, which Israel Vazquez says is the reason he's planning to fight at 126 from now on. Izzy Vazquez is my favorite fighter, and I love him to death, but my gut tells me if he got in there with Lopez at this stage in his career, after all the wars and the body battering he's gone through, Lopez would smoke him out of there within four rounds. It wouldn't be for any lack of heart or anything like that, it just wouldn't be a fair fight at this point. I think it'd look sort of like Pacquiao-Morales III, where Morales was game as they come and threw what he had, but it just wasn't there on that level anymore.
Rafael, if I had to guess, is going to have the longer remaining career between he and his great rival. His body isn't quite as destroyed, it doesn't seem, he simply took the time off to recover, heal up, and come back right. Vazquez took the time off (and is still off) in large part because he couldn't get medically cleared to fight. There's a chance Lopez-Marquez would wind up looking like my mind's eye's version of Lopez-Vazquez, but Rafael is a hard puncher and he's a sharpshooter. He doesn't waste punches in there. Everything is a bullet. Lopez has not faced that kind of guy yet. Daniel Ponce de Leon is a big puncher, but he's wide and often sloppy with his shots, and Lopez was just way too good a boxer for that. When you add in Lopez's strength, you come up with a quick knockout.
Marquez, even assuming he's not what he used to be, would be Lopez's greatest test so far. Unless Lopez bombed him out really fast, we'd get to see JML's chin and guts tested at some point.
I'm actually really, really in favor of this fight. It's really dangerous for both guys and is a big fight for a legit championship. Tall Paul is one of the best fighters on the planet, I think, a guy that learned a LOT from his one loss to Carlos Quintana. He has done nothing but up his game since that fight, blowing out Quintana in the rematch, destroying Andy Kolle at middleweight, going down to 154 and dominating Verno Phillips, and then giving Winky Wright the worst beating of his career.
Pavlik and Williams, in some ways, need each other. Middleweight has emptied out for money fights and Pavlik simply might not be confident in a move up to 168. Eventually he'll have to do it, but Paul Williams is out there willing to fight anyone. Even with his lack of a solid fanbase, HBO seems quite high on Williams as one of the future (and current) stars of the sport, and Pavlik needs that kind of opponent right now, and desperately so.
I'd have to really weigh it out to come up with a winner here. Williams is exceptionally long but fights well on the inside, too. In fact I'd say he's a better inside fighter than Pavlik. But I think some people have forgotten that Kelly -- to put it bluntly -- hits like a son of a bitch. Just because he didn't dent Bernard Hopkins doesn't mean that's changed. Hopkins has an all-time great chin. It'd be a pick'em fight.
1. Shane Mosley v. Manny Pacquiao (Welterweight)
I'm not crazy about a catchweight fight between these two, and I'm really not crazy about Mosley boiling down to 140 pounds to fight Pacquiao. But this fight at 147 pounds has MUST-SEE stamped on its head. I don't think the weight would be a real problem for Manny in any way, and Mosley is still a ball of fire at 147. It's a fight between two guys with great speed, great boxing intelligence, knockout power, and true intensity. They're both guys that get hit and retaliate. I've said before that Mosley has the talent to have been a Floyd Mayweather-type slickster, but he just doesn't have that in him. You pop him, and here he comes firing back like a psychopath. Pacquiao is much the same way. Both are guys that can box all night long and show the sweet science in its purest form, but they're also guys that can't resist a good throw-down. Shane's also got an iron chin. Both guys would be put to the test in a major way.
Not at 140. Not at 141, 142, 143, 144, 145 or 146. But at 147, there isn't a fight in boxing I want to see more than this one.