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A Quick Primer for the Newbies: The Best Boxing Will Offer in 2009

Miguel Cotto and Manny Pacquiao will square off on November 14. It's just one of many compelling fights closing out the 2009 boxing year. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)
Miguel Cotto and Manny Pacquiao will square off on November 14. It's just one of many compelling fights closing out the 2009 boxing year. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

With one million people having bought last Saturday night's Mayweather-Marquez fight, the hope now is that a few more eyes might be on the boxing world right now. Frankly speaking, other recent superfights (Hatton-Pacquiao, de la Hoya-Pacquiao, Mayweather-Hatton, de la Hoya-Mayweather) haven't helped feed the idea that too many fans stick around past the casual event. The machine that is the UFC has done a phenomenal job not just bringing fans in, but keeping them interested.

Boxing, while far from the struggling sport it's made out to be often (it's a niche sport), hasn't been able to do that on a large scale. But there's an incredible slate of fights to close out 2009, and don't be fooled into thinking you should only pay attention to the big event fights. There's a lot more out there than just your Mayweathers and Pacquiaos.

September 26: Vitali Klitschko v. Chris Arreola, Heavyweights, HBO

Tomorrow night, Klitschko (37-2, 36 KO) and Arreola (27-0, 24 KO) will battle it out for some form of heavyweight supremacy. Yes, yes, it's hard to keep track of the titles. Vitali's brother, Wladimir, is currently the world heavyweight champion, but with Wlad on the shelf, Vitali is the best out there (and some will argue it's that way even when Wlad is healthy). Arreola is a gutsy, wild-swinging brawler that hopes he has the punch and chin to stand up to the powerful, technically-sound, but 38-year old and creaky Klitschko. It might not last long, and it might not be pretty, but chances are, someone's getting knocked out.

October 17: Arthur Abraham v. Jermain Taylor and Carl Froch v. Andre Dirrell, Super Middleweights, Showtime

The Super Six World Boxing Classic is shaping up to be a breakthrough way of promoting fights, and it's an idea anyone can get behind. Showtime, other major TV networks across the world, and several promoters all pitched in to get six of the best 168-pounders in the world together for a tournament, starting with a round-robin phase, then taking the top four and putting them into a single elimination format. These two fights will be the tournament's first.

Abraham (30-0, 24 KO) will meet what promises to be his toughest test yet from former undisputed middleweight champion Taylor (28-3-1, 17 KO). Taylor's had a rough go of it in recent times, but every one of his three losses have come in good fights, one of them (his first loss to Kelly Pavlik in 2007) a classic. He's as hungry as ever, partially because he knows he needs a good showing. Froch (25-0, 20 KO) keeps defying the skeptics who say he's too slow, having beaten two faster men (Taylor and Jean Pascal) in his last two outings, both in fantastic fights. Young American Dirrell (18-0, 13 KO) is untested but highly skilled.

November 7: Nikolai Valuev v. David Haye, Heavyweights, Sky Sports Box Office

Valuev (50-1, 34 KO) is a seven-foot giant, but not a seven-foot monster. He's a guy who seems to genuinely want to be a good fighter instead of a "freakshow" attraction, but sadly he doesn't have the athletic skill. He's not what to watch for in this fight. Rather, it's brash Englishman Haye (22-1, 21 KO), the former cruiserweight champion who fights like a ball of fire and has a quaky chin to boot. He's powerful, fast, exciting, charismatic and vulnerable.

November 7: Chad Dawson v. Glen Johnson II, Light Heavyweights, HBO

When HBO signed Chad Dawson to a deal after a successful build on Showtime, they were forced into airing an unnecessary, unwanted rematch with Antonio Tarver earlier this year. Dawson, as expected, cruised, just as he had months before. But Johnson is no cupcake rematch. Many argue that the hard-luck, veteran "Road Warrior" Johnson (49-12-2, 33 KO) beat Dawson (28-0, 17 KO) when they met in April 2008. I scored it a draw, and it was without question the toughest test of Dawson's career. In that fight, it was the aged Johnson who brought the fight to the younger man, seeming to take Dawson by surprise with a sustained attack and some amazing stamina, not to mention his outstanding chin. A Johnson win would derail a lot of hopes for Dawson.

November 14: Miguel Cotto v. Manny Pacquiao, Welterweights (145-Pound Catchweight), HBO PPV

The next major event, which even as a neophyte or casual fan, you're probably aware of. Pacquiao (49-3-2, 37 KO) is an offensive storm, arguably the most exciting fighter in the sport. But Cotto (34-1, 27 KO) can be a cold, calculated hitman in the ring, with a precision attack, underrated defense, and a lot of resolve. Neither man has been in less than an entertaining fight in years. It's as good a sure bet for fireworks as anything can be.

November 21: Mikkel Kessler v. Andre Ward, Super Middleweights, Showtime

Kessler (42-1, 32 KO) and Ward (20-0, 13 KO) both tuned up in easy wins on September 12. The third fight of the Super Six tournament could be the best. Kessler is a world-class fighter whose lone loss came to Joe Calzaghe back in 2007, and he gave Calzaghe one of his toughest fights. Ward, like fellow American Andre Dirrell, is untested but a great talent. Both are about to jump from prospect into the fire of big fights.

November 28: Lucian Bute v. Librado Andrade II, Super Middleweights, HBO

These two first met in Montreal late last year. Andrade (28-2, 21 KO) lost a pretty wide decision, but nearly scored a dramatic knockout of Bute (24-0, 19 KO) in the 12th round. A lot of controversy surrounded the finish thanks to referee Marlon B. Wright, but now they'll get to settle it, toe-to-toe, like it should be settled. Andrade has maybe the best chin in all of boxing, as he once withstood a massive 12-round barrage from Kessler without so much as stumbling. What he lacks in skill he makes up for in a willingness and great ability to be punched in the face, and an indomitable will to keep moving forward and fire off his own power punches.

December 5: Kelly Pavlik v. Paul Williams, Middleweights, HBO

One of 2009's biggest fights will take place in Atlantic City on December 5. Former welterweight and junior middleweight titlist Williams (37-1, 27 KO) has been bouncing between 147 and 160 pounds over the last two years, just looking for the best fights. He avenged his lone loss (to Carlos Quintana, Feb. 2008) by knocking out the same man in the first round in their rematch. Pavlik (35-1, 31 KO) is the legit middleweight champion of the world, and is in dire need of a big statement win. Most last saw him getting dominated by Bernard Hopkins last October, though he did fight and dominate Marco Antonio Barrera this past February. Williams, at 6'1", won't have the height advantages he had at lower weights, but his 82" reach is still freakish.

December 12: Timothy Bradley v. Lamont Peterson, Junior Welterweights, Showtime

Bradley (24-0, 11 KO) has been stirring things up since upsetting Junior Witter in 2008, and he appears to be getting better and better. Fellow unbeaten young American Peterson (27-0, 13 KO) was hyped as having given Floyd Mayweather Jr. a real run for his money as Mayweather sparred in preparation for Marquez. Both of these fighters should be around for a good, long while.

Hey, I'm not saying watch every fight on this list. Nobody's saying dive in and become a boxing fanatic overnight. But these are some fights to certainly check out if you're interested in seeing some big, important, and promising bouts. Not every one will be great (Valuev-Haye is very unlikely to even be very good), but at least a couple of these fights are going to turn out to be fantastic battles, and it would stun me if any of them was worse aesthetically than Mayweather-Marquez, to be honest.

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