Solid ‘After Dark’ double at Caesars no afterthought

Jun 20, 2006 5:39 AM

I’ve long learned not to talk about things you don’t know about.

Since I haven’t seen three of the four fighters in what appears to be a fine HBO Boxing After Dark double-header this Saturday at Caesars Palace, I probably should shut up right now. But I’m paid to be smart, so I’ll bluff.

Brock vs Ibragimov

Calvin Brock should be about a 3-1 favorite over a not equally undefeated heavyweight named Timor Ibragimov, whom I hear (not the same as see) is no slouch. Brock, a 2000 Olympian who has beaten such as Jameel McCline and Clifford Etienne, can punch. He showed heart when getting off the deck against McCline, clearing the cobwebs and regaining control. He is smart — a college graduate / bank executive — and personable.

Brock is also promoted by Main Events, another edge. I like Brock. In the current wasteland of the heavyweight division, he is one of the brighter oases. Maybe back in the 1970s he wouldn’t be considered so highly, but these days any glimmer is welcome.

I am told by one of my trusted scouts that the Uzbekestan-born Ibragimov is fairly capable, though perhaps not as good as his Russian-born cousin, Sultan Ibragimov. My source says one of the former Soviet’s handlers says it is not like the brothers Ali — Rahman was in no way anything like big brother Muhammad.

In this case, I have been informed, "there is one great one and one good one." Sultan, who later will face Ray Austin in an IBF eliminator to establish a mandatory challenger for Wladimir Klitschko, is reportedly, like Chris Byrd, whom Klitschko beat for the belt. Sultan is a smallish left-hander with good defense and can punch, unlike Byrd. Sultan completely blasted longtime fringe player Lance Whitaker, indicating he can handle opponents with height. It’s no wonder Emanuel Steward, Klitschko’s trainer, is reportedly not too anxious for his man to oppose Sultan.

Timor, while no Sultan according to my source, could be good enough to beat Brock. Calvin does not really evoke Sonny Liston type shivers in opponents. If the "second" Ibragimov wins, he would continue the current trend of former Soviet boxers taking over the heavyweight division. If he doesn’t, Hasim Rahman will have an ally in defending the division for the United States.

Forget flags, though. The winner, especially if impressive, could enliven the star-starved heavyweight landscape. On the other hand, the HBO telecast opens with a match of young undefeated welterweights, where the theme might be "the more the merrier."

Julio vs Quintana

Joel Julio, a Colombian knockout artist who has become the "Love Child" of ESPN.com’s boxing maven, Dandy Dan Rafael, would make a fine addition to a division that has become the finest in boxing. It is where all those wonderful junior welterweights are winding up.

Julio is probably a 4-1 or better favorite over Carlos Quintana, a smooth-boxing Puerto Rican whom I understand can fight. If Julio is that good, then the 147-pound class will be bursting at the seams. One of the least regarded players is the champion, Carlos Baldomir, who upset the listless Zab Judah for the real title in January.

Baldomir, a rugged journeyman, is an underdog next month to Arturo Gatti, whom we saw get beaten to a pulp by Floyd Mayweather Jr. at 140. Mayweather has also moved up to 147, also beating Judah for a so-called "title." Ricky Hatton moved up to 147 and won a belt against the very underrated and capable Luis Collazo. If Hatton returns to 140, the division still has perhaps the best Brooklyn-based welter in Collazo (take that, Zab Judah fans).

Then there’s Antonio Margarito, the WBO belt-holder who complains no one will fight him so he continually fights no one. Sugar Shane Mosley is still around and throw in undefeated youngster Paul Williams, a 6-foot-1 southpaw with apparently a chin to match his speed and power. Then there’s Kermit Cintron, who has been revived by Steward.

This could be the finest 147-pound class since the golden age of the early ’80s — Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran, Wilfred Benitez, Pipino Cuevas et al. All in all, the Caesars show is not to be missed, even if it is not to be bet.