Brooklyn is out of the house and Fernando Vargas is building up his red blood cells, so there is no immediacy this week. Good. It’ll give us a chance to glance at the year’s action-packed homestretch.
First things first. I was not among the legions anxiously awaiting Vargas’s allegedly farewell fight next weekend against trash-talking Ricardo Mayorga, so there is little disappointment in these quarters that El Feroz came up anemic and the pay-per-view bout has been postponed appropriately to Nov. 23. That’s the day after Thanksgiving, traditional for leftovers like turkeys, Vargas and Mayorga.
The postponement leaves two Friday night fights taking center stage this week. Each features a boxer from Brooklyn on the road. On ESPN2 from somewhere in Mississippi, Zab Judah has what appears to be a "gimme" in 35-year-old light-hitting Edwin Vazquez of Puerto Rico. Judah has not won in his last four fights (there was one "no contest" in there) with the losses to Carlos Baldomir, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Miguel Cotto)
None of my readers should bet this fight, even if they could find a line. But say this, Vazquez, with only eight knockouts on his 22-10-2 journeyman’s ledger, did give Matthew Hatton, Ricky’s unbeaten and untalented brother, all he could handle over 12 competitive rounds last June in Vegas. And Judah does have a penchant for making easy fights uncomfortably close — see DeMarcus Corley and Rafael Pineda. Zab turns 30 next month and he’d better take every match seriously if he hopes to fight his way back to a nice payday.
In Doncaster, England, not far from the Yorkshire digs of one Junior Witter, we’ll find our other Brooklyn-based fighter this Friday. No television on these shores to see Vivian Harris challenge Witter for one of those 140-pound titles the alphabets take from one fighter and give to another. Not sure whether there’s a big market for fights featuring a Junior against a Vivian. It’s not a betting fight, either. If you have a friend in England, you might be able to get some inflated odds on Harris, a former junior welterweight title-holder himself.
Even in Flatbush, it would seem Witter has the style edge. Styles make fights? In this case, they might prevent one. In a "fight" where the two go toe-to-toe, Harris has an excellent chance. Witter doesn’t figure to accommodate his guest, though.
I was one of the rain-drenched huddled masses in Glascow when Witter spent 12 rounds running between the drops to escape Judah on the Mike Tyson-Lou Savarese undercard. I have vowed never to watch Witter again, though he has won 20 in a row since his only loss. He has been notoriously ducked by compatriot, Ricky Hatton.
While Witter should be able to steal enough rounds from Harris in what could be a sleep-inducing match, we can dream of the way 2007 shapes up at the end. It’s a big finish for a sport that of course is "dead."
There are live big underdogs — Oleg Maskaev at +400 against -600 favorite Samuel Peter, Humberto Soto vs. Joan Guzman, maybe even Hatton against Floyd Mayweather Jr. — if our pound-for-pound best expends too much energy in that TV dance contest. And there are the pick ”˜ems that whet the appetite — Jermain Taylor against Kelly Pavlik, Joe Calzaghe (a slight choice) vs. Mikkel Kessler, Chad Dawson vs. Adrian Diaconu and maybe the best of all, Miguel Cotto vs. Sugar Shane Mosley.
Throw in the Diaz battle — Juan vs. Julio (David probably looking on in Chicago) and Jean-Marc Mormeck vs. David Haye, Chris Byrd vs. Alexander Povetkin and Calvin Brock vs. Eddie Chambers, and it’s obvious that there will be plenty of action.
There will be competitive bouts where the favorite looks too good to bet — Juan Manuel Marquez against Rocky Juarez, Manny Pacquiao once again opposite Marco Antonio Barrera, and maybe even Sultan Ibragimov vs. ancient Evander Holyfield.
The return of Vitali Klitschko, against Jameel McCline, will also attract attention, though not mine for gambling purposes. Vitali is a prohibitive -600, which is too much to lay on an oft-injured guy coming off a long sabbatical. I mean, he couldn’t even beat the mayor of Kiev while "retired."
Next column will be about Marquez-Juarez, with perhaps real good value on the undercard, where "Contenders" favorite Sergio Mora steps up to face Kassim Ouma. We won’t even fret that 2008 may begin with another old-timers day, Roy Jones Jr. against Felix Trinidad Jr. We know next year will also bring the rubber match between Rafael Marquez and Israel Vasquez, plus maybe Mayweather facing the Cotto-Mosley winner.
Dead sport, indeed.