Boxing’s vaunted end-of-the-year schedule reminds me of that years-ago Heinz catsup commercial, with the bottle turned upside down and its contents moving slowly, inexorably toward spicing up some food.
"Anticipation. Plop, plop."
But as postponements and cancellations quickly tore into the calendar (fights disappearing three weeks in a row because of injuries in camp) there was a tendency among the aficionados to moan and whimper.
So far, the injury bug has only infected the peripheral. It has not stopped any fight for which I had real anticipation. Next weekend’s scheduled return of Vitali Klitschko against Jameel McCline was canceled when the former undeserving Ring magazine heavyweight champion suffered another boo-boo.
Klitschko, anointed by Oscar de la Hoya’s latest plaything as the "real" heavyweight champion for beating Corrie Sanders, the part-time fighter from South Africa, has now not fought in three years. He also failed in his attempt to win election as mayor of Kiev. The WBC has named him "champion emeritus." Another setback and Ring probably will name him "champion for life."
It was not going to be a betting fight, either. McCline is not much these days, but it would have been tough to lay 6/1 or so on Klitschko, knowing how fragile that large body is. So, no big loss.
Neither were two fights which have found new slots later in the year. Fernando Vargas, about a 9/5 favorite over Ricardo Mayorga, turned up anemic. His red-blood cell count is improving and he is expected to take on the boorish Mayorga the day after Thanksgiving. I remind you, that’s a date appropriately set aside for leftovers like these two faded fighters.
Juan Manuel Marquez came up with a swollen knuckle and had to postpone his 130-pound title defense against Rocky Juarez. There was much speculation that the injury was merely a convenience because of poor ticket sales. Marquez did show for the photo op displaying the ugly bruise on his right hand. The big favorite will now meet Juarez on Nov. 3.
Unfortunately, that is the date of one of the fights for which there is much anticipation. Undefeated supermiddleweights Joe Calzaghe and Mikkel Kessler will face each other on Showtime.
The week after next one of the real gems on the schedule, undefeated Jermain Taylor’s last middleweight defense versus unbeaten and power-punching Kelly Pavlik, there is another good fight. Unbeaten Chad Dawson (who again has changed trainers) makes a light-heavy defense against undefeated Adrian Diaconu.
We’ll of course have more on these two goodies next column.
”¡ On Oct. 13, there will be a pay-per-view opportunity to watch 44-year-old Evander Holyfield go after another heavyweight belt when he challenges Sultan Ibragimov in Moscow. Closer to home, in Chicago, two of the 135-pound titlists named Diaz (Juan and Julio) will get together in the hometown of another lightweight belt-holder, David Diaz.
”¡ On Nov. 10, the week after the Calzaghe-Juan Manuel Marquez conflicts, there is another double-header. This is not one of those nasty dueling date things; just symbolic of all the good bouts coming up without the help of Vargas, Mayorga, Klitschko and McCline. On HBO/PPV from Madison Square Garden, there is perhaps the No. 1 attraction of the year, Sugar Shane Mosley’s challenge of undefeated Miguel Cotto.
”¡ Meanwhile, in Paris, there is a terrific cruiserweight title matchup between Le Tank, France’s Jean-Marc Mormeck and Britain’s David Haye. No word yet if that will appear on American TV. It wouldn’t necessarily be a conflict because of the time difference.
No, I feel no great regret at the wave of injuries. None, so far, have affected any of the must-see bouts on the schedule, such as the Nov. 17 showdown between Joan Guzman and Humberto Soto.
I wouldn’t mind another mild injury, though, to delete an Antonio Tarver sighting now scheduled for Dec. 1. No opponent has been named, though it could be Australia’s Dave Green. It would be on a card where Vernon Forrest defends his latest title, a 154-pound championship, against Michele Piccirillo of Italy.
That would give an extra week of buildup to the Dec. 8 grand finale between Floyd Mayweather Jr., the dance star, and Ricky Hatton. Floyd doesn’t need catsup — he brings enough hot dogs and relish to satisfy purists’ tastes.