Pulling No Punches by Michael Katz | The dog days are here, like most Augusts in boxing. Instead of complaining about the lack of action, we should probably celebrate an early Thanksgiving.
It’s been a good year, full of fights that give violence a good name.
With nothing looming until the end of the month (okay, Nikolai Valuev at 7-foot-2 can loom any day of the year, although his Aug. 30 opponent, John Ruiz, does not add much prestige) it is another opportunity to catch our breaths in this exhilarating season.
Last year was a very good one; there were two Israel Vazquez-Rafael Marquez brawls, whereas in 2008 there’s only been one. And despite all the great stuff that’s followed, Vazquez-Marquez III is the leader in the clubhouse as fight of the year.
What is remarkable about 2008 is that there are two other brutal outbreaks of high art that, in most years, would be hands-down choices for fight of the year – and this with five months left. First, of course, there was the brilliant and controversial decision earned by Manny Pacquiao against the older Marquez brother, Juan Manuel.
Then last month we had Miguel Cotto boxing splendidly for five plus rounds, only to fall victim to the inexorable qualities of Antonio Margarito, a bout which many ringsiders proclaimed an "instant classic."
I’m not sure it was even the fourth best fight of the year. Sure to be overlooked in December was the incredible one-round demolition derby between light welterweights Kendall Holt and Ricardo Torres. It may have been the best single round since Diego Corrales got up twice and stopped Jose Luis Castillo in the 10th of their epic first meeting.
Torres, who had won a controversial title defense in his home town of Barranquila, Colombia, last year, came out quickly to show that it was no fluke. Within 13 seconds, Holt was on the deck. And hurt. He was dropped a second time, but Torres left one opening. Boom. Just like that, Holt had scored an amazing knockout.
It was kind of a mini-Hagler-Hearns, but 2008 has been so blessed that it probably will slip under the year-end radars.
There has been no end of good fights, even on the club level I am told (I try not to watch too much of that; I’m jaded enough). August itself began with a decent scrap, and condolences to those, like me, who took the 5-2 odds that Joshua Clottey would knock out Zab Judah. Yes, we got robbed by the less-than-competent referee, Robert Byrd, who somehow thought a left uppercut that ripped open Judah’s face was a clash of heads.
Instant replay, where are you when I need you to cash?
There’s a cliché that good fighters produce good fights. Well, fight-of-the-year candidates produce fighter-of-the-year prospects. And even without Floyd Mayweather Jr. (a kind of blessing, I say) the quality of the game has been upheld.
There are still too many fights to come to be certain of the 2008 fighter of the year. Example: On Sept. 13, two lightweight title-holders, unfortunately in separate bouts on rival networks, could each stake a claim to the best of the year. In fact, their challengers, if successful, should not be overlooked.
In the first, there is Joel Casamayor, who in another terrific 2008 clash, rallied to beat Michael Katsides. Now he is facing Juan Manuel Marquez, my No. 2 pound-for-pounder, who can not be discounted for losing that hair-split decision to Pacquiao.
Then, we have Nate Campbell, the hardy perennial, who was brilliant in upsetting the previously undefeated Juan Diaz. Now he faces the undefeated Joan Guzman, moving up in weight. And it reflects on how good this year has been that Juan Diaz and Katsides are meeting next month.
Kelly Pavlik, with a tough victory in his rematch with Jermain Taylor and a laugher against laughable mandatory Gary Lockett, can improve his resume later against Bernard Hopkins – who with the ancient Roy Jones Jr. can only get Joe Calzaghe into contention for AARP fighter of the year.
Pacquiao, scraping by Juan Manuel Marquez and, as expected, dominating brave Dave Diaz, could be in contention if he gets the Dec. 6 date with Oscar de la Hoya and upsets the bigger man.
I’m not positive, but I kind of lean toward Margarito right now and hope he gets a meaningful opponent this fall.
I’d like to give more than honorable mention to some of the little guys – Ivan Calderon, who has another date with Hugo Cezares at the end of the month; Cristian Mijares and Juan Manuel Lopez.
I’m probably overlooking someone, though not the big guys. The heavyweights continue to bore. The point is that with so many good fighters around, and most showing a willingness to be challenged, it is no wonder this has been an outstanding year.
And you can bet on it.