The future of boxing in 2009

Dec 30, 2008 5:04 PM
Pulling No Punches by Michael Katz |

Happy New Year, or as Buddy the Bartender used to say at Gough’s Chop House across West 43d Street from the New York Times, "This is the year we all get even."

Maybe, maybe not. Gough’s has long been gone and in this economic climate, I’m not so confident of the Times’ health.

But never mind that. The question before the house is how will this not-so-great depression affect boxing? I admit it first crossed my mind that young kids, with the job market so tight, might start heading to the gyms. However, before anyone believes there will be a renaissance in boxing, some of my colleagues noted that any influx of raw talent will not be met by an increase in capable trainers.

There’ll just be a lot more novices around to serve as fodder for the sadistic fan, who likes his pint of blood as long as it flows from someone else.

I’m not so pessimistic.

I think there is a growing crop of young trainers now working as aides in the gym, especially John David Jackson. And, as much as I miss the late great Eddie Futch, there are still some fine conditioners around. One is a protégé of Eddie’s, Fred Roach, just off a brilliant preparation of Manny Pacquiao for what was left over of Oscar de la Hoya.

Freddie and Manny will have a tougher task in 2009 when, in what figures to be one of the biggest fights of the new year, Pacquiao will be challenging Ricky Hatton for the junior welterweight championship.

Hatton showed much improvement, especially in his footwork, when he easily handled the speedy Paul Malignaggi in November. My long-range prediction for the May 2 meeting is still Pacquiao, but it should not be as one-sided as his victory over the faded de la Hoya.

That’s just one of the highlights on the early 2009 calendar. The year gets off to a pretty good start when Antonio Margarito accepts the challenge of the crafty and speedy Sugar Shane Mosley on Jan. 24. The following month features Juan Manuel Marquez, my No. 2 or 1A to Pacquiao on the pound-for-pound list, taking on Juan Diaz.

We will still have such ugly rematches like Chad Dawson and Antonio Tarver – we’ve been there, done that – but there will also be little gems like April’s Kendall Holt-Tim Bradley partial unifier.

We’re seeing signs that Floyd Mayweather Jr. is ready to return, setting up a colossal bout against Pacquiao, provided Manny gets by Hatton, of course. During the Great Depression, boxing did not die.

There were some huge fights (Joe Louis and Max Schmeling, remember), but it did not exactly flourish, either. There was a heavyweight tournament to come up with some white hope to challenge the great Louis – and it was won by Jersey Joe Walcott.

But after World War II, the boom produced perhaps the longest sustained "golden era" of the Sweet Science. The Forties and Fifties, with the advent of television, spread the sport, I suspect we’ll be seeing the current revival (outside of the heavyweight division) continue.

There’s a hell of a logjam of talent at 115 pounds and soon at 122. The lightweights, junior welterweights and welterweights are all very competitive. Maybe some day we’ll have another big middleweight bout (will Kelly Pavlik please take on Arthur Abraham?).

All in all, I feel this will be another good year for the game. Now, can we capitalize on it by making the right selections? I shall try to proceed with caution. Meanwhile, I miss Gough’s more than I miss the Times. Who could ever forget John the Waiter, who upon being asked what was good one night, replied "the Celtics, minus the points."