Summer (thankfully!) nearing its end for boxing

Aug 18, 2009 5:10 PM
Pulling No Punches by Michael Katz |

Rich crop of fights set for fall harvest

The dog days of summer are thankfully stumbling to a close, and by "dog" I don’t mean Paul Malignaggi at a buy-back rate of 7-2, 4-1 or so against Juan Diaz next Saturday on HBO. It is just that the autumn harvest promises a bumper crop of much better fights.

As an underdog, Malignaggi may be "live," but it is unlikely that the Magic Man is of much value, even though laying $5.50 to win $1 on Diaz does not appeal, either. Malignaggi, with notoriously bad hands and only five knockouts on his 26-2 record, will be hard-pressed to keep the Baby Bull off him and though he may outbox Diaz, fighting in his opponent’s home town of Houston will not win him many points with the judges, who understandably will be more impressed with the crowd noise every time Diaz throws, regardless of where the punches land.

He can box some, the kid from Brooklyn, but though he is the bigger man here – a former junior welterweight title-holder awaiting a former lightweight champion’s rise in weight class – and the faster, he is up against it. He can beat the journeymen in his division, but has come up short – brave, but still short – when he meets more elite competition.

He took a beating gallantly against a weight-drained Miguel Cotto at 140 back in 2006, then needed eight months off to restore his hands.

Last November, he was beaten badly again, this time by Ricky Hatton, whose stoppages by Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao did not proclaim the Englishman as one of the best. Diaz’s aggressive style should remind Malignaggi of that long night against Hatton.

Juan Diaz was seemingly on the brink of greatness. He was undefeated, had made Acelino Freitas quit, and had had his way with Julio Diaz, no relation, but another 135-pound belt-holder. He was fun to watch, a Texas buzzsaw of a fighter throwing combinations in profusion. His story was not bad, either. He was working his way through college by beating up the world’s best lightweights.

He’s only 25, but guys with his face-first style don’t have long productive careers and Diaz was undressed rather convincingly last year and don’t let the official designation of "split" decision fool you. He was soundly defeated.

He scored a more correctly split decision against the over-rated Michael Katsidisis, but then took a painful beating from Juan Manuel Marquez. Malignaggi does not punch anything like Campbell or Marquez, so Diaz should survive to get another big HBO payday.

To paraphrase the late great Budd Schulberg, the bigger the fall, the harder they are to decipher. Starting Sept. 19, three days before the "official" first day of autumn, the bountiful harvest begins. Floyd Mayweather Jr., the longtime pound-for-pound king, ends his premature retirement by facing Juan Manuel Marquez.

Marquez is the current No. 2 on the pound-for-pound list, behind only Manny Pacquiao, but he is by far the smaller man here and Mayweather will be a large favorite – too large, I fear, but more on that when it is appropriate.

I shall not delve into specifics here. This is mainly to whet your appetites for the coming weeks. A week after Mayweather-Marquez, there is even a heavyweight fight worthy of mention. Vitali Klitschko, the best in the division (yes, better than his kid brother, Wladimir), faces a hard-punching, undefeated Mexican-American named Cris Arreola.

I believe Arreola has chosen the wrong Klitschko. He might scare Wladimir out of the ring, but he will have major problems with Vitali.

Still, it’s must viewing.

The following week,on Oct. 3, Kelly Pavlik defends the real middleweight title against my No. 3 pound for pound, Paul Williams – who can probably beat anyone in the talented welterweight division (including Pacquiao, Sugar Shane Mosley, Miguel Cotto and, yes, even Mayweather), and take care of all the junior middleweights in the world.

The next week, Showtime’s "Super Six" round-robin for super-middleweights begins with two fights from separate sites in Europe, Arthur Abraham vs. whatever’s left of Jermaine Taylor and Carl Froch vs. Andre Dirrell.

Then, after a two-week hiatus (boxing is not going to go head-to-head with Halloween), we return with a mediocre heavyweight bout, the loud British cruiserweight David Haye moving up to take on the seven-foot Nikolai Valuev. It may not be seen live, thankfully, in this country, but on the same Nov. 7 night there is a rematch of an entertaining scrap between Chad Dawson and Glen Johnson.

The following week we have the main event of the fall, Pacquiao against Miguel Cotto, and let’s not forget Nov. 14 there will be another Super Six match-up, Mikkel Kessler and Andre Ward.

We shall have a lot to be grateful for by Thanksgiving.

Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Michael Katz