Fight without Wladimir might be decent

Mar 5, 2008 7:00 AM

Pulling No Punches by Michael Katz | The first world heavyweight championship held in Mexico is taking place next Saturday in Cancun and Don King is charging $1,000 for ringside tickets.

That may be as south of the border as you can get.

Oh, well, King and his WBC bandidos, with the support of HBO, at least have a shot at presenting a decent heavyweight scrap – which means Wladimir Klitschko is not involved.

Which also means this is not for the real title.

Wladimir may have dominated Sultan Ibragimov last month in a unification bout, but if he is the best heavyweight in the world then this planet has bigger problems than global warming. At least, Oleg Maskaev and Samuel Peter should put on a better show in their unifier.

This is a partial unifier of the WBC title. Maskaev, by dint of a second knockout of Hasim Rahman, is the regular WBChump. But because he kept avoiding his mandatory in Peter, the Nigerian Nightmare was allowed to face Jameel McCline for the "interim" title. The winner Saturday does not become full WBChump because he then has to face Big Brother, Vitali Klitschko, the "emeritus" champion.

There could be a better, though not betting, fight on the card involving Juan Diaz. The unquestioned No. 1 lightweight in the world defends his three titles against hard-hitting Nate Campbell, but the action will be in the ring, not at the books. Diaz figures to be an almost off-the-board favorite because he almost certainly will win, but the Galaxy Warrior has a puncher’s chance in here.

Maskaev-Peter is a more attractive betting fight. Both guys can punch and can be hit. Peter’s only defeat on a 29-1 ledger, including 22 stoppages, was on points to Wladimir Klitschko – and he had Baby Brother down three times. Peter was too green to finish him off, but he’s gone to graduate school since, including two victories in so-called "eliminators" over James Toney. The second was quite emphatic and it appeared Peter was the future.

Then the ordinary, but big, McCline had him in big trouble. Peter was down a couple of times, and suddenly there are doubts about just how good Samuel is. The odds are that the McCline fight was some kind of apparition. When a 266-pound bruiser hits you on the chin, there is a tendency to obey gravity. But are the odds too generous?

At -500 or -450, it is hard for me to recommend Mr. Peter. Besides, I have a soft spot for Maskaev, who when he started in this country was given credit for several victories in the old Soviet Union. But he confessed – despite his team’s denials – that these were in amateur fights. That kind of honesty is rare in boxing.

The Big O, despite his current alignment with Dennis the Menace (I Am) Rappaport, an old sparring partner from the Gerry Cooney days, retains my well-wishes.

 I’m not sure I would take the buy-back offers of +300 or +350, but the temptation is there. Maskaev can punch. He seems to be a lot cagier at 39 (a well-rested 39, incidentally) since Victor Valle Jr., son of Cooney’s old trainer, has taken over. I can sit this one out and silently root for Maskaev.

Speaking of south of the border, John Ruiz – who insists that every body shot landing on him is south of the border – is on the Cancun card. Maybe McCline can do us all a favor and make him go away again.

Probably the best betting match of the day takes place in England, where David Haye of London is about 2-1 to beat fellow once-beaten cruiserweight titleholder, Enzo Maccarinelli of Wales, who is +145 to +160. Haye is the far bigger puncher here. His only loss against 20 victories (19 KOs) was in a premature title bid against Carl Thompson in Hayes’s 11th pro fight.

Maccarinelli, trained by Joe Calzaghe’s father, suffered his only loss in his fourth pro fight. But his 28-1 record, with 21 knockouts, does not contain any startling victories. Haye showed his class last year when he won his share of the 200-pound title by stopping Jean-Marc Mormeck in the seventh round.

Maccarinelli’s only "name" victim was on points against Wayne Braithwaite. If you have to bet, I’d suggest the Englishman. It is not a hearty endorsement, however.