Sunday, May 28, 2006

Top 25 Heavyweights (As of June, 2006)

By JE Grant
While there are no changes in the top 10, the second tier continues to percolate. Young former Olympians Jason Estrada and Alexander Povetkin have scored fairly significant 1o-round wins very early in their respective careers and show promise.

Veterans Danny Williams, DaVarryl Williamson, and Shannon Briggs scored wins in May in stay-busy fights.

The alphabet sanctioning bodies continue spew out rulings that are growing more bizarre with each edict. The IBF has been leading the way of late in the apparent sweepstakes for nuttiest rulings. On the organization’s website, they have no one listed in the number 1 position. Funny how that works. They can rank fighters in every other position but just can’t seem to figure out a number 1 contender. (Add to that the zany position taken recently by the organization allowing Zab Judah to hold onto its version of the welterweight title after losing a title fight and from 2005 the decision to allow DaVarryl Williamson to leapfrog over Wladimir Klitschko in their ratings despite losing to him. What is boiling in their collective brain buckets)?

Of late, we’ve been hearing rumblings that perhaps the newly crowned IBF beltholder Klitschko wants to tangle with James Toney and presto, we see “Lights Out” in their top ten. For all its cleverness, the IBF’s sub-organization, the USBA (ostensibly rating US-based fighters), does not list James Toney anywhere in its top 15 as posted on May 25, 2006.

The WBC of course has ruled that the winner of the upcoming Hasim Rahman – Oleg Maskaev bout must fight James Toney.

The WBA is sanctioning the Nicolay Valuev-Owen Beck “title” bout despite the fact that Beck has never beaten a top fighter. In fact in two brushes with top ten fighters he has lost resoundingly.

Obviously no sanctioning body has cornered the market on goofiness.

We’ll see where it all leads soon enough
* * *
1. Wladimir Klitschko, Ukraine – IBF Champion (Last month #1) The whispers about Klitschko’s next opponent are getting louder and the name James Toney keeps popping up on various boxing websites. One small hurdle was cleared– “Lights Out” is suddenly rated by the IBF. He went from non-existent to number 8. Manny Steward, Klitschko’s corner genius, knows that Toney is a marquee draw and more importantly can’t put a dent in the grill of Wlad. It is this simple, if a fighter can’t punch hard enough to hurt Klitschko, he can’t win. If the match is made look for Toney to end up in a heap.

2. Hasim Rahman, USA – WBC Champion (Last Month #2) Everything appears set for his rematch against Oleg Maskaev. As boxing fans will remember, the first time the two met (in 1999), Rahman ended up in the front row at ringside. A boxing lifetime has been had by both since that meeting. Rahman has twice worn a title belt and Maskaev has declined in output sharply. At the age of 37, this is Maskaev’s last big shot. Who knows if his has the power.

3. Serguei Liakhovich, Belarus – WBO Champion (Last month #3) Liakhovich goes from dominating wins over Dominck Guinn and Lamon Brewster to pondering a defense against Kevin McBride. Really? What in the world would be the draw? McBride has done nothing to indicate he rates a shot at the NABO title much less a so-called “world” belt. Liakhovich’s promoter, Don King, has been hollering about unification --- why not do it right now with the two belts he controls (the second being Nicolay Valuev’s WBA strap)? Will HBO or Showtime support showing a Liakhovich-McBride match? Serguei, why go this direction when mountains of money await against Klitschko, Rahman, or even Valuev?

4. Lamon Brewster, USA (Last month #4) He suffered a detached retina against Liakhovich. No one can be sure how the injury will affect his career but it is a major obstacle. Let’s hope for the best because Brewster is still the most exciting heavyweight in the game today.

5. Chris Byrd, USA (Last month #5) Currently thinking about his future in the game. If Chris listened to me – fat chance – I would tell to go right now for the world cruiserweight championship against O’Neil Bell. There’s no doubt he could make the weight and goodness knows that Bell needs to face a real name to make money in the division. We might also see why Chris Byrd has truly been special in light of the fact that he has always given away height and weight.

6. Calvin Brock, USA (Last month #6) Timor Ibragimov is the only thing standing in the way of a title showdown with one of the belt mongers – possibly Wladimir Klitschko. Beating Ibragimov will be no small feat despite that you’ll see Timor listed far down this page. Ibragimov hasn’t checked all the boxes for success yet and is looking to make his mark by jumping up in competition dramatically. Look for an action fight in June.

7. Samuel Peter, Nigeria (Last month #7) The “Nigerian Nightmare” starched the 7-footer Julius Long proving very little. Still, he needs only to stay active to be assured at some kind of title shot. It’s not clear that he learned as much as he should have against Klitschko. The next time we’ll find out is when he meets someone who isn’t petrified by his mere presence.
8. James Toney, USA (Last month #8) You’ve seen above that he may get against Klitschko what may prove his last shot at a belt. Of course if the bout doesn’t come off, he’s been guaranteed a “mandatory” shot at the winner of the Rahman-Maskaev match. If you’re scratching your head wondering why he keeps getting title shots you’re not alone. There’s no doubt that he can actually fight, but as a heavyweight he has yet to score a win against a top fighter. His motoring mouth has proven an asset in that it keeps those not paying attention thinking he is a major player.

9. Danny Williams, England (Last month #9) As a tuneup for his upcoming rematch with Matt Skelton he stopped Adnan Serin in Northern Ireland in May. He appears serious about the upcoming bout and seems to realize that a win will likely mean an opportunity for a belt. He’s come a long way since losing to Vitali Klitschko.

10. Nicolay Valuev, Russia – WBA Champion (Last month #10) Owen Beck is the first in what will likely be a long list of sacrificial offerings for the Russian. The fact that this match is being made provides ample evidence of two things: 1. Valuev’s German and American promoters suspect that he can’t really match up against the likes of Klitschko, Rahman, and Liakhovich; and 2. They really think boxing fans are idiots. Beck is a decent journeyman but in each instance that he’s brushed up against top fighters he has failed miserably. This is no real title fight.
11. John Ruiz, USA (Last month #11) So, the WBA has placed him as their number 1 contender and the IBF is ordering a box-off with Sultan Ibragimov in an elimination bout. What gives? Why does all this deference accrue to the “Quiet Man”? It just doesn’t make any practical sense. I know I won’t be paying to watch him against anyone.

12. Sultan Ibragimov, Russia (Last month #12) He may have to suffer through a title eliminator against Ruiz. Assuming he doesn’t get hugged to sleep, he may emerge as a serious contender for a belt.

13. Oleg Maskaev, Uzbekistan (Last month #13) The Big “O” is prepping for his giant chance for glory in his upcoming rematch with Hasim Rahman. A win means the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. A loss means goodbye to the big time.

14. Shannon Briggs, USA (Last month #14) Against Chris Koval, whom he stopped in three rounds, he was a career high 273. Why the unnecessary risk? Hopefully a stronger opponent the next time out will motivate him to really be ready for anything.

15. Ruslan Chagaev, Uzbekistan (Last month #15) The so-called “White Tyson” is set to return to the ring in July. A couple of serious wins and the talented and undefeated lefty will be in the thick of hunt.

16. Ray Austin, USA (Last month #16) The knuckleheaded IBF has him rated number 2, and has no one listed as number 1. Does that make sense to anyone? Doesn’t that mean Austin is the top rated heavyweight in their cockeyed rankings?
17. Dominick Guinn, USA (Last month #17) Set to go again in June against an opponent, Tony Thompson, who sports a fat 27-1 record.

18. DaVarryl Williamson, USA (Last month #20) Williamson stopped the previously undefeated Mike Mollo in May. He needed this kind of fight to get back in the mix. Of course, having recently signed with Don King, you can bet he’ll get another shot at some kind of title.
19. Fres Oquendo, USA (Last month #22) He pounded out a 10-round decision against Javier Mora. While he won handily, he sure did fade down the stretch. He needs to fight often and against tougher and tougher opposition.

20. Matt Skelton, England (Last month #21) At age 39 he desperately want to avenge his loss to fellow Briton Danny Williams. He’ll get his chance in July. A loss means going to the back of the line in Britain much less the world scene.

21. Luan Krasniqi, Germany (Last month #23) A win over David Bostice in April was hardly an auspicious attempt at reclaiming a real top rating. Nonetheless it might get him another big chance at the WBO belt. He has suddenly jumped to that organization’s number 1 spot. Remember Lamon Brewster, the man who blasted him and made him quit? He’s now ranked number 8. What a joke by the WBO.

22. Jameel McCline, USA (Last month #24) “Big Time” knows that now is the only time he has to make or break his career. He’s been in action three times this year and almost undoubtedly is going to remain busy on the club circuit. If he keeps winning, he’ll get another big payday this year.

23. Audley Harrison, England (Last month #25) He’s added Buddy McGirt to his corner. Nice start, but naturally it’s a matter of getting his fists moving that will ultimately make the difference. Time is your enemy Audley.

24. Monte Barrett, USA (Last month #18) His fight with Hasim Rahman is looking more and more like ancient history. He hasn’t won a fight since February 2005.

25. Joe Mesi, USA (Last month unranked) – Even though he is now 30-0, he’s still in the rebuilding stage of a career that stalled due to his head injury. He’ll return to action in July. He makes the top 25 based primarily on the totality of his record, not just his recent win over 40-something Ron Bellamy.

Prospects, fringe contenders, and others who need mentioning listed in no particular order. Don’t read the fact that they are listed here as an indication a ranking is imminent:
David Tua, New Zealand (Last month #19) Two fights in three years. Not exactly a way to campaign. He last fought in October and nothing is scheduled that we’ve heard about.

Jason Estrada, USA – In just his seventh pro fight, the former Olympian scored a 10-round decision over Robert Wiggins in May. A fairly impressive win coming so early in his career. We’ll watch with interest.

Chazz Witherspoon, USA – He scored a shutout decision win in May against a fighter with losing record. At 24, he’s still developing and at 12-0, needs many more fights before challenging for contender status.

Alexander Dimitrenko, Ukraine –He’s scheduled to return to action in July. We’re still waiting on the name of the opponent and at this stage of his development names become important. He’s 21-0 but the only name on his slate that many will recognize is Vaughn Bean.

Alexander Povetkin, Russia – The former Olympic Gold medallist will be back in action in June, against Livin Castillo. He’s only 7-0, but his backers are moving him quickly.

Timor Ibragimov, Uzbekistan – Calvin Brock may already be looking past their June match to a possible date with Wladimir Klitschko. Timor could not only upset that applecart, he could find himself supplanting Brock against Klitschko with a win.

Gonzalo Omar Basile, Argentina – Two wins in May show that he is busy. One of the bouts included his first venture out of Argentina --- all the way to that hotbed of heavyweight action, Uruguay. Come on big fella, spread your wings and make a swing through Las Vegas.

Tye Fields, USA – There’s nothing scheduled for the big guy since his March stoppage of Ed Mahone. Currently, only one of the alphabets has him ranked anywhere.
J.D. Chapman, USA – The young Arkansan is marching fast. He has a lot of things to learn despite the big record of 23-0. One major bright spot is that he weighed 11 pounds less in his May win over Edward Guitierrez, than he did in an April win over Matt Hicks. He’s scheduled to return to the ring in July.
Malik Scott, USA – Seems I saw something about a matchup with Sam Peter. Don’t know if its true, but it sure would let us know in a hurry if he has the goods.

Kevin McBride, Ireland – A shot at Serguei Liakhovich? Puhleeeeese make it stop. It’s hurting my brain to even think about it. Look, he seems like a likable enough fellow and he stands up well in the club scene. He just isn’t title material.
Jean Francois Bergeron, Canada – The undefeated Canadian will be back in action in June against minimal competition. We’ll know about his relative ability only when he steps it up.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Barrera turns draw into victory, shows wear

LOS ANGELES --- Boxing superstar Marco Antonio Barrera, 62-4, 1 ND, (42 KOs), Mexico, 129 ¼, scored a razor-thin split decision Saturday night over young bull Rocky Juarez, 24-2 (18 KOs), Houston, 129, to retain his title and his place near the top of boxing’s elite.

Working behind an educated jab, Barrera kept the pressuring Juarez at the end of his punches for much of the first seven rounds. Except for round three, when Juarez landed a sharp left hook that knocked Barrera off balance, the jab separated Barrera from his foe and allowed him to land occasional combinations.

Each of those seven rounds, however, were competitive and the lumps on the usually unmarked Barrera’s face were indicative of the two-fisted power of the younger puncher.

Barrera, once the stalking warrior, worked the full ring in an effort to limit engagements. In round eight, the wear and tear of fending off Juarez began to show as the challenger pressed the action and landing the harder blows. Barrera, ever the warrior, fought back well in spots, but Juarez had turned the tide.

In each succeeding round Juarez continue to keep a faster pace and land much harder blows. Clearly, Barrera never hurt Juarez despite wicked trading.

JEBoxing scored all of the last five rounds in favor of Juarez. Barrera noticeably reduced his usually high volume of sharp counters and leads.

At age 32, the fight could be the first hint that the great champion is slipping.

The announced scoring of the bout marred an otherwise classic encounter. Originally, the scores were announced: Duane Ford 115-113 Juarez; Anek Hongtongkam, 115-113 Barrera; and Ken Morita, 114-114. Moments later, it was announced the Ford really had it 115-114 for Juarez, while more importantly Morita also had it 115-114 but in favor of Barrera. The net result of course was a split decision for Barrera.

JEBoxing scored the bout 115-113, Barrera.

The bout will undoubtedly keep Barrera in a position for another mega payday with one of the several top fighters from featherweight to junior lightweight.


In a preliminary bout, Jorge Barrios, 46-2-1 (32 KOs), Argentina, 129, scored a one-punch, first-round knockout of previously undefeated Jonos Nagy, 24-1 (13 KOs), Hungary, 129 ¾, to retain a version of the 130-pound title.

The former Olympian Nagy figured to give Barrios a tough go. But it was not to be.

Landing only two punches, Barrios’ second landed punch was a left hook to the liver that sent a grimacing Nagy to one knee where he remained, fully conscious, as the referee counted 10.

Time of the stoppage was at 49 seconds of the round.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Hatton edges out Collazo, struggles at welterweight

By JE Grant

BOSTON --- Ricky Hatton, 41-0 (30 KOs), England, 147, won a close, unanimous 12-round decision over Luis Collazo, 26-2 (12 KOs), Brooklyn, 147, Saturday in a bout that raised as many questions as it answered about Hatton’s future success as a welterweight.

Hatton started at the opening bell applying pressure and caught Collazo out of position only seconds into the bout dropping him with a left hook. If anyone thought the knockdown was an indicator of things to come, Collazo had other ideas.

Collazo unwisely abandoned movement early in the bout, electing to trade. This tactic allowed the ever-hustling Hatton to capture three of the first four rounds including a 10-8 opening frame.

Starting in round five, however, Collazo began mixing sharp counters from his southpaw stance that forced Hatton to slow his headlong charges. Collazo, though not known as a big puncher, gained respect from Hatton. The respect gave Collazo some distance in rounds five and six which he won.

Hatton redoubled his efforts in round seven and again outworked Collazo, occasionally scoring with right hands to the head and an assortment of body shots. He won rounds seven and eight.

It was then Collazo’s turn to pick up the pace in rounds nine and ten. Although closely contested, the rounds were clearly Collazo’s based on clean punching.

Hatton gutted-out round 11 by sheer force of will. Backing up Collazo, Hatton simply delivered a high-volume of punches, though, again, Collazo never appeared hurt.

In the final round, Collazo blasted the still-charging Hatton and hurt him with a series of right hooks and straight lefts. Hatton nearly went down. The Englishman was able to clinch and in fact closed with a furious finish. Had it not been for his close, a 10-8 scoring of the round would not have been out of the question.

Scoring of the bout was 115-112; 115-112; and 114-113 all for Hatton. JEBoxing scored the bout 114-113 for Hatton.

Dangerous bouts at 147 await Hatton. Collazo is certainly a top 10 fighter, but likely a notch below the likes of Floyd Mayweather, Antonio Margarito, Shane Mosely, and Oscar De La Hoya. Would this bout have been different if one of those names replaced Collazo? It’s hard to know but there is the sense that Hatton, who is an above average puncher at 140 --- but not devastating --- is merely average at 147. He retains his strong desire and willingness to combat every second of every round.

After the bout, Hatton seemed at least willing to consider moving back to 140 where he most naturally fits. Miguel Cotto and others await at 140 and big money would accompany. Naturally Hatton would gain major pay-per-view money by taking on Mayweather et al. at 147 but the risk may not justify such rewards.

Ricky Hatton has some decisions to make.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Low blows for the heavyweights

By JE Grant

As if heavyweight boxing didn’t have enough problems, now the drive-by sports writers (those who consider themselves experts in all sports by virtue of having a sports column) are poking at the division unencumbered by facts and fairness. You know things are bad when articles make it past editors unimpeded who are predisposed to accept any article depicting the so-called dreadful state of the division.

ESPN’s Bill Simmons delivered just such a piece in the site’s Page 2 entitled "Heavyweights are a dying breed." In the article he claims that heavyweight “species” went extinct the night Vitali Klitschko battled Lennox Lewis for the championship.

As we all know Vitali Klitschko went on to capture and defend the WBC belt in what Simmons called “lackluster” fights. Obviously Klitschko’s eliminator fight against Kirk Johnson couldn’t be seen as great inasmuch as Johnson was blasted out in two rounds.

But did Simmons actually see Klitschko’s win for the vacant belt against South African Corrie Sanders or his defense against Danny Williams? Klitschko stopped both big men in heavy punching affairs. Lackluster? I think not.

Simmons moves on to deride Vitali’s brother Wladimir Klitschko by the ignorant mechanism of jabbing at the big man’s name. He claims Klitschko changed the spelling of his first name from Vladimir to Wladimir. When did this happen Bill? He spelled his name the same way from the beginning of his career to the present. Facts apparently aren’t all that important when you’re having fun.

He calls Hasim Rahman a “journeyman.” You may recall Bill that the “journeyman” once knocked out the great Lennox Lewis. Using Simmons’ logic we would have to assume Lewis was something less than a journeyman.

Newly crowned Serguei Liakhovich is seen as “obscure” and the lucky victor against Lamon Brewster. Simmons says that “we learned Brewster had suffered a detached retina in Round 1 and nearly won anyway. Not a good sign for Sergei's (you could at least spell his first name right Bill) long-term prospects, unless his promoter can continue to find opponents with double vision.” When did you make that diagnosis Bill? I watched the bout and did not see a opthamologist administering an exam. Admit it Bill you don’t know when the injury occurred and neither does anyone else. Of course admitting that would not have worked for the story. Oh, and by the way, Brewster did not “nearly win.”

Of course the 7-footer Nicolay Valuev is figuratively the easiest target because of his size and appearance. Simmons describes him as “clumsy.”

That remark leads me to question whether Simmons’ claim to have seen all of the current belt-holders in action (Valuev has never appeared on American TV). I’ve seen him and he’s slow, not all that effective with his right hand, not all that hard to hit despite an above average jab, but he is clearly not clumsy. There’s no doubt that any of the other three belt-holders (and several contenders) who would be heavily favored against Valuev, but clumsy he is not.

Perhaps the worst of Simmons’ comments is his personal attack on Valuev who he describes as someone “who looks like Ivan Drago, if Drago were accidentally exposed to a nuclear reactor leak” What does this have to do with his relative boxing ability? Being cute is, I guess, a substitute for a jab. Simmons must’ve given himself a high-five for coming up with a quip that was sooooooo clever.

It’s not until we get to the second to last paragraph that we catch a glimpse of what this is probably all about. Simmons lets us know that “(t)hree of the four belts are held by methodical Eastern Europeans, and a Kazak named Oleg Maskaev seems poised to take Rahman's belt.”

Is the underlying thesis that all must be going haywire in the heavyweight division because “Eastern Europeans” are on the rise?

Make no mistake about it, if Maskaev does take a belt from Rahman, you will see columns from the no-new-idea herd of American sportwriters saying the heavyweight boxing is now pronounced dead.

The shift in heavyweight power couldn’t possibly be because the Eastern Europeans are fighting better because they’re driven and resourceful in the ring, huh?

Simmons writes frequently about basketball. Does he not see that Eastern Europeans are making inroads in numerous sports?

Simmons briefly mentioned Don King but wrote nary a word on the proliferation of sanctioning bodies or their inherent corruption and greed. If he is really interested in resurrecting the heavyweight division --- which I seriously doubt --- that’s where he should place his focus.

Or, he can continue writing about the not-so-good looks of Nicolay Valuev.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Hatton – Collazo prediction

By JE Grant

Once we get past the loopy idea that this is a “world” title fight, we are still left with one of the more intriguing matches in the welterweight division.

Ricky Hatton at 40-0 (30 KOs) is still riding a wave of adulation following a campaign in 2005 that resulted in fighter of the year honors from every corner of the globe. At 140 pounds he was able to garner not just a trinket belt, but the actual division championship by stopping Kostya Tszyu. No one doubts his ability or willingness at 140.

The weight stands out so prominently because all 40 of his fights have been at or very near that limit. His strength and ferocity are central to his ability to overwhelm opponents.

What makes the fight with Collazo a little more interesting is the fact that the New Yorker has been a welterweight (147) or higher in all of his 27 fights enroute to a 26-1 (12 KOs) record. Though not a power-hitter (presumably why he was chosen as the opponent for Hatton’s American debut), he has proven tough and willing.

He has beaten some rugged competition such as Jose Antonio Rivera (who captured a super-welterweight belt recently), and his sole loss came more than four years ago to Edwin Cassiani via a third round stoppage.

Nonetheless he will enter the ring Saturday night in Boston a decided underdog. Hatton’s explosive and relentless style has fans in his native England rabid in their attachment to the young champion. His worldwide acclaim has grown dramatically following the Tsyzu fight that he followed by knocking out Carlos Maussa.

The real question in this fight won’t be about ability. Hatton has it much greater abundance than does Collazo. No, the question will be about Hatton’s strength at 147. Again, Collazo has always been a welterweight and Hatton has never been above 142.

Add to the mix that Collazo is a southpaw who presents odd angles. His quick shots are sure to catch anyone running in. Further, an opponent who becomes frustrated is in for a night of a high volume of crisp counters.

Collazo won’t be without his own problems. Hatton is unquestionably strong and determined --- irrespective of weight class. The Englishman also has fast hands that are in constant motion. Collazo enjoys getting into a high volume rhythm but he has never been forced to produce at the mega-pace that Hatton is sure to set.

The real difference between the combatants is one of skill level. No one will walkover Collazo and only the elite of the sport will prove able to put together the complete set of speed, power, willpower, and overall talent. Hatton brings such a set of traits. Although he probably does not possess the punch to end the fight suddenly, he has a full kit bag of tricks that he will display.

PREDICTION: Hatton’s hustle and hand speed will keep Collazo on the defense. Collazo will have his moments but he just won’t have the octane in his tank to slow Hatton, the bull. Hatton wins a clear 12 round decision.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Kirilov denied title by judges in split vote

By JE Grant

WORCESTER, Mass. --- Luis Perez, 24-1 (15 KOs), Nicaragua, 114 ½, retained his IBF junior bantamweight title with a horrendously scored 12-round decision over Dimitri Kirilov, 28-3 (10 KOs), Russia, 114 ½ Saturday night.

In a bout that was virtually dominated by Kirilov from the opening bell, yet another IBF-related matter is the subject of controversy.

Kirilov mixed sharp right hands with left hooks over the top of southpaw Perez’ right hands, befuddled the titlist. Rounds 1 through 7 were virtual clinics, as Kirilov scored from various angles and was able to escape numerous punches from Perez.

Round 8 started much the same until Perez dug a right hook to the body and followed with a hook to the head. Kirilov dropped on his right side but rose immediately and returned to the attack.

Perez was able to outwork the tiring Russian in rounds 9 and 10 until, though both rounds were competitive and could have easily been scored for either fighter.

Kirilov closed strongly in rounds 11 and 12 and seemed to be pulling away in the lead.

Scoring of the bout was, charitably, unusual. Paul Barry 117-110 Kirilov; Mike Ancona 115-113 Perez; and David Hess 114-113 Perez. JEBoxing scored the bout 116-111 Kirilov.

The scoring marred an otherwise well-fought bout that featured solid professional fighters who were prepared for 12 hard rounds.

It seems that everything the IBF touches of late is tainted by controversy.

It won’t be long before people start asking hard questions.

Mayorga vs. De La Hoya: How much does Oscar have left?

By JE Grant

Weighing in on the Ricardo Mayorga – Oscar De La Hoya so-called “title” fight seems almost a requirement for people who write about boxing.

After all, De La Hoya has held world titles of one sort another from 130 to 160 pounds. He defeated high profilers such as Julio Caesar Chavez, Pernell Whitaker, Ike Quartey, Fernando Vargas, etc… Shouldn’t we pay attention when he graces us with a performance?

Mayorga also enters the ring tonight a titlist at 154 and a past that included the actual welterweight championship won from the very capable Vernon Forrest.

Of course all of that is very deceptive.

The last time De La Hoya dominated anyone of note was against Vargas in a 154-pound unification match. He used the boxing skills that wowed the world in the Olympics and throughout his career. He finished off Vargas as only a special champion can.

Unfortunately, that was in 2002. Since that time there was 154-pound title defense against a lesser opponent, a loss of his 154-pound titles to Shane Mosely (controversially to be sure), an equally controversial win over Felix Sturm, and a resounding knockout loss to Bernard Hopkins for the middleweight championship.

As for Mayorga, since stunning Forrest in back-to-back efforts, Cory Spinks zoomed by him to wrest his welterweight title. There was also a blistering stoppage loss at the hands of Felix Trinidad at 160 pounds.

Somehow those bouts qualified him for a shot a vacated trinket world title belt against Michele Piccirillo who had toiled against nominal opposition before earning a title shot. Predictably, Mayorga simply ran through his light-punching and retreating foe to capture the decision.

If you can’t tell by now, I’m less than enthused with this bout. The promotional acumen of De La Hoya and his Golden Boy Promotions has successfully created interest where little is warranted.

De La Hoya built his career reputation by meeting and beating (and occasionally losing to) many of the best fighters of his generation. He is now at the stage of his fighting career of cherry-picking opponents he feels he can beat, rather than seeking out the biggest challenge. Not a bad business strategy, just don’t ask me to gladly go along with it.

Oh yes, what about a prediction for the fight? Five years ago, we may have laughed at this match-up. De La Hoya has skills, smarts, and determination that put him in a league far, far above Mayorga. The questions going in: How much does De La Hoya have left in the tank? Is he still willing to suffer late into a fight? Is he still quick enough to maneuver around the ever-charging Mayorga?

I think that he will likely be at 80 percent of his prime and that will be more than enough for Mayorga. He’ll out-speed, out-work, and ultimately out-punch the Nicaraguan. Mayorga has but one dimension and it is straight-ahead blasting. Look for him to be chopped up on the way in and heaving hard from the punishment by the middle rounds.

Prediction: De La Hoya wins a 12 round decision pulling away at the end.
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