12 for ‘12
By Steve Kim, MaxBoxing (Jan 2, 2012) Doghouse Boxing
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2012
First of all, I'd like to wish everyone out there a Happy New Year. Let's hope 2012 sees all the fights you guys want to see come to fruition. My first column of the year will focus on a dozen fights I'd like to see (that don't include Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather- because let's face it, there's only one fight most of you want to see involving those two and I still have my doubts if it ever becomes a reality). The fights I chose aren't necessarily the biggest or most “important” fights out there but ones that fit my criteria: Will they provide the viewing audience with a fun night of entertainment?

It's that simple. I don't give a damn about mythical pound-for-pound rankings, The Ring belts or linear titles. That's only question I asked myself as I compiled my list is, “Would I spend my hard-earned money and precious free time to watch that bout?”
 
So here are my 12 for ’12 (in no particular order)...
 
-Brian Viloria vs. Roman Gonzalez: Yeah, I'm gonna start with the lil' guys who pack a big punch. Tell me this isn't the type of fight HBO’s “Boxing After Dark” was created for back in 1996? Viloria had a renaissance year in 2011, capturing the WBO flyweight title by decisioning Julio Cesar Miranda, then dominating Giovani Segura (where Viloria actually started acting like the “Hawaiian Punch”). “Chocolatito” just keeps racking up one impressive win after another and he made his stateside debut back in October, blowing out Omar Soto in two. Gonzalez is currently the WBA junior flyweight titlist and it would be interesting to see who would really play the role of aggressor in a battle of two very hard-hitting Lilliputians.
 
-Brandon Rios vs. Marcos Maidana: I know, I know. The whole Top Rank-Golden Boy “Cold War” is a big issue here but c'mon, you don't think there would be fireworks if these two met up? (In fact, they should schedule this for the 4th of July). Rios' future as a lightweight is uncertain as he just lost his IBF strap on the scales against John Murray in December. Maidana currently has a February 25th assignment against Devon Alexander in a very tough stylistic match-up for him. Rios is scheduled to go on March 3rd against a still-to-be-determined opponent.
 
-Tavoris Cloud vs. Jean Pascal: Cloud desperately needs any fight but he also needs one of some significance. I think facing Pascal in Montreal would fit the bill and I'd bet my own money that this fight would bring in a packed house at the Bell Center. Cloud is just an old-school tough guy who throws leather consistently. Pascal is more athletic but you wonder how he would deal with Cloud’s constant pressure. But, uh, yeah, Cloud will fight again sometime during 2012…right?
 
-Orlando Salido/Juan Manuel Lopez vs. Miguel Garcia: I admit, I'm cheating a bit here since the plan for Top Rank is to have the winner of the rematch between Salido and Lopez in March defend that WBO featherweight title against the talented Garcia. Salido-Lopez I was an entertaining affair last April that saw the Mexican tough guy just beat a fading Lopez with a barrage of right hands. Can “JuanMa” do what his countryman, Miguel Cotto, did in making adjustments to defeat the man who handed him his first pro blemish? Personally I think “Siri” always gives Lopez a tough bout. Garcia is a sharpshooting specialist who has been groomed well by his manager, Cameron Dunkin, and Top Rank to become their next standout. His first opportunity at a title certainly won’t be versus a soft champion.
 
-Tim Bradley vs. Mike Alvarado: For all his accomplishments, “Desert Storm” needs to be in some crowd-pleasing fights. Winning isn't everything (at least not in this game) and Bradley needs some style points (to go along with what is already the best résumé in the 140-pound class) to really get into that “Pac-Man” discussion later. “Mile High” is a guy who is always in good scraps and his last performance was the memorable come-from-behind KO of Breidis Prescott.
 
-Marcos Maidana vs. Lucas Matthysse: Y’ know, I tried not to include boxers more than once but then again, why not? I'm the scribe always preaching about how fighters need to be more active and if I like seeing a certain boxer, I certainly want to see him as many times as possible. And who wouldn't want to see this slugfest? Simply put, they should call it “Cry for me, Argentina.”
 
-Jhonny Gonzalez vs. Gary Russell Jr.: We all know what a prodigious talent Russell is and he seems destined for a title shot sooner rather than later. Well, how ‘bout the man who spells his first name funny? Gonzalez is a really streaking fighter. In 2011, he captured the WBC featherweight belt by halting the respected Hozumi Hasagawa in four rounds on his turf and notched three other stoppages. Russell has all the physical tools but we haven't seen him in there with a real offensive threat to this point. And Gonzalez, for all his ability to kick, has been chinny in the past.
 
-Erik Morales vs. Juan Manuel Marquez: This fight is about a decade late to some but I say better late than never. Based on the recent form of these two, this fight at 140 would be a huge draw in Mexico. For all the history created by the quartet of Pacquiao, Marco Antonio Barrera, Morales and Marquez, the latter two have never faced each other. This would complete that missing chapter.
 
-Nonito Donaire vs. Jorge Arce: I was going with Abner Mares to face the “Filipino Flash” but Donaire is moving up to 122 pounds (to face Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. for the vacant WBO junior featherweight belt on February 4th) and again, that whole “Cold War” is going on. But while Arce might be a bit long in the tooth, when has he ever really failed to empty the bucket? Unlike an Omar Narvaez, Arce won’t be content to just show up and collect a check.
 
-James Kirkland vs. Saul Alvarez: “Canelo,” like Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., has been well-protected to this point. How does he do versus a hard-punching, aggressive guy like “Mandingo”? And yeah, I know Kirkland is vulnerable, especially early on, but this guy shadowboxing is more fun to watch than most real fights, as far as I'm concerned. Golden Boy Promotions, who handles both careers, has already talked about perhaps making this fight in 2012.
 
-Andre Ward vs. Lucian Bute: Alright, fine, there's one that will satisfy the “skill-set” who love pound-for-pound rankings and finding out who the REAL champion is in a division.
 
-Chris Arreola vs. David Haye: Even though it looks like these guys will be facing the Klitschkos in the upcoming year, the dirty little secret in this division is that the good fights don't involve the dominant duo. Arreola makes for good TV and Haye figures to be much more aggressive than he was against Wladimir this past summer
 
MARAVILLA
 
I received this email in response to my article on the plight of Sergio Martinez and HBO (http://www.maxboxing.com/news/sub-lead/biting-the-hand-that-feeds-him) over the weekend from a guy who's been a respected member of the boxing community for a few decades:
 
I like DiBella but he is a packager, not a promoter.

He has Berto and Martinez and neither one can sell a ticket and he rags on the fact that he can't get fights with three guys who fill up arenas--Canelo, Chavez and Pacquiao. It is DiBella's job to map strategy, not HBO's job. I used to give him credit for at least using his own money to promote fights on Broadway Boxing, but it was pointed out to me that those fights were cowboys vs. indian fights, made simply to get DiBella's guys wins and that he won't run thrm without sufficient money from sponsors. I guess we should have a new category at Canastota for TV packagers (Shaw, Pelullo, DiBella, Goossen, Margules, Haymon, etc.).
 
I can't disagree. For as legitimate a grievance as Martinez and DiBella have against HBO, the bottom line is, for all intents and purposes, this network has solely financed this guy’s career. Since that is the case, unlike, say, a Bob Arum, you almost give up the right to complain when the network doesn't acquiesce to your whims. Personally, I think Martinez has been paid very well (perhaps overpaid based on gate receipts and Nielsen ratings) and honestly, his recent disparaging of Pacquiao is bordering on fine “whine.” For all the talk of everybody avoiding him, there are guys like Dmitry Pirog and Gennady Golovkin in the very same division. And now, if he's just the Ring champion, shouldn't Martinez be expected to face the very best? I mean, that's what it's all about, right? Or will he continue to seek a fight with Chavez Jr. that will happen only when Top Rank pulls the trigger?
 
What Martinez doesn't understand is that while he continues to verbally flog the likes of Pacquiao and Arum, he's really indicting the way his own career is being “promoted” because really, it's saying that Pacquiao is a legitimate draw and Arum is the man who facilitated that success.
 
Somewhere along the way, boxing as a whole- from those who cover it to those who are in charge- placated those who didn't do their due diligence. In effect, it made them victims, thus enabling them. While companies like Top Rank, who actually invest heavily into its product then develop it, are turned into villains. I think too many people don't understand that for truly big fights to be made, you need (not just one but) two well-known and cultivated commodities to come to the dance. Fighting in half-empty ballrooms against handpicked foes like Darren Barker every six months is, as my emailer labeled it, “TV packaging.” They are exploiting the very same system some say is killing the boxing business.
 
Just my opinion but, going into the future, instead of playing the violin for the likes of Martinez while placing the blame at Arum’s feet (and, in certain cases, Golden Boy Promotions) for not making certain matches, I think as much examination has to go into what the opposing side did on behalf of its clients to make them viable economic options. The reality is that it's more than about just winning a few fights on a premium cable network and listed in a fantasy ranking.
 
SOG
 
Just a few days after the conclusion of the “Super Six,” I go this email on Andre Ward:

I would just like to give a few thoughts on Andre Ward in the aftermath of the Super Six. For whatever reason, this quote by Ward really rubbed me the wrong way. Granted he now has a hand injury so time off to heal is fine, but suggesting you need a long rest before knowing of the injury when you've been fighting twice a year is exactly why I doubt he ever becomes a star.

I like Ward and always root for American fighters, but I even think you have been too easy on his promoter. I wouldn't exactly say he has done a "good" job with Ward. I would say he has done par for the course for this modern day boxing world we live in.

I can't help but think that if Arum or prime Don King had a gold medal winning, model citizen fighter, he would have been way more active for the duration of his career and more popular at this point.


Keep up the good work.
 
S.Morgan
 
OK, you nailed me. I am a big Dan Goossen homer; guilty as charged. But seriously, up to this point, I do think Goossen Tutor has done a nice job moving Ward after he hit some really rough waters to begin his career. From this juncture moving forward, it's up to Goossen to not just “TV package” this guy and do what we've seen waaaaay too often (and what you touched on)- fighting twice a year on Showtime or HBO. Now that they are free and clear of the “Super Six,” there should be no hindrances regarding scheduling and building a market for him in Oakland and the Bay Area. Unlike most of his other clients, there are no Al Haymon issues to deal with. So this is all on “Danno” to make this happen.
 
As for Ward, I found it interesting that on Saturday, I saw an interview he did out for CBS in Los Angeles with Jim Hill where he was already talking about retirement. It was at this point, Mr. Morgan, when I thought of your email. I mean, the guy is just 27 years old; he's had all of 25 fights. I mean, really?! Maybe Ward doesn't want to be a real transcendent star (which is certainly his prerogative) but the bottom line is it takes time and effort on many fronts to become one. And as you mentioned, he will now most likely fight every six or seven months. Last I checked, Ward's been paid pretty well for performing semi-annually. Last I checked, part of being promotable is actually getting out there more often. If your surname is not Pacquiao or Mayweather, you probably should be fighting more when it comes to growing your brand. Yes, a large part of this problem is the stranglehold the cable networks have on this sport and the over-reliance on them from most of the promoters. At this level, fighters have- and should- want to work more often.
 
Hate to name drop here (eh, who am I fooling?) but I had a funny conversation with HBO's Larry Merchant about how today’s fighters think they're busy with three fights in a calendar year and how guys say stuff like, “Well, I kinda need a break in the next fight,” after taking on a tough opponent. The latter is really coded phrase for “I wanna fight a stiff for a lot of money in my next outing.”  Merchant said, “I mean, really, these guys fight twice a year. You should have some expectation of fighting real fights every time out.” He also pointed out that back in the era when fighters fought much more often, they were afforded several “break” fights during the year (As I've riddled before, do you know what your “break” is nowadays? The three or four months you don't spend at the gym as you wait for your next fight. That break is your “break”- or in the case of Martinez, it's Darren Barker).
 
Merchant and I got quite a kick out of recalling how the great Ray Robinson fought Jake LaMotta just three weeks after getting beat by him in February of 1943. He actually had a fight in between the rematch two weeks after. Yeah, two weeks. I've seen Twitter battles between boxers last longer than that.
 
It's a different business- and a different breed of boxer.
 
FINAL FLURRIES
 
Here's something you won’t see from any modern-day boxer: records on BoxRec.com that take up three pages like Robinson's (http://boxrec.com/list_bouts.php?human_id=9625&cat=boxer&pageID=3)...The guy had 200 fights and boxed 1,403 rounds...One fighter staying active in today’s game is Pongsaklek Wonjongkam who has 88 career fights and fought seven times in 2011...There is a chance that the Paul Williams/Chris Arreola doubleheader on Showtime slated for Feb. 18th could take place in Corpus Christi, Texas...About the only thing worse than this past edition of “ShoBox” was that Illinois-UCLA bowl game...Did anyone in the NFL go backward quite like Mark Sanchez in 2011?...Is there any chance that what takes place on Feb. 4th in the Alamodome will be as good as Baylor-Washington?...So who's your NFL MVP: Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers? And will Peyton Manning get a few votes?...I'm not lying; the combo of Grey Goose and A&W Root Beer isn't half bad...There are games when Andrew Bynum just has you cringing at the thought of the Lakers trading him away- but those knees...


More of Steve's recent work below his contact info...

I can be reached at k9kim@yahoo.com and I tweet at www.Twitter.com/stevemaxboxing. We also have a Facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/MaxBoxing.

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