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Five Bold Predictions
Jan 22, 2004 By Orlando Rios, JR.
Predictions are only fun if they come true. Near misses don’t cut it. When you pick them perfect, you claim to be in the company of Nostradamous.
So now I attempt to put my name in the ranks of the great prophets, who saw into their little crystal ball, and foretold of a possible future, only in this case, I’m not predicting a future world crisis or tonight’s Power Ball numbers. No, I’m predicting the top 5 things to happen in the World of Boxing in 2004.

#5 Baby Joe Mesi will fall to a top contender
The hype with Baby Joe Mesi is that he’s a fighter who excites the people. In 28 professional fights, he’s undefeated, and 25 of those wins were by way of knockout. He’s only 30, very strong, and he’s billed as Buffalo’s third franchise. Baby Joe has boxing blood in him, which makes people believe that he can become the next heavyweight champion. Not right away, but sometime in the near future. Problem is, Mesi hasn’t yet fought a top ranked heavyweight contender, and in his last bout with Monte Barrett, Mesi was taken to the limit, even getting dropped for the first time in his career in the seventh round. Battered and bruised and with a swelling on the top of his eye the size of a golf ball, Mesi still was able to knockdown Barrett in round 5 and pull out the majority decision. Only 3 months earlier, Mesi put DaVarryl “Touch of Sleep” Williamson to sleep, literally knocking him out in the first round in front of the hometown crowd.

But 2004 could be the year that Mesi either officially solidifies his spot as a top rank heavyweight contender, or flops into another “Great White Hype”. Early reports have Mesi locked up to fight former 2-time heavyweight champion Michael Moorer. At 36, Moorer brings far more experience to the ring, which could hurt Mesi. Moorer has fought the likes of Evander Holyfield, David Tua, Francois Botha, and George Foreman.

Mesi is also rumored to possibly be fighting Mike Tyson sometime in 2004, and that’s where my prediction comes in. I like Mesi, but after the way he fought Monte Barrett, I don’t see him doing much better against guys like Tyson and possibly even Michael Moorer. Although Moorer for the most part has been forgotten, this fight will put him right back on the map, especially if Moorer can pull out a win over Baby Joe.

Now, in no way am I saying that just because I think Mesi will lose to a top guy like Tyson, that he won’t become heavyweight champ some day.

#4 We will see Bad Blood 2 in 2004
Oscar De La Hoya needed Fernando Vargas more than he realized. Although he said several times that he never wanted to give Vargas the opportunity to fight him, probably for physical and financial reasons, Fernando Vargas brought out the best in De La Hoya and vice-versa. And when something isn’t broke, you don’t fix it. The rivalry is still there, and the interest would be even higher than before. The first bout surpassed PPV expectations (over 900,000 PPV buys), and was second on the “Fight of the Year” list, only behind Gatti-Ward 1. This is a fight, where both fighters would easily obtain double-digit figures, and would also put the middleweight division back on the map. It’s a fight that both fighters want to make happen, and a Vargas victory in the rematch, would immediately call for a third and final installment of Bad Blood. Ali-Frazier had the “Thrilla in Manilla”, but for De La Hoya-Vargas III, you could have the “Battle for Mexico”, with the final historic bout taking place sometime in 2005 in Mexico City.

#3 Marco Barrera will avenge his loss
It’s funny how things turn out. Marco Barrera was supposed to fight Erik Morales a third time, but managerial problems halted talks for the conclusion to the Barrera-Morales trilogy. Meanwhile, in July and on the undercard to the Vargas-Vanderpool bout, Manny Pacquiao not only turned Emmanuel Lucero’s eyes and head around, but got the boxing world buzzing. With a monster left cross, Pacquiao had put himself on the map and now called out Marco Barrera. Barrera took the fight, and was thoroughly beaten, before the fight was stopped in round eleven.

On one end, the fight symbolized the end of an era, and the beginning on a new one for Pacquiao. Not to take anything away from Pacquiao, who dominated Barrera, but Barrera wasn’t himself that night. Only weeks before the fight, stories that Barrera had a metal plate inserted into his head broke out, adding to the long list of distractions for Barrera. Coupled with having to move his training camp from Big Bear to San Antonio due to near by forest fires, Barrera was never able to fully turn his attention to Pacquiao, and it showed. Battered and beaten, Barrera took the loss the only way he could, with class. The loss not only ruined any immediate chances of a third fight with Morales, but also made Barrera re-evaluate his whole career and his future in boxing. And guess what, he’s coming back, and he wants Pacquiao.

I think he’s going to get him in the fall of 2004. We know that Pacquiao will be 100% ready to prove that he’s no fluke, and Barrera, distraction free, will now fully concentrate on Pacquiao. Barrera is stronger and hungrier to avenge his most embarrassing defeat in front of the “hometown” fans. Barrera winning the rematch will set up a third and final fight between the two champions, and winner takes all. And you can count on the fact that El Terrible will be looking on very closely.

#2 Winky Wright will defeat Shane Mosley
Yes, you heard it here; Winky Wright will beat Sugar Shane Mosley to become the undisputed Super Welterweight Champion. Winky is a good fighter, who is flat out boring. But like they say, it’s the quiet ones you have to watch out for. Yes, both fighters aren’t exactly as appealing to fight fans as De La Hoya, Hopkins, Trinidad or Vargas, but both are champions, and between the two, Mosley is the bigger name. His two defeats of the Golden Boy haven’t exactly given Mosley the full respect and recognition that he deserves, but he is in the limelight. Meanwhile, Winky Wright’s only real claim to fame was his championship battle with Fernando Vargas back in 1999. His trilogy with Bronco McKart didn’t exactly compare to Ali-Frazier or Gatti-Ward. Like it or not, Winky is here to stay, and could very well take over the junior middleweight division on March 13th.

Wright is a smart boxer, who is more skill and tactics, and he will use them fully to frustrate and wear down Shane Mosley. Mosley is no pushover, but I believe that when these two totally different boxing styles come into play, that Wright will not allow himself to engage with Mosley, much like he did in the championship rounds vs. Fernando Vargas, in which Vargas won. This is the fight to take Wright to the next level, and on March 13, I believe he will outsmart, outbox, and ultimately, out-point Sugar Shane Mosley to win and become the Undisputed Super Welterweight Champion of the World. From there on, it’s up to Winky.

#1 Lennox Lewis will take the rematch, and WIN!!!
If it weren’t for one huge right handed punch that ripped a horrendous cut over the left eye of Vitali Klitschko, forcing a halt to the bout in 6 rounds, Vitali Klitschko would have become the undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World by defeating an out of shape Lennox Lewis. Lewis, who was originally scheduled to fight fellow Canadian Kirk Johnson, who later was destroyed by Vitali Klitschko, only had 2 weeks to prepare for the sudden change in plans. Lewis entered the ring the undisputed champion, but left knowing deep inside, that he had gotten away with this one. Lewis looked slow, out of shape, and worst of all, old. All three judges had Vitali Klitschko ahead at the time of the stoppage.

On the other hand, Vitali Klitschko, who reminds fight fans of Ivan Drago from Rocky IV, left the ring as the “Champion of the Fans”. He won the crowd that night, and in the end, really came out the winner of that fight. As Larry Merchant said, “He restored the Klitschko name.” While Klitschko went on to embarrass Kirk Johnson in the Garden, Lewis has yet to see the ring, and has kept fight fans arguing whether he’s done, or still has one fight left.

And I believe that he’s got one more left, and he’s coming for Klitschko. Although I became a fan of Klitschko following his fight with Lewis, I think Lewis knows exactly what is at stake for the second fight. Aside from the obvious big money, Lewis’ legacy could very well be at stake. Does he want to be remembered as the fighter who with one lucky punch escaped with his title vs. Klitschko and then retired? Or does he want to take the rematch, win, and go out on a high note?

Lewis has ducked nobody, and his victims have included the best heavyweights his time had to offer. But Lewis needs this fight. Boxing needs this fight. And more importantly, the heavyweight division needs this fight. This fight will determine exactly where the division is going.

Now, not all of my predictions are going to happen. Perhaps none at all will happen, but that is why they are called predictions. Big things are in store for the boxing world in 2004. The heavyweight picture will start to clear up. Joe Mesi will finally get truly tested. The middleweight division will take over boxing, and lastly, we could see a changing of the guards, with new undisputed world champions such as Winky Wright and Vitali Klitschko. Whatever the predictions are, you can count on this one, 2004 is going to be a great year for boxing and you can quote me on that.

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