Boxing: Miguel Cotto vs. Austin Trout and 4 Other Must-See Fights This Weekend
Boxing has been having a rough year. It was plagued with evidence of performance-enhancing drug (PED) abuse and a number of fights collapsed as a result. To further confound 2012, one of the fight game's premier prospective punch-ups—Manny Pacquiao against Floyd Mayweather—continually proves as elusive as Money's shoulder-roll technique.
However, the year may yet close with a bang. Starting this weekend, there are a number of heavy hitters squaring off against pugilism's technicians.
Let's check them out…
David Price vs. Matt Skelton (Friday, November 30)
Fast-rising British prospect David Price attempts to continue his ascent up the heavyweight ranks on Friday as he defends his British and Commonwealth titles in his home city of Liverpool, at the Aintree Equestrian Centre.
Price, 29, takes on countryman Matt Skelton, a former world title challenger and Prizefighter finalist, but a man who, at 45, is battling father time. Skelton has fought his way into contention for the Lonsdale belt through a hat-trick of knockout victories this year, including one over Tom Dallas, a big man from Kent.
It is Price, though, who will likely walk away the victor, adding another knockout win to his unblemished 14-0-0, 12-KO record. Price has good technique and an impressive ring IQ. He uses his 6'8" height and 82" reach well, is a patient operator and has a well-founded appreciation of the one-two combination.
Oh, and there's the little matter of packing a seriously concussive shot in his right hand. All of his last eight fights have ended before the scheduled distance.
Andrew Flintoff vs. Richard Dawson (Friday, November 30)
Andrew "Freddie" Flintoff's debut in professional boxing this weekend has polarized those in the industry. The British Boxing Board of Control (BBBoC) granted the former Lancashire County and England cricketer a license to fight in England even though he had no amateur background at all. This has led to his duel with unbeaten American heavyweight Richard Dawson (2-0-0, 1 KO) being brandished "dangerous nonsense" by promoter Frank Maloney.
Freddie Flintoff's preparations for his upcoming test have been documented on reality program From Lords to the Ring, and his power has been praised by mentor and Hall of Famer Barry McGuigan. He said on the show: "Freddie's no Sugar Ray Leonard. He’s not naturally gifted in the ring. But he’s tough, driven and very determined. This is just the beginning."
Whether one regards Flintoff's fight as a circus act or the making of a prospect, it will no doubt be compelling television.
Also on the Flintoff bill at the Manchester Arena in England is Denton Vassell's (19-0-0, 9 KOs) defense of his Commonwealth welterweight title. Eccentric dresser Vassell takes on undefeated 22-year-old Ronnie Heffron, who has been likened to Ricky Hatton.
Joan Guzman vs. Khabib Allakhverdiev (Friday, November 30)
One of the elder statesmen of the lighter weight classes, Guzman (33-0-1, 20 KOs) is also one of the least heralded. The 36-year-old won versions of the world title at super bantamweight and super featherweight, possessing a near-impenetrable defense and a powerful attack. However, he was avoided as a fighter, adopted a lackadaisical attitude toward training and had a poorly managed career.
On Friday, Guzman boxes for the WBA's "regular" light welterweight world title (the "Super" WBA belt holder at the weight is Danny Garcia) on national television (ESPN) against Russian challenger Khabib Allakhverdiev (17-0-0, 8 KOs).
If recent training photographs are any indication, Guzman looks determined, dedicated and in terrific shape. That could be a dangerous mix for Allakhverdiev as Guzman was once regarded to be one of the few fighters at super featherweight who could compete with belt-collecting weight-jumper Manny Pacquiao. But, alas, that fight never happened.
Guzman, though, can get himself right into the elite mix if he wins this weekend. And, if he wins in style (he is renowned for his showboating) then that could accelerate his bid for a higher-profile fight.
Tyson Fury vs. Kevin Johnson (Saturday, December 1)
If pound-for-pound lists were made on entertainment value alone, then few fighters would be ranked higher than Tyson Fury, a 24-year-old Manchester-born Irishman of gypsy cloth.
One of boxing's most circulated images is of Fury (19-0-0, 14 KOs) uppercutting himself in the face. He was also fortunate to come out of a 2009 fight with John McDermott with the decision win. However, the affable behemoth (the man is close to 6'10") is surely one of the sport's most improved professionals as he can now switch-hit and throw fast combinations, something almost unheard of for a man of his size.
What is most exciting about Fury is that he not only knows how to finish fights early, but is also susceptible to heavy shots himself and is therefore no stranger to the deck. His opponent Johnson only has modest power and is an awkward counter-puncher, so the matchup will give viewers a chance to see how Fury fares against an alternative style that is hard to look good against.
The bout, broadcast on Channel 5, is supported by Chris Eubank Jr's (7-0-0, 3 KOs) middleweight tussle against Matt Hainy (9-4-0, 1 KO).
Miguel Cotto vs. Austin Trout (Saturday, December 1)
In boxing, it's a rarity for athletes to go from tough fight to tough fight with no tune-up in between.
Super middleweight tough-man Carl Froch and ferocious 122-pounder Abner Mares are the exception, as is Miguel Cotto (37-3-0, 30 KOs), whose resume resembles a who's who of modern boxing. The last year the Puerto Rican wasn't involved in a world championship fight was 2004.
Following a bruising 12th-round technical knockout defeat to Manny Pacquiao, some observers suggested Cotto was way past his use-by-date. But under current trainer Pedro Diaz, the 32-year-old is flourishing in a classic box-and-move style that employs the full use of the ring.
In the 2011 rematch with Mexican nemesis Antonio Margarito, Cotto showed discipline, busting Tony up and forcing a stoppage on account of Margarito's impaired vision from a swollen eye. And against Mayweather, he won worldwide praise for making Money bleed—a rare occurrence for a fighter known for his unrivaled defensive finesse.
In this weekend's fight, Cotto is the challenger. Reigning WBA junior middleweight world titlist Trout (25-0-0, 14 KOs) is a career 154-pound fighter, the champion with three defenses behind him and an ability to score an upset. If he does, it would be one of the weight division's best scalps and Trout would be in a commanding position for career-high paydays against Saul Alvarez or Mayweather.