So far, 2013 has been a terrific year in boxing. And the glass is still half full, because the final three months on the calender are packed with terrific fights.
Pound-for-pound stars and future Hall of Famers will be back in action. World titles will be on the line. Journeymen will face golden opportunities, and young stars will be called upon to to step up and prove their mettle.
It's going to be a big year in boxing, right through the final month.
Next weekend, Juan Manuel Marquez attempts to become the first five-division world champion ever from Mexico when he faces WBO welterweight champion Timothy Bradley on pay-per-view.
This a battle between the two men who beat Manny Pacquiao in 2012, although Bradley's split decision in June was controversial, while Marquez won by sensational Round 6 KO last December. Bradley already survived a potential Fight of the Year effort in 2013, when he earned a unanimous decision against Ruslan Provodnikov last March in a fight where he appeared out on his feet on multiple occasions.
If Bradley takes the kind of risks against Marquez that he took against Provodnikov, he will not end the fight on his feet. Marquez is among the greatest counterpunchers in boxing history, and if he is able to hurt Bradley the way Provodnikov was, Bradley will not be able to rely on superior boxing skills to retake control of the fight.
But I'm almost sure Bradley will fight a more cautious fight this time around. He'll look to make the fight ugly and physically challenging for the 40-year-old Marquez.
I think this one will be largely a chess match. But both men are crisp combination punchers, so expect action-packed exchanges throughout the fight, even if they are tactically deployed.
I think Bradley will take ugly rounds early, forcing Marquez to get riskier and try to press the action in the second half of the fight. This will largely play into Bradley's hands, but it will also allow Marquez to get off first and record some flashy scoring.
I won't be surprised if this one ends up very close on the cards. But I'm coming down in favor of Juan Manuel Marquez by decision.
A week after Marquez and Bradley fight, Top Rank and HBO will be back in business again, presenting a fight that will be a potential late candidate for Fight of the Year.
Both of these guys have been in those kind of fights already in 2013. Last March, Provodnikov was edged by Bradley in a fight where he had the undefeated "Desert Storm" nearly knocked out on multiple occasions.
Two weeks later, Mike Alvarado avenged his 2012 TKO loss to Brandon Rios when he beat him by unanimous decision in another all-action war.
Now these two hard-nosed warriors will meet in a big-time showdown in Alvarado's hometown of Denver. "Mile High" Mike will be hungry to put on a great show for his friends and neighbors, but he showed against Rios that he has the discipline to use smart boxing to attack strategically and limit the damage he takes in return.
Provodnikov struggled throughout the fight last March whenever Bradley fell back on his boxing. The Siberian will come forward with determination, but I think Alvarado will control the terrain and land the bigger exchanges throughout.
Provodnikov took serious damage to his eye against Bradley last spring, to the point where Freddie Roach was threatening to stop the fight between rounds. Those kind of injuries have a tendency to come back as even bigger problems in subsequent fights.
Mike Alvarado by RTD, Round 10.
Undefeated WBO middleweight champion Peter Quillin faces tough and talented journeyman Gabriel Rosado as the co-main event for the Bernard Hopkins-Karo Murat fight in Atlantic City on October 26.
Quillin has shown flashes of brilliance in his short career, but at this point, he needs to start turning in the sort of performances that will give him a legitimate claim to being the man at 160.
Rosado has more often fought at 154, but he will come to the A.C. planning to give Quillin a rugged fight. He's the sort of fighter who went through the school of hard knocks and learned his lessons well.
If nothing else, this fight will give Quillin and WBA champion Gennady Golovkin a common opponent. GGG stopped Rosado by Round 7 TKO last January.
I think Quillin wins here and looks relatively good doing it. But I think Rosado will stick around until the bitter end. Quillin by unanimous decision.
At the end of this month, boxing fans will find out if the beat can continue to go on for the ageless 48-year-old Hopkins. The IBF light heavyweight champion and oldest world champion in history will defend his title against once-beaten Murat of Iraq.
Murat is a legitimate top 10 light heavyweight, but I doubt Hopkins would have picked him if he didn't see plenty of holes to exploit in Murat's boxing. Murat lost by TKO to Nathan Cleverly in 2010 and drew with Gabriel Campillo in 2011.
Those are both fighters I think Hopkins would still beat with relative easy. I expect Hopkins will win with relative ease here, as well. He'll deny Murat the opportunity to score on him and pile up the damage throughout the fight.
Even at 48, Hopkins will be far too much for Murat. Hopkins by Round 9 TKO.
There will be no world title on the line when Magomed Abdusalamov meets Mike Perez as the co-main event on the Gennady Golovkin-Curtis Stevens card in Madison Square Garden on November 2. But it's a clash of undefeated heavyweights who always go for the finish, so boxing fans will be looking forward to this one.
Perez is from Cuba, a former world junior amateur champion at light heavyweight. The Cuban amateur program is the best in the world, so Perez is probably the better technical boxer. But so far as a professional, Perez has fought much more in the style of an aggressive puncher, relying on his explosive speed and agility to whack opponents silly.
Abdusalamov, of course, is a pure-puncher himself. A native of Dagestan, a republic within Russia, Mago has knocked out all 18 of his opponents to date.
These two guys are going to be looking to knock each other out—it's as simple as that. A fight like this has the potential to go either way, since both men can end it with a punch or combination at any time.
But there is a good chance that this will develop into war of attrition, and as the larger man, I think that favors Abdusalamov.
Mago by Round 7 TKO.
There's going to be some heavy leather in Madison Square Garden on November 2. Following the heavyweight throwdown discussed in the previous slide between Abdusalamov and Perez, undefeated WBA middleweight champion Golovkin will go to war with heavy-duty Stevens.
Golovkin is 27-0 with 24 KOs. Nobody has gone the distance with him since he moved up to 10-round fights. The Kazakhstan native is a relentless stalker and a monster puncher to both the body and head.
Stevens is a tough guy who spent much of his career fighting at super middleweight. He will challenge Golovkin's physical strength on the inside and look to create space to deliver his own knockout punches.
This could be the most exciting fight so far this year for Golovkin, who is 3-0 in 2013. But Stevens is going to find out that beating up Golovkin is easier to talk about than it is to accomplish.
Golovkin by Round 6 KO.
There was a time when Vic Darchinyan was viewed as one of the world's most dangerous pound-for-pound fighters. That time was about a decade ago, and Darchinyan weight about 112 to 115 pounds at the time.
The weight for Darchinyan's meeting with Nonito Donaire in November will be 122 pounds. It's a rematch of their fight in July 2007, when Donaire dispatched Darchinyan by Round 5 TKO.
This is an opponent who was selected to make Donaire look good in his first fight back since losing to Guillermo Rigondeaux. Fans should think back to his fight last December against Jorge Arce, which Donaire won by Round 3 KO.
It's that kind of fight: a big-name opponent who will come forward but won't be able to beat Donaire to the punch.
Donaire will impress again here. I'm picking him by Round 4 KO.
This is the fight that should earn Mikey Garcia 2013 Fighter of the Year honors. In January, he captured his first world title, the WBO featherweight belt, when he knocked down Orlando Salido three times and won by Round 8 technical decision.
In June, Garcia beat former world champion Juan Manuel Lopez by Round 4 TKO. A win against Martinez in November makes Garcia a two-division world champion within the same calender year.
Garcia has been a finisher in his career, and I expect him to carry his power up to 130. Martinez has never been stopped, but he's lost to Ricky Burns and drew with Juan Carlos Burgos.
I think Garcia remains unbeaten here and hands Martinez his first loss by stoppage. Mikey Garcia by Round 8 KO.
On November 16, pound-for-pound star and super middleweight champion Andre Ward finally returns to action after over a year on the sidelines, when he faces undefeated Edwin Rodriguez.
Rodriguez has been busy this year, winning a pair of exciting fights in front of the jet-setting crowds in Monte Carlo. Last July, he blasted light heavyweight prospect Denis Grachev in the first round.
I would have preferred to see Rodriguez get a little bit more seasoning before facing Ward, but he probably is the best super middleweight in the world who Ward hasn't already beaten.
I am pretty confident Ward will win, but Rodriguez is an explosive athlete with a tremendous reach. I am hoping "La Bomba" can force some excitement here.
But ultimately, I have to pick Ward by a comfortable decision. It's the kind of pick that feels as secure as a treasury note used to feel, in earlier decades.
Filipino superstar Manny Pacquiao and Mexican-American warrior Brandon Rios will make boxing history in November when they headline a pay-per-view card from Macau, China. Pacman enters on a two-fight losing streak, and Rios lost the first fight of his career against Alvarado last March.
Rios is a fearless brawler, and he'll come forward looking to capitalize on this major opportunity. On paper, he almost seems specifically designed to make Pacquiao look good.
The only real question for me in this fight is how much Pacquiao still resembles his old self. Despite getting knocked out last December against Marquez, he looked like an explosive, dangerous fighter for much of the fight.
If he can fight the same way against Rios in November, this will be a relatively one-sided affair, though probably exciting.
I'm picking Pacquiao by Round 11 TKO.
After his controversial split-decision win over Paulie Malignaggi last June, Adrien Broner insisted he would fight whoever the fans wanted him to fight next. In facing the Argentinian gunslinger, Marcos Maidana, he's pretty much being a man of his word.
There are a lot of fans out there who are hoping the super-tough Maidana will be the man to expose Broner. There's good reason to think he could do it. Maidana lost a close, thrilling fight to Amir Khan in 2011 and has developed into a more solid fighter since then, under the guidance of super-trainer Robert Garcia.
On the other hand, an aggressive fighter like Maidana might be just what the doctor ordered for improving Broner's reputation, which took a hit against Malignaggi. Broner is defensively solid and can counterpunch explosively.
The fight will hinge on whether or not Maidana can establish his jab to get into range to punish Broner's body. Another big question will be how Broner is able to stand up when Maindana lands a big scoring punch.
Maidana is going to hit Broner harder than Malignaggi was able to and much harder than anybody ever hit him at 130 and 135.
Maidana is going to make this a grueling battle, all fight long. I think Broner will stand up better than some might expect and win rounds with his speed.
But I'm picking Maidana to grind on Broner and pull away late to win by decision.