The retirement of Floyd Mayweather is big news in the world of boxing. However, there is a lot going on in the sweet science today. Besides this year being exciting for almost every class, there's a lot of noise about fights on the horizon. Let's take a closer look at each weight class:
Junior Featherweights (122 pounds)
Israel Vasquez (43-4) has defeated Rafael Marquez in their third match, cementing his rule of the division and his place in the top five pound-for-pound fighters. Who does he face next? Does he face Marquez (37-5) a fouth time, or does he give a title shot to Celestino Caballero (29-2)?
Meanwhile, Juan Manuel Lopez (22-0) completely dominated Daniel Ponce de Leon (34-2) earlier this month. With the strength and killer- instinct of fellow Puerto Rican Miguel Cotto, Lopez may be on his way to take the title and dominate the division. However, undefeated Steve Molitor (27-0) has been winning with smarts and working his way up the ranks as well.
My prediction: Lopez faces Molitor and wins in an elimination bout for the chance to face Vasquez. Meanwhile, Ponce de Leon faces Marquez to redeem himself after his brutal loss. The two would both be coming off a loss and the winner would face Caballero with the prize being a shot at Vasquez. Vasquez will retire with his championship intact.
Featherweights (126 pounds)
Ring Magazine ranks Chris John (41-0-1) as tops in the division. However, John has yet to fight in north America. How legitimate is his record? Did he beat 41 quality opponents, or did he pad his resume overseas with easy targets? His seemingly apparent partnership with Golden Boy means that de la Hoya trusts his record, we'll see in September if the Mexico fight takes form.
Robert Guerrero (22-1-1) is ready for his rematch against Orlando Salido (30-9-2). Can Saldio win legitimately this time, or were the steroids the real weapon in their 2006 bout? Look for an elimination bout between undefeated Jorge Linares (25-0) and Jorge Solis (35-1-2), who both feel they deserve the title. Don't count out Hector Velazquez (49-11-2). He's older and has lost 11 bouts, but he has the experience and the drive for one more shot.
My prediction: Chris John loses his first noth American fight, but is not out and earns his title shot sometime in 2009.
Junior Lightweights (130 pounds)
Manny Pacquiao (46-3-2) is the man right now. He's the current reigning number one pound-for-pound fighter in the world, and he's earned it. this Saturday, he's moving up to Lightweight to fight for David Diaz's belt. A victory could keep him moving up to 140 pounds to face Ricky Hatton, or staying at 135 and unifying the Lightweight division. He's also one of the fighters mentioned as Oscar de la Hoya's swan song bout later this year.
Juan Manuel Marquez (48-4-1) is moving up with Pacqiuao and fighting top ranked Lightweight Joel Casamayor (36-3-1). This could set up a unification bout in the Lightweight division by two junior lightweights: Pacquiao and Marquez.
Joan Guzman (28-0) is, you guessed it, moving up to lightweight. He's moving up for good (vacated his belt) and fighting Nate Campbell (32-5-1) sometime later this year. He's a boxer who will be the smaller man in the Lightweight division. Is he as fast as he thinks he is? We'll find out when he faces Campbell's bombs.
This leaves the division wide open. Humberto Solo (44-6-2) has paid his dues and will jump on the chance to lead the division. His fight against Francisco Lorenzo (32-4) on the Pacquiao undercard is an elimination bout, but when the dust settles the prize, Marquez, will have left the division. This will end up being the championship fight.
Don't overlook Edwin Valero (24-0). He's knocked out every fighter he's faced. he will have a shot by summer of 2009.
My prediction: Humberto Solo wins the vacant belt in a defeat over Lorenzo, but becomes another statistic for Valero and retires as a former champ. Pacquiao and Diaz begin a multi-fight war not unlike Gatti-Ward. Marquez and Guzman both lose their first lightweight fights, but stay in the division and stay near the top.
Lightweights (135 pounds)
Joel Casamayor will defend his belt against Juan Manuel Marquez this September. Nate Cambpell is Guzman's target, and David Diaz starts his war with Pacquiao.
This leave Juan Diaz (33-1). He's fighting Michael Katsidis (23-1) in September. Both are coming of their only career losses, and both will be looking to make a statement. These two brawlers will leave it all on the mat as they try for a shot at the top.
Jose Armando Santa Cruz (25-3) lost a close decision to Casamayor, and the belt with it. Will his fight with Antonio Pitula (43-3) finally happen? Will the winner be fighting Casamayor, or Marquez?
My prediction: Julio Diaz' dismantling of overmatched David Torres this week will earn him a shot at the Diaz-Katsidis winner. This would be a rematch with Juan and give Santa Cruz, who will beat Pitula, a shot at reclaiming his belt from Casamayor.
Junior Welterweights (140 pounds)
Ricky Hatton (44-1) is king here. He moved up to face Floyd Mayweather after dominating the 140 pound division. Now, he must collect himself and face new opponents in his own class, namely Paulie Malignaggi (25-1) this November.
Timothy Bradley (22-0) artificially built his record fighting weak opponents. however, his decision win over Junior Witter proved he is the real deal, as he is a legitimate belt holder.
Ricardo Torres (32-1) is meeting Kendall Holt (23-2) in a rematch. hopefully, this won't be the embarrassment that was their first fight, which saw the fans throwing things onto the mat and a complete lack of control over any aspect of the fight.
My prediction: Malignaggi's fourth hand surgery is a career ender as Hatton beats him soundly. Torres will beat Holt, but must still face Bradley before a shot at Hatton. Don't count out up-and-comer Herman Ngoudjo (17-2) who can still make some noise in the division.
Welterweights (147 pounds)
This is the weight class to watch, folks! The sudden retirement of Floyd Mayweather has left the division without a champ and in chaos. When the mess clears, we could see the belts change hands several times in the next year or two before a new champ unifies and dominates (that new champ's name will begin with 'B' and rhyme with 'Erto.')
Miguel Cotto (32-0) could very well be the hardest puncher in the sport. Cotto doesn't just beat you, he beats you up. He's the sixth ranked pound-for-pound fighter, but will end up much higher when all is said and done. If anyone at 147 pounds can be on a level with Cotto's strength, it's Antonio Margarito (36-5). The two meet in July in what promises to be a bloodbath.
Sugar Shane Mosely, one of the sports truly good guys who deserves the vacated belt as much as anyone, has had trouble even getting a fight, especially with Zab Judah's arm injury this Spring. He looks to fight Ricardo Mayorga in October, but will this fight get him a title shot, or just cement his role as an 'opponent' as his career winds down. Mosely may have the fastest hands in the division, but speed is the first thing stolen by age.
Paul Williams (34-1) is also without an opponent. The only loss of his career was to Carlos Quintana (25-2), but in the rematch Williams obliterated Quintana barely halfway through the first round. Look for him to be the target of the Zab Judah (36-5) - Joshua Clottey (34-2) fight this summer.
Andre Berto (22-0) is only 24 years old. He is called a prospect, an up-and-comer, young talent, etc. This so-called prospect just dominated Miki Rodriguez and claimed a belt vacated by the retiring Mayweather. this means Berto is thrust among the elites. Is he ready for Margarito, Cotto, Judah, etc? He has the chance for a long reign over the division.
My prediction: Cotto defeats Margarito and will meet Paul Williams in early 2009. Mosely will defeat Mayorga, but will not be given a direct title shot afterwards. Judah will win a squeaker over Clottey and will then have to fight Luiz Collazo (28-3). Don't count out Kermit Cintron. He's coming off two ugly losses, but they are still his only defeats. If he finds a good promoter he may get a chance to leapfrog an eliminator and face Andre Berto or get a big money fight against Shane Mosely.
Junior Middleweights (154 pounds)
Contender winner Sergio Mora (21-0-1) beat Vernon Forrest (40-3) to win the title, but is still not the top ranked Junior Middleweight, which Ring Magazine gives to Verno Phillips (42-10-1). Before making any big plans, Mora must fulfill his rematch obligations with Vernon Phillips.
Oscar de la Hoya will not get a rematch with Floyd Mayweather. He will fight his swan song bout in December, but against whom? Miguel Cotto? Sergio Mora? Shane Mosely? No matter who it is, de la Hoya will make sure it's the best opponent he can find. He'd rather go out with a bang against a star than during the night without a fight like some other *cough* recent fighter.
Joachim Alcine (30-0) will meet Daniel Santon (31-3-1) this July in Montreal. Will Santos get his last shot at the top or will Alicine beat a retirement into him?
According to ESPN, "The WBC has ordered negotiations between Mora and Martinez, the mandatory challenger." This means that Sergio Martinez (43-1-1) may usurp Forrest's rematch bid and get first crack at Mora's belt.
My prediction: Mora seems intent on moving up to fight Kelly Pavlik. Will he stay focused until he gets his shot, or will he be distracted by his television-special road to success? At least we don't have to sit here and discuss more bouts with Alphonzo Gomez and Scotty Pemberton. De la Hoya will NOT fight Cotto. The last thing he wants is a concussion in his final fight.
Middleweights (160 pounds)
Kelly Pavlik (34-0) is king of the hill. He may very well be the biggest star in boxing right now. If he's not, he should be. He is, unfortunately, without an opponent. The prospect of a fight with Joe Calzaghe, with would have been great, fell through due to some suspect decision making by Calzaghe. It looks like Pavlik's next fight will be with Mora. This would be a step up for Mora. Warning for the Mora camp: Pavlik soundly beat a bigger Jermain Taylor, who is a much better fighter than Sergio Mora. Pavlik won't have a problem beating Mora.
Arthur Abraham (27-0) just knocked out Edison Miranda (30-3) in their rematch, removing Miranda from the rank of contender and earning his own shot at the top.
Winky Wright (51-4-1) is 36 and hasn't fought in a year (a loss to B-Hop). He has no fight in the works. He needs to find an opponent soon and get his shot at Pavlik before he loses speed and his chances. Even a fight against Edison Miranda or Javier Castillejo (62-8) would keep him busy and in shape for a shot at an elimination bout.
My prediction: with Jermain Taylor opting to return to Super Middleweight and Winky Wright unable to land a fight, there is no direct opposition for Pavlik. Look for the winner of the Felix Sturm (29-2-1) - Randy Griffin (24-1-3) fight this July to face Abraham in a title eliminator. Meanwhile, Pavlik will fight to unify the division and continue to try for a Calzaghe fight sometime in 2009 or early 2010. Kelly Pavlik WILL retire the undefeated Middleweight and Super-middleweight champ after unifying both, and do so before his 32nd birthday.
Super Middleweights (168 pounds)
Joe Calzaghe (45-0), the Ring Magazine ranked number two pound-for-pound fighter in the world, is the king of the Super Middleweights and the Light Heavyweights. He doesn't come without controversy, however. Although I believe he would have beat Peter Manfredo, Manfredo was never given a chance. Manfredo's strategy was to try and let the much older Calzaghe punch himself out, and when Calzaghe started throwing, mostly without hitting, the fight was called a TKO win with Manfredo confused as to how he lost without getting hit. Calzaghe now is dodging Kelly Pavlik in favor of a fight with has-been Roy Jones Jr. This fight holds no intrigue, just a paycheck.
Mikkel Kessler (40-1) is supposedly the WBA titleholder, but the legitimacy of this belt is in question. Kessler needs to face Lucian Bute (22-0) or Calzaghe soon in order to seem legitimate. Maybe a drop in weight to fight Wright.
Jeff Lacy (23-1) is having a hard time nailing down a fight this summer. Will he meet Mendoza, or will he sit idle until later this fall to face Jermain Taylor?
Allen Green (26-1) has way too much promise to go so long without fighting.
Unless he lines something up soon he may quickly go from 'contender' to 'opponent' without even realizing it.
My prediction: Joe Calzaghe will not only beat, but soundly beat Roy Jones Jr. in what should be Jr.'s last fight. Will Calzaghe then give Pavlik a shot? He is his own agent now, so he can pick his fights and I don't see him wanting that fight. Kessler may be dodged until Calzaghe's retirement leaves him the lone beltholder. Look for Kessler to take a Pavlik fight to relegitimize his position.
Light Heavyweights (175 poundds)
Aside from Calzaghe trying to line up a fight with Roy Jones Jr., there is nothing on the docket in this division. The only thing here is speculation. Golden Boy is trying to set up a fight between Bernard Hopkins (48-5-1) and Kelly Pavlik. B-Hop declared he's never been beaten up. Taking this fight would show he wants to be. Chad Dawson (26-0) and Antonio Tarver (27-4) should fight each other, but probably won't, as they seem intent on fighting others for lesser belts.
Zsolt Erdei (29-0)has defended his title ten times, but never against an opponent worthy of a shot. Will he fight someone worthy, maybe like Glenn Johnson (47-12-2)? Or will he continue to beat up on nobodies?
My prediction: Roy Jones will lose and retire. Bernard Hopkins will retire without another fight. Dawson and Tarver will argue over a shot at Calzaghe, but not fight for the opportunity and the next title shot at Calzaghe will be Clinton Woods (41-4-1).
Cruiserweight (200 pounds) and Heavyweights (201 and up)
I'm combining these two because, for all intents and purposes, the Cruiserweight division is just the minor league for the Heavyweight division.
And, considering that there is no Cruiserweight star on the horizon it's pretty much a yawner right now anyway.
Wladimir Klitschko (50-3) is on the top, but he never had his chance to rematch Lennox Lewis after he retired to avoid the rematch. Seeing how badly Klitschko was beating Lewis until the cut, a rematch should have been a foregone conclusion. Right now, Klitschko has a fight in a couple of weeks with Tony Thompson (30-1) and another fight in the works against Samuel Peter (30-1).
Considering that fighters like James Toney, Hassim Rahman, John Ruiz, and Sergei Maskaev are top-ranked fighters, it's easy to see how weak the heavyweight division is today. Aside from lumbering hulks with little boxing skill, there is also no personality to keep things interesting. There's no controversy, there's no intrigue. The heavyweight division is the one everybody knows: Frazier, Ali, Foreman, Tyson, Liston, Dempsey, Holyfield: these men all drew attention and excited the media. The new crop, from the Russians people refuse to work for to the one-dimensional fighters like Lennox Lewis or Hassim Rahman, there's so little here.
My prediction: a 'new' Joe Mesi is needed to send some electricity through the division. Tua is done, Ruiz is done, Klitschko will retire soon, Maskaev is done, Ibragamov is no longer a contender. A whole new generation should be coming. Let's hope Chaz Witherspoon recovers from his recent loss and joins the fray.