As the holiday season comes around we grow wistful and cold. I don't believe in Santa but I believe in Bob Arum and Richard Schaefer. Here are the 10 matches boxes NEEDS for '09.
1: Kelly Pavlik vs. Arthur Abraham: Make no mistake about it. My excitement for this fight has been somewhat tarnished by Pavlik's demolition at the hands of Bernard Hopkins. Pavlik however, was beaten, not bowed. Abraham is a strong, skillful and technical middleweight, but I still him as too defensive, too tentative, too Euro to beat a gunslinger like Pavlik. That being said I think this is a great fight that boxing needs next year.
2: Ricky Hatton vs. Manny Pacquiao: Look, I might be the only non-British person to think Hatton was holding his own with Floyd Jr. for six or so rounds in his KO-loss in ’08. I also would say he looked a superior fighter in his mauling of Paulie Malignaggi last month.
Pacquiao is now an ordained fistic god in his prime worldwide thanks to his recent performance against an oh-so-shot De La Hoya. Pacquiao showed that he has serious punching power at both 135 and 140 pounds. Hatton is the bigger man, but still much smaller than De La Hoya. That being said, styles make fights and I think this is an excellent matchup.
I think Pacquiao would be the clear favorite and certainly I can see him outspeeding Hatton with his southpaw banger style. However, I also see Hatton going to the body way more than De La Hoya was able to. I think if Hatton hits Pacquaio as cleanly as JM Marquez did, he takes control of the fight. That’s a pretty big if though…
3. Steve Cunningham vs. Thomas Adamek: This is an easy, easy no-brainer for anyone who saw their fight of the year runner-up match (sorry Izzy and Rafa take it again) on VS. This fight was unique for so many reasons, not the least of being how the consummate boxer Cunnigham decided to slug with the rugged Pole.
Anyone who watched the Youtube clip of USS Cunningham’s systematic beatdown over the german Mario Huck understands what I mean. Cunningham beat Adamek to the punch roughly 90% of the time, often knocking hishead back. Besides a sterling chin, Adamek had the gift of God in his right hand that night.
While being thoroughly outboxed he landed the three punches that counted the most. This was the finest performance by a European boxer not named Calzaghe in ’08.
4. Israel Vasquez vs. Cellestino Caballero: Vasquez has never faced a taller guy. Caballero has never faced a stronger, better boxer like Vasquez. Even with his huge frame, I don’t believe Caballero has the kind of two fisted power that Rafael Marquez possesses but he is a fierce competitor. Vasquez hit the deck twice before being able to hunt down and destroy Jhonny Gonzalez. Caballero has not been down in years and carries an air of invincibility.
My strong belief is that Vasquez will systematically relieve Caballero of this belief. One thing that is certain is that for however long it goes, it will be absolute mayhem. Btw, I would gladly watch Marquez vs Caballero. I’m not going to lie, first of all Vasquez is my favorite active fighter, but I had Marquez winning the third fight by one point. I think that fight was easily a draw.
The big picture though, is that Vasquez looked less physically destroyed after three legendary battles than Marquez. I can’t say it enough but both men are winners and Marquez should hold his head high, he is unvanquished (Oscar however…). I personally don’t want those two to fight again. They gave us three great fights, four is just being greedy.
5. JM Marquez vs. Manny Pacquiao III: But it won’t happen so…