Well, it is the end of the year, so we know what that means: Everyone will be releasing their end of the year "best of" lists. However, I instead would like to unveil my "best of next year" list for the world of professional boxing.
What follows is a list of what should turn out to be next year's best and/or most intriguing matchups. Some are already set, some are likely to be signed and scheduled soon, and others (many) are purely matchups that could conceivably materialize in the New Year. So without further ado, here is the "Best of 2009" list:
1. Floyd Mayweather, Jr. v. Manny Pacquiao
This fight began being discussed the minute Manny finished dominating Oscar De La Hoya on Dec. 6th, and for obvious reasons.
First of all, it would pit the current pound-for-pound king against the man who recently "retired" as pound-for-pound king. Furthermore, it is an intriguing style matchup: Manny's relentless pressure vs. Floyd's slickness and technique. And, well, most importantly to those involved, it would pull huge pay-per-view numbers and make everyone involved a ton of money.
This fight (as with most of the other fights in this article) is a tough one to call. It could really go one of two ways: Either Manny forces Floyd into a slugfest, or he can't. There is literally no chance Pacquiao becomes the boxer and outboxes Floyd; the size difference and the fact that Manny only really fights one way tell us that won't happen.
One could see either Manny being too much for Floyd, especially with the layoff "Money May" will have had by the time the fight could potentially happen. However, one could also see Floyd picking him apart systematically and getting the victory by decision or late TKO. Either way, let's just hope it happens.
2. Manny Pacquiao vs. Ricky Hatton
This is a fight that was discussed even before Manny handled Oscar. This one is an obvious matchup as well, and reports suggest it is nearly a signed deal.
Here you have what is probably the second biggest money fight to be made, with the pound-for-pound king looking to topple the biggest name in yet another division, the Jr. Welterweight class. Then there is the added bonus of putting two immensely popular fighters against each other, with the matchup of styles producing a fight where both men keep coming forward and trying to impose their will on the other.
It doesn't get much better than that.
3. Antonio Margarito v. Miguel Cotto
With all due respect to Margarito vs. Mosley (see below), this is the fight everyone wants to see in the welterweight division (notwithstanding any matches involving a possible Money Mayweather comeback). The first fight was a classic, and, although some might think that a rematch would end the same, there is a good chance Cotto would adapt, beat the Tijuana Tornado, and set up a trilogy. Hey, at the very least even if it does play out the same, we get another excellent fight.
4. David Haye vs. either Klitschko brother
The heavyweight division is in need of excitement, as we all know. The Klitschko brothers are both very good heavyweights—they hold almost every piece of hardware in the division—and they are the top two big men in the world. However, they will not fight each other (anyone sick of hearing that story yet?) and that robs of us the most meaningful heavyweight matchup.
However, the arrival of the exciting, charismatic, and explosive David Haye may breathe life into the division. Word on the streets is that he will fight Vitali in June. While he may not have the chin to hold up to either of the Ukrainian big men, we can say this: Haye vs. either brother would not likely go the distance. And that, folks, is always fun.
Oh, and by the way, let us not forget about the great revenge storyline that will emerge if he beats one of the brothers.
5. Antonio Margarito vs. Shane Mosley
This is signed and scheduled for Jan. 24th in Los Angeles. Pretty much any fight Antonio is in is exciting because of his non-stop attack. And Shane still seems to have enough in the tank to keep it interesting.
This actually isn't the best fight that can be made in the welterweight division (see above and below). However, what makes this fight important is that it matches up two of the sport's more recognized fighters on regular HBO to begin the year in style. Both men have a fan base and tend to make quality fights, so it is a treat for all fans to be able to get our year rolling with this fight.
6. Alfredo Angulo vs. Ricardo Mayorga
Call me crazy, but I am excited for this fight. You know when you are watching a fight and you just feel the tension of violence emanating from your TV screen? That is what this fight is going to bring on Valentine's Day (insert St. Valentine's Day Massacre joke here).
This fight may not even end up being all that competitive, with the distinct possibility existing that the young lion Angulo will just brutalize the aging Mayorga. However, rest assured that whatever happens will be violent and conclusive.
7. Vic Darchinyan vs. Jorge Arce
Just reread what was written about Angulo vs. Mayorga. Darchinyan seems to be completely over his KO loss to Nonito Donaire and, in fact, seems to be more confident and destructive than ever after his domination of Christian Mijares. Arce, on the other hand, is big, strong, and always ready to brawl, but his peak is likely slightly behind him. The clash of styles calls for nothing but action and excitement, another can't-miss fight.
8. Any of the top four junior featherweights fighting each other
I was tempted to put Israel Vazquev vs. Rafael Marquez IV here, but as good as the trilogy was, I wouldn't mind seeing the other two top Jr. feathers—Celestino Caballero and Juan Manuel Lopez—get involved in the big fights in this division either.
Imagine any of the possible matchups: Caballero's freakish size and unique style vs. Marquez's classic style and gritty determination; Vazquez's brawling pressure vs. Lopez's blend of youth, speed, and power; Vazquez's pressure vs. Caballero's pressure from all angles; and more. There's not a bad fight among them.
9. Paul Williams vs. any of the top 147, 154, or 160 pounders
Tell me if I am crazy, but it kind of looks like Paul Williams is still getting better. Granted, he was totally out-boxed by Carlos Quinatana less than a year ago, but since then he blew out Quintana in seconds, destroyed a natural middleweight in Andy Kolle, and dominated a game and experienced Verno Phillips. Paul Williams is tall for any of the three weight classes he fights in, has good hand speed, decent power, and throws a ridiculous amount of punches, which are becoming all the more accurate in recent fights.
Here are some of the available opponents of note for him in these three weight classes: Margarito (rematch), Cotto, Mosley, Mayweather (?), Josh Clottey, Andre Berto, Venon Forrest, Arthur Abraham, and Kelly Pavlik. Which of those fights would not, at the very least, be intriguing and at best a classic?
10. Kelly Pavlik vs. Arthur Abraham
Although Bernard Hopkins taught Kelly an old-school boxing lesson, we must not forget that (1) Kelly Pavlik is still the middleweight champion; (2) that until that particular night, Pavlik was the toast of the boxing world; and (3) he can bang, and he makes good fights.
We must also not forget that the middleweight division has traditionally been boxing's glamour division outside of the heavyweights. Big fights here means big things for boxing.
In Arbraham, you have the clear number two guy in the division, a man who can seriously bunch and seriously punch. Never mind the fact that he has heart (see Arbraham vs. Miranda I). The matchup has classic written all over it.
Well, folks, that is just one man's wish list for the New Year. Let's hope that we can see some, if not all, of the aforementioned fights in the New Year.
Have a safe and happy holiday season.