As 2008 draws to a close, I look back on it as a year when two stellar fighters retired undefeated, a Latin hero was dismembered, and potential future champions climbed up the ranks on the backs of other hopefuls.
2009 will see the answers to some important questions about who can rise from defeat to triumph, who is really the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, and whether or not Mayweather will be compelled back into the ring to risk his perfect record for another big payday.
Here’s my list of what to look forward to:
Already on the Books
1. Margarito will take on Shane Mosley in a welterweight battle on Jan. 24, 2009 in Los Angeles
This match pairs two very talented fighters, both of whom have recently beat fearsome competition in impressive victories (Margarito’s KO over Cotto, Mosley’s 12th round stoppage of Mayorga). Mosley is a slicker boxer than Cotto, and I think this fight has the potential to be a war for 12 rounds ending in a draw, as both fighters prove their toughness.
2. IBO/WBA/WBO lightweight champion Nate Campbell will defend his titles against Ali Funeka on Feb. 14, 2009 (location TBA)
Though I favor Campbell in this fight, with his long arms and knockout power, Funeka might manage a knockout upset like he did in his recent challenge to Zahir Raheem.
3. Jorge “Travieso” Arce will take on Vic “Raging Bull” Darchinyan in a superflyweight bout on Feb. 7, 2009 (location TBA)
This matchup has all of the elements of a great fight—two punchers whose offense is their main defense, strong emotions (Darchinyan vows to punish Arce for calling him a "fraud"), and questionable chins on both men. Darchinyan has the edge here, but I think Arce has a chance.
4. Ricky “The Hitman” Hatton vs. Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao fighting at 140 lbs.
Pacquiao is an easy pick on this one, as Hatton is a novice at the kind of boxing skills in which Pacquiao is an expert, and fast hands usually beat brute strength. Hatton has vowed to retire after this fight, and may have to once Pacquiao demolishes the Englishman.
5. Kelly “The Ghost” Pavlik vs. Arthur “The King" Abraham in a middleweight title fight
I am hoping that Pavlik took Hopkins’ advice to learn some slick boxing skills, learns from his painful loss, and can get a knockout win against Abraham. Pavlik’s heart and inspiring story have brought a lot of new fans to boxing.
Rumors/Fights I’d Like to See
6. James Kirkland vs. whoever at 154 lbs.
Kirkland is one of the best up-and-coming knockout artists to be signed by Golden Boy Promotions. Kirkland will take on whoever is put in front of him, but I hope that Alfredo Angulo beats Ricardo Mayorga on February 19, 2009, and they meet after that. I’d like to see James “Mandingo Warrior” get a chance to solidify his defense and outbox a fellow knockout artist.
7. Ann Wolfe vs. any female at 160 lbs.
After being ducked by Laila Ali, who has dropped out of the boxing game, Wolfe is looking to close her career with one final fight. The question is, who will step into the ring to challenge this killer who once put Vonda Ward into a seven-hour coma with one punch?
8. Welterweight champion Paul Williams vs. Floyd Mayweather or Margarito
Williams will fight Mayweather if he can get him out of retirement, or Margarito, who he beat in 2007. He has seemed to be ducking him ever since.
9. David Haye vs. Vladimir
In November, Lennox Lewis denied rumors on ESPN.com that he will be coming out of retirement to fight one of the current Klitschko titleholders. In that statement, he suggested David Haye as a worthy opponent for Vladimir, so that’s the fight I’d like to see (unless Lennox changes his mind).
10. IBF/IBO light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson vs. recently retired undefeated Joe Calzage
Boxing Press quoted Dawson challenging Calzage for his belts, so it could happen.