Random thoughts as 2004 begins
13.01.04 - By Robert Bennett: All and all, 2003 turned out to be a relatively good year for boxing compared to some in recent times. A history making effort by a former middleweight, and another who re-established himself as a force to be reckoned with. A superfight at 154lbs that caused a Golden Boy to turn red, and a clash of the titans that left boxing fans salivating for more.
Article posted on 13.01.2004
Our new year looks promising, read on for part one of my random thoughts and musings on the various fights and fighters that make our sport the greatest in the world.
Lewis – Klitschko II.
Although I see no controversy in the first fight, the cut was caused legally and the stoppage was most certainly warranted, Lewis will return to defend his title one last time against the now highly regarded Klitschko. Although not the most technically sound fight I have ever seen, the sight of those two giants hammering away at each other for the heavyweight title left me and the rest of the boxing world wanting for more.
Lewis was so long denied the recognition that was rightfully his, that he will not be able to resist this chance to punctuate his legacy with a dominant victory over Vitali. The elder Klitschko is as big and as strong as they get, but Lennox will be able to muster his strength one last time and stop the hulking Ukrainian in far more decisive fashion then the first match. This will prove to be the last stand for a great heavyweight champion.
Toney to chase Roy into history
The consensus fighter of the year for 2003, James Toney will stake his claim for the 2004 award as well. Roy Jones has already proved that size matters little when the gulf in skill is big enough, and there is little doubt that Toney well and truly eclipses McCline in that area. Look for Toney to dominate and befuddle McCline on his way to a one sided decision or late stoppage.
More interestingly, the IBF has mandated that the winner of this fight will become the mandatory challenger to champion Chris Byrd. Toney and Byrd have been talking smack for months now (Toney has been doing most of the talking), and I see little trouble in convincing Toney to get in the ring with Byrd on March 20th for Don King’s next mega pay-per-view event, even considering the short time between bouts for Toney. Byrd’s talents have carried him far into the heavyweight division even with his size disadvantage, but Toney is a phenomenal fighter, and nothing will motivate him more then the chance to one up his rival and follow Roy Jones into history as only the third former middleweight champion to win a heavyweight title. Hopefully, this might provide the catalyst for what I believe to be the number one fight in boxing, Jones-Toney II.
Make no mistake, Danny Green is the best at 168lbs by a long way. The hard hitting Aussie was controversially denied his first world title last year when he was disqualified after beating German Markus Beyer senseless for four and a bit rounds. He followed this up with a devastating stoppage of durable Canadian Eric Lucas in Montreal in early December. Next up is a rematch with Beyer, who I hope for his own sake is considering retirement instead of this bout. He has the convenient excuse of the eye damage he suffered against Green to blame for his quick and quiet exit from boxing.
Ottke is done as a top competitor, if he ever really was one. The string of disgraceful decisions that have kept him on his protected pedestal speaks volumes to that effect. His title reign will last as long as it takes the WBA to enforce his mandatory versus ‘regular’ champion Anthony Mundine. The Man has improved vastly since his knockout loss to Ottke, and will dismantle and stop the German, even with the corrupt German system against him.
Calzhage is talented, but is perhaps the biggest ‘all-talk’ fighter in boxing. Many a word was spoken, with the names Hopkins, Jones and of course Ottke thrown around with no actual effort made into making the bouts. His list of defeated foes isn’t all that bad, but he is still yet to start in a fight he was seriously expected to be challenged in. If you think you can sit on that trinket you call a world title Joe, go right ahead, the division will rightfully leave you behind.
In 2004, look for Ottke to be undone, Calzhage to be all talk, Green to become the most feared man in the division, Lacy to step up and take out a real contender, and Mundine to talk more smack then a Bernard Hopkins – James Toney press conference.
Must admit though, one of the more interesting divisions in boxing…
I must admit, it took until Mayweather took apart and dismantled the Time Bomb before I finally gave this guy the credit he rightfully deserves. This guy has been fighting and beating some of the finest boxers south of welterweight since 1998, and is starting to look every bit the future hall of famer. I along with most other fight fans laughed at the thought of Mayweather challenging De La Hoya at 154lbs, even chuckling to myself that Oscar would win that fight by a ‘unanimous bitchslap’. However, the idea has seemed less and less absurd to me as the months passed by, and I know see little Floyd as a genuine threat to anyone not named Bernard Hopkins at 160lbs or below. With the exception of Roy Jones Jr, and possibly not even he, Mayweather is technically peerless, his power remains dangerous if not destructive and his handspeed is incredible.
In my opinion, Mayweather has one weakness and one alone. Castillo remains the only savvy veteran still near the top of his game that Mayweather has faced, and was very nearly decisioned in their first meeting. Although Mayweather far more decisively defeated Castillo in the rematch, the possibility remains that a fighter who can frustrate Floyd holds the key to his undoing.
One fighter in particular seems to have the precise balance of ring smarts and physical gifts to give Floyd trouble. Undisputed junior welterweight champion Kostya Tszyu would be an intriguing, and mouth watering match up. We all know the result the last time Tszyu was faced with an undefeated cute fighter, and so does Mr. Funky Chicken (How you doing Zab). Mayweather is however, far more than Judah can ever hope to be. Unfortunately for us, the boxing fan, Mayweather has previously stated that the dollars would simply not be enough to face Kostya, and thus we may have to allocate this fight to the ‘what if’ section of the archives.
Roy Jones Jr
If there is one thing I see in some boxing fans that irritates me most, it has to be the unnecessary critique of Roy Jones Jr. Love him or hate him, he is at very least the finest fighter of this generation, and at most one of the best fighters the world has ever seen. Enjoy him while he is here, because when he is gone, and it will be soon, you may regret not having more of an open mind.
Make excuses for the victims if you like, but you show me one other fighter on the planet still active who can boast a win list to compete with that of Jones. Currently no less than three of the worlds best pound for pound fighters have losses to Roy Jones over varying weight classes.
His skill never questioned, he is instead accused of ducking every fighter that has ever asked for a shot at Jones. Every champion from middleweight to heavyweight has asked Jones for a fight, how is he to fight them all? If he fights Hopkins, he’s ducking Calzhage. If he fights Tarver, he’s ducking Byrd. If he fights Tyson he’s ducking Toney. Jones has never been anything but a careful tactician, but accusing him of ducking fighters is as ludicrous as claiming the sun won’t rise tomorrow.
For those among you that pleaded for Jones to find a way to challenge himself and then chastised his effort against Tarver, shame on you. I invite you to point out one, just one fighter throughout history who has melted as much sheer muscle mass as Jones did in order to battle a fighter as talented as Antonio Tarver. If you wanted an answer as to whether Jones possessed as much heart and will as he did talent, you got it November 8th. With two rounds to go and the fight up for grabs, Roy Jones did what champions do and dug deep to take the win.
I have of course heard the claims of “he was only given the decision because he was Roy Jones Jr” drivel. In reality, the exact opposite is true. Had he not been expected to dominate as he always does, to be supreme as always, it would have been seen as a fairly straight forward – if close, victory.
Of course, in the ten years following Ray Robinson’s proclamation as the best pound for pound fighter on the planet, he was never challenged, was he? The bar has never been set so high as it has for Roy Jones Jr.
Don’t let yourself miss what could be a part of the boxing history you should so cherish as a fan.
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