Boxing


As the World Turns…The On-Going Story-lines of 2006

14.06.06 - By Yousef Faroniya: For several years we’ve heard that boxing is going down the drain. Then during the early 2000s, things went from bad to worse. Lennox Lewis’ retirement left the heavyweights in shambles. Boxing’s biggest attractions in Roy Jones Jr. and Oscar de la Hoya were found lying on their backs after kayo losses. Felix Trinidad retired. And if that wasn’t enough, Wladimir Klitschko went from heir-apparent to has-been.

Then something miraculously happened. What happened was 2006. What an incredible year for boxing it has been so far. This year has had more ongoing dramas than ABC’s Sunday-night line up (with less attractive people, of course).

Here are some of the most notable storylines as we look forward to the second half of 2006:

THE REEMERGENCE OF WLADIMIR KLITSCHKO

Wladimir’s time was running out, and he made sure to capitalize. To do so required risk, and doing so brought him back to the top of the heavyweight division. Remember the stumbling, shaky-chinned Ukrainian giant with occasional stamina issues? Well, that guy’s still here, but with Emanuel Steward’s help, he’s dealt with his opponent’s power better (at least better with each progressive opponent), paced himself, and with great results.

Many couldn’t help but question how Klitschko would deal with a strong, aggressive opponent, but putting him in with Sam Peter? That seemed incredulous. While Peter is not a skilled Liston-type of power puncher, the man could crack, and his knockout reel was spectacular. All he had to do was land once, and the fight was over. Or so we thought.

Klitschko dominated the fight from the onset, with a stiff jab and the boxing skills which made the boxing cognoscenti deem him so special. Then Peter landed with his trademark back of the head club blows. Klitschko went down, and then went down again, and went down once more, but he did something he’s never shown before. He got up again, again, and again, and proceeded to hurt Peter badly to finish strong and gain the number one ranking in the IBF and WBO at the close of 2005.

This performance set up his return to prominence. He proceeded to brutalize and dominated Chris Byrd for the IBF title in April of this year, and former heir-apparent is now again, the man to look out for in the division. What a winding road it has been for the Ukrainian boxer-giant.

CRUISERWEIGHTS, THE NEW BIG MEN TO WATCH

Remember the cruiserweight division before the Jirov-Toney war? You know, the division of a young Evander Holyfield and, um…those guys that Holyfield fought? Well, that awkward division between heavyweight and light heavyweight is now a division full of fights to be made, and the parity makes those match ups salivating.

O’Neil Bell shocked most boxing experts by withstanding the assault of RING champion (and certified French tank) Jean-Marc Mormeck by TKO to become undisputed champion. Brown, though, is anxiously waiting in the midst for a rematch of their highly-debatable 2005 bout, and you wouldn’t be too off in saying that Bell is less than anxious to oblige.

An exciting rematch between slugger (and former 154 pound titlist…yes, 154, that’s no typo) Guillermo Jones and smooth boxer Steve Cunningham for the IBF belt is coming up, and should provide a new star to be reckoned with. Cunningham won their first bout by split decision, and Jones returned with a stirring knockout of former WBC titlist Wayne Braithwaite. And remember that guy Jirov? Well, add his return to the 200-pound division, and it’s easy to see why the cruiserweights are the new big men to watch.

STILL GOLDEN

You want a good way to get humiliated by a soft-spoken pretty boy Mexican-American who’s never been in a street fight? Call him a “maricon,” call him a “puta,” and then call him a “maricon” again. Then repeat. Then tell him something like, he’s not really Latino and bring up his ill-fated singing career to top it off. Then you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

Ricardo Mayorga can talk, but his mouth made a check that his fists couldn’t cash as Oscar de la Hoya returned to prominence with a dominating knockout of the Nicaraguan. Coming in, you had to know what was going to happen. De La Hoya didn’t pick Mayorga because for no reason. Oscar knew he was light-years more skilled than him, but despite the obvious skill difference this fight effectively showed that De la Hoya is still one of the most skilled and gifted fighters in the game, despite only fighting about once a year.

Not only did he exhibit his skill, but he showed he can still rake in the cash. The May pay-per-view bout brought in over $40 million in revenue, the type of non-heavyweight numbers that only Oscar could top (in past performances against Hopkins, Trinidad).

And now the Oscar sweepstakes begin. Oscar has noted that he will fight Mayweather or retire, and if you ask most insiders, he’s leaning towards fighting the pound for pound champion. Despite Oscar being trained by Floyd Mayweather Jr’s father, this fight may have too much money surrounding it not to happen. “Me and Oscar would be the biggest fight in boxing. It'd be the biggest fight in boxing history," Mayweather said after his victory of Zab Judah. “You know what they say. If it makes dollars, it makes sense."

Mayweather may be right. But does Oscar have one more great performance left to seal his legacy or is he content where he is now? Or is “Pretty Boy” Floyd just too much for Oscar at this point? Stay tuned, the drama continues…

PARITY IN BOXING

2006 has been the year of parity, and no one has been deemed sacred. Look at what happened to the top fifteen pound-for-pound fighters at the beginning of the year. Zab Judah lost a shocking decision, and his undisputed welterweight championship, to Argentinean Carlos Baldomir in January. Ricky Hatton squeaked by welterweight titlist Luis Collazo in May, Marco Antonio Barrera won a disputed decision to Rocky Juarez in the same month, Juan Manuel Marquez lost a decision to little-known Indonesian Chris John, and then to top it off, 41-year-old Bernard Hopkins recently dominated Antonio Tarver to win the light heavyweight championship.

Is no one safe anymore? What next, will Manny Pacquaio lose a shocker to Oscar Larios? With all the surprises going on lately (and with all the distractions Pacquaio has been going through), it wouldn’t surprise me one bit.

THE NEW STARS

As is with every year, a new crop of stars aims to take over in the near future. Here are a few fighters that made significant steps forward, and look to breakthrough to boxing stardom in the coming months.

Cruiserweight- Steve Cunningham. Cunningham, as was evidenced in his dominating win over former IBF titlist Kelvin ‘Koncrete’ Davis, is solid, smooth, and fluid. He would give the most stylistic problems to champion O’Neil Bell, who for all his speed, guts and footwork, is porous defensively and will have his hands full with a fighter who can may be able to match his speed and athleticism.

Light Heavyweight- Have you heard of Tomasz Adamek? Well, it seems like everyone in Europe has, and once the championship becomes vacant with Hopkins’ retirement, Adamek will be the favorite to seize the crown. Yes, Adamek is a solid boxer with great fundaments and combinations, but what make him special are his intangibles. He’s incredibly tough, as evidenced by his gritty title-winning effort against Paul Briggs. He’s got great stamina, and while he does have good defense and parrying skills, he can take the punches when he needs to. He should be a good one, and a unification bout with WBO-titlist Zsolt Erdei would make huge waves in Europe, and that should permeate to the States.

Super Middleweight/Light Heavyweight- You would think that Eric Harding, a perennial contender who holds a win over Antonio Tarver, would’ve given Chad Dawson, a former middleweight, loads of trouble. Well, not so much. Dawson dominated Harding for a fringe belt, and looked impressive doing so. Dawson, though, is a converted southpaw, and doesn’t throw his straight left much, and when doing so, doesn’t do so with enough conviction. Once he gets that hand going, Dawson will go from a well-rounded to a complete fighter which will mean trouble for the top ten of whatever division he chooses to stay in.

The new Flyweight Star (Arce, Wonjongkam or Darchinyan)- Never has 112 pounds been so exciting. Three fighters, three distinct styles, and three fearless, hard-hitting warriors chomping at the bit to face each other-what more could you want? Mexican star Jorge Arce was set to meet longtime WBC titlist Pongsaklek Wonjongkam last year before the whole fight card was discarded. Then Arce was set to battle Australian Vic Darchinyan in a May bout until that fight fell through as well. But that has only whetted the appetites of these warriors. Before Arce’s bout with Rosendo Alvarez, Darchinyan was chomping at the bit. “When I beat Arce, people will see that I am the best flyweight in the world,” Darchinyan said. “Let’s give the fans an explosive battle and let’s face each other in the ring!”

Arce, meanwhile, has been reserving his wrath for Wonjongkam, stating “The Thai doesn’t want me; he doesn’t want to fight anybody. If he really wanted to earn his belt he would have taken the fight with me before. Who is he?” The much more reserved long-time titlist Wonjongkam simply replied, “I will fight anybody, and of course, Arce.”

Once these guys start fighting each other, sparks will fly, and the man who comes out on top will be a clear pound-for-pound.

Paul Williams- So we knew Williams had stamina. We knew he had combinations for days. And we knew he was freakishly tall and lanky for a welterweight. So, what more have we learned about Williams? Well, we learned that he could take a punch. Argentinean kayo artist Walter Matthysse landed huge hooks on the welterweight contender for a few rounds, but Williams shrugged them off to dominate and stop the undefeated Matthysse. Oh and one other thing, he’s about the only guy in the world actually calling out Antonio Margarito. I guess we learned the kid has some big “wuevos” as well.

So, keep tuned! So far this has been a stellar year for pugilism, and while those Sunday-night dramas are on break for the summer, the action in the ring never stops.

Article posted on 14.06.2006



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