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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Pacquiao-Clottey undercard is missing punch

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Between the 27 inches of snow that pummeled Northern Virginia on Saturday and the additional foot that crushed us Wednesday -- not to mention the bitter cold and extreme winds -- there hasn't been much to do but think about boxing even more than I usually do (which is scary).

Nobody around these parts can even leave the house, especially considering that my entire neighborhood was never even plowed out after the Saturday storm.

I grew up in upstate New York, where we were used to terrible winters, but this has been incredible even by those standards. Put it this way: We are Ricky Hatton. The weather is Manny Pacquiao.

So I'm going a little stir-crazy. Everything is closed. The roads are in ruins. The mail has been canceled. My wife has had two snow days (so far). Fortunately, we're stocked with supplies and toilet paper and have not lost power.

Seemed like a good time for this week's random thoughts …

• One of the fights being considered by Top Rank for the March 13 Pacquiao-Joshua Clottey pay-per-view undercard -- now that it looks like the return of Antonio Margarito to face Carson Jones in the co-feature is probably off, because Margarito may not be licensed (good!) -- is Humberto Soto against David Diaz, possibly for a vacant lightweight belt. At the risk of being given the finger again by Top Rank's Bob Arum, the fight is an atrocity. First, I don't think it will be very competitive, considering how badly faded Diaz is. Also, the notion that the WBC possibly would sanction it for a world title is ridiculous, considering that after Pacquiao laid waste to Diaz in June 2008, he has fought just once, a life-and-death majority decision against the totally shot Jesus Chavez six months ago. The entire undercard, as presently constructed, is pathetic, which has become the norm for Arum's major pay-per-views. Here's what you probably will get for your hard-earned money besides the main event: Soto-Diaz, the totally shot Jose Luis Castillo against Alfonso Gomez and John Duddy-Michael Medina. At least there's a silver lining: No Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (suspended) or Yuri Foreman-Daniel Santos.

• I've heard from multiple sources involved in Showtime's Super Six tournament that it's quite likely that the April 17 Group Stage 2 bouts -- Andre Ward defending his super middleweight title against Allan Green in Oakland and Carl Froch defending his title against Mikkel Kessler in Europe -- will be moved to a new date because of some sort of logistical issue involving Kessler-Froch. If that happens, I can't say I'll be disappointed because it means boxing fans will avoid an HBO-Showtime conflict. HBO has its own excellent split-site card planned for that night with middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik due to defend against junior middleweight titlist Sergio Martinez in Atlantic City and super middleweight titleholder Lucian Bute defending his belt against Edison Miranda in Montreal. So if Showtime needs to move to another date, it actually will work out better for fans.

• Like most fight fans, I would love to see Pavlik fight Paul Williams, but it's not happening right now. It's not because Pavlik is afraid to fight him, as some folks like to wrongly suggest. It's math. Williams and his team want a 50-50 deal, and that's not happening, nor should it. So I'm fine with Pavlik-Martinez, which is also a first-class fight. Williams, meanwhile, still has no opponent for his May 8 HBO date. His promoter, Dan Goossen, is talking to promoter Lou DiBella about a junior middleweight fight with Kermit Cintron and has talked to Don King about a welterweight fight with Luis Collazo. Williams and his team say he can still make 147 pounds, and a fight with Collazo at the weight would prove that, but what is the point? I like Collazo as much as anyone, but he has virtually no shot against Williams.

• Been hearing that DiBella proposed a card to HBO of Amir Khan-Paulie Malignaggi and Andre Berto's return against Zab Judah for April 10 at Madison Square Garden, which DiBella has on hold. With an eye on fighting at junior welterweight, Judah turned it down, so DiBella would like to instead match Berto with former titlist Carlos Quintana. The Garden loves the card, I am told. I love it too. However, HBO isn't jumping up and down for the show. For some reason, HBO seems to prefer Berto-Malignaggi. The Khan-Malignaggi fight is still possible, especially with Golden Boy having so many problems putting a Khan-Juan Manuel Marquez fight to bed. But if Golden Boy, Khan's promoter, does Khan-Malignaggi it wants the fight on its card in Las Vegas on May 15. But we all know that if that fight happens, it belongs in New York.

• I had to laugh at this quote from Freddie Roach, when discussing the Pacquiao-Clottey fight: "This is going to be the Super Bowl of boxing." Pacquiao's trainer is dead wrong. The fight is more like the conference championship. The Super Bowl of boxing is Pacquiao, if he wins, fighting the winner of the May 1 Shane Mosley-Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight.

• There are some out there who are gullible enough (or just dumb enough) to believe the gibberish being bandied about in cyberspace that HBO concocted a plan under which it agreed to televise the Marcos Maidana-Victor Cayo fight as long as the winner didn't press his mandatory with junior welterweight titlist Khan for the rest of the year. Have you ever heard anything so ridiculous in your life? Now, Golden Boy -- with the OK from Khan and interim titlist Maidana -- has a plan under which both men will fight a couple of times to help build the commercial value of their potential fight. That's boxing business as usual. I have no real complaint about that, other than that if they're going to avoid the mandatory fight, the one unwilling to make it immediately ought to be stripped of his piece of the title. But since the reprehensible WBA is not pressing the issue -- shocking, right? -- it is what it is. But to think HBO orchestrated a deal to prevent the fight from happening this year just goes to show you how little some people actually understand the business.

• I want to bid a fond farewell to "Rich Marotta's Neutral Corner," which is leaving the Southern California radio airwaves after more than 11 years. The last edition is Sunday morning, the victim of Marotta's own success. Marotta, a longtime friend and one of the classiest guys in the business, is now the color commentator on the new "Top Rank Live" series. The three cards per month are on Saturday nights, leaving Marotta unable to do the show live on Sunday mornings because of the heavy travel demands. Mailing it in with a taped show, in which he could not discuss the previous night's results, is not Marotta's style, so he has decided to end the show. It was one of the few places on radio in the nation with intelligent boxing discussion and a dependable lineup of interviews with all the sport's top newsmakers. I'm proud to say I was even a guest many times.

• Speaking of "Top Rank Live," the new Fox Sports Net and Fox Sports en Espanol series is off to a great start. I just hope Top Rank keeps it up, because the first few cards have been very good overall, including Vanes Martirosyan-Kassim Ouma, Jorge Arce winning a vacant junior bantamweight title against Angky Angkota and a sensational performance from Brandon Rios in stopping Jorge Teron. We're seeing toss-up action fights on a regular basis, and there are more scheduled. So far, I'm loving it.

• I love the idea of a Tim Bradley-Edwin Valero fight as much as anyone, but I seriously doubt it will happen.

• I dig the proposed Tomasz Adamek-Cristobal Arreola April 24 HBO fight, but I can't figure out why Adamek would want to go to California for the fight -- which is where it's being planned -- when the bigger gate would be in Newark, N.J., where Adamek draws huge crowds. If he could draw more than 10,000 to the Prudential Center for a fight with Jason Estrada last week, imagine the gate he could do with Arreola, who is better known than Estrada but not a proven ticket-seller in So Cal.

• Paging Joel Casamayor.

• I'm sure I speak for all boxing fans when I wish the very best for Casey Guerrero, the seriously ill wife of junior lightweight titlist Robert Guerrero, who understandably withdrew from a March 27 HBO fight with Michael Katsidis to be at his wife's bedside.

• Top Rank signed brothers Lamont and Anthony Peterson with great fanfare in 2008. I scratch my head wondering why in the world Top Rank, which knows how to sell tickets and how to build a fighter in his hometown, has not only never come to Washington, D.C. -- their hometown and a city dying for some top-level boxing -- but never even seriously considered it. It's baffling.

• Happy birthday to my good pal, Larry Merchant. The HBO commentator turned 79 on Thursday. He's the greatest boxing television analyst ever. And before that, he was one of America's foremost sports columnists.

• DVD pick of the week: It's not too often that HBO features little guys -- meaning fighters below junior featherweight -- but when it does, we usually see something pretty interesting. Such was the case when I went back to Feb. 15, 2003, at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. That's where two of the best bantamweights of the era, Tim Austin and Rafael Marquez, tangled for the title. Austin had defended the title nine times and was considered a top-10 pound-for-pound fighter. Marquez was the top contender, but known better for being the younger brother of Juan Manuel. The fight turned out to be a good scrap, although Austin seemed in control and was ahead on all three scorecards as they went to the eighth round. But that's when Marquez, blessed with great power for a small guy, took it to Austin and knocked him out for the upset. I remember it well, partly because it happened to be the first fight I watched after getting engaged earlier that day.


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