BoxingWatchers.com 2008 Fighter of the Year: Manny Pacquiao

If you've been reading this site for any length of time, you know that the BoxingWatchers are all part Filipino. Normally, that would make picking Manny Pacquiao for Fighter of the Year smack of being a homer pick, but he had such a phenomenal 2008 that there are simply no worries.

The numbers alone were pretty impressive: three fights, three wins in three different weight classes. He won titles in the first two fights and won by knockout in the last two.

Pac Man's opponents covered the whole spectrum, from one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world (Juan Manuel Marquez) to a game but outgunned lightweight (David Diaz) to a Hall of Famer in the twilight of his career (Oscar De La Hoya). It's worth mentioning one final time that many mainstream sports pundits considered his fight with De La Hoya a joke, that the expected size difference would make it impossible for Pacquiao to win. It only took one round to erase that notion.

Even though Manny turned 30 just a few weeks ago, he continues to improve. The version of Pacquiao from, say, five years ago would not have been able to fight the style that he utilized against the Golden Boy, darting in and out and perplexing his foe with his footwork. Much of the credit for that should go to trainer Freddie Roach, but give Manny some too for realizing that continuing to evolve from one-dimensional (though devastating) attacker to well-rounded boxer would serve him well.

On top of all of that, he remains humble even as he reaches the point where he is going to regularly be involved in the most high profile fights in the sport. He's already lined up Ricky Hatton and the buzz about a fight with a returning Floyd Mayweather won't go away.

Could he repeat as Fighter of the Year in 2009? After this year, you can't count him out.

Reader Picks: The readers also backed Pacquiao by a wide margin, giving him 77 percent of the vote. The only other boxer to gather double-digit support was Arthur Abraham, who knocked out all three of his 2008 opponents and now has to be taken seriously by all but the harshest Euro-critics.

Emerging star Chad Dawson received several votes and was name-dropped by Money Mayweather himself as the finest in the game. Last but not least, one reader (maybe the fighter himself!) was impressed enough by Joe Calzaghe in his decision victories over certain Hall of Famers Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones to give him the nod.

BoxingWatchers.com 2008 Fight of the Year: Vazquez-Marquez III

Even without them sitting beside me right now, I'm fairly certain the other BoxingWatchers would agree with me that 2008 was a pretty good year to be a fan of the sport. Plenty of fights between big name fighters came together - including one most thought laughable at the beginning of the year - and more than a handful of fights between lesser known boxers turned out to be well worth watching.

Not all of the marquee match-ups were sequels, as we got to see Antonio Margarito and Miguel Cotto, Bernard Hopkins and Kelly Pavlik, and, yes, Manny Pacquiao and Oscar De La Hoya go at it for the first time. But when it came time to vote for our Fight of the Year, it was the third chapter in the thrilling trilogy between Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez that came out on top.

If you watched and enjoyed the first two fights in the series, you were undoubtedly excited for Round Three - and maybe a little concerned that it wouldn't live up to what had come before since the bar had been set so high. As it happened, there was no reason to worry.

Part of the reason was that the styles of the two fighters suited each other so well. Marquez was a better technician and Vazquez had more power, but the differences were small. As we knew from the first two bouts, both men had plenty of heart and stamina, were willing to trade and had enough holes on defense to ensure many punches would land.

The rounds unfolded in breathtaking fashion. Both fighters had their moments, and yet both found themselves on the canvas.

What set it apart from other skillful, competitive fights in 2008 was the last-minute drama, as Vazquez scored a late knockdown that literally won him the fight. And there was even just a pinch of controversy, though it was the kind that led to discussion, not the kind that made you feel the loser got hosed.

In short, it was the proverbial fight that had everything. Here's hoping 2009 gives us another fight like that... even if it has to be Vazquez-Marquez IV.

Reader Picks: The readers also went with Vazquez-Marquez III, giving it 55 percent of the vote. Pacquiao-J.M. Marquez II came in a strong second with 30 percent.

Also receiving some love were Cotto-Margarito and Diaz-Campbell, and it's hard to argue that those were both offensive showcases.

Somewhat surprisingly, Holt-Torres II got no votes despite featuring what was absolutely the craziest single round of 2008. I also thought Cunningham-Adamek would get some support. Though I didn't feel it quite lived up to Fight of the Year status, it was an excellent scrap and was fresher in the minds of fans since it was fought near the end of the year.


Franchise Thoughts: First Half of 2009 Schedule Has Its Share of Intrigue

It seemed like new fights were getting added to the 2009 boxing schedule almost daily throughout the past couple of weeks. That's not a bad thing by the way, since the sport pretty much goes into hibernation for a month at the end of each calendar year, leaving looking ahead as the primary activity for boxing fans to pass the time.

There are legitimate reasons to be concerned about the short-term health of the sport. The worldwide recession is likely to drag on for the better part of 2009, forcing fans to think carefully before shelling out for tickets or pay-per-view broadcasts.

The unquestioned top draw in boxing, Oscar De La Hoya, appears ready to walk away from the ring, and while there are candidates to replace him, they are mostly unproven. Add in the fact that the heavyweight division continues to be short on excitement and it wouldn't be surprising if casual fans pay even less attention to the sport next year.

Things are a bit different for hardcore fans. The one sure-fire blockbuster fight (Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather) remains hypothetical at this point, but the first six months of 2009 are liberally sprinkled with interesting matchups.

Keeping in mind that things can always change in the fight game, here are the fights that are already signed or all but done that have caught my eye:

Jan. 17 - Andre Berto vs. Luis Collazo - I happen to think Berto is the goods. Others, including a whole group of posters on the boards at MaxBoxing.com, aren't convinced at this point.

One side of the debate will have more ammunition after this fight, because Collazo is no pushover. His only two losses in the last six years were to Shane Mosley and Ricky Hatton, and he gave the Hitman all he could handle.

That being said, he's not a top echelon guy, so the school of thought that Berto isn't ready for prime time will gain support if Collazo wins.

Jan. 24 - Antonio Margarito vs. Shane Mosley - Sugar Shane is one of my favorites, but I don't like his chances here. He can't fight the fight Paul Williams used to take down the Tijuana Tornado, and it doesn't seem like he'll be able to utilize the style that Miguel Cotto used effectively, at least at his current age.

You can't count a boxer as accomplished as Mosley out entirely though, and that should be reason enough to watch.

Feb. 7 - Vic Darchinyan vs. Jorge Arce - There won't be much subtlety in this one, which should make it rank high in pure entertainment value. Add in a lengthy war of words that included such gems as Darchinyan vowing to make Arce a "human piñata" and you've got a can't-miss broadcast.

It's way too early to be thinking about Fight of the Year candidates for 2009, but this bout has the ingredients to make it a contender.

Feb. 21 - Kelly Pavlik vs. Marco Antonio Rubio and Miguel Cotto vs. Michael Jennings - Two fights from two different sites on the same night. And both of the headliners are attempting to bounce back from defeats in their previous fights.

I expect Pavlik and Cotto to show the form that made them champions in the first place. If they don't, then the losses took more out of them than most observers expected.

One problem: this is slated to be a pay-per-view, and there's no good reason it should be.

Feb. 28 - Juan Manuel Marquez vs. Juan Diaz - It's hard not to like Marquez in this one considering he came up just short of beating Pacquiao - twice. JMM is also a gifted counter-puncher, so this fight seems to set up nicely for him.

On the other hand, Diaz is a good bet to apply even more pressure than Pacman did, and he proved against Nate Campbell that he can take some shots and keep throwing. And there's always a chance that age could catch up with Marquez at some point.

Regardless, this should be a good show.

Mar. 14 - Chad Dawson vs. Antonio Tarver II - My brother Uatu has already gone on record saying he has no problem with this fight, since it's two name guys fighting each other. I agree to a point, but the first meeting wasn't too competitive.

Tarver (a BoxingWatchers favorite) is the master of the rematch, but Father Time is gaining on him rapidly. I'll be cheering him on again even though I expect him to lose again, and there's a good chance this will be the last big fight of his career.

Apr. 4 - Timothy Bradley vs. Kendall Holt - I'm very anxious to see this showdown between two young boxers who aren't household names now, but could be in the near future. The winner will obviously have a leg up in that regard.

My gut feeling is that Bradley is more well-rounded and Holt is more dynamic. But I'm far from an expert on either fighter, and no outcome in this fight would surprise me.

May 2 - Manny Pacquiao vs. Ricky Hatton - Unless (or maybe until) Mayweather comes out of retirement, this may be the biggest fight possible with today's roster of active boxers. Pacquiao gets his first chance to run with the torch passed from De La Hoya, and Hatton looked good enough last time out that you can't help but think he'll be more of a challenge for Pacman than the Golden Boy.

One thing's for sure: the atmosphere for this fight will be second to none. If a boxing genie magically gave me the ability to attend any fight that's been made so far for 2009 in person, this would be it.


Vote in the BoxingWatchers.com Year-End Polls: 2008 Fight of the Year and Fighter of the Year

The boxing year may have finished with a whimper instead of a bang, but that doesn't mean 2008 wasn't a very good year for fans of the fight game. There were numerous big name fights and more than a handful of dramatic, action-packed bouts, and as an added bonus, some even fell in both categories.

Of course, the BoxingWatchers will hit you with our picks for Fight of the Year and Fighter of the Year, but we'd like to hear what you think as well. Be sure to vote in our polls on the right side of the page. Heck, vote early and often if the software doesn't recognize your IP address!

We'll match up the picks and give our reasons for ours on Dec. 31. Have a great holiday season!


Franchise Thoughts: When it Comes to Options, There's Only One Ricky Hatton

There are numerous boxers who are in position to make the upcoming year a big one. None though, seem like they will have as much fun deciding what to do in 2009 as Ricky Hatton.

It seemed like it was only seconds after Manny Pacquiao defeated Oscar De La Hoya that speculation began about Pac Man facing the Hitman. Now it appears that fight is almost a done deal, probably for May 2.

Retired former pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather already owns a lopsided victory over Hatton. That didn't stop reports from surfacing that Money's people were feeling out the Hatton camp, trying to determine if there was interest in a rematch.

Lightweight stars Juan Manuel Marquez and Juan Diaz look like they're on track to fight each other. But they, too, have inquired about Hatton's availability.

As recently as this past summer, it didn't look good for Hatton to be in a position like this. After suffering his first defeat at Mayweather's hands last December, he returned to the ring in May and earned a decision over Juan Lazcano that was nowhere near as easy as the scores would suggest.

That left the Hitman looking vulnerable, so much so that it wasn't hard to find people predicting he would lose to Paul Malignaggi last month. When he knocked out Malignaggi instead, he suddenly found himself in his current state of high demand.

To paraphrase The Joker, why so popular? A big part of it is the large and rabid group of fans Hatton brings to the table. They've shown they will travel well, even during a slumping global economy.

Hatton also fights with an aggressive, crowd-pleasing style that plays well on television. Prospective opponents absolutely see dollar signs.

But another factor can't be ignored: despite a 45-1 record and the improved boxing skills he showed last time out, everyone thinks they can beat Hatton. Mayweather's already done it, a sniper like Marquez would easily find his head and you can bet that if the Pacquiao fight really comes off, it won't be long until we hear Freddie Roach stating that his man's speed will give Ricky fits.

It's tough to feel too sorry for the Hitman, as he'll probably end up with millions of reasons to smile when the year is over. There's only one Ricky Hatton, and for right now, he's in the driver's seat.


Report: Affliction, Golden Boy Haven't Given Up on Boxing-MMA Hybrid Cards

It was only about three months ago that Golden Boy Promotions and Affliction announced they would work together on both boxing and MMA cards. So far the partnership hasn't produced much outside of a pretty cool t-shirt for the Oscar De La Hoya-Manny Pacquiao fight, and it may reach a new level of negative synergy on January 24 when Shane Mosley and Antonio Margarito do battle in L.A. at the same time Affliction's second MMA card is going on in Anaheim.

The high concept that came out of the initial announcement was that the companies would work together to put on cards that combined boxing and MMA matches on one show. As a fan of both sports - and someone who is often bored to tears during boxing undercards - I welcomed the idea. Around most of the internets, though, reaction wasn't as kind.

Whether it was fan backlash or the slumping economy that was the impetus, the companies put the kibosh on the idea of hybrid cards a few weeks later, and that was that.

Or maybe not. Affliction vice president Tom Atencio told Dave Doyle of Yahoo! Sports that the idea of combined cards is not dead, stating that they will take place at some point in the future.

While that's all well and good, it's this bit of reasoning that's hard to follow:

"Right now boxing and MMA have two separate audiences, but I think as time goes on you are going to see more crossover."

Atencio may prove to be right, but there are stigmas that need to be overcome before that can happen. To many current MMA fans, boxing is slow and boring, while equal numbers of boxing aficionados find the stand-up portion of MMA to be sloppy and undisciplined.

Someone will have to be brave enough to be the first to challenge those preconceived notions. Best of luck to Atencio and the people at Golden Boy if it indeed turns out to be them.


Report: Haye, Vitali Klitschko Reach Deal to Fight in June

Former cruiserweight champion David Haye got his feet wet as a heavyweight by knocking out Monte Barrett, but he's always had his eye on the big fish of the division - champion brothers Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko. As it turns out, he won't have to wait too much longer to face one of them.

Haye told media outlets in his native Great Britain on Sunday night that he has reached an agreement to face Vitali Klitschko this coming June. The bout will take place in London, which is Haye's home turf but also the site where Klitschko won his first world title by knocking out Herbie Hide in June 1999.

Klitschko's last loss came in 2003 at the hands of another British fighter, Lennox Lewis (fighting for the final time), when a nasty cut caused him to take a TKO loss despite leading on all three cards at the time of the stoppage. He looked sharp while dispatching Samuel Peter in nine rounds two months ago after nearly four years of inactivity.

Barrett had his moments against Haye, who often seems to be on the edge of disaster before dropping his opponents. Haye has won five matches in a row by knockout dating back to November 2006, but he'll give up over four inches and numerous pounds when he takes on Klitschko.

BoxingWatchers.com Boxer Power Rankings: December 2008

Welcome to the final set of power rankings for 2008. With all due respect to Nikolai Valuev (actually, maybe not that much respect), everyone of consequence has finished their fight schedules for the year.

If you've been with us before, you'll remember that this is not a pound-for-pound list (we recently did one of those too), but a pseudo-scientific way of ranking how boxers have been performing over a rolling three-year period. More details are here.

Staying active, winning and winning by KO all help your score. Losing, obviously, does not. Fighting people who come into the bouts on winning streaks also helps. A "perfect" score would be 36, and anything above 20 is pretty damn good.

That being said, here we go:

1. Arthur Abraham - 24.96 - Yes, he pretty much fights exclusively in his native Germany. But it's hard to say any world class boxer at any weight class is on as much of a roll right now. Since May of 2007, King Arthur has knocked out six straight opponents.

2. Wladimir Klitschko - 23.67 - Is it his fault the heavyweight division is less than scintillating? Dr. Steelhammer can only fight the guys who are out there, and with the notable exception of the Sultan Ibragimov fight, he's been taking care of business.

3. David Haye - 21.07 - He's fun to watch because there's always the feeling he could get the KO or end up looking up at the lights himself. Next year could be a big one for Haye.

4. Celestino Caballero - 20.72 - Fresh off an impressive knockout of previously undefeated Steve Molitor, Caballero makes his first appearance in these rankings. I'd love to see him fight Israel Vazquez.

5. Manny Pacquiao - 20.62 - Pac Man proved the doubters wrong by wiping the mat with Oscar De La Hoya. Now we'll watch anxiously to see if he can succeed the Golden Boy as the top draw in the sport.

6. Vic Darchinyan - 17.00 - Vic enters the rankings after pretty much dominating highly regarded Cristian Mijares. His February fight with Jorge Arce should be a fun one.

7. Andre Berto - 16.34 - Though undefeated, Berto has his fair share of critics waiting to be impressed. He'll get a chance in the first intriguing bout of 2009 when he steps in against Luis Collazo.

8. Paul Williams - 15.89 - The Punisher is a champion at 154 pounds but is willing to move up or down to make the right fight. A case could be made that he's entering the new year as the most avoided boxer out there.

9. Kelly Pavlik - 15.36 - Marco Antonio Rubio awaits in February as The Ghost returns to his hometown and a more comfortable middleweight division. The big question is when he will face Abraham.

10. Antonio Margarito - 15.20 - Endangered his rep for fighting anyone, anywhere by holding out for more money to face Shane Mosley, but it's all good now. We know he's not scared of Mosley, or anyone for that matter.

The next 7: Miguel Cotto, Chris John, Nonito Donaire, Juan Diaz, Juan Manuel Marquez, Joe Calzaghe, Nate Campbell


Holt v. D. Hopkins: Round by Round

There was one fight before the main event between James Moore and Yuri Foreman. It was a slugfest to say the least. Yuri Forman landed the cleaner punches, which carried him to a unanimous decision. He showed good defenese against Moore's wild style.

Tonight's last fight is between Kendall Holt and Demetrius Hopkins at junior welterweight. Hopkins is coming off a 13 month layoff and filling in for Ricardo Torres, who couldn't fight in a rematch against Holt due to a virus.

D. Hopkins is out to the ring first. He comes out to Jay-Z. Holt follows and comes out to "Get Money" by 50 Cent.

Hopkins is 28-0-1 with 11 KOs. Holt is 24-2 with 13 KOs.

Round One:
The fighters feel each other out for the first 30 seconds. Holt throws a jab. Hopkins starts off the action with a combo upstairs, mostly blocked. Holt gets Hopkins into the ropes and lets loose. Hopkins lands a left hook. Holt throws four wide hooks but Hopkins dodges them all. Not much jab throwing in Round One. Hopkins lands a right hook. Tough round to score.

Spartan117: 10-9 Holt

Round Two:
Hopkins throws a left hook that's blocked. Hopkins starts throwing the jab. The two get tangled after throwing haymakers and Hopkins gets thrown to the canvas. They get up and touch gloves. Holt throws a big uppercut and hook but misses. Holt lands a body shot. Hopkins looks like he's having trouble getting things going.

Spartan117: 10-9 Holt

Round Three:
Holt starts off with a jab. Holt gets D-Hop against the ropes and throws wild hooks, but Hopkins evades them. Hopkins is fighting off of the ropes well. Hopkins digs in with a pair of hooks. Holt throws a counter shot after taking a jab but Hopkins gets away. Lots of haymakers being thrown in this round.

Spartan117: 10-9 Hopkins

Round Four:
Hopkins goes back to the jab. Holt goes for a big right hand but Hopkins slips away again. Hopkins is using excellent movement. Holt gets Hopkins against the ropes again but doesn't score. Hopkins lands a big right hand - best punch of the fight. Hopkins lands a great left hook after slipping a jab from Holt.

Spartan117: 10-9 Hopkins

Round Five:
Holt lunges with a jab to the body. Hopkins lands a big flurry upstairs. Hopkins throws a double jab. Hopkins is spending most of this round backpedalling. Holt hasn't landed much either. Tough round to score since nothing happened.

Spartan117: 10-9 Holt

Round Six:
Hopkins lands a left hook upsairs, then a great flurry. Holt throws a leaping left hook that misses by a mile and gets Holt off balance. Hopkins looks good in this round. Holt is throwing a lot but Hopkins is using great movement.

Spartan117: 10-9 Hopkins

Round Seven:
Holt throws a hard flurry and lands a great left hook that knocks Hopkins off balance. It looks like he might have been in trouble, but he holds on to stay alive. Holt is doing well this round. Hopkins rips Holt with a right hook and Holt swings with big, wide shots right back.

Spartan117: 10-9 Holt

Round Eight:
Holt comes out swinging. Hopkins uses good movement to get away again. Holt has to run forward to catch up to Hopkins, who is practically running away. Holt has Hopkins against the ropes and throws to the body. Hopkins throws a left-right combo but Holt slips away.

Spartan117: 10-9 Holt

Round Nine:
Holt backs Hopkins into the corner. The two fight it out and swing like crazy in the center of the ring. Not much lands flush. Hopkins is clinching a lot in this round. Hopkins throws a wide left and Holt ducks. Hopkins lands three big shots and backs Holt up. Most of these rounds could go either way.

Spartan117: 10-9 Hopkins

Round 10:
Holt is the aggressor in this fight, but Hopkins is showing crafty foot movement. Holt lands a right hand but not cleanly. Hopkins throws a flurry, but it's all blocked by Holt. Barely anything is landing flush. Holt scores with a combo to the body and head. Barely anything done in this round.

Spartan117: 10-9 Holt

Round 11:
The fighters exchange flurries. Hopkins throws big shots while Holt is against the ropes. Holt fires back and nothing lands flush. The two men clinch in the center of the ring. Lots of clinching going on and not a lot of clean punches landing. Hopkins lands a huge uppercut that snaps the head of Holt. That was his best punch of the fight. Hopkins follows with another right hand.

Spartan117: 10-9 Hopkins

Round 12:
Not much happening in the beginning of the last round considering the fight is pretty much up in the air. Holt lands a left hook. Hopkins lands a left hook to the body. Holt lands a right hook in a flurry. Holt throws a big flurry. Hopkins lands a left hook. Holt gets backed into the ropes but flurries out. The two slug it out at the end of the fight.

Spartan117: 10-9 Holt

Spartan117: 115-113 Holt

Judge 1: 115-113 Hopkins
Judge 2: 116-112 Holt
Judge 3: 117-111 Holt

The winner by split decison... and still WBO light welterweight champion... Kendall Holt.

Hopkins says there was some ring rust and he wishes he was more active.

Holt says the body shots were his game plan. He says he trained hard and was ready for Hopkins by watching tapes and working hard.

Toney vs. Oquendo: Round by Round

The main event of tonight's Versus card is here after three mismatches. It's between James Toney and Fres Oquendo. Oquendo is 29-4 with 18 KOs, and Toney is 70-6-3. Toney looks like he is in slightly better shape than his last outing against Hasim Rahman.

Round One:
The ref stops the action immediately after he notices that Oquendo forgot his mouthpiece. Toney lands a good counter jab to start the action. Toney lands a chopping right hand and Oquendo stumbles. Toney is able to back Oquendo up without throwing a punch. Oquendo clinches and Toney gets some body shots in. Oquendo lands a right hand and backs up Toney. Toney backs Oquendo against the ropes and lands a double jab. Oquendo now has Toney against the ropes but Toney blocks the combo.

Spartan117: 10-9 Toney

Round Two:
They start the round with a clash of heads. Toney lands another double jab. Oquendo isn't using his jab much, which is strange given his height advantage. Oquendo fights while Toney is against the ropes, but Toney's defense looks good. Oquendo lands a jab and Toney tumbles backwards. Toney gets some body shots in while clinching. Closer round than the first.

Spartan117: 10-9 Toney

Round Three:
Toney gets aggressive at the start of Round Three and comes forward throwing power shots. Oquendo lands a couple jabs and slows the pace. Toney lands a a stiff jab of his own. Oquendo lands a right hook. Toney wears his classic smirk. Toney gets backed off by a straight left from Oquendo. Oquendo starts throwing the power punches that slightly land.

Spartan117: 10-9 Oquendo

Round Four:
Toney comes out swinging again, then slows down and goes back to his jab. Oquendo lands a good right hook. Coming out of a clinch Toney slips, falls down, and goes through the ropes! The crowd boos and Toney gets up and says he's fine. Toney comes back and lands a good left hook. Oquendo comes right back and lands a right hook that gets Toney's attention.

Spartan117: 10-9 Oquendo

Round Five:
Toney has been coming out with power punches at the beginning of every round so far. It doesn't seem to be getting Oquendo off of his game plan. Oquendo lands a right hook. Oquendo is beating Toney to the punch and looks like he's taking control of this fight. Toney lands a jab and Oquendo responds with a big right hook. Toney lands a wide left hook. Oquendo's round for sure.

Spartan117: 10-9 Oquendo

Round Six:
Oquendo lands left hooks to the body and head of Toney. He is definitely landing the stronger shots. Toney is trying to lure Oquendo into his slick tricks, but Oquendo's speed looks to be bothering him. Oquendo backs up Toney with a left hook. Oquendo lands a jab but Toney comes back and lands a right-left combination. Toney lands a big fight hook. Oquendo lands a right uppercut.

Spartan117: 10-9 Oquendo

Round Seven:
Lots of stumbling around at the start of this round. Oquendo lands a jab followed by a right hook. Oquendo is doing well with his left hook - it's been landing all night. Toney backs up Oquendo against the ropes but can't get anything off. Oquendo lands right hooks to the head and body of Toney. Surprisingly, Toney doesn't look tired. Oquendo gets warned for a punch to the back of the head.

Spartan117: 10-9 Oquendo

Round Eight:
Toney is using good movement, but Oquendo is throwing a lot of punches and catching him with a lot. Oquendo has Toney against the ropes but doesn't throw anything. A punch grazes off the back of the head of Toney and the ref warns him again. Oquendo lands a big right hook. Another punch lands behind the head of Toney and the ref deducts a point.

Spartan117: 9-9

Round Nine:
Toney has Oquendo against the ropes but can't do anything with him. Toney gets out of the ropes and clocks Aquendo with a straight right. Now Oquendo lands a good left hook. These guys are trading some solid shots and I'm surprised neither has gone down. This is also a stronger round for Toney, who gets in a quick jab. Oquendo lands a wide right hook that knocks the head of Toney back.

Spartan117: 10-9 Toney

Round 10:
Toney backs Oquendo up with his jab. Oquendo is relying on a big right hand now, and he lands one. Oquendo lands a jab and follows with a right hook. Not many telling blows in this round. Oquendo lands mostly jabs which won him the round for me.

Spartan117: 10-9 Oquendo

Round 11:
There doesn't look like there is any danger of either fighter getting knocked out. Oquendo lands an overhand right hook. Oquendo lands a huge right hand and Toney looks like he might be in some trouble. It looked like he clinched to stay up. Oquendo lets him get his legs back and misses a huge opportunity. He still wins the round.

Spartan117: 10-9 Oquendo

Round 12:
Oquendo lands a giant right hand that shakes up Toney. Oquendo is really going for the KO. He has Toney against the ropes but doesn't do much. Toney is OK after the big right hand earlier but isn't doing enough to win the round. Oquendo gets Toney's attention with a big jab, then lands two big shots to the body right before the bell.

Spartan117: 10-9 Oquendo
Spartan117: 116-111 Oquendo
Judge 1: 115-112 Toney
Judge 2: 116-111 Oquendo
Judge 3: 114-113 Toney
The winner by split decision... James "Lights Out" Toney.

Andre Ward vs. Esteban Camou: Round By Round

Tonight's undercard on Versus is between Andre Ward and Esteban Camou. Ward was an Olympic gold medalist in the 2004 Athens Games. He injured his knee in a game of pickup basketball, and this is his first fight since. Ward is 16-0.

Round One:
The two men meet in the the middle of the ring. Ward's punches look like they have quite a snap to them. Camou is coming out looking solid too. Ward is landing his jab well, but Camou blocks the right hand. Ward is looking sharp. Camou throws three left hooks. Ward lands a jab and a hook to the body. Ward lands another jab. Camou isn't landing anything flush. Ward lands a jab, a hook to the body and another hook upstairs.

Spartan117: 10-9 Ward
Franchise: 10-9 Ward

Round Two:
Camou comes out lunging, but Ward shows good defense. Ward lands a great right hand upstairs that backs down Camou. Ward lands another combination to the head. Ward lands a combo that staggers Camou again. If Camou takes more punishment like this, the fight won't go much longer. Ward snaps the head of Camou again.

Spartan117: 10-9 Ward
Franchise: 10-9 Ward

Round Three:
Ward is going in looking to finish it in this round, fighting from a southpaw stance. Camou isn't doing much, and the ref is looking at him as if he's thinking of stopping it. Ward pummels Camou against the ropes. Ward mixes it up with straight shots, hooks and the occasional uppercut. Ward shows off with the wind-up punch. Ward lands a very wide left hook that ignites the crowd. Ward continues to dominate Camou against the ropes and the ref has seen enough. It's over.

The winner by TKO at 2:46 of Round Three... Andre "S.O.G." Ward.

Ward says he didn't have any problems with the knee tonight. He says he wanted to try out southpaw in the third round and it felt good and comfortable to him. Ward wants 2009 to be a successful and busy year for him.

Wladimir Klitschko vs. Hasim Rahman: Round By Round

HBO's World Championship Boxing makes its final stop of the year in Mannheim, Germany, to watch Wladimir Klitschko defend his collection of heavyweight championship belts against Hasim Rahman, who took the fight when original opponent Alexander Povetkin had to drop out.

Jim Lampley, Lennox Lewis and Max Kellerman run down the current landscape of the heavyweight division and detail the long and winding career of Rahman. They also do the same for Klitschko.

The tale of the tape shows the younger Klitschko with a three-plus inch height advantage. Rahman has a slight edge in reach.

The Rock heads to the ring first, and it's a long walk at the SAP Arena. Klitschko enters second, receiving his usual polite but adoring reaction from the German fans.

National anthems are played for the United States and Ukraine. Michael Buffer introduces the judges, who are from Italy, Germany and the U.S. Tony Weeks is the referee for tonight's fight.

Buffer gets bi-lingual to do the fighter introductions, and we're ready to go.

Round One

Both men paw with the jab in the center of the ring. Rahman has to duck under and Klitschko scores with a left hook. The champ works his jab and they tie up. Short right hand by Klitschko and they grapple again. Klitschko lands another right and returns to his jab. Thumping left hook upstairs followed by a body shot by the champ.

Franchise: Klitschko 10-9
Spartan117: Klitschko 10-9

Round Two

Rahman hasn't figured out a way inside thus far. He wants to bully the champ but isn't having much luck. Weeks is busy early on in the second. The fans aren't too pleased with all the wrestling. Klitschko lands multiple jabs and looks for an opening. Right hand by Dr. Steelhammer as his foe tries to go to the body. Klitschko fires a right hand right down the pike. Rahman tries to rally in the last ten seconds but is largely ineffective.

Franchise: Klitschko 10-9
Spartan117: Klitschko 10-9

Round Three

Jabs fly both ways with Klitschko getting the better of the deal. He works Rahman back into the ropes and tries to measure some right hands. Rahman's head is snapping back from the force of Klitschko's jabs. Perhaps Rahman is trying to lure the champ into a mistake, but it's not working in this round. Klitschko sneaks in a short right and a left hook before the bell.

Franchise: Klitschko 10-9
Spartan117: Klitschko 10-9

Round Four

Rahman already looks tired even though he's not throwing much. He says he'll pressure Klitschko in this round but we'll see. Jabs continue to rain down for the champ. Nice right hand by Klitschko and they tie up. Klitschko simply circles and keeps popping the jab. A left hook backs Rahman up a few steps. He's at least let his hands go a bit more in this round, but he's still getting totally outclassed.

Franchise: Klitschko 10-9
Spartan117: Klitschko 10-9

Round Five

Klitschko works off the left hook and lands a right hand with it. Rahman's only real offense is an occasional jab to the body. Klitschko is a little bit less active and showing an abundance of caution. Now he lands a left-right combo to Rahman's head. He measures another right coming in. Rahman swings and misses with a wild right.

Franchise: Klitschko 10-9
Spartan117: Klitschko 10-9

Round Six

Rahman gets hit with several lefts and a right and goes down. He pops back up and Klitschko comes forward to try to seal the deal. Rahman tries to hold on for dear life with his back to the ropes. The crowd is urging Klitschko on. He lands several hooks and a right hand. CompuBox has Rahman landing zero punches through two minutes. The champ scores with two left hooks to the body as the round ends.

Franchise: Klitschko 10-8
Spartan117: Klitschko 10-8

Round Seven

Weeks warns Rahman that he's not going to let him take that kind of sustained abuse again. He's wobbled again by another combo. Klitschko keeps scoring and Weeks steps in to call the fight.

The winner by TKO at 0:44 of Round Seven... and still IBF, WBO and IBO heavyweight champion of the world... "Dr. Steelhammer" Wladimir Klitschko.

Lewis says it's crucial for any serious contender to Klitschko's titles to be in excellent shape, and that clearly wasn't the case for Rahman tonight. The HBO crew speculates about possible opponents for Wladimir in 2009, including Chris Arreola, David Haye and Nikolai Valuev. Haye is in attendance tonight.

Kellerman finally gets a word with the champ, who says he punished Rahman. Klitschko says he didn't do anything different in training even though he looks a bit bigger in the upper body. He feels like a fight with Povetkin will still happen in 2009, and though he admits that Haye has been doing a lot of talking, he wants to know where Haye is right now.

Klitschko finishes by saying he's having more fun sharing the heavyweight titles with his brother Vitali than holding them all himself.

Live Round By Round Updates: Klitschko-Rahman, Toney-Oquendo and Holt-Hopkins

The year in boxing is coming to a close. But not until after today, when there's televised action from three different locales featuring three substitute opponents. Wow!

First up from Germany is Wladimir Klitschko defending his heavyweight titles against Hasim Rahman (filling in for Alexander Povetkin). Later on Versus, James Toney faces off against Fres Oquendo (subbing for Tony Thompson). And in the nightcap, what was to be a rubber match becomes a whole new ballgame as Kendall Holt fights Demetrius Hopkins (replacing Ricardo Torres).

Naturally, you'd love to post yourself in front of a TV all afternoon and night. But if that's not an option, here's another one: bookmark our main page at www.boxingwatchers.com and keep abreast of the action with live round by round updates. Spartan117 and yours truly will be working overtime to handle the HBO, Versus and Showtime cards.

Start times for the cards are 4:45 pm EST for Klitschko, 9 pm EST for Toney and 11 pm EST for Holt.


Top 10 Pound-for-Pound Boxers: BoxingWatchers.com End of 2008 List

Thus far, we've resisted doing a pound-for-pound list, simply because everyone does them, and it seems unnecessary to do them as often as some people do. Monthly updates? I don't think so, because it's a really good (and rare) month when more than two boxers in the top 10 are in action.

Still, it doesn't seem ridiculous to do one at the end of the year. So when asked recently by a writer at another site to come up with a top 10, we put our heads together and came up with the following list. Voting was simple, with 10 points for first, nine for second, etc.

The year's not quite over, as there are quite a few notable fights this weekend. None of the men on this list are in action before the end of 2008 though.

Feel free to tell us how wrong we are. Or how right, though that probably won't be as much fun.

Here goes nothing...

BoxingWatchers.com Top 10 Pound-for-Pound Boxers - End of 2008

  1. Manny Pacquiao (30 pts.)
  2. Joe Calzaghe (25)
  3. Bernard Hopkins (24)
  4. Juan Manuel Marquez (23)
  5. Israel Vazquez (15)
  6. Paul Williams (14)
  7. Antonio Margarito (13)
  8. Kelly Pavlik (9)
  9. Ivan Calderon (5)
  10. Rafael Marquez (3)
Also receiving votes: Chad Dawson (2), Miguel Cotto (2)

Spartan117's 10 is not enough honorable mentions: Chris John, Ricky Hatton, Vic Darchinyan


Steve Cunningham vs. Tomasz Adamek: Round By Round

The main event for tonight's Fight Night on Versus card should be a treat for the fans in Newark, as Philadelphia's Steve Cunningham puts his IBF cruiserweight title on the line against Tomasz Adamek, who is from Poland but lives in Jersey City.

Adamek is a former light heavyweight champion who moved up in weight after a February 2007 loss to Chad Dawson. He's won four straight fights in a row, including an April knockout of O'Neil Bell.

The champ hasn't fought since last December, and he's fought mostly overseas for the majority of his career. He'll enjoy advantages in both height and reach for this bout.

Referee Earl Morton is the man in charge of the action. The fighter introductions are complete and we're all set to go.

Round One

Urged on by the crowd, Adamek is coming forward. Cunningham lands a few quick lefts and is hit with a right to the body in return. The champ is showing good movement and not giving Adamek many angles. Now Adamek lands some shots along the ropes. Cunningham lands a counter and two jabs. Two right hands find the mark too.

Franchise: 10-9 Cunningham

Round Two

Cunningham seems very committed to his jab. Both men flurry in the corner. Adamek walks in and scores with both hands. The champ digs in and fires some hooks. Adamek lands a right hand to the head and one to the body. Cunningham is still bouncing on his feet but he's getting lured into some exchanges. Adamek lands a left hand right at the bell and I believe that will be scored a knockdown.

Franchise: 10-8 Adamek

Round Three

The champ sees none the worse for wear despite hitting the canvas. He's trying to jab but not often enough. Adamek stands and fires a right hand. The challenger is really cutting off the ring well and dictating the action. Cunningham scores with rights to the body and head. Both men land a shot or two right before the bell.

Franchise: 10-9 Cunningham

Round Four

Cunningham scores right away with a right hand that stuns Adamek. He presses his advantage and swarms the challenger in the corner. Adamek is eating a bunch of shots but Cunningham has to be cautious that he doesn't punch himself out. Adamek gathers himself and throws some body shots. A right hand comes out of nowhere and drops Cunningham again. Can the champ escape this round? Yes he does.

Franchise: 10-9 Adamek

Round Five

It will be hard to top that last round, as Adamek looked like he was ready to go, then rallied to score a knockdown. Both men are digging in and firing. Cunningham scores with a big right hand upstairs. Adamek responds with clubbing lefts. He walks the champ down and starts to find some openings. The challenger lands a body combo but gets caught upstairs. They stand and trade at the bell and that round will be hard to score.

Franchise: 10-9 Adamek

Round Six

Cunningham goes back to the jab and finds some success. Adamek wades in and both men land. Body shot by Adamek and Cunningham fires back to the head. The challenger does more work along the ropes. The champ has nothing to go with his jab right now, but he does a nice job avoiding most of the incoming fire.

Franchise: 10-9 Cunningham

Round Seven

The champ needs to keep Adamek away from him and find a home for the right hand. He's moving well and Adamek can't track him down. Big right hand hits Adamek but he seems uninjured. The champ digs to the body and follows up to the head. This is a good round for Cunningham, though he gets tagged by a few late shots.

Franchise: 10-9 Cunningham

Round Eight

Cunningham's right hand crashes home again early in this round. If he had more power, this fight would have been over already. Adamek flurries along the ropes and gets the crowd back into it. Body-head combo by the champ. Adamek walks Cunningham into the corner and knocks the champ down again with a left hand during an exchange. The champ is in big trouble but there's no questioning his heart as he makes it out of the round.

Franchise: 10-8 Adamek

Round Nine

Cunningham isn't done yet, as he scores with an early flurry. Adamek backs his foe into the ropes and goes back to work. The champ turns aggressor and he's doing most of the effective punching right now. Right hook upstairs out of a clinch. Right hand by Adamek and a left right back by Cunningham. That round was close.

Franchise: 10-9 Adamek

Round 10

Three rounds to go and Cunningham is going to have to do something spectacular, one would think. Nice right by the champ and Adamek shrugs it off and throws one of his own. Double champ by the champ. More jabs and they circle around. Flurry by Cunningham and another right hand. He keeps the jab in Adamek's face but is missing with some looping shots. They stand and trade with 20 seconds to go.

Franchise: 10-9 Cunningham

Round 11

Adamek is knocked backwards by an early right hand. Both men landing bombs as they dig in. Adamek lands a lunging right coming in. Left-right combo for Cunningham. He's eating some shots but landing some of his own too. It turns into an all-out slugfest down the stretch, and I'm glad I'm not officially scoring that round.

Franchise: 10-9 Adamek

Round 12

Huge right to the head by the champ. Cunningham is going for broke and pouring it on. Punches are landing too fast for me to type as they exchange. Adamek gets the best of an exchange in the middle of the ring. Clean right hand lead by the champ. Adamek looks tired but he is still game. This fight goes right to the final bell the same way most of it unfolded.

Franchise: 10-9 Cunningham

Despite three knockdowns by the challenger, it's quite possible this will be close on the scorecards.

The scores are 114-112 Cunningham, 116-110 Adamek and 115-112 Adamek. The winner by split decison... and new IBF cruiserweight champion of the world... Tomasz Adamek.

Adamek. speaking through a translator, says he is happy and that while Cunningham hit him with some good punches, they were not that strong. He also thinks fights like this are good for boxing, and it's hard to argue that.

Cunningham admits he probably made some tactical errors but makes no excuses. He says the knockdowns were his fault, and he'd box more if granted a rematch.

Fight Night on Versus Undercard Live Blog: Agbeko vs. Gonzalez

Fight Night on Versus comes to us tonight from the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. Kicking things off is Joseph Agbeko defending his IBF bantamweight title against William Gonzalez.

The announcers say that Agbeko is talented but you're never quite sure what you will get out of him. Gonzalez is the IBF's mandatory challenger; he's 21-2 and comes in on a 5-bout winning streak since losing to Jhonny Gonzalez three years ago.

The fighters are almost the same age. Gonzalez has a slight height advantage and a five-inch reach advantage. He's also a southpaw.

Since both fighters are coming in off of fairly long periods of inactivity, there's a question of ring rust. But they seem more than willing to stand and trade in the first round. Agbeko is landing some stinging right hands while Gonzalez is countering well to the head and body. With 45 seconds left, Gonzalez lands and obvious low blow and Agbeko is given time to recover.

The pace stays high through the second and third rounds. Gonzalez is landing more punches but Agbeko's shots look more powerful and the announcers think he's just stronger overall. Neither fighter is jabbing much; they're standing in front of each other for the most part and throwing bombs.

The fourth round sees Gonzalez start to bleed heavily from a cut above his left eye that the referee ruled was caused by a headbutt in an earlier round. He looks like he is starting to wither a bit under Agbeko's constant stream of straight rights and left hooks.

As we head through the sixth round, Gonzalez is starting to try to box a little bit more, but Agbeko is relentless. They're continuing to butt heads often. Gonzalez lands another low shot right at or perhaps slightly after the bell that looks painful.

Gonzalez's eye holds up through eight rounds. He's definitely still competitive, though he probably lost rounds four through six. The fight could be there to be won by either man coming down the stretch.

A minute into the ninth round, Gonzalez lands a nice straight shot set up by a jab that gets Agebko's attention. The champ just keeps coming forward though.

Unofficial scoring by the announcers and viewers at home has Agbeko up 87-84. The last minute of the tenth round is a good one for Gonzalez, and the champ looks like something is bothering him as heads to his corner.

One round to go and it could be close coming down the stretch. Agbeko looks like he has a bit more spring in his step but both guys are going to battle all the way until the end. The champ is able to jump in and score with some nice straight shots. He should win the last round, and we'll look to the judges for a decision.

The scores are 114-114, and 116-112 twice for Agbeko, and he retains his title by majority decision.

That was a good scrap. Neither man showed an abundance of technique, but they were evenly matched and showed plenty of heart.

Franchise Thoughts: We Love You Joe Calzaghe, But Please STFU!

I've really enjoyed watching Joe Calzaghe fight over the past few years. I actually think he's slightly underrated as a boxer, and his victories over Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Jr. were impressive despite his opponents' ages. Unlike the HBO announcing crew, I even thought it was amusing when he gave Jones a taste of his own medicine by dancing during their fight.

That's why it was so distressing to see JoeCal bite the hand that fed him yesterday, telling reporters in London that boxing was dying. Considering that he's supposedly on his way out of the game, you have to question his motivation for taking a shot at the sport that's been so good to him.

One quote stood out as especially bitter:

“There is too much politics in boxing, too many belts and too many champions, which dilutes real champions like myself,” he said.

He's not completely off base, as boxing definitely has its share of problems. But if he's upset about not becoming a bigger star during his career, he needs to look in the mirror first. Calzaghe chose not to fight in the United States for most of his career, so it's hardly surprising that even matched up against Hopkins and Jones, he wasn't a huge draw.

Meanwhile, Oscar De La Hoya and Manny Pacquiao just did over a million buys despite the fact that:
  • Many mainstream media outlets derided the fight as a joke because of De La Hoya's size advantage.
  • None of the belts Calzaghe whines about were on the line.
  • The U.S. is a year into a pretty serious recession.
Sorry Joe, but that doesn't sound like a dying sport to me.

It's also pretty sad to see Calzaghe drag the (extremely) tired "MMA is killing boxing" theory back into the light again. Yes, MMA is more popular among young American fans. Yes, there's a lot that boxing could learn (undercards anyone?) from the way Dana White and company do business.

But there's little evidence that MMA is having much of an impact on boxing. It's becoming clear that there isn't as much of a crossover audience between the two sports as people once assumed - ask Golden Boy and Affliction about the backlash when they considered combining them on one card - and no reason to think MMA fans would magically become boxing fans if MMA were to whither away. The troubles that boxing does have are of its own making.

So yes, this isn't the golden age of the sport. Boxing is likely to experience some pain over the next few years as the global economy tries to pick itself up off the canvas. Unless Pacquiao's stock continues to climb, no one looks ready to step into De La Hoya's role as the top dog among casual fans.

The negatives can't be ignored, but there are positives too. There is a great crop of young talent on its way up. There are plenty of boxing fans in Europe, Asia and Australia, even if things are soft in the U.S.

And in any case, Calzaghe isn't doing anything to help with his comments, nor is he really offering any solutions. He's earned the right to speak his mind, and that's fine.

Now please Joe, just shut up and retire gracefully.


Recap: The Contender Season 4, Episode 2

This week's show begins with a recap of last week's debut, complete with a voiceover by Tony Danza. Felix Cora Jr. receives a gold boxing glove pendant as a symbol of his first week win, but more importantly, his Blue team has the power to choose both fighters in the second fight of the tournament.

But that power isn't all it's cracked up to be, as the team can't decide who should represent it next. Both Mike Alexander and Alfredo Escalera Jr. make their cases. Alexander also adds some comedy relief as he invades the Gold team's loft to take the mattress that used to belong to Joell Godfrey.

Danza steps into the ring and does some sparring against Jon Schneider, an ex-Marine on the Gold team who is being watched carefully by boxers on the Blue team, who believe he is one of the weak links. Ryan Coyne of the Blue team experiences disaster, as he suffers a nasty cut over his left eye that could mean he'll have to drop out.

Cora's victory gives him the option of slotting himself into any fight in the second round, and he chooses to place himself in the first fight. From this point forward, any winning fighter can place himself into any available slot in the next round, regardless of team affiliation.

The Blue team still can't decide who to send out, so they leave it to a coin flip... which in classic Mark Burnett fashion, we don't get to see. Gold feels like Tim Flamos may be picked from their squad.

Escalera wins the coin flip and calls out Schneider. It looks like a poor match-up for Jon, as he is smaller and less experienced. Gold team trainer Tommy Brooks thinks it will be a slugfest.

Coyne returns with stitches in his eye and announces that he'll be allowed to stay. That adds to the urgency for Escalera to win, as they can delay Coyne's first round fight if their team can hold on to the power of choice.

Both fighters have very specific motivations for entering the tournament. Schneider would like to put Jewish fighters back on the map. Escalera is looking to escape the shadow of his father, who once held the WBC super featherweight title for 10 consecutive defenses before losing it to Alexis Arguello - no shame there!

The arena looks like it holds about 150 people, but at least it's full. The first two rounds are ugly with lots of holding. Schneider comes forward without throwing much, while Escalera lands some big shots that bloody his opponent's nose.

Round Three sees Escalera score a knockdown, though Schneider gets up and shows some heart by continuing to come forward. Brooks states the obvious by telling his fighter he needs a KO to win.

Schneider is bloodied again in the fifth and final round, but he battles all the way to the final bell. The scores come back 50-44 and 49-45 twice, all for Escalera.

The Gold team looks pretty depressed as they are already down two men. Schneider says he feels like his friends and family should be proud of him, as he left it all in the ring. He hangs up his gloves and heads out the big metal doors for the final time.

Next week: Team Gold is unimpressed with Escalera despite his win. Coyne doesn't let his injured eye stop him from starting some trouble in the gym. And the third fight of the season is the most explosive one so far, at least according to Danza!

Impressive PPV Buys Total for the Dream Match

According to Dan Rafael on espn.com, the Dream Match sold a nice amount of ppv's with a total of around 1.3 million buys. Uatu will have to mildly apologize, as that is a higher total than he expected. But, it is nowhere near the total for the World Awaits.

What can be made of this amount?
Perhaps fans had started to see that Oscar is not what he used to be.
Maybe the economy had fans thinking the fight was no longer worth the money.
Manny may not be as huge of a star as Floyd Mayweather.
Floyd may have made a better B - side as an undefeated, and practically peerless, as well as flamboyant villian with interesting family subplots.
After the one-sided outcome, possibly Manny will become appointment viewing for some fans, with his aggressive and crowd pleasing style and pleasant personality.

Wherever boxing goes from here, from an economic standpoint, it is obvious that Oscar's star power exiting will be missed tremendously.


Franchise Thoughts: Manny Dominates Dream Match... Now What?, Plus Torres-Holt III Off?

It was only a few short days ago that many pundits were deriding Oscar De La Hoya for agreeing to fight poor little Manny Pacquiao. Way too big, some said. The word "circus" was thrown around with reckless abandon.

Well, we all know how that turned out. Now that the dust has settled from Pac Man's ridiculously easy eight-round beating of the Golden Boy, boxing writers are pretty much in unanimous agreement over what De La Hoya's next move should be. See here or here or here for some hints if you haven't figured it out. That last one is my favorite, since it comes from The Ring blog... and of course, The Ring is owned by Golden Boy Promotions.

That leaves us with only Pacquiao's next move to ponder. Smart money seems to be on a fight with Ricky Hatton, who fortuitously looked excellent in dispatching Paul Malignaggi in his last bout. With the Hitman's chanting crazies and Manny's Filipino faithful, that would be a fantastic pairing in terms of pure atmosphere. I like Pac Man to take that one if it comes together, though obviously Hatton would be a lot more live than De La Hoya.

Others have asked about Antonio Margarito, to which I say this: no freakin' way. And there's the man who ceded his claim as the pound-for-pound best only because he retired, Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Assuming Pacquiao fights and beats Hatton, why wouldn't this make sense for the second half of 2009? Floyd's only coming out of retirement if he sees a whole lot of dollar signs and a fight he feels confident he'll win.

As my brother Uatu recently pointed out, prime Mayweather probably beats prime Pac Man. But there's no guarantee Floyd would automatically be at his prime after such a long layoff, and it's not real smart to dismiss Manny under any circumstances right now. Okay, maybe against Margarito...

In sadder news for fight fans, it looks like the round of the year isn't going to get an encore after all. Rick Reeno of BoxingScene.com says Ricardo Torres has pulled out of his rubber match with Kendall Holt, citing weight issues due to illness during training. And while Showtime is likely to find some punching bag... um, I mean, opponent, to fight Holt on short notice, the major televised boxing schedule of 2008 is likely to close out not with a bang (Torres-Holt III), but with a whimper (Wlad Klitschko-Rahman).

Update: As you can read here, Demetrius Hopkins is stepping in to face Holt on Saturday's Showtime card. D-Hop was slated to fight on the undercard anyway, so this (hopefully) is quite different from many cases of fighters stepping in on short notice. It may not be the all-out explosion we were expecting from the rubber match, but it should be good.


Oscar De La Hoya vs. Manny Pacquiao: Round By Round

After an undercard that was, to be kind, not very exciting, we're finally getting ready for The Dream Match pitting Oscar De La Hoya against Manny Pacquiao. The MGM Grand in Las Vegas is the setting, and a wide range of well-known figures are in attendance. That includes Usher, James Carville and Reggie Miller, as well as boxers Antonio Margarito, Mike Tyson and Shane Mosley.

We've got three national anthems to hear: the Philippines, Mexico and the United States. Keisha Cole handles the honors for "The Star-Spangled Banner."

The tale of the tape shows De La Hoya with a four-inch height advantage. Manny is six years younger. The big surprise is that on the unofficial HBO scales, Pacquiao actually weighs a pound and a half more than De La Hoya on the night of the fight.

Pac Man is introduced first by Michael Buffer, making his way to the ring to "We Will Rock You" by Queen. Jim Lampley points out the sizable Filipino fan contingent on hand for the fight.

The usual mariachi music signals De La Hoya's entry. He gets a large reaction from the crowd but possibly not as raucous as he sometimes receives in Vegas. Larry Merchant says he feels the fans are split pretty evenly.

Tony Weeks is the referee in charge of the action. Buffer handles the fighter introductions and we're ready to go.

Round One

Oscar throws some early punches as Manny circles. DLH trying the jab. Nice straight left by Manny as they tie up. Pac Man is trying to get inside and quickly backs Oscar up. De La Hoya goes to the body. Manny is moving well but the height disadvantage is bothering him a little. Now Oscar works along the ropes and lands a left hook. Nice jab by Manny is answered by Oscar. Pacquiao is sneaking some jabs in there too. Both men got a little bit of what they wanted in the opening frame.

Franchise: Pacquiao 10-9
Spartan117: Pacquiao 10-9
Uatu: Pacquiao 10-9

Round Two

Oscar works off his jab to open the second. He may need to throw it more. Nice head-body combo by Pac Man. Neither man scoring in the center of the ring. Good body shots both ways. Now another left to the body by Pac Man. The crowd is really into it, reacting to almost every shot. Uppercut by Manny and he dances away. His leg and head movement have been excellent so far. Two lefts score for Pacquiao and that round was even more in his favor.

Franchise: Pacquiao 10-9
Spartan117: Pacquiao 10-9
Uatu: Pacquiao 10-9

Round Three

Manny popping to the head with both hands. Oscar tries to get him to exchange. He hsan't come up with a game plan that's worked so far. He finally comes up with a right hand upstairs and a left to the body. Lampley says Oscar is showing some swelling already. DLH having more success with the jab. Right to the body by Oscar. Nice right hooks to the body and head by Pac Man. Golden Boy throws some shots upstairs but they are picked off by the arms of Pacquiao.

Franchise: Pacquiao 10-9
Spartan117: Pacquiao 10-9
Uatu: Pacquiao 10-9

Round Four

The left-hand lead is just about always there for Manny. He sneaks in some rights to the head; Oscar lands a right in response. A quick flurry slows Oscar down for a second. Left to the body and right to the head by Pac Man. Oscar reaching with the jab but has nothing with it. One-two upstairs and another left for Pacquiao. Oscar really looked slow over the last 45 seconds of that round.

Franchise: Pacquiao 10-9
Spartan117: Pacquiao 10-9
Uatu: Pacquiao 10-9

Round Five

The announcers are discussing whether Oscar can play the bully to turn things around. A combo stuns Oscar momentarily. Jabs and hooks all finding a home for Manny. He's mixing punches to the head and body well. De La Hoya can't find any room to fire counter shots. Now Oscar finds some success by going to the body and closing to very tight range. He comes forward swinging but Manny backs him up right before the bell.

Franchise: Pacquiao 10-9
Spartan117: Pacquiao 10-9
Uatu: Pacquiao 10-9

Round Six

Freddie Roach warned Manny to stay off the ropes, as that's the only place De La Hoya has had any success. This round starts slower. Both men are able to dodge each other's jabs. A quick exchange goes mostly Manny's way. Right-left combo by Pac Man. Double jab gets Oscar's attention. Straight left scores for Manny too. A lull for the last 30 seconds ends with some fast head shots by Pacquiao, who is still light on his feet.

Franchise: Pacquiao 10-9
Spartan117: Pacquiao 10-9
Uatu: Pacquiao 10-9

Round Seven

Harold Lederman has every round for Pac Man so far. Manny works the body to open up the head. Snapping jabs by Manny followed by lefts to the body. Oscar is backed into the corner trying to fend off the onslaught. He is taking a pounding right now. Body shots are pouring in and Oscar hasn't thrown anything back for quite some time. You have to wonder if the judges will score that 10-8 because it was so one-sided.

Franchise: Pacquiao 10-8
Spartan117: Pacquiao 10-8
Uatu: Pacquiao 10-8

Round Eight

The only drama left right now is if the fight will get stopped. De La Hoya will really have to reach deep just to save face. He does come out with a bit more spring this round. DLH throws some right hands and Manny fires right back. Oscar is backed into a corner and here come the body shots. They come back into the middle of the ring and Pac Man is just picking his spots now. De La Hoya flurries to the body but Manny signals that he's fine. He backs DLH into the corner with another flurry at the bell.

Franchise: Pacquiao 10-9
Spartan117: Pacquiao 10-9
Uatu: Pacquiao 10-9

There's a long discussion in Oscar's corner after the eighth round, and eventually De La Hoya is convinced by his corner to stop the fight.

The winner by TKO at the end of Round Eight... Manny " Pac Man" Pacquiao.

De La Hoya's face is an absolute mess with heavy swelling on both sides. He originally tried to convince his corner to give him one more round, but it's doubtful he could have done anything with it.

The official scores were lopsided, with De La Hoya winning just one round on one card. CompuBox numbers showed Manny landing almost three times as many punches and connecting on 59 percent of his power shots.

De La Hoya is interviewed first, and he says Pacquiao deserves all the accolades he will receive. He dodges Merchant's question about the weight loss possibly draining him, but he says he's not shocked because Manny is such a great fighter. Oscar says his heart still wants to fight, but he needs to be smart after what happened tonight.

Merchant turns to Pac Man to see if he thought he could dominate in this fashion. Manny says he could see in the first round that his speed was too much for De La Hoya to handle and it set up a pattern he could repeat. After three rounds, his biggest challenge was preventing overconfidence and staying cautious. Bob Arum sneaks in and gives Merchant credit for thinking the fight was possible in the first place. Roach also feels vindicated. Merchant throws out the idea of a Hatton fight and wonders what might be going on in the Philippines right now. Manny thanks his people and God.

De La Hoya v Pacquiao LiveBlog: The Undercard

The first undercard fight of the night is Daniel Jacobs against Victor Lares at super middleweight. Lares is 14-3 with 3 KOs. Jacobs is 12-0 with 11 KOs. He has 8 first round KOs!

Jacobs starts using good technique but definitely looking for the KO. Lares is fighting fairly well but clinching a lot. Jacobs rocks Lares in the first round with a mean right hook and knocks Lares stumbling. Lares holds on to make it out of the first. Jacobs showcases his defense and blocks almost all of Lares punches in the beginning of the second round. Lares continues to clinch. Lares takes a rough barrage in the middle of the second round and takes a knee. He makes it up by the count of 8 but referee Jay Nady calls it.

Daniel Jacobs wins by KO in the 2nd round.


The second fight is at Junior Featherweight between Sergio Medina who's record is 33-1 with 8 KOs and Juan Manuel Lopez who is 23-0 with 21 KOs. It is for the WBO championship.

Juan Manuel Lopez destroyed Sergio Medina in the first half of the first round. Lopez rocked Medina with hard combos. Medina went down to a right hook but made it up by 8. Medina went down again without a punch landing. It looked like he went down out of fear. Lopez knocked Medina down for a final time and the ref calls a stop to the action.

Juan Manuel Lopez wins by TKO in the 1st round and retains the WBO Junior Featherweight


The last undercard is at Junior Welterweight and is between Victor Ortiz and Jeffrey Resto. Resto's record is at 22-0 with 13 KOs and Ortiz is 22-1-1 with 17 KOs. Ortiz is the NABO Junior Welterweight champion.

Both fighters are southpaws which makes the fight interesting. Ortiz has great hand speed. Ortiz drops Resto in the first half of round 1 with a straight left hand. He makes it up but the hand speed is too much. Ortiz drops him again this time with a right hand. Resto makes it. Ortiz rocks Resto and it looked like it might have been called after a big combo from Ortiz but Resto makes it out of the first round.

Ortiz is really pouring it on in the second round. Resto is spending most of his time against the ropes. Resto crumbles again in the second round after receiving a hard combination from Ortiz. The calls a stop to the fight.

Victor Ortiz wins by TKO in the 2nd round and retains the NABO Junior Welterweight title

It is interesting to see one of the biggest fights of the decade getting one of the worst undercards of any pay per view in recent memory.

Update: Jim Lampley has confirmed that Manny and Oscar are not contractually obligated to come out until 11 pm EST. So if you're looking for main event coverage, we've still got a little bit of a wait.

De La Hoya-Pacquiao: Live Round By Round Dream Match Updates Tonight

This is it. The biggest fight possible in the current boxing landscape takes place tonight as Manny Pacquiao takes on Oscar De La Hoya in Las Vegas.

Of course, your preference would be to be there - and if you are, we envy you! It wouldn't be bad if you could get somewhere to see it on pay-per-view as a second option, and the economy needs you.

However, there is a third option if the first two aren't open to you. Bookmark our main page at www.boxingwatchers.com and follow along with our live round by round updates. Trust us, we wouldn't miss this one.

We'll kick it off with a live blog of the undercard beginning at 9 pm EST, which doesn't look like it will be must-see TV but will feature WBO super bantamweight champ Juan Manuel Lopez and talented youngsters Victor Ortiz and Daniel Jacobs. Then we go round for round for the main event. See you tonight!


Predictions: The Dream Match - Oscar De La Hoya vs. Manny Pacquiao

Uatu says...

The weigh-in is over so predictions can begin.

Uatu's inclination all along has been Manny by decision. He is much quicker and will most likely have the superior cardio and work rate. It says here he will have enough strength and power that Oscar won't be able to just walk right through him. Seeing them standing next to each other, Manny doesn't look so much shorter that he won't be able to operate.

Manny will dart in and out and around, forcing Oscar to reset himself every time. Oscar will get frustrated, and he will try to load up on the power shots, which will tire him out even more. Oscar is so light, he may have overworked himself, and erased some of the size and strength advantage. Oscar will get marked up, Manny might too. Who knows, maybe either man might taste the canvas. Regardless, Manny takes more rounds and points.

Manny Pacquiao by UD 12.

Spartan117 says....

I couldn't agree more with Uatu. Like most of Manny's opponents Oscar will get overwhelmed by Manny's barrage of punches. I was also surprised by the small difference in size. From looking at the fighter's numbers I expected Oscar to stand almost a head taller than Manny, but this was not the case. Manny looked fit and primed for the fight. Based on looks alone he looks like he will handle the weight well. Oscar looked weaker and more sucked down.

Oscar's only hope will be to land one of his signature left hooks but Manny will be too slick and quick, dodging and ducking, but also landing some mean shots. Oscar will look sharp early on but will slow as the fight continues as he has in many of his recent fights. The weight loss won't help this any either. It's not a long shot for Oscar to go down from a lightning fast hook either. I predict Oscar will go down in late rounds as the punches and points add up, but he will get up to fight on.

Manny Pacquiao by UD 12.

The Franchise says...

The nice thing about not being a "real" boxing journalist is that I can openly root for Manny, which I will be doing. That being said, I'm a little concerned about whether or not he can actually pull this off.

I think the weight issue has been a bit overplayed, but it's definitely a fair question to wonder whether or not Manny will be able to hurt Oscar, who's been taking punches from much larger men for years. On the other hand, De La Hoya's power could definitely take a toll on Pacquiao when they trade. As my brother Uatu has pointed out before, Manny was wobbled by Juan Manuel Marquez in their fights, and he's quite a bit smaller than De La Hoya.

If the fight goes the distance, Manny should enjoy a conditioning advantage and be able to come on strong to close things out. Will he be in range of a decision by then? If the early rounds are close, it's hard to see Oscar not getting the benefit of the doubt from the judges.

History is also not on Manny's side. Fighters jumping up in weight to take on heavier guys who are world class opponents have not generally fared well. But if anyone in boxing today has the talent and heart to overcome the odds, it's Pacquiao. It's definitely possible his speed will just be too much for De La Hoya to handle.

There haven't been too many big fights this year where no outcome would surprise me, but this is one of them. I have to make a pick though, and while I'll be rooting hard for Pacquiao, I have to make my pick with my head and not my heart. That leads me to go with De La Hoya by decision.

The Dream Match Weigh-In

George Lopez on the mic on HBO.com.
Will monitor ESPN as well.

Shane is on the stage with Buffer.
They are showing press conference videos at the weigh-in to hype the crowd.

ESPN has not started coverage.

George Lopez is cracking some jokes based on "Yes We Can"

Bernard is on the stage. Hatton too.

Lopez killing time.

Looks like a huge and lively crowd in Vegas.

JMM on stage too and another gentleman that doesn't look familiar.

Now Richard is on the mic.

A lot of hyping and time killing.

Lopez just called Richard "boring as sh_t" which was funny.

ESPN just showed a live look-in and went to commercial.

Hatton gets some brief mic time.

Manny is introduced, as the pound-for-pound king.
Oscar introduced, as the ten time champ.
ESPN still at commercial.
Buffer says we are waiting for them.
SC is back.

Kenny and Atlas man the desk.

Manny on the scale first.

Oscar- 145.

and the pose off.

Atlas wants to know what Oscar walks around at to know the effects of his lightest weight in years.

Atlas thinks Manny might even be coming in too heavy.
He doesn't like to see the smaller man bulk up too much and sacrifice speed.

He thinks Oscar's age could hurt him, and his prediction of a ko. Atlas thinks that means Oscar thinks he is in for an easy night. That is a questionable assertion.

He predicts Manny to win. It means more to Manny. Kenny picks Oscar by decision.


Recap: The Contender Season 4, Episode 1

Plenty of things are new about Season Four of The Contender. It's on a new channel (Versus instead of ESPN), in a new locale (Singapore) and it features a new weight class (cruiserweights). It's also got a new host, Tony Danza, and the first thing I have to say is that he's not nearly as annoying as I feared.

Some things have remained the same. The show still revolves around a 16-man tournament with the boxers initially split into two teams. This time out, the trainers are Tommy Brooks for the Blue team and John Bray - who once was trained by Brooks - for the Gold team.

The gym and the living quarters look as nice as ever, so no worries that the show would be done on the cheap now that it's changed channels. All of the usual Mark Burnett touches are still there. Dramatic music and slow-motion shots abound.

Once the fighters are moved in and split into their teams, the first rivalry quickly breaks out at the pool table between Erick Vega (Blue) and Joell Godfrey (Gold). They make no bones about the fact that they would love to fight each other first. A subplot focuses on Felix Cora Jr., who is in Singapore while his hometown of Galveston, Texas is getting hit by Hurricane Ike.

Danza tells the teams they get to conference and decide who will fight first. The catch is that they won't know who the other team has picked until they both reveal them simultaneously. That adds a bit of strategy to the deal, and the team that wins the first fight gets to pick both fighters for the second bout, which adds some more.

Team Gold is swayed pretty quickly by Godfrey's plea to let him lead off. Vega tries to do the same to Team Blue, but a second line of thinking emerges that they might be able to throw the other team a curve and give them someone unexpected: Cora, who everyone agrees has looked sharp in training.

Danza calls the teams out and Godfrey steps forward for the Gold. There's a brief moment of suspense before the Blue team reveals that they've picked... Cora. Vega doesn't look happy about it.

It's tough to score the actual fight because of the way the show is edited, but my impression is that Godfrey wins the first with his activity level. After that it's Cora for rounds two through four, as he's able to walk Godfrey down and punish him along the ropes. Brooks tells Godfrey he needs a knockout in the final round, but he can't pull it off and Cora wins a fairly easy unanimous decision.

After the fight, Godfrey laments that Brooks was giving him good advice but he couldn't execute it. He says he never got into a rhythm, though he says he's learned from his first loss - he was 9-0 coming in. Godfrey hangs up his gloves and pulls the big doors shut behind him.

Next week: Danza gets in the ring for some sparring. And an injury may knock someone out of the tournament.

Final thought: It's obviously a downgrade for The Contender going from ESPN to Versus. But if there's a silver lining, it's that Versus is pulling out all the stops to promote the show. There are adds on all the time, and the announcers during the WEC card right before the episode were plugging it too. ESPN always seemed to be grudgingly airing the show, so at least it's somewhere it's wanted.

A Warning Sign on Dream Match Buys?

There is a certain sports bar chain, that has locations in 25 or so of the 50 states here in America, that usually shows major ppv fights. The location nearest to Uatu has a 100% record of showing all of the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL and NCAA football and basketball games. This restaurant has a mixed record for showing ppv's. The major fights they show with no problem. PPV's with Oscar, Mayweather, Roy Jones, and Hopkins are always shown. They don't show mid-level fights like Cotto-Mosley, or small ppv's like Pacquiao-Diaz or JMM's. They did actually show MAB vs. Juarez though. They also show all of the major UFC ppv fights.

In an interesting move, that could be a sign of the economic times, or lack of interest for this fight, or time of the year, or previous business generated to this specific location, or some other unknown reason, they have decided not to show the Dream Match.

So at the very least, in Uatu's location, there is some doubt that the Dream Match is a guaranteed attraction. If this was a 80's-90's Tyson fight, forget about it, it would be shown without a doubt.

There is a local, non-chain sports bar right across the street from Uatu's apartment, that shows most ppv boxing and UFC fights, even the mid-level ones like Cotto-Mosley. Uatu will keep an eye out to see if they show the Dream Match or not.


In-Depth Preview: Oscar De La Hoya vs. Manny Pacquiao

Manny "Pac Man" Pacquiao

Birthplace: Bukidnon, Philippines
Height: 5' 6 1/2"
Reach: 67"
Current Titles Held: WBC Lightweight (135 lbs.)
Former Titles Held: WBC Super Featherweight (130 lbs.), IBF Super Bantamweight (122 lbs.), WBC Flyweight (112 lbs.)
Professional Record: 47-3-2, 35 KO's
Record in World Title Fights: 8-1-2, 7 KO's
Record at 147 lbs.: First fight at this weight
Record in Fights Going 12 Rounds: 3-1-1

Notable Wins: TKO11 Marco Antonio Barrera I, KO3 Erik Morales III, SD12 Juan Manuel Marquez II
Notable Losses: UD12 Erik Morales I, KO3 Medgoen Singsurat

"The Golden Boy" Oscar De La Hoya

Birthplace: Montebello, CA
Height: 5' 10 1/2"
Reach: 73"
Current Titles Held: None
Former Titles Held: WBO super featherweight (130 lbs.), WBO, IBF lightweight (135 lbs.), WBC super lightweight (140 lbs.), WBC welterweight (147 lbs.), WBC, WBA junior middleweight (154 lbs.), WBO middleweight (160 lbs.)
Professional Record: 39-5, 30 KO's
Record in World Title Fights: 24-5, 17 KO's
Record at 147 lbs.: 10-2
Record in Fights Going 12 Rounds: 8-4

Notable Wins: UD12 Pernell Whitaker, TKO8 Julio Cesar Chavez, TKO11 Fernando Vargas
Notable Losses: MD12 Felix Trinidad, KO9 Bernard Hopkins, SD12 Floyd Mayweather Jr.


This bout is fittingly billed as The Dream Match, because until earlier this year, there was no reason to think these two multi-divisional champions would ever be in the ring together. But when Floyd Mayweather's unexpected retirement erased De La Hoya's lucrative rematch, this fight took its place as the biggest fight possible in the current boxing landscape.

Like Mayweather, Pacquiao is considered one of the best pound-for-pound boxers on the planet today. His dazzling combination of speed and power has helped him blast his way by opponents from 112 to 135 pounds, and his defense has made vast improvements under the tutelage of Freddie Roach.

De La Hoya is also a former titleholder at 130 and 135 pounds, but that's where the similarities end. He's been fighting some of the best in the world at welterweight and above since before this decade started, raising the very legitimate question of whether he'll simply be too big for Pacquiao.

With the Golden Boy enjoying large advantages in height, reach and pure bulk, his patented left hook looms as a larger threat that it has in most of his last half-dozen fights. He figures to be facing a significant disadvantage in pure hand speed, so he'll be relying on his unquestioned boxing skills and the wisdom gained in dozens of previous world title fights.

Facing his biggest challenge both figuratively and literally, Pacquiao says he feels fast and strong despite bulking up to fight two weight classes higher than he's ever fought before. If his quickness rules the day or his power translates to 147, he'll stand a very real chance of coming out on top and adding another entry to an already impressive resume.

Pacquiao's Winning Strategy: Speed Kills

Some of Manny's supporters seem to think he'll be so blindingly fast that Oscar won't be able to lay a glove on him. That seems unlikely though, as his style has always been more seek-and-destroy than stick-and-move.

Regardless, Pacquiao's speed is still his primary weapon and his biggest key to victory. He'll have to be busy enough on the outside to neutralize De La Hoya's jab and let his hands go once he gets inside.

Since he's used to scoring knockouts, he'll also have to face up to the fact that his foe has been hit by much bigger men and may be able to take his best shots. That means the quantity, and not quality, of punches landed will likely punch Manny's winning ticket.

And since speed applies to more than just hands, Pacquiao will be in good shape if he uses his legs as well. He's not going to jump in and out, but he can use good movement around the ring to his benefit against the older De La Hoya.

De La Hoya's Winning Strategy: Size Matters

With the exception of an overmatched Ricardo Mayorga, De La Hoya hasn't been a serious knockout artist for at least five years. That won't be the case against Pacquiao, as Oscar's relative size and power have to be respected.

The Golden Boy may find that he's taking two punches to set up one, but it's what he does with that one that matters. De La Hoya will look to jab while Pacquiao is coming in and use hooks to the head and body once he gets there.

Anyone who thinks Pacquiao will prove too difficult to track down need only think back to De La Hoya's close loss to Mayweather, who possesses similar offensive gifts but has many more subtle defensive moves. There will be occasions where Manny is there to be hit, and Oscar will need to make him pay.

To make this strategy most effective, ring generalship will also be important. That shouldn't be a problem for De La Hoya, who's been facing top-notch competition for more than a decade and knows more than a little bit about cutting off the ring.