2009 Boxing Wish List: Part 1

January 10, 2009

With a New Year upon us, it’s time to look ahead and forecast the must-see fights for 2009. Keep in mind that for some of these matchups, a title would not even be on the line. Simply put, these are just the best fights out there. For the sake of the sport, these fights absolutely should be made.

10. Miguel Cotto v. Somebody Other Than Antonio Margarito (Welterweight)

Cotto is currently slated to fight a British "contender" named Michael Jennings in February, but that fight is nothing more than a tune-up for Cotto’s anticipated return match with Margarito. However, considering the way in which Margarito literally stole Cotto’s will to fight in their first encounter, a quick Margarito rematch would not be a wise for Cotto. Quite simply, Cotto might not ever recover from the damaging effects of that loss, and should postpone taking such similar punishment again.

Instead, Cotto should follow up a likely easy win against Jennings, by taking on another less-dangerous, yet still elite welterweight. Possible opponents could be fellow Boricuas Carlos Quintana or Kermit Cintron. In either case, by taking this course of action rather than another Margarito brawl, Cotto might regain some lost confidence.

Here’s hoping that his management team makes the right decision for Cotto’s career, longevity, and psyche.

Delaying the Margarito rematch might also make more business sense. In other words, Cotto could first fight a young, brand-name title-holder like Andre Berto. A victory in that fight over a name opponent would then increase demand (and the purses) for a Margarito rematch.

Ideally, a Cotto-Berto bout could be staged as a part of a twin-bill, welterweight eliminator with say a Joshua Clottey or Paul Williams (more on these two below). The end result would be some great matches for boxing fans, and perhaps, more hype for Margarito-Cotto II.

9. Paul Williams v. James Kirkland (Jr. Middleweight)

Although this fight probably will not happen, one can’t help but imagine. This would truly be a dream match-up for fans, as both men are big, durable, skilled southpaws who are versatile enough to switch stances. Both have also demonstrated the strength to finish off hurt opponents.

Although Williams is said to be on the verge of agreeing to challenge 154-pound champion Vernon Forrest, it is this writer’s firm belief that the unbeaten Kirkland would give “The Punisher” his firmest test yet. In fact, a Kirkland-Williams fight would be an instant Fight of the Year candidate because the likely result would be an all-out brawl reminiscent of Hagler-Hearns.

Once the still green Kirkland (24-0 with 21 KOs) gets a few more fights with elite-level competition, the top dogs at 154 won’t be able to duck him anymore. Let’s just hope Williams is still around to test his mettle against the Texan slugger.

8. Antonio Margarito v. Joshua Clottey or Paul Williams (Welterweight)

Margarito, the newly-minted WBA 147-pound champ, has no shortage of qualified challengers ready to face him. Like Cotto, his next fight is already set, as he will take on boxing superstar “Sugar” Shane Mosley on January 24th. Should he emerge victorious – no sure bet, even with Mosley’s advancing age and subtly declining speed and reflexes – Margarito must then fight either Clottey or Williams.

Although Margarito already has fought both men, each bout left something unresolved. In his match with the durable Ghanaian slugger Clottey, Margarito was visibly frustrated over the first four or five rounds. But then Clottey suffered hand injuries mid-fight, and his ability to punch was effectively eliminated. That lucky break allowed Margarito to pile up points against his literally handicapped opponent, earning him a decision victory.

Clottey has always maintained that had he not been hurt, the outcome would have been different. For Clottey, Margarito may be the only viable opponent willing to fight him at this time, as his combination of good boxing skill, handspeed, power, a granite chin, and an awkwardly effective Winky Wright-esque defense, make him a feared opponent for the other top welterweights. Simply put, such fighters have too much to lose by facing a warrior like Clottey.

Meanwhile, Williams already owns a 12-round unanimous decision victory over Margarito. Because the tall, rangy, and tough South Carolina native poses such stylistic problems to his opponents, he likely will continue to be the most avoided fighter from the welterweight to super middleweight divisions.

That being said, he still should be considered a viable option for every champion and contender in any of the four weight classes from 147 to 168 pounds, as he can make weight in all of those divisions. However, the fight that fans would like to see most is a return match between Williams and Margarito.

Although Williams won the first encounter by unanimous decision, the normally supremely-conditioned Williams appeared to be fading down the stretch under Margarito’s relentless attack. Since that scrap, Margarito’s camp has insisted that had the fight only lasted another few rounds, Williams would either have been stopped, or thrown in the towel.

Predictably, Williams has scoffed at such a notion. Ultimately, the only way to find out for sure, would be to have them do it again. Here’s hoping it happens sometime in the spring or summer of ’09.

7. Timothy Bradley v. Anybody at 140 (Jr. Welterweight)

Perhaps no other fighter burst on the scene so suddenly in the past two years than the unbeaten Bradley. Bradley seems to be the kind of phenomenal force of nature that simply can’t be in a dull or boring fight. Think of him as a stronger, more disciplined, and better-conditioned version of Manny Pacquiao.

The 25 year-old Bradley announced his presence as a force in the sport when he wrested the WBC 140-pound title from Britain’s Junior Witter in an upset win in Witter’s backyard. Since that 2007 victory, the aptly-named “Desert Storm” has fought just once – an easy decision over Edner Cherry – due mainly to the fact that nobody is in a hurry to fight him.

Essentially, Bradley is a very high-risk, low-reward proposition for anybody in the division. Nevertheless, somebody at the top of the division will have to step up and fight the inexhaustible Palm Springs native sooner or later, as he holds the WBC belt.

Bradley is rumored to be on the short list of candidates to fight fellow 140-pound champ Kendall Holt. Holt was scheduled to complete his crazy trilogy with Colombian Ricardo Torres, before Torres was forced to pull out of their March 2009 date with an injury.

A Bradley-Holt fight will certainly be a matchup that no fight fan will want to miss! However, if that bout falls through, some other credible names remain.

One such fighter might be former welterweight champ and perennial enigma, Zab Judah, who recently returned to the 140-pound division. Another could be the above-mentioned Torres.

But the most deliciously intriguing of all, could be the winner of this spring’s inevitable showdown between Manny Pacquiao and the top dog of the division, England’s Ricky Hatton.

Although the winner of that bout will almost certainly to look to greener pastures, a fight with the frenetic Bradley would be the most exciting fight to make at 140. It may be unlikely, but here’s hoping the indomitable “Desert Storm” gets a shot at either man.

6. Nonito Donaire v. Vic Darchinyan II (*Bout would likely take place at Super Flyweight/Jr. Bantamweight*)

Although both already have fights slated for early 2009, a rematch of their thrilling 2007 battle would be the most captivating fight out there for either man. In their first encounter, Donaire won via an electrifying one-punch 5th Round TKO stoppage.

Since that fight, Darchinyan has gone unbeaten, moved up in weight, and unified the Super Flyweight title by defeating Cristian Mijares. Still, it is a widely-known fact that the aggressive Armenian desperately seeks redemption against Donaire, the only man to ever defeat him.

Before he gets his vengeance, Darchinyan must first pass a stern test in the form of a tough Jorge Arce. Those two meet up in a super flyweight showdown in Anaheim on February 7th.

Donaire, meanwhile, has a flyweight unification title bout on deck in March against the dangerous Fernando Montiel. Should the“Filipino Flash” vanquish the tough Montiel, the most logical and lucrative next fight would be a rematch with the southpaw Darchinyan.

Indeed, much of Donaire’s credibility as an elite-level fighter comes from his stunning one-punch KO (via an exquisite counter left hook) victory over the hard-charging Armenian.

Fight fans have often wondered what will happen to Pound-for-Pound kingpin Manny Pacquiao’s legion of fans once he inevitably hangs up his gloves. For those true fight fans from the Phillipines, it is already well-established that PacMan’s heir apparent will be Donaire.

By Kweku Turkson
Staff Reporter for TheDailySportsHerald.com

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