2009 Boxing Wish List: Part 2

January 12, 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. Here is Part 2 of our fight countdown:

5. Kelly Pavlik v. Arthur Abraham (Middleweights)

No world-class fighter today receives less recognition from American fight fans than the undefeated Abraham. For "King Arthur" to increase his fan base beyond the borders of boxing-crazed Germany, he needs to earn a signature victory over a legitimate international star.

Enter reigning middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik, Abraham's perfect foil.

A Pavlik-Abraham bout is irresistibly intriguing because of the two fighters' many similarities. Both stand at 6' 1" or 6' 2," and are deceptively powerful despite their wiry frames.

Each man is a big puncher (Pavlik has 30 knockouts in 35 fights, while Abraham has 23 in 28 fights), yet can also box from outside when necessary. They even share a few common opponents, the most noteworthy being Edison Miranda. Abraham arguably destroyed Miranda in an even more brutal fashion than did Pavlik.

A fight with Abraham would benefit Pavlik as well.

For Pavlik, an impressive win over Abraham instantly restores the credibility that he lost after his defeat to ageless legend Bernard Hopkins. It was the manner of that defeat which hurt Pavlik's rep more than anything, as Hopkins essentially schooled the younger Pavlik in Boxing 101.

Ultimately, the Pavlik-Abraham winner ought to fight . . . you guessed it, Paul Williams. By then, P-Will should be campaigning full-time at middleweight.

4. Floyd Mayweather Jr. v. Manny Pacquiao (Anywhere between 140-147 lbs.)

There is probably no bigger matchup to be made in boxing than this often bandied about "SuperFight." However, it probably won't take place in 2009, given that PacMan has a May 2009 title fight with Ricky Hatton.

Undoubtedly, a PacMan-Pretty Boy fight is far from a done deal, as Mayweather is still officially retired. Furthermore, some doubt whether this fight will ever occur, considering Floyd's notoriously fickle ways at the bargaining table.

Of course, Pacquiao must first focus on his upcoming task. Should he fail to beat the newly resurgent Hatton (now trained, ironically, by the Pretty Boy's father, Floyd Sr.), then talk of a fight with Mayweather will remain just that - talk.

However, if PacMan does defeat Hatton, then the money and hype for Manny versus Floyd will be such that the ever-cautious Mayweather will have no choice but to agree to the fight.

The earliest date for this event would probably be in the fall or winter of '09. And at that time, both fighters could be in two very different positions.

By then, Pacquiao will be even more comfortable fighting at 140 and above. He also should be sharp, having fought roughly 5 times since fall 2008.

Meanwhile, Mayweather will have been inactive for at least two years. Although Floyd has extraordinary talent and flawless ring technique, it would be difficult for him to simply hop back in the ring after such a prolonged absence. Against the world-class speed of Pacquiao, Floyd's ring rust could become a serious issue.

On the other hand, such a feat would not be unprecedented.

Twenty-plus years ago, Hall of Famer Sugar Ray Leonard came back after several years in retirement to upset Marvelous Marvin Hagler.

One gets the feeling that "Money" Mayweather is the one champ with enough chutzpah to take on Pacquiao without so much as a tune-up fight. For a fighter whose legacy is often debated, pulling off this Leonard-type feat would elevate Floyd to a new plateau in boxing history.

So, if they do meet, what will we see?

This fight will be that rarest of events - a Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight that even casual boxing fans will find entertaining.

Because Floyd will be rusty, he will show a few chinks in his previously impeccable defense. As a result, Mayweather will take some shots from Pacquiao early. Those shots will then force Floyd to truly show his mettle in the ring.

To win, Floyd will probably have to rally in the latter rounds against the frenetic activity of the Filipino southpaw. Should he demonstrate that willingness to do more than the minimum, then Floyd will answer all the critics who previously had questioned his heart.

Undoubtedly, Pacquiao will bring out the best in Mayweather, and Floyd finally will show whether he belongs in any conversation concerning the all-time greatest Pound-for-Pound fighters.

3. Any Fight Involving the Plethora of Young Stars at 168

The super middleweight division, once thought to be headed back to the Stone Age after champion Joe Calzaghe left for greener pastures, is now on the rebound due to a glut of talented, up-and-coming young fighters.

Perhaps Calzaghe got out at just the right time. Presently, the super middleweight division is one of the most competitive divisions in the sport today, as there is no clear-cut champion.

Although most would point to once-beaten Danish superstar Mikkel Kessler as the top gun, there are several young undefeated and once-beaten contenders who can make a similar claim. Some of those fighters include:

Former middleweight champ Jermain Taylor; tough Australian Anthony Mundine; unbeaten British boxer-brawler Carl Froch; Montreal's Lucien Bute and Jean Pascal; "The Contender" reality series alums Sakio Bika and Jaidon Codrington; rugged Mexican-American Librado Andrade; the often avoided American contender Allan Green; and former American Olympian, and current unbeaten, Andre Dirrell.

So, among all these boxers, what are the best fights to be made?

First, 2009 should start with rematches of two 2008 Fight of the Year candidates - Lucien Bute-Librado Andrade II, and Carl Froch-Jean Pascal II. These two close fights, won by Bute and Froch respectively, were each fought in the winner's hometown. Not only were they highly competitive, but they were also quite controversial. Hence, a pair of rematches seem to be in order.

Second, Taylor should step up in competition and fight one of the top dogs at 168. In his super middleweight debut, Taylor defeated a shot Jeff Lacy, and in the process, erased some of the doubts that had surfaced after his two losses to Kelly Pavlik.

Pitting Taylor against Mundine, Green, Bika, or even Kessler would surely make for an exciting contest.

Meanwhile, Green's brutal first round knockout of Codrington put him on the map as a fighter worth watching. A fight matching Green against a bruiser like Bika would be highly interesting.

Then again, Bika also could fight Codrington one more time. Their first fight in the Contender season finale was quite a battle, and worthy of a second act.

Of all these boxers, Dirrell might be the odd man out, given his youth and minimal experience. Nevertheless, he should get a shot at some point in 2009, as he is too fluid to be avoided indefinitely.

2. Tomasz Adamek v. Steve Cunningham II (Cruiserweights)

These two turned in yet another candidate for Fight of the Year this past December. And fortunately, we may get to see it one more time.

In taking Cunningham's IBF title via split decision, Adamek all but guaranteed himself a return date with the classy Cunningham due to a rematch clause in the original contract.

For Cunningham, his second career loss might have been a blessing in disguise, as a rematch with Adamek could bring him the career recognition that has historically eluded him thus far. Until now, Cunningham has largely toiled in obscurity in a generally ignored weight class.

The increased exposure for Cunningham would simultaneously benefit the division as a whole, since he is a marketer's dream. Not only is the ex-Marine and former fashion model handsome and well-spoken, but he also fights with a crowd-pleasing ferocity.

As for the tough Adamek, he too has flown under-the-radar despite a successful one-loss career (that loss being a respectable defeat to star Chad Dawson).

Therefore, the action-packed rematch should produce some well-deserved fame for both men. More importantly, it should inject some much-needed life into the division.

1. Manny Pacquiao v. Juan Manuel Marquez III

This is one fight that simply has to happen. The reason is quite simple: no fighter has given Pacquiao a harder time than Marquez.

In fact, save for the three times that he was floored in the opening round of their 2004 fight, nobody has fought the PacMan on more even terms round-by-round.

Moreover, their 2008 fight produced a controversial split decision victory for Pacquiao that again failed to clearly establish a victor. For this reason, a third action-packed war is required.

And should Marquez finally secure a win, then a fourth fight may be in order.

1A. Israel Vazquez v. Rafael Marquez IV

We'll call this #1A because anytime these two square off they deserve the coveted Champion Emeritus status. In fact, if they fought each other exclusively for the rest of their careers, not a soul would complain. All three of their previous battles have been loaded with crowd-pleasing action.

More importantly, a fourth installment of this rivalry probably would be the biggest money fight out there for either guy. Thus, the fight makes economic sense as well.

Nevertheless, out of humanity and concern for both of these true warriors' ongoing health, this writer sincerely hopes that their next epic encounter will also be their last.

By Kweku Turkson
Staff Reporter for TheDailySportsHerald.com

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