With so many big time fights coming up abruptly around the corner, I’m straying away from my normal fare of pugilistic oudeurves to throw my opinion out on who I think will win a few upcoming fights of interest and how the winner of the contest should accomplish victory, sort of the way the great odds maker Herb Lambeck used to do when he’d contribute to probably the best tangible duel American mail order boxing fanzines ever, both “Flash” and “Boxing Update” (R.I.P.). “Flash” came bi-monthly and “Boxing Update”, monthly (published by Virgil Thrasher out of California), and were an absolute necessity for the hardcore fans who’ve followed the game long enough to remember those gems. Don’t count on me to give you the odds like Herb, but I’ll cough up a winner.
In the heavyweight division we have two important contests, both coming out of Germany, with two fighters from the Ukraine invo lved in separate fights, attempting to fulfill the biggest victory of their careers. Vitali Klitschko vs. WBC champ Samuel Peter seems an interesting fight, however there are two different scenarios that will possibly unfold. The first visage is clear, if Vitali’s four-year hiatus from boxing rejuvenated his 37-year old body, preserving his KO power, hand speed, clumsy but effective foot work, and go for broke stamina. If he retained the same fighting shape of 2004, the fight could possibly end within 3 rounds. Peter would be dethroned brutally, and sent straight into Palookaville, fighting journeymen fighters the rest of his career. He’d be ruined. The second thing that could happen is that Vitali brings all the fight in the world with him in his heart, but he’s a rusty, slower version of himself, which is very probable. He‘s always shown a great chin and recuperative powers, but in saying that, it proves that he can also be hit flush. Especially by the right hand, a la the Lennox Lewis brawl. And Sam Peter’s right hand is said to be his supposed money punch.
No matter which Vitali shows up, he stops Sam Peter at one point. All the head scratching, nervously muttered threats Peter uttered during media opportunities will prove prophetically empty. Sam Peter is as good as he’ll ever be as a fighter. Attempting to change him into a boxer/puncher has proven nil. He’s a wild swinging, overrated, wide target with a dented chin. Vitali Klitschko KO 5 Sam Pete r.
O.K. I’ve seen Vladimir Virches twice on DVD, and have no clue how he’s been rated as lofty as he has. When he fought stout European journeyman Paolo Vidoz, it was give and take quite evenly till Virches knocked him out with a wild punch just before the midway point of the fight. He looked a little less than average to say the least. And having KO power vs. journeymen in the heavyweights is normally a given. In the other corner Juan Carlos Gomez, the former long-time WBC cruiserweight champ, is an extremely awkward, but hard punching guy whose only loss was, in my opinion, an aberration. Gomez is the dark horse of the heavyweight division because of his unorthodox style and underrated punching power, however his chin has to be scrutinized after his first loss came by way of KO in the first round. By all rights, if an in shape Juan Carlos Gomez shows up, he’ll box circles around Vladimr Virches over 12 rounds, easily confusing him by using the entire ring, using speedy combinations, pot-shots, and perhaps even busting Virches up a bit along the way to a 12 round victory. Gomez, W 12 Virches. But I’d be a liar if my prediction made me a little apprehensive.
Arthur Abraham should have absolutely no problem against an extremely fortunate, but tough 37-year-old Raul Marquez who deserves all the credit in the world for earning his right to fight by defeating the inside favorite, 26-0 Giovanni Lorenzo in an IBF eliminator scrap. The champ Abraham m ay be coming into his own as a tough-as-nails, technically very good boxer/puncher who may be just a bit smallish, which could be to his advantage as he pursues a show down with “What weight am I?” middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik. I pick “King” Arthur Abraham to stop a large-hearted Raul Marquez in about 9 rounds, by getting off his combinations faster, using angles to set up the left hook, and hitting Raul with shots a lot harder than he’s used to, from a champion whose damn near at an elite level.
Joe Calzaghe wants to put a final victim on the list of his perfect 45-0 record that Joe says means more to him than any world championships when he faces what’s supposed to be a doomed version of Roy Jones Jr. for nothing more than living out the dream of finally catching Jones at the end of both men’s careers, after continuously chasing after Jones during their prime. And by all means to keep his all-important undefeated record intact after the two meet. It won’t happen. Roy Jones Jr. is a rejuvenated man, and for this particular fight, a hungry fighter as well. Roy’s style will prove to be the undoing of an energetic, yet baffled Calzaghe. Roy will side-step Calzaghe’s furious rushes and counter with left hooks. Joe’s the boxer who normally enjoys sporting the quicker hand speed against his opponents, but Roy is faster. He’s also the bigger puncher of the two. The sneaky straight right hand that Bernard Hopkin s caught Joe with that knocked him down in the first round of their fight, Roy throws better and faster.
As Mikkel Kessler said of Calzaghe before and after their fight, “Joe spoils your boxing.” I see a reversal of roles here. With the fight being held at Madison Square Garden at 175 lbs, and with a confident ecstatic Roy Jones under the big lights once again in front of a sold out audience, and with the fight being broadcast worldwide, Roy spoils Joe’s boxing, and redeems himself after the last few years of doubt by the boxing public. Roy Jones W 12 Joe Calzaghe.
Money talks, and marquee fights walk hand-in-hand at its command, so when middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik decided to fight at a catch-weight vs. the timeless warrior, Bernard Hopkins who’s coming off of a loss in his last fight in defense of his light heavyweight championship to Joe Calzaghe, at first I wondered why this fight was taking place at all? But a quick look at the light heavyweight rankings, except for “King” Arthur Abraham, whose name isn’t well known enough in the States yet to demand the type of purse that Pavlik and camp believe Kelly deserves, it was simple to see there were no contenders of any note to perk the public’s interest enough for Kelly to make a meaningful fight. This fight could look a lot like of Bernard Hopkins’ past fights, with Pavlik throwing the majority of punches, with Hopkins countering with the more precise shots i n short blasts of combinations. Although my heart was with Joe Calzaghe when he defeated Hopkins in their fight just previously, after reviewing the fight three times I gave the fight to Bernard.
I have a feeling something similar may happen when he faces Pavlik. However this fight will answer some questions that hang in the air over both fighters: is Kelly Pavlik just a one-dimensional, straight-forward fighter he’s looked like at times, especially the second Jermain Taylor fight? At near 44-years-old, how will Bernard Hopkins, a guy who’s fought only in marquee fights over the last three years, look? Especially the stamina in his legs during the later rounds after being pressured by Pavlik all night? When does all of the pressure of preparing for, and then fighting in big fights begin to take a toll on a fighter like Bernard, who could possibly “get old overnight” by strictly being burned out? Hopkins has fought as high as light heavyweight and has never been hurt, and although Kelly’s a big middleweight, will he be able to be the first to dent Bernard’s chin? Probably not. Hopkins is always in great condition, although the curse of gravity has left him with some slightly loose body weight that comes with age. His hand-speed is very underrated, and his boxing ability, dexterity and ability to see what’s going on directly in front of him and adapt, then counter, make him a tactical nightmare for anyone. His big fight experience is an overwhelming plus20as well. And the last time he fought a big puncher who was moving up in weight and came straightforward throwing bombs, and pressing the fight all night long was the great Felix Trinidad. And Felix got knocked out.
But Kelly’s chin seems decent, although he’s been put down and hurt before, however he comes into fights in top shape, so his recuperative powers will always be a plus for him. With all that being pointed out, unless Bernard fights the fight of his life and stops Pavlik systematically, attacking underneath to the body, or exposing his lack of head movement, I’m not sure he’ll win. Kelly Pavlik isn’t as one-dimensional as a lot of folks say, but honestly, and I’ll most definitely hate myself for writing this later, but after Bernard has risen to the occasion, and gone to the emotional well so many times before, and at his age, this time I don’t see Bernard doing enough per round to seal a decision against a young fighter with the tenacity of Kelly Pavlik. Kelly Pavlik W12 Bernard Hopkins.
BUT!!!! If Hopkins wins, it most definitely sets up a potential second fight against former conqueror Roy Jones Jr. the way I’ve called it. I’ll end this eccentric diatribe by saying that if Shane Mosley doesn’t KO Ricardo Mayorga within 9 rounds, I’ll be a drunken uncle. Jermain Taylor should beat the poor shell of Jeff Lacy over a bruising distance fight; I begrudgingly pick WBC welterweight champ Jeff Lac y, I mean Andre Berto, in an ultra-close win over Stevie Forbes, who I predict will expose, and really test the speedy champ; and finally, I think an emphatic conclusion to the IBO/WBC light heavyweight fight between Antonio Tarver and Chad Dawson would really make an incredibly important statement that would shake up the entire nondescript alphabet champions, who guard their worthless straps deep in the mountains some place in Europe and smothered in the mid-afternoon traffic of Argentina. This is no prediction, but if Antonio Tarver is struggling with his fat problem, I say with concrete hope, bring on the new blood! I sincerely hope Chad Dawson crushes Antonio Tarver. Or gives him a prolonged beating that finishes his loud-mouthed, one-hit wonder, eloquent stupidity for good.
Philip H. Anselmo, boxing prognosticator, historian and avid observer of the sport, is also the lead vocalist of the group DOWN which tours Australia in October before embarking on a North American tour later this year, of which some of the dates DOWN opens for Metallica. For more info, please go to www.down-nola.com