A Saturday press conference is in the works for smack-talkers Adrien Broner and Paulie Malignaggi.
Solving THE RING's high vacancy rate
Writer Eric Raskin's five-pronged plan to fill some of THE RING's vacant championships.A rematch between Miguel Cotto (left), THE RING's No. 2 welterweight contender, and Shane Mosley, THE RING's No. 1-rated 147 pounder, would not only fill the welterweight championship vacancy but make for a great fight. Cotto won their first encounter by a close unanimous decision in November of 2007. Photo by Ed Mulholland / FightWireImages.com.
In a perfect world, the number of champions in boxing would equal the number of weight classes. That statement shouldn’t require a whole lot of explanation; more than one champion in a division is a convoluted mess, and less than one champion in a division is unfulfilling. ’Nuff said.
As we all know, the world is far from perfect, and the boxing world is even farther from perfect than most of the rest of the world. Several ill-intentioned people have worked hard to produce the “convoluted mess” referenced above, and some well-intentioned people have responded to the ill-intentioned with a system that has left unfortunate gaps in the championship picture.
Despite the best efforts of the editorial board at THE RING and the contributors on their ratings panel, the crowning of 17 simultaneous champions in 17 weight classes seems impossible. For every vacancy that gets filled -- as the heavyweight championship was by Wladimir Klitschko a week ago -- there are new vacancies popping up. In the last 13 months, two RING titles were vacated by fighters departing their divisions (Joe Calzaghe at 168 pounds and Israel Vazquez at 122) and two were vacated by fighters announcing their retirements (Calzaghe at 175 and Floyd Mayweather at 147).
As a result, right now, we only have six world champions as recognized by THE RING. Call it an unfortunate side effect of having standards in awarding titles.
When it comes to RING titles, there is a protocol in place, and the idea is to end up with a champion that the public agrees is the champion. If nobody in a division has established himself as such, a vacant title is better than the alternative.
Just the same, I’d love to see more RING champions -- certainly, more than just six of them. So I’ve put together a list of the top five things I’d like to see happen in the next 12 months to fill some vacancies and make a few divisions neither convoluted nor unfulfilling:
1. Bernard Hopkins makes a decision about his future before Chad Dawson vs. Glen Johnson happens
Dawson (rated No. 2 by THE RING at light heavyweight) and Johnson (No. 3) are set to fight in November. And it can be a RING world championship fight if Hopkins (No. 1) gets out of the way.
The fact is, B-Hop has every right to that No. 1 spot (he beat Antonio Tarver more convincingly than Dawson or Johnson did, he became the first man in 7½ years to beat Winky Wright, he lost by maybe a point or two to Calzaghe, and then he dominated Kelly Pavlik in what was technically a light heavyweight bout). And he has every right to bide his time trying to decide what his next move is. But if he wants to do right by the sport and this division, he’ll make his decision soon.
I tried to reach Hopkins last week, but he was away on vacation. So I’ll spell out the options for him here: 1. Announce his retirement; 2. Announce plans to campaign in another weight class and give up his light heavyweight ranking; 3. Announce serious intentions to negotiate with the Dawson-Johnson winner.
On Oct. 18, if Hopkins has nothing scheduled, he will have been inactive for one year and may well be removed from THE RING rankings anyway, making Dawson-Johnson a title fight on short notice. But Hopkins has a chance to take the decision out of the hands of the editorial board, do the right thing and declare his intentions in a timely fashion. Whether he wants to retire or fight on is his business, but the timing of that decision has become everyone’s business.
2. A four-fighter tournament at super middleweight
Super middle is one of those divisions in boxing that periodically threatens to become red-hot, but never quite does for one reason or another. In the wake of Calzaghe’s departure, there’s a bit of a lull at 168 pounds. But this weight class could instantly become one of the most compelling in the sport if a tournament among the top-four contenders were organized.
The fights that make sense are a rematch between Lucian Bute (No. 2) and Librado Andrade (No. 4), and a showdown between Mikkel Kessler (No. 1) and Carl Froch (No. 3). Then the winners fight to determine an undisputed champion of the world. And when I say “world,” I mean it. This isn’t three Americans and a Puerto Rican like we had in the 2001 Middleweight World Championship Series. This is a Dane, a Brit, a California-based Mexican and a Canada-based Romanian.
Bute-Andrade II is obvious. It’s an alphabet mandatory and a rematch to a fight with about as controversial a conclusion as anything since Julio Cesar Chavez-Meldrick Taylor I. It’s a fight Bute needs, despite winning the first time around; otherwise, no matter what he does the rest of his career, the unfinished business will continue to haunt him.
Meanwhile, Kessler, probably the best fighter in the division, is suddenly 30 years old and withering on the vine. He needs a real fight, and who would make a better opponent than the undefeated, exciting Froch?
Any way you mix and match these four fighters, there’s not a bad match, unless Andrade and Kessler win and we get a rematch to a fight Kessler won by a shutout in 2007. But even if that happens, as Bute can confirm, Andrade is dangerous for every second of all 12 rounds.
3. Miguel Cotto vs. Shane Mosley II
Yeah, yeah, Cotto vs. Manny Pacquiao is the big-money fight, and I’d be lying if I said I’m not looking forward to that PPV mega-event in the fall. But I’d rather see Cotto-Mosley II first because it gives us a no-doubt-about-it welterweight champion, and then the winner vs. either Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather would be that much bigger.
Sure, Cotto-Pacquiao can happen first, and whoever wins can fight Mosley next for the RING title (assuming a Pacquiao win gets him high enough in the RING ratings). But I prefer the quick and direct route to filling this vacancy. Cotto-Mosley was a very good fight the first time around. It remains a pick-’em. I know it makes more sense financially for Cotto to fight Pacquiao now, but he’ll be taking the short end, probably about 40 percent. If he were to beat Mosley and come into the Pacquiao fight as the true champion, he might make more dough in the long-term.
It’s a pipe dream, but in the interest of crowning legitimate champs, it’s the fight I want to see next at 147.
4. Juan Manuel Lopez vs. Celestino Caballero, before it’s too late
Lopez is the future at 122 and 126 pounds, but his options to prove himself the present king at junior feather are quickly disappearing. Israel Vazquez has vacated THE RING title and moved up in weight. Rafael Marquez intends to follow him. That would leave Caballero and Lopez as the top two in the rankings. But Caballero has started talking about departing for featherweight also. And that would leave Lopez with nobody against whom to make his mark at 122. Sorry, but Lopez vs. Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym or Steve Molitor to fill the vacancy just doesn’t excite me.
Caballero is a top fighter with a tricky style and an impressive resume. And unless Lopez is content to leave the junior feather division without a defining fight, he needs the Panamanian. Hopefully it’ll happen, and it’ll happen soon. (But not before Marquez officially exits the division and opens up the top spot, of course.)
5. Roman Gonzalez vs. Raul Garcia
There’s only one division in the entire sport with two undefeated fighters at the very top, and that’s strawweight. “El Chocolatito” Gonzalez is 22 years old with 23 wins, no losses, 20 knockouts. “Rayito” Garcia is 26 years old with 26 wins, no losses, 16 knockouts.
It’s almost immaterial that Gonzalez is a delight to watch and potentially the first impact strawweight since Ricardo Lopez. All you need to know is that we can fill a RING title by pairing two young, undefeated fighters. And we’ll gladly deal with the nuisances of alphabet title stripping and “super champions” in exchange for a fight like that.
• MMA fans can argue all they want that what makes their sport great is that losses don’t matter as much as in boxing. But part of what makes boxing so thrilling is how much losses do matter. Victor Ortiz was a big-time prospect whose ascension could get seriously derailed with one loss, and that added tension and excitement to his five-knockdown war with Marcos Maidana.
• Based on the way he lost and, to a greater extent, what he said in his postfight interview, Ortiz might want to consider calling it a career at age 22. Seriously. To be a professional fighter, you have to be able to turn off the self-preservation switch. Ortiz can’t -- and he even said in his shocking interview that he’s perfectly content not to be able to. One boxing insider called me immediately after the HBO broadcast and termed Ortiz’ comments “a f---ing abomination.” I can’t disagree. For five rounds, Ortiz showed power, skill, guts and resilience. But it’s hard to applaud him for any of that after he so unapologetically spared himself further punishment. You think Bob Arum is still bitter that this kid got away?
• Max Kellerman’s reaction and wording in the 20 seconds after Ortiz caved against Maidana were as perfect as anything I could have written with hours to work on it. Just as Max said that moment might define Ortiz’s career, I think Max had a career-defining moment as a broadcaster in so quickly putting in perspective the young fighter’s sudden and surprising capitulation.
• Normally, I’m not one to pay much attention to fashion, but how awkward was it seeing Emanuel Steward dressed in the tux for Boxing After Dark, when his broadcast partners just had regular suits on? I’m not loving the job security of whoever packed Manny’s bags for the trip to L.A.
• I saw a headline on fightnews.com last week that read, “Minto-Holmes collision set!” What does it say about me that my first reaction was, “Oh no, Larry Holmes is fighting again!” (And what does it say about the heavyweight division that Brian Minto is probably a top-50-ish guy and I don’t view the fight as a terrible mismatch.)
• Jack Dempsey died in 1983, but he was alive and well in Berlin on Saturday night, where Arthur Abraham was right on top of Mahir Oral after every eight-count he took, doing his best to bend that rule about staying in a neutral corner until the ref waves you forward. It’s a good thing for Abraham that Marlon B. Wright wasn’t the third man in the ring on Saturday night, or else those eight-counts would still be going on.