Note: This story was originally posted before news broke that Andre Dirrell has pulled out of the Super Six World Boxing Classic. The story has been adjusted accordingly.
We’re in the championship rounds of 2010, the final three months of the year.
Boxing has been knocked around for nine months, having given its frustrated fans a limited number of compelling fights and the inability to put together the Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight. However, the sport, as resilient as any, remains standing and is poised to make a significant rally.
October is scheduled to give us some big names in fights that probably will be one-sided. Lucian Bute vs. Jesse Brinkley on Oct. 15, Antonio Tarver (making his heavyweight debut) vs. Nagy Aguilera on the same date and Vitali Klitschko vs. Shannon Briggs the following day.
Things heat up perhaps like never before in November and December, though, with eight main-event fights and one doubleheader that are both important and competitive.
We have only one Saturday between Nov. 6 and Christmas on which no truly big fight is scheduled. And even that night will give us one of the best cards of the year, featuring Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Nonito Donaire in separate fights on pay per view.
When it’s over, 2010 should be remembered as a very good year for boxing after all.
Here’s a guide meant to help you navigate through the packed schedule. Enjoy the ride. It’s going to be fun.
JUAN MANUEL LOPEZ (29-0, 26 KOs) vs. RAFAEL MARQUEZ (39-5, 35 KOs)
Date / site: Nov. 6 / Las Vegas
Backdrop: The key to one of the more-fascinating fights of the year is this: How much does Marquez, 35, have left after his grueling series with Israel Vazquez and many other wars. The hard-punching brother of Juan Manuel looked good against Vazquez in May but Vazquez appears to be finished. If Marquez hasn’t slipped, then this could be a breath-taking scrap. If he has, then we might want to look the other way because Lopez is a killer. The reality probably is that Marquez has slipped to some degree, which means he’ll probably put up a decent fight – at least for a while – but Lopez will prevail because of his ability and youth.
Prediction: Marquez will put up a gallant effort and do more damage than some believe he can but this is Lopez’s time. The Puerto Rican wins by middle-round knockout.
ZAB JUDAH (39-6, 27 KOs) vs. LUCAS MATTHYSSE (27-0, 25 KOs)
Date / site: Nov. 6 / Newark, N.J.
Division: Junior welterweight
Backdrop: Judah’s resurgence and sudden maturity (or so it seems) is one of the most-refreshing stories of the past few months. The former five-time titleholder, still only 32, appears to have retained his skills and athleticism and is a legitimate threat to the top 140-pounders. He has to get through Matthysse first, though. And that might not be easy. The Argentine probably isn’t as good as his record – he has fought almost exclusively in his native land – but he is a competent boxer and very powerful. No one has a knockout percentage of 93 if they can’t punch. And he knows this is his chance to gain elite status, so motivation won’t be a problem. We’ll see how good Matthysse really is.
Prediction: Matthysse hasn’t faced anyone like Judah, a complete fighter with experience. The result will be a one-sided decision if the Argentine can’t hurt Judah, which obviously is possible.
MANNY PACQUIAO (51-3-2, 38 KOs) vs. ANTONIO MARGARITO (38-6, 27 KOs)
Date / site: Nov. 13 / Arlington, Texas
Division: Junior middleweight
Backdrop: This is a terrible matchup but one you won’t want to miss. Margarito is precisely the type of opponent that makes Pacquiao salivate, the type who will come directly into his wheelhouse. The No. 1 fighter in the world is going to tear him to pieces. Those who disagree will cite Margarito’s size advantage and possibly his resilience, which is reasonable. The difference in ability is so great, though, that size won’t matter. Plus, Margarito, who beat journeyman Roberto Garcia will have fought only once in 23 months because he lost his license in California. To ask someone to face the best fighter in the world after that kind of inactivity is asking a lot. The slaughter should be fun to watch as long as it lasts, though.
Prediction: Margarito won’t even see what hits him. Pacquaio by KO in Round 9.
PAUL WILLIAMS (39-1, 27 KOs) vs. SERGIO MARTINEZ (45-2-2, 24 KOs)
Date / site: Nov. 20 / Atlantic City, N.J.
Backdrop: It doesn’t get much better than this, two prime middleweights in a rematch of a compelling and exciting first match. Martinez, 35, has emerged as an elite fighter in spite of a 1-1-1 record in his last three fights, a controversial draw against Kermit Cintron, a controversial majority-decision loss to Williams and a convincing decision over Kelly Pavlik to win THE RING championship. If he can beat Williams this time, he’ll be one of the sport’s true stars. Williams hasn’t been as dominating as billed in his last two fights, the victory over Martinez and a truncated technical decision over Cintron. He needs to beat Martinez to re-establish himself as one of the most-feared fighters. Bottom line: This one should be riveting.
Prediction: Expect another test of wills between two highly skilled and tough competitors. That said, the feeling here is that Williams took Martinez somewhat lightly in the first fight. Williams, at his most-focused and determined, will win a close decision.
JUAN MANUEL MARQUEZ (51-5-1, 37 KOs) vs. MICHAEL KATSIDIS (27-2, 22 KOs)
Date / site: Nov. 27 / Las Vegas
Backdrop: This has Fight of the Year written all over it. Marquez answered any questions that lingered after his embarrassing loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. by dominating Juan Diaz in July. He seems to be at least near his best at 37. Katsidis probably has improved as a boxer but remains a brawler at heart, which is ideal for a more-skillful counter puncher like Marquez. Thus, it’s hard to pick against Marquez. However, if you’ll recall, Marquez had trouble against a young slugger – Diaz – in their first meeting. Could Katsidis follow Diaz’s blueprint in that fight. And remember: Katsidis punches a lot harder than Diaz. Marquez probably will win this fight but it won’t be easy.
Prediction: Marquez is one of the smartest fighters on the planet, as he proved by dominating Diaz in their rematch. He’ll use Katsidis’ aggression against him by countering effectively, which will lead to a late knockout.
ARTHUR ABRAHAM (31-1, 25 KOs) vs. CARL FROCH (26-1, 20 KOs)
Date / site: Nov. 27 / Helsinki, Finland
Network: Showtime (delayed)
Division: Super middleweight
Backdrop: The winner is guaranteed to move on to the semifinal round of the Super Six World Boxing Classic — if Showtime moves forward with the tournament in light of Andre Dirrell's injury — but neither fighter needs extra motivation. Both are coming off the first defeats in their careers, Abraham by disqualification against Andre Dirrell in a fight he was losing badly and Froch a fairly close decision against Mikkel Kessler. A second consecutive loss would be devastating. The participants are among the toughest fighters in the world, neither afraid to take punishment in order to dish it out. The loser will be the fighter who wilts first under what undoubtedly will be extreme pressure. Thus, this fight should be fun to watch.
Prediction: Abraham and Froch are similar in that they have solid skills and extraordinary toughness. Abraham is a bit superior in each category, though. The Armenian wins a close, hard-fought decision.
AMIR KHAN vs. MARCOS MAIDANA
Date / site: Dec. 11 / Las Vegas
Division: Junior welterweight
Backdrop: The majority of observers seem to believe that Khan’s skills and natural gifts will be too much for the limited Maidana, although one question persists: What will happen when Maidana’s fist finds Khan’s chin? Khan might never live down his KO loss to Breidis Prescott, which left him with a reputation of having a weak chin. And we all saw the kind of power Maidana has when he stopped Victor Ortiz. Yes, this is one you won’t want to miss. Khan has big plans, which include cleaning out the 140-pound division. He wants to fight the winner of the tentative Timothy Bradley-Devon Alexander fight and possibly Victor Ortiz if he can beat Maidana. Meanwhile, Maidana is trying to prove that he is the best 140-pounder in the world. We’ll learn a great deal on Dec. 11.
Prediction: Maidana has the power to knock out anyone but Khan is too good to let it happen. The Briton, who has some power himself, will outbox the Argentine before stopping him in the later rounds.
ABNER MARES (20-0-1, 13 KOs) vs. VIC DARCHINYAN (35-2-1, 27 KOs) and YONNHY PEREZ (20-0-1, 14 KOs) vs. JOSEPH AGBEKO (27-2, 22 KOs)
Date / site: Dec. 11 / Irapuato, Mexico
Backdrop: The fighters in Showtime’s second tournament are smaller than the first but no less compelling. Mares, Darchinyan, Perez and Agbeko are among the most-exciting little fighters in the sport and sure to provide fireworks. This competition is short and sweet, a semifinal round (on Dec. 11) and a final and third-place bout (early next year). Mares, coming off a draw with Perez that many believed he won, might be the most-talented of the four and will have a chance to prove it. Darchinyan failed in his only other fight at 118 pounds, losing to Agbeko. He hopes to prove he belongs at bantamweight. Perez expects to repeat his victory over Agbeko, which would set up a rematch with Mares or a fight with the biggest name in the completion. And Agbeko hopes to prove that he had an off night against Perez.
Predictions: Mares is too talented for Darchinyan. He wins by a clear decision. And Perez dominated Agbeko in their first meeting for a reason; he’s better. He wins another one-side decision.
JEAN PASCAL vs. BERNARD HOPKINS
Date / Site: Dec. 18 / Quebec City, Canada
Division: Light heavyweight
Backdrop: Hopkins has some huevos for taking this fight. The old man, 45, remains a formidable fighter but might be better suited for opponents like Roy Jones Jr. at this point. And maybe not. Pascal is a strong, young (27) fighter who is coming off a significant upset of Chad Dawson. Pascal took the RING championship by matching Dawson’s physical gifts – speed, athleticism and reflexes – and fighting more aggressively. The Haiti-born Canadian isn’t sublimely skilled, though, which might be Hopkins opening. The former middleweight champion has the smarts to win this fight but his aging body will have to cooperate. We’ll see whether it happens.
Prediction: This might be the most difficult fight of the nine to handicap. The gut says that Pascal is too young and skillful enough to beat any 45 year old. But Hopkins’ experience cannot be underestimated. He might have one great surprise left in him. The guess here is that Pascal will win a very close decision.