Sunday, January 07, 2001

Ringing in the new year

Taking stock of the sweet science for 2001 - in 12 quick rounds
By Mike Mudd
The Cincinnati Enquirer


        These are already signed and set; hopefully they'll deliver:

        1. Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Diego Corrales, Jan. 20, HBO: A great way to start the year. The most talent between 130 and 135 pounds, each is considered among the top 10 pound-for-pound fighters today. Corrales knocks everyone out. Mayweather makes everyone miss and look bad. Boxer vs. puncher — a potential classic.

  • Fight of the year: Erik Morales' split decision win over Marco Antonio Barrera in February. You've seen Rocky vs. Apollo in the movie; this was a real-life version. The two Mexican stars, fighting for Morales' title at 122 pounds, combined to land 618 punches (Morales 319, Barrera 299), including an amazing 562 power shots. Runner-up: Felix Trinidad's victory over Fernando Vargas in December.
  • Fighter of the year: Trinidad. “Tito” at 154 pounds simply had a better, and more exciting, 2000 than anyone else. In three wins over world-class opponents, he recorded 11 knockdowns, including four against David Reid and five against Vargas. Runner-up: Shane Mosley.
TOP 10
  The Enquirer's top 10 best fighters, pound-for-pound, to start the year:
  1. Felix Trinidad, 154 pounds
  2. Roy Jones Jr., 175 pounds
  3, Shane Mosley, 147 pounds
  4. Floyd Mayweather, 130 pounds
  5. Lennox Lewis, heavyweight
  6. Oscar De La Hoya, 147 pounds
  7. Zab Judah, 140 pounds
  8. Prince Naseem Hamed, 126 pounds
  9. Diego Corrales, 130 pounds
  10. Bernard Hopkins, 160 pounds
        2. Kostya Tszyu vs. Sharmba Mitchell, Feb. 3, Showtime: A long-awaited bout between two of the top three guys at 140 pounds, which is now the deepest division in boxing. The WBA and WBC title belts are at stake, along with the right to fight the third top guy in the division — Zab Judah — before the year is over.

        3. Prince Naseem Hamed vs. Marco Antonio Barrera, March or April, pay-per-view: Finally, a true world-class opponent for the Prince at 126 pounds. Barrera, a former world champion at 122 pounds, has the heart and chin to counter Hamed's power. And the experience to counter his swagger.


        Three that should happen in 2001:

        4. Lennox Lewis vs. Mike Tyson: There's no other intriguing fight to make in boxing's heavyweight division. A rusty and aging Tyson is needed right now to renew interest in the sport's glamour division. Lewis needs this to solidify his legacy. Beating David Tua and Michael Grant has not been enough.

        5. Tim Austin vs. Paulie Ayala: It's now or never for Cincinnati's Austin, who will turn 30 this year. Ayala and Austin are the world's best between 118 and 122 pounds and it's time to unify without longtime champion Johnny Tapia in the mix.

        6. Roy Jones Jr. vs. Felix Trinidad: This is the longest shot of the three to happen. But it could take place in November or December if Trindiad decides to put on 15 pounds this year. This would be a rarity: A matchup of the two best pound-for-pound boxers in the world. A perfect way to close 2001.

        • REFORM PARTY:

        Boxing needs a facelift. Here's a few suggestions:

        7. Consolidation: It's time to eliminate the various sanctioning bodies —IBF, WBC, WBA, etc. — and form one world organization to govern the sport, make rules and appoint judges. Every other major sport works this way, why not boxing?

        8. Appoint a commissioner: One person should be appointed to oversee the governing body. He doesn't necessarily need to know a jab from a rabbit punch, just be arbitrary. Baseball comes to mind here.

        9. Consolidation part II: There are currently 16 different weight divisions. Cut it to eight. This will make the sport easier to follow for fans, more attractive for TV contracts, and force the best fighters to meet more often.

        • LOCAL FLAVOR

        Looks to be a busy year for local boxers, consider:

        10. Ricardo Williams Jr. and Dante Craig: The Olympians make their pro debuts this month at 135 and 147 pounds, respectively, and may fight in Cincinnati this spring.

        11. Larry Donald: The heavyweight contender is posturing himself for a title shot by the end of the year, likely against the winner of Evander Holyfield vs. John Ruiz.

        12. Tony Tubbs: The former heavyweight champ is looking to make a comeback at 42. In a heavyweight division lacking depth, he could move up fast if he stays focused and in shape.


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