Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Due to High Expectations, Seven Punch Combo Is Providing Needles for Your Balloons

Robbed of the ability to make predictions on a handful of big fights that were recently postponed, and feeling the anxiety all boxing fans are feeling these days that more postponements could tarnish the outstanding fall and winter lineup of exciting matches, I decided to turn my predictive powers (such as they are) to possible future postponements.

This is not intended to be some totally flippant exercise. Partially flippant, maybe, but there's reason for partial seriousness about this, too. In August, the season ahead raised expectations of fight fans, including myself, to unrealistic heights. Those expectations have been punctured by the delay of three major, or at least meaningful, bouts: Vargas-Mayorga, Klitschko-McCline and Marquez-Juarez. Two have been moved to other dates, with Marquez-Juarez landing on free Showtime, a blessing in disguise since I wasn't planning on buying it for $44.95 on HBO PPV as originally scheduled. Klitschko-McCline is gone for good, with Vitali and Jameel, respectively, heading their separate ways.

But perhaps they need a little extra puncturing, these expectations. I've always found myself better off with low expectations exceeded, rather than high expectations diminished. After they graduated from cult favorites to one-hit wonders in the 1990s, my favorite music group, the Flaming Lips, churned out a quick EP entitled "Due to High Expectations, the Flaming Lips are Providing Needles for Your Balloons." A few years later, they delivered an all-time great album, "The Soft Bulletin." I'm rooting for things to go the way of the Flaming Lips -- expectations exceeded -- but since a number of these stellar fights ahead stand a decent (or greater) chance of postponement, I hereby provide needles for your balloons.

Joe Calzaghe-Mikkel Kessler
Nov. 3
Super middleweight (168 lbs.)
Risk factors: There may not be a more brittle fighter than Calzaghe. It's amazing that someone who can take such blows in the ring, and deliver them with hands that are serially broken, is so prone to match-canceling injuries.
Chances of postponement: Slightly worse than even. To the point that one writer -- I can't remember whom -- was recently pining for Calzaghe to be hermetically sealed until November. But Joe has been more stable of late, so maybe hermetic sealing is a step too far.

Jermain Taylor-Kelly Pavlik
Sept. 29
Middleweight (160 lbs.)
Risk factors: Both men are tall middleweights -- Taylor stands at 6'1" and Pavlik tops 6'2" -- who have complained they suffer tremendously trying to chop themselves down to 160. The weight problem is such that they almost had this one at super-middleweight. If this fight is postponed, it would be disenchanting, since it's the first truly big fight of the season.
Chances of postponement: Minor, but significant. Reports out of the camps that both guys on track to make weight by next Saturday are positive. But Fernando Vargas was bragging about how good he felt trying to get down to his proper weight just days before he postponed his battle with Ricardo Mayorga.

Fernando Vargas-Ricardo Mayorga
Nov. 23
Between middleweight and super middleweight (162 lbs.)
Risk factors: That it's already been postponed once ain't good. Vargas turned up anemic along the way to losing about 100 lbs. Mayorga isn't a model of reliability himself, since he almost bailed out of his fight with Oscar De La Hoya at the last minute last year.
Chances of postponement: Awfully likely, although a second postponement would probably equal cancellation. Is anyone making sure Fernando isn't blimping out right now? I wouldn't be surprised if he still looks like Eddie Murphy in a fat suit come late October.

Roy Jones, Jr.-Felix Trinidad
Jan. 26
Between super middleweight and light heavyweight (175 lbs.)
Risk factors: Jones is erratic as hell. He's constantly pulling out of proposed fights, even eschewing big paydays.
Chances of postponement: Meh. Jones needs this payday more than any other, since he's on the downside of his career. I doubt he'll risk it, but I don't count out the possibility.

Humberto Soto-Joan Guzman
Nov. 13
Junior lightweight (130 lbs.)
Risk factors: Soto decided, against the advice of everyone, to take a tune-up fight this past weekend, jeopardizing this bout if he lost or even if he endured a deep cut that wouldn't heal in time.
Chances of postponement: Soto-Guzman looks safe. Humberto won his weekend tune-up easily, and reports are that he was hardly scratched. Joan, don't get any bright ideas for your own tune-up.

Juan Manuel Marquez-Rocky Juarez
Nov. 3
Junior lightweight (130 lbs.)
Risk factors: This fight appears cursed. First, Jorge Barrios dropped out with injuries, promoting Juarez to his replacement. Then, Marquez developed an infection on his fist. Seriously, how does that happen? Hasn't anyone in Marquez' camp heard of Neosporin?
Chances of postponement: Depends on your level of superstition. I'm going to say I think this one's had enough misfortune and is going to happen.

Sultan Ibragimov-Evander Holyfield
Oct. 13
Heavyweight (200 lbs. +)
Risk factors: Holyfield's already a replacement for the fishily-injured-then-training-a-couple-weeks-later Ruslan Chagaev, so it, too, has a track record. Holyfield has worked through his endless health problems, from heart conditions to damaged shoulders to freaking hepatitis, for chrissakes, but his history and advanced age are cause for hand-wringing.
Chances of postponement: Not very likely. Ibragimov needs to beat Holyfield in the highest-profile bout of his career to capture the public's imagination, and Holyfield's on something of a holy mission to become a five-time heavyweight champ.

Oleg Maskaev-Sam Peter
Oct 6
Heavyweight (200 lbs. +)
Risk factors: Maskaev and his handlers did virtually everything they could not to take this fight, and conventional wisdom is that they're worried the aging Maskaev is going to get splattered in a high-risk, low-reward battle that could end his marketability just as it had reached its improbable peak.
Chances of postponement: Low. Peter's team played hardball to force this match to happen. Anyone think that if it's postponed any other word besides "lawsuit" is the first to pop into the Peter crew's mind?

Vitali Klitschko-anyone
No date
Heavyweight (200 lbs. +)
Risk factors: The last few years of Vitali's career are marked by fight postponements, cancellations, retirements and un-retirements. That he's returned to training already after screwing up his back may bode well, but I rate...
Chances of postponement: ...at almost certain. Too bad, too. Vitali has always been the more passionate of the formidable Klitschko brother duo, but his big brother Vladimir is just not as fragile. Sorry to say it, but Vitali is an old gray mare in boxing years, and maybe worse, because he just can't climb into the ring anymore come fight night.

Kid Rock-Tommy Lee
No date
No weight limit set
Risk factors: For one, the fight just hasn't been set yet. For another, proposals to put feuding rock stars into the boxing ring have traditionally gone nowhere. Remember Axl Rose-Vince Neil?
Chances of postponement: I don't think this fight is going to happen. I hear tell the little one they had at the Video Music Awards wasn't much to watch anyway.

Miguel Cotto-Shane Mosley; Floyd Mayweather-Ricky Hatton; Jean-Marc Mormeck-David Haye; Juan Diaz-Julio Diaz; Manny Pacquiao-Marco Antonio Barrera
Assorted dates
Assorted weight classes
Risk factors: Thankfully, not very many. All of these guys are pros who have little history or delaying or canceling bouts, even when they've had injuries or weight problems. Could Juan Diaz, college student/boxer, oversleep studying for a test the next week? Could Ricky "Fatton" spend too much time in the pubs? Could Shane Mosley injure his tooth again, the one he wiggled after KOing Vargas as he explained why he couldn't fight Mayweather in the fall? Could Floyd strain an achilles doing the foxtrot on "Dancing With The Stars?" Maybe, but I doubt it. No, I think all these big, exciting fights are pretty close to a sure thing.
Chances that I'll wuss out and end on a positive note: Already did.


Jacob said...

Very cool post.

I'm most worried about Taylor-Pavlik. I know its only 10 days away, but until they've each stepped on and off the scales without incident, I'll be holding my breath.

dammrod said...

I like how you threw in a curve bell with Kid Rock-Tommy Lee in the middle. My money's on Tommy. Kid Rock looks like a 6 ft. tall bantamweight.

It's ironic that the Klitschko brothers, some of the most massive pugilists to ever step into the ring, have acquired a reputation for fragility. I think the Klitschko-McCline is the 5th fight that was postponed/canceled due to Vitali suffering an injury. Vitali's previous career as a kickboxer may be responsible for his susceptibility to injuries, many kickboxers block blows to the body with their legs, which is hell on the joints, or just take it to the body, which is hell on the spine. It's a real shame.

JimPanzee said...

Everything about this post was great from the F'Lips reference on down. Well done.

Tim -- tstarks2@gmail.com said...

Jacob: Thanks. I really think that one would hurt the most. The season needs some momentum.

Dammrod: I dunno, man. They're both pretty skinny. But that stuff about kickboxing explains a lot.

Jimpanzee: And a hearty "thank you kind sir" to you as well.

Dammrod said...

I actually think Vitali might be better off not putting himself through training camps. He keeps himself in generally good shape, and even an undertrained Vitali is still in better condition then your average heavyweight.

Vitali's younger brother Wladimir was recently interviewed on Bavarian TV, where he said he would like to take on the winner of the Ibragimov-Holyfield fight. He hoped Evander would be the victorious against Ibragimov.

Tim -- tstarks2@gmail.com said...

Oops. I think I called Vlad the elder.

I've been complaining about Vlad not doing anything to unite the titles, so maybe this constitutes progress. Still, I'm not too impressed about him fantasizing about fighting a 42-year-old, despite my hunch that Holyfield beats Ibragimov.

alex said...

I learn fascinating things at this blog. Like:

1. Roy Jones JR. and Evander Holyfield are still fighting. Isn't Holyfield's brain entirely liquid by now?

2. There's a fighter named "Sultan." Tim tells me that sadly, he is not actually a sultan.

3. Someone has actually proposed putting Kid Rock and Tommy Lee in a ring together. That is awesome, and unlike most real boxing matches, I would pay to watch it.

beetqueen said...

I know nothing about boxing as I've stated before, but since you brought up Kid Rock and Tommy Lee, I'd like to pose my own celebrity boxing match: Fergi and Rhianna (sp?). Only I want it to be a cage match. And a fight to the death. If it will make you boys happier, it can be a naked one. As long as it's actually to the death.

Dammrod said...

tim: I agree that it kind of makes Wladimir look like a bully when he says that his preferred opponent is Oldyfield, but if Holy can beat Ibragimov then that would make him a legitimate top Heavyweight. It would make me more proud of Holyfield, but also more disdainful of the current crop of Heavyweights.

alex: It is always surprising how healthy Holyfield is. It's ironic that an old Holyfield that's been through wars with gigantic heavyweights is still less prone to injury then Vitali Klitschko.

beatqueen: You forgot to include the jello and chocolate pudding.

JimPanzee said...

Maskaev-Peter just got postponed. I think this post has already proven to be the most prescient article written in the last 3 months...this isn't going to be a season of boxer vs boxer...this is going to be boxer vs self and boxer vs nature.

I don't know how many of these high profile, eagerly awaited contests are falling short due to nerves or actual injuries but I do think that it's very intriguing that a season filled with a record number of great matchups is being pre-empted by record numbers of postponements and cancellations.

dammrod said...

Maskaev-Peter has been called off due to a Maskaev injury.

My God, all these injuries are starting to annoy me.

Tim -- tstarks2@gmail.com said...

Alex and Shannon: Always entertained by the non-boxing fan perspective on these things.

Jimpanzee: Way to put it in a philosophical context!

Dammrod: Starting to annoy me too.

dammrod said...

So the Maskaev-Peter fight became the Rahman-Peter fight, which has now become the McCline-Peter fight. I have as much interest and passion for this fight, as James Toney has passion and interest for dieting.

Tim -- tstarks2@gmail.com said...

Dammrod: Excellent metaphor. I like Peter -- his personality, his power, and the way he outboxed master boxer Toney last time shows he's capable of learning -- but I can't say I'm thrilled about anyone on the list of people he might fight in place of Maskaev. Assuming they haven't resolved that c-f yet.

Dammrod said...

I like Peter too. He's humble, affable, and as the rematch with Toney proved, Peter is capable of improvement.

McCline is just a terrible opponent for Peter though. The guy just lost to Valuev and now he's fighting Peter? Talk about undeserved. I would prefer if Oliver McCall had been picked to fight Peter. That could be a fascinating match-up. A power puncher versus an iron chin.