(1/28/09) One of the paradoxes of the white domination of boxing from middleweight to heavyweight is that we hold 17 of the 20 belts in this weight range, yet only two whites are counted among the top 10 pound-for-pound fighters in the world. Joe Calzaghe and Ricky Hatton have achieved elite status, and several other white fighters look to make that same leap in 2009. Here are the fights that could help the wider public realize to what extent whites are rulers of the ring.
1. Ricky Hatton v. Manny Pacquiao
This on-again, off-again match is now on again. Pacquiao is the consensus top pound-for-pound fighter in the sport after moving up two weight classes and stopping Oscar Dela Hoya in December. But Ricky is clearly the best fighter at 140. Knockout wins over future Hall of Famers Kostya Tszyu and Jose Luis Castillo put Hatton in the mainstream, yet most know him for being stopped by Floyd Mayweather in 2007. The Pacquiao fight marks the second time Ricky has fought the top fighter in the game. Will Hatton be too big and aggressive for Manny? Was Dela Hoya shot and drained from coming in at his lowest weight in years? How much has new trainer Floyd Mayweather, Sr. added to Ricky’s defensive skills? These questions will be answered on May 2 in what will surely be the biggest fight of the year in boxing.
2. Wladimir Klitschko v. David Haye
At 32, Wlad is in his prime. While all observers rate him as the best heavyweight in boxing, none have him in their top 10 pound-for-pound list. His skin color is certainly a factor in this but another aspect is his competition – or lack thereof. Older brother Vitali is the only boxer who comes close to Wlad and the two said they will never fight. But former cruiserweight king David Haye has emerged as the new “Great Black Hope” of boxing. Actually, Haye is a mulatto from England. While he did dominate the cruiserweight division, he will give up about 25 pounds and 4 inches of height to Wladimir. Moreover, Haye is a mouthy boxer who trashes the Klitschkos every chance he gets. The caste worshipers are hoping a nd praying that their boy can bring the title “home” but don’t count on it. A prime Wladimir will show – once again – who the real king is at heavyweight.
3. Joe Calzaghe v. Chad Dawson
Few could blame Calzaghe if he decides to retire. Consecutive victories over Mikkel Kessler, Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones have cemented his name in boxing history. At 46-0, his place in the Hall of Fame is secure but there are still some doubters given the lack of other big names on his resume. Hopkins and Jones are two of the greatest boxers of this era but were allegedly past their primes when Joe fought them (though Joe is about the same age as Roy). Rumor has it that the Welshman wants one more fight before hanging up the gloves. Chad Dawson is the obvious choice as he is a well-hyped, borderline top 10 pound-for pound-fighter. Beating a prime Dawson will end any complaints about Joe’s resume.
4. Kelly Pavlik v. Paul Williams
Along with Chad Dawson, these two are the only young American boxers who the experts seem to get excited about. Williams does have a victory over Antonio Margarito but he also has an embarrassing loss to Carlos Quintana. Still, he is rated in the top 10 pound-for-pound by Yahoo. Pavlik has defeated Jermaine Taylor (twice) and Edison Miranda but fell out of the top 10 after losing to Bernard Hopkins last year in a bout held at 170 (10 pounds above the middleweight limit). This would seem to indicate the all-too–familiar pattern of whites having to go undefeated to get any credit, while blacks can lose a fight and not be badly penalized. If Williams beats Winky Wright and Pavlik beats Marco Antonio Rubio next month, the two could clash this summer. Williams will fight a bigger fighter for the first time and discover the difference between a welterweight and a middleweight. A win will put Kelly back in the elite of boxing — where he belongs.
5. Vitali Klitschko v. Lennox Lewis
When these two giant heavyweights met in June 2003, few gave Vitali much of a chance. But Klitschko pressured Lewis from the opening bell and had him hurt several times. At the end of the 6th round the referee stopped the fight due to a horrendous cut suffered by Vitali. An exhausted Lewis was clearly relieved but the elder Klitschko was ready to continue and seemed on the verge of stopping the champion, who retired rather than fight a rematch. Klitschko keeps pressing for one and there is a slight chance Lennox will come out of retirement for one fight. After almost 6 years of being inactive he will have little chance of beating the Ukrainian. But the match will draw huge numbers and offer a huge payday to both fighters. It will also allow Klitschko to get his revenge.
Other potential fights of note:
Mikkel Kessler v. Bernard Hopkins
Carl Froch v. Jermaine Taylor
Tomasz Adamek v. Steve Cunningham (rematch)
Kelly Pavlik v. Arthur Abraham
Sergei Dzindziruk v. Paul Williams