There is no young fighter currently active in the heavyweight division who appears good enough to salvage what is boxing's biggest disgrace. The lack of quality big men is one of many factors which have contributed to the sport's gradual decline.
That doesn't mean, however, that boxing is short on bright, young talent. There are many relatively unknown fighters today who will be stars in the next three years.
Boxing is a difficult sport in which to define a prospect, so for the sake of this discussion, only fighters who will not have reached their 26th birthday by the end of 2008, who have had 25 or fewer pro fights, who have never fought for either a WBA, WBC, WBO or IBF world title and who have been a pro for three years or fewer are eligible for consideration.
3. Devon Alexander, super lightweight, 17-0, 10 KOs: Alexander is one of the few rising stars in promoter Don King's stable, but King inexplicably sat him for most of the year. Alexander routed former world champion DeMarcus Corley in January and one-time world-title challenger Miguel Callist in March, then didn't fight again for eight months. He's only 21 and is a slick boxer who must show more power to ascend to the upper reaches of the sport.
2. Deandre Latimore, super welterweight, 19-1, 16 KOs: Latimore's nickname is "The Bull," which gives one an idea of his style. After working with trainer Kenny Adams, you know the 22-year-old is going to improve, but he'll always be an entertaining fighter to watch. A June knockout of Sechew Powell opened plenty of eyes.
1. Danny Jacobs, super middleweight, 13-0, 12 KOs Jacobs hasn't fought anything close to quality opposition, but he's got lightning-fast hands with a lot of power. Eight of his knockouts have been in the first round. He's got quick feet as well as quick hands, allowing him to move into punching position and get off blows before his opponent is ready. It wouldn't be a surprise if Jacobs were to win a world title in the second half of 2009.
I'll reveal my pick for 2008 Trainer of the Year on Wednesday and my selection for the 2008 Fighter of the Year (tough to guess this one) on Friday.
Now, let's get to the mailbag and answer your questions and comments. My answers are in italics.
Magnitude of potential Pacquiao-Mayweather bout
I am interested in what you think the magnitude of a potential Manny Pacquiao fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr. would be. It would match the undisputed former pound-for-pound king against the current unanimous No. 1. It'd be way bigger than De La Hoya-Mayweather because it's not a great fighter vs. a popular declining fighter – it's two popular, truly great fighters under the age of 33 going at it. I have no idea, because it would easily be the biggest fight since I got really into boxing after watching the first Diego Corrales-Jose Luis Castillo fight in 2005. But I say it's the biggest since Sugar Ray Leonard-Marvin Hagler in 1987. And what weight do you think it would be fought at?
I think it would be a massive promotion and, if we judge how big a fight is by its pay-per-view sales, it would have a chance to be No. 1. However, I think it would be more realistic to expect between 1.75 and 2 million for a fight like that, which would put it in the top five of all time. The biggest fight I've covered, in terms of interest, excitement, hype and bout significance, was the 1997 rematch between Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield. I don't think a Mayweather-Pacquiao bout would approach that one, but there are few others in modern memory that would. If they fought, almost certainly the bout would be at welterweight.
No unified champions
I know this is a tired subject, but I just glanced at your site and realized that not a single weight class has a unified champ. How can this be? This is destroying the sport and nobody seems to care. I have barely heard of most of the guys on the list. A single belt, even with all the other problems, would go a long way to restoring credibility. Other suggestions: 1. Cut the weight classes in half. There are way too many and everybody knows it. The lowest weight classes are separated by as little as three pounds. 2. Hold yearly tournaments. Three fights a year is not too much to ask. Seed 1 through whatever while giving the returning champ a bye or two. And then, have a secondary tourney running at the same time for "spots" in upcoming years' tourneys. 3. Real-time scoring. Fighters should know what the score is as the fights progress. I think more people would lay it on the line and action would improve. Judges would be more accountable for their scoring. I love boxing but have been let down in recent years. Any of the above changes would be welcome additions.
It sounds good in theory, Ed, but your proposals won't fly for a variety of reasons. Your third proposal is open scoring, which is in use now and is an unmitigated disaster. What happens is that if a guy is way ahead, he quits taking risks and fighting hard. The tournament idea would be fun, but who would pay the fighters? Let's imagine under your scenario that we have De La Hoya, Pacquiao, Mayweather, Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito, Shane Mosley, Joshua Clottey and Zab Judah in a welterweight tournament. De La Hoya, Pacquiao and Mayweather would command eight figures a fight, and all of the rest with the exception of Clottey would command well over a million. It would be financially impossible to pull off. The solution is for the promoters, fighters and TV networks to forget about the sanctioning bodies and simply put on the best fights possible. That will return plenty of interest to the sport.
Holyfield was robbed
I started scoring fights myself recently and I just scored the Holyfield-Nikolai Valuev fight. Wow, was I shocked at the result! I had it 117-111 for Holyfield and I was giving Valuev two rounds to be nice. I really want to know where they get these judges from or how much they slip in their pockets prior to the fight. I am not saying Holyfield won that fight in spectacular fashion, but I believe he did enough to pull it out. Man, was I shocked, and wanted to see how you scored it. I also commend announcers Nick Charles and Al Bernstein for ripping the judges.
I wasn't there, Chris, so I didn't score the fight publicly (stay tuned, because I will release my score publicly for the very first time!). My colleague, Martin Rogers, was there, and he had it 116-112 for Valuev. Our blogger, Steve Cofield, had it 116-112 for Holyfield. Watching on television, I thought Holyfield won, 115-113, but it was a terrible performance by both men. Martin was surprised to hear so many people watching on television felt Holyfield had won. He told me in an email that 38 of 40 writers covering the fight in person who were polled by a Swiss newspaper had Valuev. I'm not sure what to make of it, since I wasn't there, but I know that both men stink and either would get cremated by a decent fighter.
Fight was rigged
What just happened in the Valuev-Holyfield fight? Valuev looked like he didn't want to break Holyfield's mug. Holyfield looked like he couldn't rattle my grandma, never mind the Russian Giant. The Real Deal clearly won the fight by virtue of his opponent's inactivity. The judges didn't buy what both boxers were so desperately trying to sell, and gave Valuev the decision. This raises questions about the integrity of the fighters, the judges and the sport as a whole. Was my view somehow skewed? If the above sounds reasonable, please enlighten us as to the forces at hand behind the odd decision concerning Valuev-Holyfield.
I don't think either fighter's integrity can be questioned; they simply stink. Nor do I have any evidence the judges did anything untoward. It's happened before. I was at a fight in Las Vegas in 2000 at the Paris Hotel & Casino in which it turned out the opening fight of the night was fixed. Richie Melito knocked out Thomas Williams in the first round and almost instantly, rumors that Williams took a dive began to circulate. I scoffed at it, but it not only turned out to be true – Williams was among several who went to jail. So it can happen, though I don't think in the Holyfield-Valuev fight that anything did. It was two awful fighters competing, and it was hard to choose between them.
When we talk about the poor state of heavyweight boxing, we are talking about the American heavyweights, right? Eastern Europe is dominating the division as the American heavyweights used to. If I was from there, I wouldn't think there was a problem at all.
I'll disagree with that, Ray. Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko are obviously quality heavyweights, and there are a couple of other decent Europeans, but there is no one even in Europe who is clearly a future star. Did you see Valuev on Saturday? He was awful, and this is a guy who has been running the table in Europe for several years. Guys such as Ruslan Chagaev and Sultan Ibragimov aren't exactly reminding anyone of Ali and Frazier, either. The Eastern Europeans are better as a whole than their American counterparts, but that's like saying the Bengals are better than the Lions. Yeah, but so what?
Network TV on the horizon?
Do you think we will see boxing on network TV soon? CBS' sister station, Showtime, has had a successful fighting series for years, ShoBox. Why don't they put some of the ShoBox fights back on CBS? Can you imagine if the three Rafael Marquez-Israel Vazquez fights had been on network TV?
Boxing doesn't draw enough ratings to get back on network television. ShoBox is a great series that pits young, up-and-coming prospects, but its ratings are abysmal if they're considered in the scope of network TV. It would be canceled after one episode, literally. It wouldn't be a surprise if a promoter, Top Rank or Golden Boy most likely, were to buy network TV time and put on a show, but I wouldn't hold my breath, unfortunately.
Kevin, how is Margarito ranked higher than Paul Williams?
It's a vote of 30 boxing writers, Jason, and people have different opinions. In my top 10 for December, I voted for Williams sixth and Margarito seventh, but when the votes were tallied, Margarito came in sixth and Williams eighth. For what it's worth, my votes in December were as follows: Pacquiao, Joe Calzaghe, Juan Manuel Marquez, Chad Dawson, Bernard Hopkins, Paul Williams, Antonio Margarito, Israel Vazquez, Miguel Cotto and Ivan Calderon.
Barrera against Campbell
I was curious of your opinion on what the result may be if Marco Antonio Barrera got a shot at Nate Campbell. I realize Marco looked bad against PacMan, but only a few months earlier I thought he gave Marquez a great fight. He also is known for having lows in his career but rallying to accomplish great things later. Could he have one more great fight in him? Or am I just a blindsided Barrera fan?
At this stage, I think Campbell would defeat Barrera handily. Barrera is one of the all-time greats, but he's long past it at this point. I'd think Campbell would stop him if they fought.
I recently was watching an interview with Shane Mosley and noticed some signs of slurred speech. I've been watching Shane for years, and I am concerned he is going down that path of many aged champions. Have you seen any of these signs that I have? Personally, I feel he has no chance against Margarito. Shane gave everything he had against Cotto and it still wasn't enough. I can't imagine, as an expert in boxing, you seeing this fight any different than what it will be: a one-sided affair.
Westlake Village, Calif.
I spoke to Shane at the De La Hoya-Pacquiao fight earlier this month and didn't notice slurring, but I will pay attention when I see him next month. It's certainly a risk, considering the fights he's taken. I favor Margarito, but not nearly as strongly as you do. I think Margarito wins, but it's not the Upset of the Century if Mosley does.
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