It's been quite a year already for upsets in boxing, but it's heartening to see so many fair fights being made, bought and aired on American television. [Pay Per View, however, remains the vehicle of choice for A-list celebrity fighters to dominate but not quite annihilate jobbers-to-the-stars like Shane Mosley and Ricardo Mayorga.]
Tonight, ESPN2 and ESPN3.com air an intriguing crossroads fight between two perennial but wilting contenders: Julio Diaz (38-6, 27 by KO) and Kendall Holt (26-4, 14 by KO). Preferring the lower-rent, higher-volume productions of SHOBOX: THE NEW GENERATION and FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS -- I can't read the fight's location "the Chumash Casino in Santa Ynez, California" without hearing announcer "The Classy" Jimmy Lennon Jr. saying it in my head -- to the one- or two-fight cards that HBO airs, I've probably seen Holt fight more than any other boxer active this decade, which is good because he's easy to root for despite [perhaps because of] his erratic performance record: Getting stopped by rookie Thomas Davis in the first round, but bouncing back to take the 0s of major contenders David Diaz and Isaac Hlatshwayo before routing a prime Mike Arnaoutis for the WBO light-welterweight title ... which he then dropped to Ricardo Torres in one wild, bizarre fight ... which he quickly avenged with his left hook and head via a first-round knockout in their rematch. It's funny how quickly forgotten that 140-pound rivalry was forgotten; to hear some people talk, you would think that the division didn't even exist until a few years ago, when Manny Pacquiao took a respite from bulking up from the second Juan Manuel Marquez fight to the De La Hoya match by beating David Diaz at 140, which begat Tim Bradley, Amir Khan, Marcos Maidana and the rest of the division the following day.
Anyway, it's unfair that dropping a close unanimous-decision loss to young lion Bradley followed by an RTD loss to a beast like Kaizer Mabuza has sidelined Holt so thoroughly -- although the aftermath of Holt getting caught and pleading guilty to laundering drug money for his manager shortly before the Bradley fight may have left him a bit unfocused on boxing over the last few years [Boxers are not known for their business acumen] -- and that he's in something of a do-or-die situation tonight. All that said, in Diaz he has a better than 50-50 shot at victory if he has prepared as well as he used to do. It should be a decent fight, regardless.
Tomorrow night, on Showtime, the Super Six Super-Middleweight Boxing Classic resumes with a fight that I imagine/hope will be more than the foregone conclusion most of the boxing-press herd have decided it should be: tournament favorite Andre Ward faces off against former-middleweight-champion-still-having-trouble-adjusting-to-168-pounds Arthur Abraham. No one can say until the fight's on whether King Arthur will have rediscovered his balance and punching power at SMW, and perhaps even grasped that boxing matches outside of Germany don't start when he decides to start punching, but I would hope that he has. He seems too proud to be anyone's tomato can. Ward, on the other hand, continues to improve himself without inspiring his audience; a generation ago, he already would have made the cover of the Wheaties box, but that seems an impossible dream even if he outpoints Abraham tonight, defeats the Carl Froch/Glen Johnson winner in the fall and even Lucian Bute next year, a sourness in his ring appearances that even keeps him off the most jingoistic of Top Ten pound-for-pound lists. In that regard, Ward is one of the most fascinating figures in the sport today. Anyway, I'm backing the underdog King to give the "Song of God" more hell than most expect, even though he'll never win the fight on the judges' scorecards.
6:36PM UPDATE: Good showing from junior-middleweight prospect Jonathan Gonzalez. Not that it will/should ever be syndicated, but they should retitle THE CONTENDER "THE OPPONENT" in reruns, as that's all that show ever produced.
7PM UPDATE: Awesome liver shot from Roman. I'm loving the haterade that Joe Tessitore and Teddy Atlas are righteously pouring over the Pacquiao/Mosley bill-of-good stinkfest.
7:38PM UPDATE: Textbook body-to-head pair of left hooks puts Diaz out. Good on "Rated R" .... who really could use a better nickname to go with his new giant manager and second chance at being an A-list fighter.