By Lyle Fitzsimmons
It’s official. I know nothing about sports.
And while I realize that’s a conclusion several message-board and blog jockeys have been happy to announce at myriad points since the column went weekly in 2007, it was a finality I realized only Sunday while watching the last of the weekend’s four NFL playoff games.
As I told my wife at the close of the Denver-Pittsburgh game (and if you haven’t seen it, you ought to) I was so sure of the Steelers’ superiority going in that I’d have bet anything – my house, my dog, my son… her – that the Tim Tebow phenomenon would be snuffed to the tune of, say, 27-3.
Make no mistake, I’m a Tebow fan. I live in the epicenter of all things Gator. The aforementioned son was born in Gainesville during No. 15’s last championship football season. And one of my side jobs takes me to the campus a few times a week to cover the men’s basketball team.
But in spite of that immersion and affection, a Broncos’ win Sunday was simply an impossibility.
Mark it down. Couldn’t happen.
Anyway, as it relates to boxing, the jaw-dropping nature of the football conclusion got me thinking about the handful of times I’ve walked into a boxing match – either literally in person, or figuratively on television – so sure of its outcome that I’d wager my most prized possessions.
And the number of times such an outlay would have left me living under a bridge.
Let’s see… Hearns-Leonard, Hearns-Hagler, Hearns-Barkley, Moorer-Foreman, Jones-Tarver, De La Hoya-Pacquiao, Pavlik-Hopkins… errr, let’s just say the next time won’t be the first.
Still, it seems neither the mounting number of misfires nor my better judgment has made me any less bold when it comes to bold proclamations regarding all things ring-related.
Along with being sports-illiterate, I suppose I’m a bit on the stubborn side as well.
So without further ado, read on to be the first on your block with the results of these hopefully upcoming big fights… and when it comes time to collect your winnings, remember your uber-prescient Tuesday morning friend.
Because if I’m wrong, I’ll be looking for a place to crash.
Vitali Klitschko-David Haye : OK, it’s not exactly a big fight after the Brit’s 2011 debacle with little brother Wladimir, but it’s still heads and shoulders than seeing the boys repeatedly kick around uninteresting divisional flotsam like Chris Arreola, Tony Thompson or Jean-Marc Mormeck, no? Regardless, if it happens, it’ll end far more entertainingly – that is, if a few minutes of fencing and an out-cold Haye is your idea of entertainment.
Bernard Hopkins-Lucian Bute: I was in Montreal for Hopkins’s rematch with Jean Pascal. I saw the response Bute got when shown on the video board before the fight. And I heard Hopkins say afterward that he’d like to come back to Canada for another crack at a local hero. So, while I still think Chad Dawson would beat the old man in a rematch of their own, I’d expect Bernard to choose international intrigue over domestic drowsiness and be willing to trash a WBC belt in the process. Oh, by the way, I think he wins the fight, too, with another 12 rounds of intermittent violence and athletic mind-games.
Andre Ward-Lucian Bute: On the off-chance the showdown with Hopkins doesn’t occur, it’s not as if Bute will be out of options. In fact, he need look no further than right beside him – or above him, if you prefer – on the 168-pound ladder to the multiple-belt champion and recent Showtime kingpin, who’s gone from overhyped Olympian to pound-for-pound climber in near-record time. It’ll take some out-of-ring wrangling to get it done, but, if it occurs, look for Ward to again prove his worth with a convincing – say, in the neighborhood of 116-112 – verdict over 12 rounds.
Sergio Martinez-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.: No matter where he goes, the classy Argentine is inconveniently in between the weight classes where the action is. So, with no rise to face Ward or drop to face Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the immediate future, he’ll instead be fed the son of a Mexican legend – whose own street cred, while surely building, is just as surely still over-inflated by name value. Unfortunately for the kid, Martinez is not one to tangle with while the jury’s still out on whether you belong. This one doesn’t go the route, with Martinez ending matters by round 8.
Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao: The masses who believe this one will happen tend to swell and deflate daily, but count me in among the group that not only sees it happening – but sees it happening within the next calendar year. And when it does, nothing’s changed. And nothing will. It’ll go down exactly how I’ve seen it since day one. In my view, Mayweather is simply too good. He’s too smart. He’s too slick. He’s too sharp. And when you combine those factors, it’s a bad, bad night for the Filipino. The damage he’s incurred from occasional big shots delivered by Margarito, Cotto, etc. will be magnified with repetitive precision by the other-worldly “Money,” meaning an inside-the-distance loss for Manny and an unfettered ride to Canastota for the planet’s best fighter.
There you go… you’re welcome.
And when it comes time to collect your winnings from successfully-placed wagers, don’t think you have to drop me a card or anything.
Your undying respect makes it all worthwhile.
So help me Tebow.
* * * * * * * * * *
This week’s title-fight schedule:
WBO super middleweight title –Offenburg, Germany
Robert Stieglitz (champion) vs. Henry Weber (No. 14 contender)
Stieglitz (40-2, 23 KO): Fifth title defense; Unbeaten since 2008 (9-0, 4 KO)
Weber (15-0-1, 3 KO): First title fight; First time scheduled beyond eight rounds
Fitzbitz says: “Too big a step for German-born youngster, even at home.” Stieglitz in 10
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA “world championships” are only included if no “super champion” exists in the weight class.
Last week's picks: None
Overall picks record: 277-92 (75.0 percent)
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.