By Cliff Rold
Arthur Abraham (28-0, 23 KO), the IBF Middleweight titlist who might be his classes best fighter, but whom ‘not enough people have heard of’ to make a fight with World Middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik, fights this week against whatever foe Lujuan Simon. It’s not a pick of the week but the name mention should add at least a few to the ‘now I know’ crowd.
With that done, this is the sort of week made for the real hardcore fans. It’s easy to get excited about the superstar showdowns of recent weeks, but the real wonks get up for stuff the rest of the world hasn’t caught onto yet. Mix in an aged superstar and a damaged young hopeful for combat and this could surprise folks as one of 2009’s best stretches so far.
These are picks of the week.
Pick It: Marco Antonio Barrera-Amir Khan (In Demand PPV, Saturday, 4 PM EST/1 PM PST)
Unable in a second attempt to defeat Manny Pacquiao, one fight after narrowly losing to Juan Manuel Marquez, the great Barrera (65-6, 43 KO) was deemed by some as at the end of his rope. Considering the particularly competitive outing with Marquez in 2007 and the overall performance of both Marquez and Pacquiao since, perhaps Barrera has more left than assumed. This Saturday, arguably the best foreign market pay-per-view offered in a recent spate should give us some answers in a classic crossroads match which won’t live down to the cliché. Across the ring from the 35-year old Mexican will be 22-year old 2004 Olympic Silver Medalist Amir Khan (19-1, 15 KO). Khan has it all: speed, public affection, power and one tiny problem limiting his ascent to superstardom. The problem? His chin. It doesn’t appear he has one, having been dropped more than once against average hitters and blown out in one by big punching Breidis Prescott two fights ago. Barrera is unproven at Lightweight. Khan is unproven as a professional. This could be fascinating theatre. Bolstering the card will be an outstanding WBO Jr. Lightweight title tilt between Nicky Cook (29-1, 16 KO) and Roman Martinez (21-0-1, 12 KO). Martinez comes to do nothing but war; Cook hasn’t been shy about battle so far. This could be a sleeper for fight of the week and a solid top ten showdown at 130 lbs. Altogether it’s only $24.95 and with two quality fights will be twice as entertaining as anything most people paid twice as much for in 2008.
Pick Sho: Lucian Bute-Fulgencio Zuniga (Showtime, Friday, 11 PM EST/PST)
The serious hardcore types might still be arguing about the end of the IBF 168 lb titlist Bute’s last outing, a controversial off the floor in the last seconds win over Librado Andrade, but there is no doubting the Candaian-based Romanian’s talents. Bute (23-0, 18 KO) has speed, some pop, and all sorts of awkward southpaw to dish out. What Andrade raised were questions about his durability, his toughness in a deep war. Zuniga (22-3-1, 19 KO) is just the sort of spoiler to test those elements. So far, he only loses to the best (Kelly Pavlik, Daniel Santos, Denis Inkin…major titlists or champions all). Anyone else, tough outs like David Lopez and Jose Luis Zertuche or an undefeated Victor Oganov, and Zuniga leaves with his hand raised. With all those quality rounds behind him, he enters this Friday’s showdown with enough accumulated ring knowledge to make start some drama. In a division as loaded as any in Boxing, Super Middleweight, it could be the opportunity of a fistic lifetime.
Pick Google: Hozumi Hasegawa-Vusi Malinga (Somewhere in Cyberspace)
Before either of the first two cards noted, likely while most Americans are asleep, this WBC Bantamweight clash will be going down. The titlist, Hasegawa (25-2, 9 KO), is probably the best 118 lb. warrior in the business. His opponent, Vusi Malinga (18-2-1, 11 KO), is a serious top ten man at weight and is one of his toughest tests to date in a reign going back to 2005. Malinga hasn’t lost since dropping two of his first three bouts and stopped the once near-great divisional champion Veraphol Sahaprom in his last bout. Hasegawa was the man who ended Sahaprom’s double digit title reign. YouTube or something like it is the best bet for at least quality clips. Do yourself a favor and find them.
Back in seven.
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at email@example.com