by Cliff Rold
Barring any errant sciatic nerves, boxing stands TWO weeks away from the conclusion of Showtime’s excellent Bantamweight tournament.
As in, we still have to get through this one. Last week, when the boxing landscape was THREE weeks out and counting on Lamont Peterson for high drama, the journey seemed longer (though, hey, Peterson-Cayo was a solid).
This week, we’ve got a knockout artist on tap. That’s never bad. Then…
For now, these are the picks of the week.
Pick It: #9 Kelly Pavlik vs. Darryl Cunningham (Friday, Showtime, 10:30 PM EST/PST)
It’s his second fight since losing the lineal World Middleweight Championship; his second straight start one class up at Super Middleweight. Pavlik (37-2, 32 KO) is still only 29 years old but feels older. The win for the crown over Jermain Taylor, the whole 2007 run, are distant memories. The Hopkins and losses, the rehab rumors, rebuttals, and realities, have dimmed what looked to be a new star for a sport that needs them. Cunningham (23-2, 10 KO) is in the way of putting the dark times behind, of getting to a possible crack at IBF titlist Lucian Bute. Pavlik would be the underdog if the Montreal draw gave him a crack. It would also be a chance for instant redemption. Pavlik makes good fights and is still a genuine KO threat to anyone.
Yeah, definitely still watching and this is a great week for a stay busy stint from someone like the “Ghost.”
Pick Too: Tim Coleman vs. Vernon Paris (Saturday, Fox Sports, 10 PM EST/PST)
Last year, Jr. Welterweight up and comer Coleman (19-1, 5 KO) scored an uncharacteristic (based on his numbers) ‘when is he fighting again’ knockout of Patrick Lopez. He looks to have a tougher assignment in his second fight since. Paris (24-0, 14 KO) is only 23 and already collecting some usual suspect scalps, faded veterans like Oscar Leon, Emanuel Augustus, and Courtney Burton. Those are learning rounds. This, one presumes, is where his career moves into its next phase. At the end of the night, at least one man is likely to emerge a face for tomorrow. If we’re lucky, the combination of youth and need will mark them both as such.
So, sure, the televised route is narrow but that makes this a great week for the creative fan. Got a fight you haven’t seen in years and want to see again? Check YouTube…maybe it’s there. Former Jr. Featherweight titlist Ryol Li Lee is also in action this week. He might show up on that site too. Also, ESPN Classic and the “insert cable company” channels have been showing some recent Main Events shows. Check local listings…
There’s always boxing.
And then, next week, yup, Bantamweights.
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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 protected]