By Cliff Rold

The day that makes a leap year leap is gone to history.  Gone with it are the moments that stood out, better and worse, for Boxing in February 2008.  February 29th of this year also holds a special place in my heart because it marks the 70th birthday of Superman, but that’s not what you’re reading for. 

On the subject of fisticuffs, it can be observed that boxing was a very good month where it could be expected to be but disappointing in terms of success in furthering mainstream attentions.  The failure came where it has come for much of this decade, at the very top of the scale.  The Heavyweight unification bout between Wladimir Klitschko and Sultan Ibragimov got a ton of ink and produced a result comparable to a rank fart in an elevator.  There’s no positive spin that can be put on it except to note that it is over.

The rest of the sport stepped up to save the day.  If a new viewer were happening upon anything other than the biggest boys, they should still be around in March.  The best of the 115 lb. weight class were on display and showed the world what too many have been missing in the last couple years.  Carlos Quintana pulled off a monster upset of Paul Williams to take home the WBO Welterweight belt while the champion of that division, Floyd Mayweather decided to take a trip to Wrestlemania. 

To the benefit of boxing, a good month was merely a lead to what could be a truly great one.  In March, the Cruiserweight, Lightweight and Flyweight championships of the World will be on the line and the supporting casts of those men will not be far behind.  Jr. Welterweight will hold an intriguing bout between WBA titlist Gavin Rees and Andreas Kotelnik and Super Middleweight has a sleeper on tap in Carl Froch-Denis Inkin. 

And that doesn’t even factor in Vasquez-Marquez III for the World Jr. Featherweight title.

Before we get to all of that, let’s look backwards at the best highlights of the month now closed.

Fighter of the Month:  Fernando Montiel (36-2-1, 27 KO, WBO Jr. Bantamweight titlist)

He’d never won a big one on a big stage.  In his two previous attempts, in HBO Boxing After Dark highlighted bouts against Mark Johnson and Jhonny Gonzalez, he had appeared almost overwhelmed by the moments.  On February 16, 2008, those losses were put behind the 28-year old Fernando Montiel and were replaced by the anticipation for what could be the most anticipated 115 lb. bout, at least in the United States, since Johnny Tapia and Danny Romero a decade ago.  In four devastating rounds, Montiel blew out one of his division’s best fighters in Martin Castillo (33-3, 17 KO).  While Castillo had appeared since 2006 to perhaps be losing a step, no one predicted anything like this.  Castillo had been too good for too long and slippage wasn’t enough to entirely explain this result.  Montiel dropped Castillo with a left hook in the first and never let up, ultimately stopping his man along the ropes with a body shot.  That sets the stage for a fight that any true boxing fan can salivate over: a showdown with fellow Mexican countryman Cristian Mijares (34-3-2, 14 KO), the WBC titlist at 115 lbs. who looked brilliant in defeating former U.S. Olympian Jose Navarro only one fight earlier on the same card as Montiel-Castillo.  It was a career validating win for Montiel and more than enough to declare him the fighter of the month. 

Fight of the Month:  Kelly Pavlik W UD12 Jermain Taylor

On the same card as Montiel-Castillo, World Middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik faced down former champion Jermain Taylor for the second time.  It didn’t get much easier than it had the first time around and the fans could be thankful for that.  From my post-fight report card (https://www.boxingscene.com/?m=show&id=12670):

It wasn’t quite the donnybrook that their first fight was, but the non-title rematch between the World Middleweight champion Pavlik (33-0, 29 KO) and former champion Jermain Taylor (27-2-1, 17 KO) was still one heck of a fun fight.  Those who picked this bout to be a closer, more tactical affair than the first encounter (that wasn’t me; I thought Pavlik would win by KO in the first half of the fight) were proved correct as Taylor, 29, called upon his many years of amateur experience and the rigors of his professional schooling to push Pavlik as far as he could have.

It appears after two bouts that Taylor just can’t push Pavlik far enough…The bout was no defensive clinic but each man did enough to show that they had studied well the steps and missteps that defined their first encounter.  Taylor was considerably less open to Pavlik’s straight right hand, and vice-versa…It was twelve rounds of heavy hitting that told the world new things about both men.  We know now that Taylor can make adjustments.  We know that Pavlik can handle the heat of a full twelve rounds.  And we know that these two probably aren’t capable of making a bad fight against each other.

Ratings Movement

The fight and fighter of the month were only the tip of the iceberg.  BoxingScene published its first full quarterly ratings at the beginning of January and there were big results affecting the next list in April.  Here are the results for rated fighters in February and what is scheduled for them in March; full ratings can be found at: https://www.boxingscene.com/?m=show&id=11902

Heavyweight (201 lbs. – Unlimited)

02/16: #6 Nicolay Valuev (47-1, 34 KO) WUD #9 Serguei Lyakhovich (23-2, 14 KO)

02/23: #1 Wladimir Klitschko (49-3, 44 KO, IBF/WBO) W UD12 #5 Sultan Ibragimov (22-1-1, 17 KO)

Scheduled for March

03/08: #3 Samuel Peter (29-1, 22 KO, WBC Interim) v. #4 Oleg Maskaev (34-5, 26 KO, WBC)

Cruiserweight (176-200 lbs.)

02/09: #6 Krysztof Wlodarczyk (40-2, 30 KO) W TKO4 Gabor Halasz (20-11, 8 KO)

02/23: #9 Grigory Drozd (29-1, 22 KO) W UD8 Michael Simms (19-9-1, 13 KO)

Scheduled for March

03/08: World Champion David Haye (20-1, 19 KO, Lineal/Ring/WBC/WBA) v. Enzo Maccarinelli (28-1, 21 KO, WBO)

03/08: #8 Matt Godfrey (16-0, 9 KO) v. Ruldoph Kraj (13-0, 10 KO)

Light Heavyweight (169-175 lbs.)

02/23: Yuri Barashian (25-2, 17 KO) W TKO8 #8 Thomas Ulrich (31-4, 21 KO)

No BoxingScene rated fighters scheduled to compete in March

Super Middleweight (161-168 lbs.)

02/16: (Non-Title at 166 lbs.) World Middleweight Champion Kelly Pavlik (33-0, 29 KO, Lineal/Ring/WBC/WBO) WUD #3 at Middleweight Jermain Taylor (27-2-1, 17 KO)

02/27: #1 Anthony Mundine (31-3, 23 KO, WBA) W UD12 Nader Hamdan (40-6, 18 KO)

02/29: #2 Lucien Bute (22-0, 18 KO, IBF) W TKO10 William Joppy (39-5-1, 30 KO)

Scheduled for March

03/29: #4 Denis Inkin (32-0, 24 KO) v. #5 Carl Froch (22-0, 18 KO)

Middleweight (155-160 lbs.)

02/01: #10 Amin Asikainen (24-1, 16 KO) W TKO7 Yori Boy Campas (91-11, 73 KO)

02/23: #7 John Duddy (24-0, 17 KO) W MD10 Walid Smichet (17-4-3, 13 KO)

Scheduled for March

03/29: #1 Arthur Abraham (25-0, 20 KO, IBF) v. Elvin Ayala (18-2-1, 8 KO)

Jr. Middleweight (148-154 lbs.)

02/16: #7 Sergio Martinez (42-1-1, 22 KO) W UD4 Eduardo Sanchez (16-6-2, 9 KO)

Scheduled for March

03/27: #1 Cory Spinks (36-4, 11 KO, IBF) v. Verno Phillips (41-10-1, 21 KO)

Welterweight (141-147 lbs.)

02/09: Carlos Quintana (25-1, 19 KO, WBO) W UD12 #2 Paul Williams (33-1, 24 KO)

02/09: #8 Andre Berto (21-0, 18 KO) W TKO6 Michael Trabant (43-3-1, 19 KO)

No BoxingScene rated fighters are scheduled to compete in March.

Jr. Welterweight (136-140 lbs.)

No BoxingScene rated fighters competed in February.

Scheduled for March

03/08: #6 Jose Luis Castillo (56-8-1, 46 KO) v. Timothy Bradley (21-0, 11 KO)

03/08: #8 Souleymane M’Baye (36-2-1, 21 KO) v. Jose Soto (22-4-2, 11 KO)

03/22: #4 Gavin Rees (27-0, 13 KO, WBA) v. #9 Andreas Kotelnik (28-2-1, 12 KO)

Lightweight (131-135 lbs.)

No BoxingScene rated fighters competed in February.

Scheduled for March

03/08: #1 Juan Diaz (33-0, 17 KO, WBA/IBF/WBO) v. #4 Nate Campbell (31-5-1, 25 KO)

03/15: #2 David Diaz (33-1-1, 17 KO, WBC) v. Ramon Montano (14-3-2, 0 KO)

03/22: World Champion Joel Casamayor (35-3-1, 21 KO, Lineal/Ring/WBC Interim) v. #6 Michael Katsidis (23-0, 20 KO)

Jr. Lightweight (127-130 lbs.)

No BoxingScene rated fighters competed in February.

Scheduled for March

03/15: #1 Juan Manuel Marquez (48-3-1, 35 KO, WBC) v. #2 Manny Pacquiao (45-3-2, 35 KO) for the vacant World championship

Featherweight (123-126 lbs.)

02/29: #2 Robert Guerrero (22-1-1, 15 KO, IBF) W KO8 Jason Litzau (23-2, 19 KO)

Scheduled for March

03/15: #4 Steven Luevano (34-1, 15 KO, WBO) v. Terdsak Jandaeng (29-2, 19 KO)

Jr. Featherweight (119-122 lbs.)

02/23: #8 Juan Manuel Lopez (21-0, 19 KO) W TKO3 Jonathan Oquendo (14-2, 9 KO)

Scheduled for March

03/01: World Champion Israel Vasquez (42-4, 31 KO, Lineal/Ring/WBC) v. #4 Rafael Marquez (37-4, 33 KO)

03/07: #10 Kiko Martinez (17-0, 14 KO) v. Rendall Munroe (13-1, 9 KO)

03/24: #5 Somsak Sithchatchawal (56-2-1, 44 KO) v. Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym (32-1, 22 KO)

Bantamweight (116-118 lbs.)

02/02: #7 Silence Mabuza (21-2, 17 KO) WTKO8 Eden Sonsona (14-3, 3 KO)

No BoxingScene rated fighters scheduled to compete in March

Jr. Bantamweight (113-115 lbs.)

02/02: #7 Vic Darchinyan (29-1-1, 23 KO) Draw 12 Z Gorres (27-2-1, 15 KO)

02/16: #1 Cristian Mijares (34-3-2, 14 KO, WBC) W SD12 Jose Navarro (26-4, 12 KO)

02/16: #2 Fernando Montiel (36-2-1, 27 KO, WBO) W KO4 #4 Martin Castillo (33-3, 17 KO)

02/28: #5 Dimitri Kirilov (29-3-1, 9 KO, IBF) Draw 12 Cecilio Santos (22-8-3, 12 KO)

Scheduled for March

03/23: #6 Nobuo Nashiro (10-1, 6 KO) v. Sairung Suwanasil (42-12, 26 KO)

Flyweight (109-112 lbs.)

No BoxingScene rated fighters competed in February.

Scheduled for March

03/08: World Champion Daisuke Naito (32-2-2, 20 KO, Lineal/WBC) v. #4 Pongsaklek Wonjongkam (65-3, 34 KO)

03/22: #6 Koki Kameda (16-0, 11 KO) v. Rexon Flores (18-3-4, 9 KO)

03/27: #7 Roberto Vasquez (24-2, 17 KO) v. Jesus Lora (6-3, 3 KO)

03/29: #2 Takefumi Sakata (31-4-2, 15 KO, WBA) v. Shingo Yamaguchi (22-4-2, 8 KO)

Jr. Flyweight (106-108 lbs.)

02/09: #2 Edgar Sosa (31-5, 16 KO, WBC) W UD12 Jesus Iribe (13-5-1, 7 KO)

02/16: #6 Brian Viloria (21-2, 12 KO) W UD8 Cesar Lopez (20-6, 4 KO)

No BoxingScene rated fighters scheduled to compete in February

Strawweight (105 lbs.)

02/14: #10 Pornsawan Kratingdaenggym (21-1, 16 KO) W TKO5 Richard Garcia (14-10, 3 KO)

Scheduled for March

03/01: #3 Yutaka Niida (22-1, 8 KO, WBA) v. Jose Luis Varela (15-3, 7 KO)

Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America.  He can be reached at roldboxing@hotmail.com