By Cliff Rold

In boxing, there are no official seasons, leaving only the split second that marks the change from one year to another as the sports ‘training camp’ period.  With January now in the rear view mirror, and an exceptional February slate already underway, that means the new boxing season is officially in full swing.

If January was any indication, the sport is building successfully on its 2007 momentum both in the ring and at the bank.  Roy Jones-Felix Trinidad had problems with ticket sales but its pay-per-view haul of some 500,000 viewers showed that both those old titans still mean something to the fans.  That bout and its undercard provided fistic fireworks worth every penny.  The announcement of an Oscar De La Hoya appearance and the Bernard Hopkins-Joe Calzaghe fight as free HBO showings also occurred in January and were met with enthusiasm from fans and pundits.

The highlights of the month were many, but these stand out as the best of the best.

Fighter of the Month:  Roy Jones Jr.

Jones (52-4, 38 KO) is still not Jones anymore in the ring.  Don’t tell that to his most ardent supporters.  With one major appearance, and sturdy performance, against Trinidad (42-3, 35 KO), the future first ballot Hall of Fame icon has returned to prominence in a big way.  The haul he and Trinidad made in TV money makes him, now years after dramatic wipe-outs against Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson, the most viable economic force in the Light Heavyweight division.

Jones aided his future cause in the Trinidad fight with more than the cash created.  Jones put on a flashy show against Trinidad, dropping him twice and showboating in spots to the enthusiasm of those inside the Garden for the event.  For twelve rounds, Jones looked close enough to his old form that it will allow many fans to see him as a viable threat to fighters like World Super Middleweight champion Joe Calzaghe or the winner of the Kelly Pavlik-Jermain Taylor rematch. 

Is he truly viable against those foes?  It’s unlikely, as each will present a greater threat than the much smaller Trinidad whose chance of victory, landing a flush left hook, was as predictable and stifled as it had been in the past against master boxers.  That doesn’t mean Jones could not be viable if Hopkins (48-4-1, 32 KO, Ring Light Heavyweight titlist) gets past Calzaghe (44-0, 32 KO).  Hard as it is to believe, a Jones-Hopkins rematch some 15 years after their first go around stands out as potentially one of the richest fights that could occur in the latter half of 2008. 

That is a discussion for another day.  Hopkins still has a very tall order in front of him in April and Jones could find other temptations along the way.  In the meantime, Roy gets credit for putting becoming the talk of the sport, and the economic target of anyone with sense, at a time when it seemed those days were long beyond him.

Fight of the Month:  Alexander Munoz WUD 12 Katsushige Kawashima

In the first of what is becoming a series of excellently conceived matches at 115 lbs. this year, Munoz (32-2, 27 KO, WBA titlist) of Venezuela held off a fantastic effort from the former lineal World Jr. Bantamweight champion Kawashima (32-7, 21 KO) of Japan on January 14 at the Bunka Gym in Yokohama. 

The 33-year old Kawashima appeared in recent fare to be a spent force.  He’d lost three of his last six coming into the Munoz bout and, if his 2005 bout with Jose Navarro had been scored fairly, it would have been four of seven.  His two wins following a knockout loss to Cristian Mijares were against novice fodder and spoke little of his prospects against a 28-year old Munoz who had warred with Martin Castillo in early 2006 and mastered Castillo conqueror Nobuo Nashiro in 2007.

Prospects in this case are another way of saying opinions. Both vary in their accuracy and that’s why they fight the fights.   

Munoz controlled a measured first round with his jab with only a single, furious right hand at the bell from Kawashima to keep him honest.  The bout continued in that fashion in the second and third, with Munoz using the jab and stepping inside for increasingly harder combinations and Kawashima looking for spots to land hard counters.  The fight would take a more vicious turn in the fourth.

Munoz was still using the jab to great affect but was leaving his left arm hanging a bit too long when pulling the jab back.  Kawashima began threading the needle’s head that opened up with a looping right over the top, forcing Munoz to fire back and leaving both open to exchanges.  The momentum built to the closing seconds of the round as each stood along the ropes swinging with abandon.  The next three rounds were much the same with tactical starts leading to spots of savage fire from both men.  It didn’t appear that Munoz was losing many rounds, but that would change in the seventh.

After another tactical start, Munoz and Kawashima would find themselves at ring center trading snarling body shots while Munoz worked the left uppercut and Kawashima continued to hurl his right.  In the closing minute, one of those rights landed flush and clearly captured Munoz’s attention.  Kawashima came forward to the encouragement of his local fans and continued to pile punishment on the defending titlist.

Munoz came back with determined eighth to repay that punishment and on they continued with more peaks than valleys in the ninth and tenth.  Each landed their share of shots, but Munoz steadily landed more.  The eleventh was perhaps the finest round of the fight as Kawashima seemingly poured every bit of himself into every shot and a fatigued Munoz was left clinching and swinging arm shots just to hold him off.  Munoz continued those tactics the 12th, willing himself to outpunch his charging opponent, winning the round on sheer volume.  Munoz would capture the fight by scores 15-114, 115-113, and 117-111.

It was a magnificent, high-character effort from both diminutive warriors.  It was also the world’s best fight in January of 2008.

Ratings Movement

Of course the fight and fighter of the month were not the only notable occurrences of the month.  Boxing Scene published its first cumulative ratings at the beginning of the month and many of the fighters featured there were in action all over the scale.  Here are the results for rated fighters in January and what is scheduled for them in February; full ratings can be found at: Click Here 

Pay special attention to the upcoming matches at Heavyweight and Jr. Bantamweight, boxing’s two hottest division’s in February

Heavyweight (201 lbs. – Unlimited)

01/19: #2 Ruslan Chagaev (24-0-1, 17 KO, WBA) WUD Matt Skelton (21-2, 18 KO)

Scheduled for February

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

02/23: #1 Wladimir Klitschko (49-3, 44 KO, IBF) v. #5 Sultan Ibragimov (22-0-1, 17 KO, WBO)

Cruiserweight (176-200 lbs.)

No fights between Boxing Scene rated fighters in January.

Scheduled for February

02/09: #6 Krysztof Wlodarczyk (39-2, 29 KO) v. Gabor Halasz (20-10, 8 KO)

02/23: #9 Grigory Drozd (28-1, 22 KO) v. Michael Simms (19-7-1, 13 KO)

Light Heavyweight (169-175 lbs.)

01/05: #6 Glen Johnson (42-11-2, 32 KO) WTKO8 Hugo Pineda (39-4-1, 28 KO)

01/19: #7 Roy Jones Jr. (52-4, 38 KO) WUD Felix Trinidad (42-3, 35 KO)

Scheduled for February 

02/23: #8 Thomas Ulrich (31-3, 21 KO) v. Yuri Barashian (24-3, 16 KO)

Super Middleweight (161-168 lbs.)

No fights between Boxing Scene rated fighters in January.

Scheduled for February

02/16: (Non-Title at 166 lbs.) World Middleweight Champion Kelly Pavlik (32-0, 29 KO) v. #3 at Middleweight Jermain Taylor (27-1-1, 17 KO)

02/23: #7 Juergen Braehmer (30-1, 24 KO) v. Gusmyl Perdomo (14-2, 8 KO)

02/27: #1 Anthony Mundine (30-3, 23 KO, WBA) v. Nader Hamdan (40-5, 18 KO)

Middleweight (155-160 lbs.)

01/26: #5 Sebastian Sylvester (28-2, 13 KO) WUD Francois Bastient (33-6-1, 15 KO)

Already Completed in February

02/01: #10 Amin Asikainen (24-1, 16 KO) WTKO7 Yori Boy Campas (91-11, 73 KO)

Still Scheduled for February

02/23: #7 John Duddy (23-0, 17 KO) v. Walid Smichet (17-3-3, 13 KO)

Jr. Middleweight (148-154 lbs.)

01/19: Alex Bunema (29-5-2, 15 KO) WTKO10 #6 Roman Karmazin (36-3-1, 23 KO)

Scheduled for February

02/16: #7 Sergio Martinez (41-1-1, 22 KO) v. Eduardo Sanchez (16-6-2, 9 KO)

Welterweight (141-147 lbs.)

01/19: #6 Luis Collazo (28-3, 13 KO) WUD Edvan Barros (9-5-1, 7 KO)

Scheduled for February

02/09: #2 Paul Williams (33-0, 24 KO, WBO) v. Carlos Quintana (24-1, 19 KO)

02/09: #8 Andre Berto (20-0, 17 KO) v. Michael Trabant (43-2-1, 19 KO)

Jr. Welterweight (136-140 lbs.)

01/05: #2 Paulie Malignaggi (24-1, 5 KO) WUD Herman Ngoudjo (16-2, 9 KO)

No Boxing Scene rated fighters scheduled to compete in February.

Lightweight (131-135 lbs.)

01/04: #5 Zahir Raheem (29-2, 17 KO) WKO1 Ricardo Dominguez (23-3-2, 15 KO)

No Boxing Scene rated fighters scheduled to compete in February.

Jr. Lightweight (127-130 lbs.)

No Boxing Scene rated fighters competed in January or are scheduled to compete in February.

Featherweight (123-126 lbs.)

01/26: #1 Chris John (41-0-1, 22 KO, WBA) WTKO7 #10 Roinet Caballero (27-8-1, 16 KO)

Scheduled for February

02/29: #2 Robert Guerrero (21-1-1, 14 KO, IBF) v. Jason Litzau (23-1, 19 KO)

Jr. Featherweight (119-122 lbs.)

01/19: #3 Steve Molitor (25-0, 10 KO, IBF) WUD Ricardo Castillo (33-5, 22 KO)

No Boxing Scene rated fighters scheduled to compete in February.

Bantamweight (116-118 lbs.)

01/10: #1 Hozumi Hasegawa (23-2, 7 KO, WBC) WUD #8 Simone Maludrottu (26-2, 10 KO)

01/10: #2 Wladimir Sidorenko (21-0-2, 7 KO, WBA) WUD Nobuto Ikehara (27-2, 19 KO)

Already Completed in February

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

Jr. Bantamweight (113-115 lbs.)

01/14: #3 Munoz WUD Kawashima (see Fight of the Month)

Already Completed in February

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

Still Scheduled for February

02/16: #1 Cristian Mijares (33-3-2, 14 KO, WBC) v. Jose Navarro (26-3, 12 KO)

02/16: #2 Fernando Montiel (35-2-1, 26 KO, WBO) v. #4 Martin Castillo (33-2)

02/28: #5 Dimitri Kirilov (29-3, 9 KO, IBF) v. Cecilio Santos (22-8-2, 12 KO)

Flyweight (109-112 lbs.)

01/25: #3 Omar Narvaez (25-0-2, 16 KO, WBO) WUD Carlos Tamara (17-4, 13 KO)

No Boxing Scene rated fighters scheduled to compete in February.

Jr. Flyweight (106-108 lbs.)

01/25: #3 Hugo Cazares (25-4-1, 19 KO) WUD Kermin Guardia (37-8, 21 KO)

Scheduled in February

02/09: #2 Edgar Sosa (30-5, 16 KO, WBC) v. Jesus Iribe (8-4-1, 4 KO)

02/16: #6 Brian Viloria (19-2, 12 KO) v. Cesar Lopez (20-5, 4 KO)

Strawweight (105 lbs.)

01/05: #9 Katsunari Takayama (20-3, 8 KO) WTKO9 Ngaoprajan Sithsaithong (5-6, 5 KO)

01/14: #8 Roman Gonzalez WUD Hiroshi Matsumoto (17-8-4, 4 KO)

No Boxing Scene rated fighters scheduled to compete in February.

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