Behind Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, Jr., there’s a long line of everybody else fighting for a chance to cash in on a rich renewal expected after March 13 when and wherever their welterweight bout is supposed to generate business big enough to be a stimulus package.
Saturday represents the second leg in a campaign to get back in line or just stay there.
In a night as busy as it is intriguing, junior-welterweight Timothy Bradley can stake a big claim against unbeaten Lamont Peterson on Showtime. Then, there’s Juan Diaz, who is under pressure to knock out doubts in an HBO rematch that gives Paulie Malignaggi a chance to prove that what happened in Texas should stay in Texas. Meanwhile, there’s Vitali Klitschko, who against Kevin Johnson in Switzerland can continue to keep the heavyweight division from a downhill slide into irrelevancy.
It started last week with middleweight Paul Williams. It’s hard to say exactly where he stands after escaping with a victory – a majority decision – that left his amended marketing label as boxing’ most feared man bruised by Sergio Martinez.
It continues next Saturday, Dec. 19, with Kelly Pavlik, who is battling to regain his place against Miguel Espino in the middleweight champ’s first fight since withdrawing from two dates with Williams because of a dangerous infection on his left hand.
Then, there’s Jan. 30 when welterweight Shane Mosley will try to remind Pacquiao, Mayweather and everybody else that he hasn’t gone anywhere in a challenge against Andre Berto, who wants to prove that his arrival isn’t temporary.
There’s more. Each undercard this Saturday includes two fighters at the crossroads.
On the Bradley-Peterson card in Palm Springs, there’s Vic Darchinyan, boxing’s angry man and maybe its most feared before Williams appropriated the label, is coming off a defeat that could turn him into a forgotten face in the crowd if he can’t beat Tomas Rojas in a fashion that makes his summer loss to Joseph Agbeko look like an aberration.
On the Diaz-Malignaggi card in Chicago, there’s Victor Ortiz, who was called the future, yet wasn’t willing to fight for one a TKO loss to Marcos Maidana in June. If there is a significant role for Ortiz in a future after Pacquiao-Mayweather, he will have to make everybody forget the past against Antonio Diaz.
For all, there is more than winning. There is the performance, which means dominance thorough and dramatic enough to get noticed.
“Especially after a long layoff, it is definitely important that we look solid,’’ Pavlik said Thursday during a conference call.
Whether layoff or loss, that’s solid advice. For Bradley, there’s some understandable exasperation at feeling unappreciated for all of his years on the road, where he only lost baggage. He is at home now, in the desert east of Los Angeles, for the second straight fight since a messy no-contest – the blemish on his 25 fight record — over Nate Campbell on Aug. 1.
“You can basically look at my resume and see that in less than one year, I won two world titles’’ Bradley said, also in a conference call. “ I’m still young, I’ve fought on the road, like a veteran, and I won on the road. People don’t understand how much pressure there is on a fighter when he fights on the road. I beat Junior Witter on the road to win the world title and didn’t get much credit for that. On the road, that just shows you how determined I am to being great.
“At the end of the day, after I beat Lamont Peterson, people are going to start realizing that, ‘I’m going to stop betting against this guy and I’m going to get on the bandwagon.’ ”
For Diaz, the bandwagon was already crowded. Then, he lost to Campbell and Juan Manuel Marquez. He beat Malignaggi, but controversy lingered, mostly because of a one-sided scorecard – 118-110, Also Malignaggi had predicted that he couldn’t win a decision in Houston, Diaz’ hometown.
Pressure from HBO forced a rematch in what looks to be a neutral site, although Chicago big Mexican-American community means the crowd figures to be heavily behind Diaz.
Diaz might need all the help he can get against the slick Malignaggi, whose outspoken courage before the Houston fight earned him some sympathy and maybe some points. He also might have the style to beat Diaz, who looks as if he faces the toughest task at holding onto his place in line that might lead to a Pacquiao-Mayweather windfall.
No Big D a big disappointment
Top Rank promoter Bob Arum sounded disappointed Thursday that a trip, scheduled for Wednesday, to Dallas for a tour of the Cowboys’ stadium as possibility for Pacquiao-Mayweather was suddenly canceled.
According to Arum, Mayweather representative Richard Schaefer of Golden Boy Promotions said that the welterweight, who lives in Las Vegas, didn’t want to fight in the NFL stadium. It was the first hitch in negotiations that have proceeded quickly and with surprising ease.
During the conference call with Pavlik Thursday, Arum was asked if it was sign for further trouble.
“I don’t know,’ he said. “But I know as a promoter I have a fiduciary responsibility to a fighter. And that is to see if I can get him the most that comes out of a fight. Other people have other agendas. That is also something that saddens me greatly. That’s all I want to say about it.’’
Without the Dallas trip, some bargaining power might have been lost, although the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday that Staples Center will offer $20 million. No word yet on how big the offer will be from Las Vegas MGM Grand, which is believed to have the inside track.
Notes, quotes anecdotes
· Phoenix’s poisonous politics resulted in an indictment Tuesday of Mary Rose Wilcox on a laundry list of charges related to her elective position on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. Amid an ongoing feud between the County Supervisors and Sheriff Joe Arpaio, an indictment was expected. It was surprising, however, that the indictment includes nothing about boxing. Wilcox is a former chairperson of the Arizona State Boxing Commission. The arrest several weeks of Phoenix promoter Peter McKinn by Arpaio’s deputies has been part of Arpaio’s investigation.
· Yes, Pavlik watched Williams against Martinez. For the record, he said he thought Martinez won. “I had it scored a little different,’’ Pavlik said. “I had it for Martinez, two to three rounds. But other than that, it was a great fight.’’ Not so great, Pavlik said, were references to Williams as being the most feared. “That was the only thing that irritated me,’’ he said.
· And maybe Cowboys owner Jerry Jones should just pull the December sheet out of his annual calendar. It’s been a bah-humbug month for Jones. His Cowboys can’t win in December and neither can he. If he had chance in December, he would have at least been able to make a sales pitch Wednesday for Pacquiao-Mayweather.