March 31, 2011

10 Upcoming Big Fight Predictions

There are several key fights coming up in the next couple of months.

Here are 10 Upcoming Big Fight Predictions.

Marcos Maidana KO5 Eric Morales
~ Morales way past his best. Maidana on the way up.

Robert Guerrero KO 10 Michael Katsidis
~ Expect a bloody good fight. Katsidis stopped on cuts.

Tomasz Adamek KO 4 Kevin McBride
~McBride loses the fight on his feet, but never loses his heart.

Andre Berto W12 Victor Ortiz
~Berto wins a good close fight, Ortiz proves his mettle.

Amir Khan KO8 Paul McCloskey
~McCloskey tough & game but over matched against Khan.

Juan Manuel Lopez K06 Orlando Salido
~Lopez answers Gamboa with a KO of his own.

Abner Mares W12 Joseph Agbeko
~Mares younger and better.

Andre Ward W12 Arthur Abraham
~Super 6 favorite Ward impressive outboxing Abraham.

Bernard Hopkins W12 Jean Pascal
~Hopkins finally becomes the oldest boxer to win a World Title.

Glenn Johnson W12 Carl Froch
~Upset! The talented, ageless Johnson unseats Froch, advances to Super 6 Finals.

One really big upcoming fight is missing from this list. I have deliberately held off (for now) on making a prediction about the upcoming Manny Pacquiao-Shane Mosley fight. I did this because I am not quite ready yet to commit to an official prediction about this fight. Many people think it will be an embarrassing, one sided blowout in favor of Manny Pacquiao but for some reason I do not subscribe to that thinking at all. While I tend to think Pacquiao should win, and probably will win but there is something about this match-up which leads me to believe that not only will Sugar Shane be competitive with The Pacman but that he just might have one last great performance left to possibly pull off the biggest upset in boxing since Frankie Randall stunned Julio Cesar Chavez in 1994, ending J.C. Superstar's historic unbeaten streak.

Classy to the Max!

Max Kellerman & I at MGM Grand

REALLY gotta get this off my chest because it's been bothering me. When did it get so hard for some people to have a boxing discussion  without insulting eachother and denigrating professional fighters with such low class, gutter level trash talk like Pactard & Gayweather etc? No matter how it's spun by the trash talkers, irregardless of their silly justifications; insulting fans and fighters with derogatory terms like that is ignorant and disrespectful. This is a pet peeve of mine right now, boxing fans who for whatever reason lack the ability to speak in respectful terms about fighters and fellow fight fans. Grow up people! Boxing is a gentleman's sport, act like gentlemen!

Speaking of respectful gentlemen, I recently had the great pleasure of meeting HBO boxing announcer Max Kellerman at the MGM Grand following Sergio Martinez's second successful middleweight title defense against Sergei Dzinziruk on March 12th. I simply cannot say enough about how highly I regard Mr. Kellerman as an announcer and as a fellow old school fight fan. It was nice to have a short chat with him; the quality I admire most about Max as an announcer for boxing is how incredibly respectful he is in his dealings with, and his discussions about fighters. Max is a much needed breath of fresh air following years of cringe worthy Larry Merchant moments.

March 30, 2011

Michael Katsidis vs Robert Guerrero Conference Call

LIGHTWEIGHT contenders Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero and Michael “The Great” Katsidis took a short break from their training on Tuesday March 22nd, 2011 to discuss via conference call their upcoming 12 round lightweight battle scheduled for April 9th in Las Vegas on the undercard of the Eric Morales-Marcos Maidana HBO "Action Heroes" Pay-Per-View card. The California native Robert Guerrero (28-1-1 18 KOs) is training close to home in Las Vegas and confidently reports that “everything is falling into place” and that he is very excited and ready for the fight against Katsidis which he calls a “fan’s fight.”

The Australian native Michael Katsidis (27-3 22 KOs) is training half way around the world in Thailand, claiming he does so because, “it’s very tough and rugged conditions here with very few luxuries. This is my job, this is my living so it’s as simple as that. I’m not here for a holiday.” Katsidis appeared to brush off questions and concerns raised about a small cut he recently received in training over his right eye. Asked repeatedly about the severity of the cut and how many stitches it took, Katsidis responded glibly, "I didn’t even count” although he did half-jokingly say he would be circling to his left against the southpaw Guerrero come fight night.

Hell and Back

The recent outside of the ring trials and tribulations for both fighters have been well documented. Michael Katsidis recently lost his brother Stathi Katsidis who passed away suddenly and unexpectedly last year during the run up to his brother Michael's fight against Lightweight Champion Juan Manuel Marquez, with Katsidis dedicating that fight to his late brother. Katsidis was stopped in the 9th round against Marquez in a grueling back and forth fight that many considered to be a fight of the year candidate.  

Robert Guerrero has also faced his own outside the ring adversity recently, standing close by his wife Casey Guerrero as she faced a very difficult fight of her own against cancer. Guerrero reports that his wife is doing very well today cancer-free and that as a couple they have been able to move forward after these challenging times in their lives. Katsidis seemed to sum it up best when he said regarding recent setbacks “I have a belief that if something doesn’t kill you, it makes you more strong.”

The Guerrero family must certainly echo such sentiments as well after what they have been though.

Face to Face
Robert Guerrero and Michael Katsidis are very different fighters from very different backgrounds. Both have overcome incredible adversity outside the ring and on April 9th, their worlds apart will finally collide in the ring for all to see as both men come face to face after having been to hell and back. Robert Guerrero was recently honored by the boxing writers of America with a special award for courage shown outside of the ring. Clearly, both men are worthy of such an award; courage being in no small supply for either fighter.

Despite what the sanctioning bodies have to say about this fight and whatever title belts they may or may not end up associating with it, the fight itself looks to be a solid match-up between two Top 10 lightweight contenders willing to risk much against each other in hopes of bigger and better things, the former featherweight and super featherweight titlist Robert Guerrero stating boldly "I want to try to win a world title in every weight class I hit."

Michael Katsidis seemed equally as motivated to make his mark at lightweight, believing this fight to be "for a world title" and adding that, "you want to achieve as much as you can." He also challenged reigning Ring Lightweight Champion Juan Manuel Marquez to "piss or get off the pot", referring presumably to the Champion’s uncertain future plans at lightweight and how that uncertainty complicates matters for the rest of the division.

Robert Guerrero by unanimous decision or by TKO late on cuts.

The feeling here is that Guerrero posses better boxing skills and will put them to good use building up an early lead in this fight. Katsidis will rally in the middle rounds with his aggressive style and make it competitive but a cut (or cuts) in the later rounds will bloody Katsidis and slow him down as Guerrero pulls away to either win on points or win by TKO on cuts.

Kelly, Rocky, Roy & Gamboa!

IN light of all that has happened in and outside of the ring since losing his middleweight title last year, Kelly Pavlik deserves a tremendous amount of credit for simply going the distance against Sergio Martinez in his bloody Championship-losing effort last year. The fact that Pavlik floored Martinez in the 7th round only adds to what an amazing effort he put up despite what he was actually up against. Recent Martinez challengers Paul Williams and Serhiy Dzinziruk failed to go the distance or otherwise be competitive with the new defending Champion Martinez in any way. Both challengers were dominated and dispatched by Martinez with apparent ease. The fact that Pavlik heard the final bell at all against Maravilla seems all that much more impressive now.

By now, we all know how far Middleweight Champion Sergio Martinez has ascended in the rankings and in reputation since taking the middlweight title from Pavlik, and conversely we all now know just how far Kelly Pavlik has fallen since losing the title. We have a better understanding of just how impaired as a fighter Pavlik truly was at that time, battling active alcoholism AND Sergio Martinez, essentially at the same time! Amazingly he went the distance like a Champion in both fights. Kelly Pavlik may have ultimately shown more in defeat against Sergio Martinez than he ever did in victory. Kelly deserves a rematch with Maravilla Martinez if he wants one, that's for sure.

Am I suddenly living in a Rocky movie or did Roy Jones Jr just announce he would be fighting a dangerous, naturally larger Russian opponent in, of all places, Russia? Roy is toying with his health now and it's sad to see. Outstanding as an HBO commentator, Jones clearly has nothing left as a fighter and as a fighter he clearly has nothing left to prove, yet he fights on despite evidence he should not. Roy Jones used to refer to his friend, former world champion Gerald McClellan, as a prime example of something he never wanted to become in the sport of boxing, namely an injured, brain damaged ex-Champion.

Gerald McClellan of course was nearly killed in London in his 1995 fight against Nigel Benn, surviving not only a traumatic brain injury as a result of the beating he took from Benn, but also surviving quite possibly the single worst case of officiating ever seen in a professional boxing ring. Alfred Asaro, the referee in that fight should have been charged with a crime; his neglect and his incompetence so profound that McClellan now exists in a state of perpetual blindness, nearly deaf, his brain forever destroyed by what took place in that BRUTAL fight. So today more than 15 years after the lights went out on him, Gerald McClellan lives in a dark and lonely place and for whatever reason, Roy Jones Jr seems hellbent on joining his friend there. This aint' a Rocky movie Roy, brain damage is NOT reversible, please retire!

Speaking of Rocky, it's good to see he's going the distance again this time in Canastota, NY. Famed Actor & Director Sylvester Stallone absolutely deserves his induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame this summer for his amazing contributions to the sport he so obviously loves. The Rocky movies were a great tribute to boxing and the character of Rocky Balboa epitomized everything we love about the sport. It's interesting that Sly will be going into the Boxing Hall of Fame in the same induction class as Mike Tyson, a fighter whose style and demeanor were foreshadowed on the big screen by Stallone's menacing "Clubber Lang" character from the third Rocky movie, released in 1982, three years before Mike Tyson went pro. Come to think of it, Sly not only foreshadowed the emergence of a Mike Tyson type fighter on film, he also foreshadowed the emergence of Russian dominance in the heavyweight division with Rocky IV which came out in 1985! Yo Drago! Yo Klitschko!

Now that featherweight champion Yuriorkis Gamboa has made short work of challenger Jorge Solis, of course we ALL want Yuriorkis Gamboa vs Juan Manuel Lopez right now for the Undisputed Featherweight Championship. Looks like we'll have to wait though and that actually might be OK as long as the opportunity to make the fight is not lost as sometimes happens in boxing. The promoters and the fighters appear to be doing a good job of building the fight up, increasing fan interest, and otherwise making boxing fans mouth's water! When and if the fight finally happens, it has the potential to be an old school classic unification Superfight, not just another so-called big fight. If promoted and timed properly, a Lopez-Gamboa unification fight could be reminiscent of Leonard-Hearns I in 1981, but for a new generation.

Whatever Happened to the Upset?

YESTERDAY was February 10th.

Twenty one years ago yesterday, Buster Douglas stunned Mike Tyson, boxing, and the entire sporting world with his dramatic 10th round knockout victory; winning the heavyweight championship of the world and staking claim to arguably the greatest upset in the history of sports.

At 42-1 odds, it most certainly stands as the greatest upset in boxing history, and in the intervening 21 years, no boxing upset has even come close in stature or significance.

Douglas KO10 Tyson stands as the benchmark by which all other upsets are measured, past or present. With few exceptions, the monumental upset has all but disappeared from our sport. As a recent trend, consider that the biggest upsets in the past few years have involved relatively unknown fighters and that it has been 10 years since an even remotely comparable upset took place when Hasim Rahman channeled the ghosts of Zaire and rumbled his way to a shocking upset KO victory over Lennox Lewis to win the heavyweight championship of the world.

If you are a boxing fan, the date February 10th takes its place right alongside December 7th, November 22nd, and September 11th, as the kind of instantly memorable dates that you will always recall where you were when "it" happened. Me? I was in the boxing town of Brockton, Massachusetts that day, unfortunately scheduled to work that night in the kitchen of a popular local restaurant. The fight was scheduled to air on HBO later that night and I was quite naturally upset (pun intended) that I would be missing it, not because I expected an historic upset or even a competitive fight for that matter but just because I was a huge Mike Tyson fan and a huge boxing fan in general. The heavyweight championship of the world was being fought for and I was was stuck in the heat of the kitchen, unknowingly destined to miss the greatest upset of all time.

Around 8 o'clock that night during the dinner rush, the desire to watch the fight live overcame me and I literally walked out on my job as a cook to go home to watch that fight. What I saw on HBO that night amazed me and overnight it changed the entire boxing landscape. Suddenly, walking out on my job the night before seemed like the only choice I could have ever made. It freed me to focus all of my time and energy into adjusting to this brave new world where Buster Douglas was the heavyweight champion, Mike Tyson was a mere mortal, and the Upset was King! It was an amazing time to be a boxing fan, and after that night anything seemed possible. Nobody was considered invincible anymore or ever would be again.

Big upsets in boxing were nothing new at this time. In the five years prior to the Douglas-Tyson upset, the inactive Sugar Ray Leonard had beaten Brockton native and reigning middleweight champion Marvin Hagler in a stunner, Michael Spinks had defeated Larry Holmes to become the first and only light heavyweight champion to dethrone a reigning heavyweight champion, Iran Barkley flattened Tommy Hears and pound for pound king Donald Curry had been embarrassed by the unknown Lloyd Honneyghan. The sport's history was rich with upsets and as a boxing fan, nothing was better than watching a fighter do in the ring what people outside the ring said he could never do.

So where have all the great upsets gone? Sure there have been some surprises since Douglas-Tyson but nothing on the order of what took place that night. The past two Ring Magazine Upset of the Year awards have been awarded to fights of minor significance involving fighters of minor notoriety, and that is putting it kindly. The year prior to that the award was given to Bernard Hopkins W12 Kelly Pavlik. Does anyone still really consider this to be an upset? Reverse the result, and there you have an upset worthy of an award! Carlos Baldomir over Zab Judah? Sure it was an upset but not a particularly surprising one given Judah's questionable dedication to his craft.

It takes the unexpected defeat of a big name top boxer to create the kind of upset buzz we all experienced when Buster Douglas poleaxed Mike Tyson 21 years ago yesterday. Boxing is running low on truly big names and the ones we do have don't lose against lesser opponents. At least not yet. Of course this could all change and that's the beauty of the upset, you never know when and where it will strike. Imagine the effect a Shane Mosley upset victory over Manny Pacquiao would have on the boxing world. Of all the potential big upsets in the current landscape of boxing, Mosley pulling off an upset victory over Pacquiao would be closest thing to the truly memorable and significant upsets of the past. Two big names fighting, one of them the pound for pound king, the other a former pound of pound king, both sure-fire Hall of Famers. Everyone saying the underdog has no chance to win. That's the recipe for a truly historic upset.

May 7th. That's the date Shane Mosley gets his chance to shake up the world and redefine the modern boxing upset as something special again. Here's hoping I'm not scheduled to work that night too because I'm not so sure I could get my job back as easily as I did 21 years ago. The economy has changed. Boxing has changed. In fact, everything has changed but when you put two boxers in the ring, anything can still happen; that recipe never changes.

A Fight Fan's Review of "The Fighter"

I'VE seen all the boxing movies.

Some of them are better than others. Some of them are pretty bad such as "Ali" and "Undisputed" while some of them are pretty good such as "The Hurricane" and "Million Dollar Baby". Only a select few boxing movies can really be considered great. "Raging Bull" and the original "Rocky" come to mind as great boxing movies. I would put David O. Russell's new film "The Fighter" about the careers of Micky Ward and Dickie Eklund in the category of pretty good bordering on great, which might also be another way to describe the career of it's main character Micky Ward. The movie tells the story of "Irish" Micky Ward and his half brother Dickie Eklund, both boxers from Lowell, Massachusetts. For those who don't know, Lowell is a hardscrabble boxing town where these days, fights break out in bars and on the streets more often than in boxing rings. It's a hard place and both Micky and Dickie are hard men with hard stories to tell. Shot on location in Lowell, director David O. Russell manages to tell it and he pulls few punches in doing so.

What follows is a quick moving, condensed version of Micky Ward's life, his struggles with his highly dysfunctional family, his ups and and downs in the ring, his romantic interest in local bartender Charlene (as played with true grit by Amy Adams) all culminating in his title winning victory in England over the tough and undefeated Shea Neary. Rare is the Hollywood movie that manages to tell a true story and keep it true without leaving out or adding something and "The Fighter" is no exception but Russell does a good job of telling the most important parts of the story and he does so in a very entertaining, authentic way. All in all, "The Fighter" is a very enjoyable boxing movie, the fight scenes are good enough to keep boxing purists happy, and as somebody who lived in the city of Lowell during the most exciting years of Micky Ward's career (1999-2003) I can assure you that the movie is accurate to a fault in it's portrayal of the city and it's people.

Though the film is primarily about the life of Micky Ward (played very subtly by Marc Wahlberg) it also focuses heavily on the story of his older half-brother Dickie Eklund (played now famously by Christian Bale) who was a decent welterweight in the late 70's and early 80's before crack addiction ended his career and landed him in jail. Dickie is best known for having fought an up and coming Sugar Ray Leonard in Boston and credit must be given to director David O. Russell for using actual fight footage from the fight with chilling effect. Russell also does a great job of setting the stage for the whole story using this infamous fight, and the alleged knockdown of Leonard by Eklund, as the backdrop for all that comes after it in the lives of both boxing brothers.

Now for the record, Dick Eklund did NOT knock down Sugar Ray Leonard, however he did go the distance with an all time great fighter determined to stop him. Dickie took a beating in Boston from a prime Ray Leonard, hitting the canvas three times during the fight but getting up and fighting back hurt each and every time. That is something to be proud of. Stepping over Sugar Ray like he did? Well, that was uncalled for, and disrespectful to Ray as a fighter.

My only complaint with the film is that it didn't culminate with Micky Ward's amazing three fight trilogy with human highlight reel, the late great Arturo Gatti; choosing instead to focus on the Shea Neary fight as the climax of Micky's outstanding career. It's a minor complaint however, and it actually leaves open the possibility of a sequel though it seems unlikely to ever happen. There has been much Oscar talk surrounding "The Fighter" and this writer would be very surprised if "The Fighter" didn't win a few Academy Awards and let it be said that if anyone other than Christian Bale wins for best supporting actor, the Academy should lose all credibility because Christian Bale did not merely play Dickie Eklund, he literally became him.

4/5 Stars.
Jeffrey Freeman is a freelance boxing writer from Massachusetts and can be reached at,

Klitschko-Solis media conference call with Lennox Lewis

POOR Odlanier Solis. The undefeated Cuban heavyweight (17-0 12 KO's) is as unknown a challenger as has ever fought for the heavyweight title and virtually nobody thinks he will win on Saturday night when he challenges Vitali Klitschko for the WBC Heavyweight Championship in Cologne, Germany. In a conference call to promote the upcoming fight, former Heavyweight Champion of the World Lennox Lewis however did praise the style and potential of Solis, though he, like many, seemed to believe Vitali Klitschko would emerge victorious over Solis Saturday night as he has done recently to a string of other similar sounding heavyweight names. Vitali joined the discussion via conference call and seemed very excited about the upcoming fight. When asked, Lennox Lewis went as far as to say he would enshrine both Klitschko brothers in the Boxing Hall of Fame today based on the fact that the brothers both hold the championship at the same time.

Sounds like business as usual in the Klitschko family and Saturday night it looks to be more of the same as the highly dominant style of Vitali Klitschko rolls on to what some critics see as a modern day version of the "Bum of the Month Club." To wit, Shannon Briggs. Albert Sosnowski. Kevin Johnson. Juan Carlos Gomez. Danny Williams. Enter Odlanier Solis. The Klitschko brothers have the heavyweight championship and they are "sharing" it and co-defending it. It's an interesting arrangement and the brothers seem to like it that way and so it goes that interest in the heavyweight division is at an all time low in America, though certainly not worldwide.

The elder Vitali is fighting another unknown title challenger; Odlanier Solis in a fight set to be telecast on the internet so please forgive me if I don't exactly swoon at the prospect of this showdown. Of course I will watch and hope for a good fight but my expectations are understandably low. With that as the setting under which a portion of the heavyweight title will be fought for on Saturday, I could not help but wander back in my mind to the epic 2003 HBO fight between Lennox Lewis and Vitali Klitschko to draw inspiration for my question to the two rival heavyweight champions, Lewis and Klitschko. Simply put, there has not been a Heavyweight Championship fight as good as theirs since, and a case can be made that the true Heavyweight Championship of the World as your Grandfather understood it, continues to be Vacant at this time despite what the brothers Klitschko have done in the ring since Lewis retired as Champion in 2004.

Jeffrey Freeman - "Hi Lennox. Hi Vitali. I think I speak for most boxing fans when I say that boxing hasn't seen a competitive, truly memorable heavyweight championship fight since the fight between the two of you. That said, Vitali, was Lennox Lewis your toughest opponent to date and the same question to Lennox, was Vitali your toughest challenger?"

Vitali Klitschko: "In all my career I never meet so strong an opponent as Lennox Lewis, I never took so many punches, I never look so horrible like this fight. Definitely it was one of the hardest fights, and I'm appreciative that Lennox gave me chance to prove my skills against the strongest boxer of all time, I have a lot of experience as an amateur and professional and I can definitely say Lennox Lewis was the hardest fight in my career."

Lennox Lewis: "When you say hardest fight in my career, he was definitely the, uh... It was a hard hard fight. He was a guy I had to figure out. And when I say figure out, the man wasn't easy to hit. Plus he was WAY taller than me and had longer arms than me. My last major opponent before that was you know Mike Tyson so to adapt to his different qualities such as the height and the reach, was a challenge to me. He was a big challenge, and one of the toughest fights."

Such was among the interesting and spirited conversation today during the Klitschko-Solis Media Conference call with Vitali Klitschko and special guest former Heavyweight Champion of the World Lennox Lewis. We all remember what an all out war those two giant heavyweights waged back in 2003 when then challenger Vitali Klitschko challenged Worlds Heavyweight Champion Lennox Lewis. Vitali was subsequently stopped in 6 bloody violent rounds in a highly entertaining, true championship fight; the fight itself effectively sending Lennox Lewis into retirement and sending the heavyweight championship of the world into a lengthy vacancy.

Much time has passed since that fight and Lennox Lewis seems happy with his legacy and content in retirement. Topics included who Lewis considered to be the "better" of the two brothers and he chose Vitali, stating "obviously the older one is always the better one" though he was guarded in his response when asked by this reporter if Vitali was his toughest title challenger, saying, "He was definitely the, uh, it was a hard hard fight." In contrast, Vitali was quick in saying that he considered Lennox to be his greatest opponent, calling him the "strongest boxer of all time" and he thanked him for the opportunity to fight for the title and prove his skills. Lennox Lewis was a gentleman in every regard and so too was the current WBC Heavyweight Champion Vitali Klitschko who praised his March 19 opponent, the Cuban Odlanier Solis for his extensive amateur experience and success.