Wednesday December 29th, 2010

1. Boxing will finally get Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao. It has been derailed by everything from drug testing to legal issues, but in 2011 the world will get the one fight everyone wants to see. While Pacquiao is training for his May 7 date with Shane Mosley, Mayweather will settle (or at least put off) his legal problems, making both available for a November fight. The hype for the showdown between boxing's top two will be unprecedented and more than 100,000 fans will buy tickets at Cowboys Stadium. Mayweather-Pacquiao will shatter the pay-per-view record, exceeding 2.5 million buys and finishing as the most-watched boxing event in history.

2. Showtime will ramp up its boxing programming. While HBO will continue to spend the most money, Showtime will rival boxing's biggest network in quality fights. Showtime already has the finals of the bantamweight tournament (in February) and super middleweight Super Six tournament penciled in for the first half of '11 and recently signed electrifying 168-pounder Lucian Bute to a three-fight contract. Combine that with an expected Bernard Hopkins-Jean Pascal rematch, original shows like Fight Camp 360 and Showtime's promise to get back in the pay-per-view business, and HBO will have a real competitor for the first time in years.

3. The icy relationship between Top Rank and Golden Boy will get icier. How can boxing's two deepest promotional companies continue to avoid each other? Simple: In 2011, Top Rank won't need Golden Boy. Bob Arum has depth at junior middleweight, where he can match Miguel Cotto-Antonio Margarito and Yuri Foreman-Julio Cesar Chavez and have the winners (and losers) fight each other. Arum has been building toward a Yuri Gamboa-Juan Manuel Lopez showdown at featherweight and Brandon Rios-Humberto Soto lightweight fight. And when Kelly Pavlik returns, he likely won't be facing stiff competition. When Arum needs to, he can cut deals with Lou DiBella (for, say, Pacquiao-Andre Berto) and Don King and build a fight calendar without any help from his bitter rivals.

4. There will finally be a meaningful heavyweight fight. You have to go back to the days of Lennox Lewis to find the last heavyweight fight that meant something. But a David Haye-Wladimir Klitschko clash would fit the bill. Klitschko is widely regarded as the No. 1 heavyweight in the world and Haye holds the only piece of the heavyweight crown (the WBA title) that is not owned by either Wladimir or his brother, Vitali. Though Haye has done a masterful job avoiding fights with both Klitschkos, the running will stop in 2011 and the sport's glamour division will have an interesting matchup.

5. Bernard Hopkins will break George Foreman's record. Hopkins very nearly eclipsed Foreman as the oldest major world champion in December when he battled WBC title-holder Pascal to a majority draw. Hopkins, who turns 46 in January, proved he was still an elite fighter. He will get another opportunity to claim a title again in '11, either in a rematch with Pascal or against IBF champion Tavoris Cloud. His elite conditioning and technical brilliance should be enough for him to beat either and add another page to his legacy.

6. Kelly Pavlik will reclaim his career. Pavlik's battle with alcoholism put his career on hold in 2010. In truth, Pavlik hasn't looked the same since Hopkins handed him his first loss, in '08. But getting clean will recharge Pavlik's body and renew his focus. He will fight two tuneups in '11 and head into 2012 as a top super middleweight with Andre Ward, Lucian Bute and Carl Froch lining up to face one of the U.S.' most popular fighters.

7. An American heavyweight contender will emerge. At 28, Seth Mitchell is too old to be called a prospect. But the former Michigan State linebacker has quietly put together an impressive start to his career. Mitchell ran his record to 20-0 with a knockout of veteran Taurus Sykes in December and should be ready to face better competition late next year. At 6-foot-2, 245 pounds, Mitchell can't bang with the Klitschkos. But really, who can?

8. The Golden Boy will return. Oscar De La Hoya has been retired since Pacquiao demolished him in 2008. However, in 2011, the siren song of the ring will become too alluring for the sport's biggest attraction to ignore. De La Hoya, 37, will return in grand fashion in a catchweight (150 pounds) fight against another ex-champion plotting a comeback: Ricky Hatton.

9. A new star will emerge. The biggest stars in boxing (Pacquiao, Mayweather, Juan Manuel Marquez and Sergio Martinez) are on the wrong side of 30. Boxing desperately needs another high-profile star. Enter Amir Khan, 24, the charismatic junior welterweight who blends charm and good looks with staggering skill. Khan will unify the 140-pound division by the middle of 2011 and, with Freddie Roach at his side, emerge as the heir apparent for Pacquiao's pound-for-pound throne.

10. A legend will retire. Evander Holyfield, 48, probably should have retired in 2003, when the light-hitting James Toney knocked him out for just the second time in his career. Instead, Holyfield has soldiered on, insisting that he will once again become the unified heavyweight champion. Holyfield has two fights on the books for '11 -- a January date with Sherman Williams and a March matchup with Brian Nielsen -- and will likely win both. However, the well of opponents will quickly dry up and Holyfield, who will never be licensed in any respectable state again, will decide to call it quits, ending one of the most decorated careers in boxing history.

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