Monday May 30th, 2011

I've been hearing more and more recently about a possible blockbuster fight:

Bernard Hopkins vs. Sergio Martinez.

Sounds crazy, right?

In some ways, it is. Hopkins is a light heavyweight, a natural 175-pound fighter who has fought only once below that weight since 2006, a 170-pound-limit bout against Kelly Pavlik three years ago. Martinez is a 160-pounder who is really more of a 154-pounder masquerading as a middleweight. Hopkins would have a three-inch height advantage on Martinez. And by the night of the fight, a rehydrated Hopkins could weigh as much as 20 pounds more than Martinez.

But there are other issues in play. Martinez and Hopkins are after big fights. Martinez has been chasing Manny Pacquiao, Miguel Cotto and Floyd Mayweather. He can't get them. Hopkins is contractually obligated by HBO to face Chad Dawson next. Multiple sources said Hopkins isn't all that interested in Dawson, mostly because a) he doesn't have much of a fan base and b) his jab-happy style would not make for an entertaining fight.

So could these two top-five pound-for-pound fighters bridge the weight gap? It's possible. Hopkins, remember, spent more than a decade campaigning as a middleweight. And as reluctant as Martinez's handlers have been to push him up to the 168-pound division, they would do it for a fight with Hopkins, whose name could generate a pretty profitable pay-per-view, particularly if HBO gets behind it.

Will they? I'll say this: Executives at the network have the same concerns about Dawson that everyone else does. And even though publicly they swear up and down that Dawson is due the next shot at Hopkins, sources said that, if the 28-year-old fighter and his team are amenable, it's possible a deal could be struck where Dawson would step aside, for which he would be well compensated by HBO in another fight.

This makes a lot of sense. Hopkins-Martinez would generate a lot of buzz. It would sell a ton of tickets at the Staples Center in Los Angeles and, with a proper promotion, do well on PPV. It's a win-win for Martinez. If he beats Hopkins, he triumphs over a world-class champion in yet another weight class. If he loses, well, he wasn't supposed to be fighting someone that big to begin with.

It's a little more risky for Hopkins but no more so than a fight against Dawson. And he stands to make more money. It's win-or-go-home these days for Hopkins anyway, and if he is beaten, he would much prefer to have it happen on a big stage against a man many consider the No. 2 fighter in the world.

Chris Arreola's intriguing comeback continued last week on ESPN's Friday Night Fights. The former world title contender submitted a workmanlike effort in his second fight in less than two weeks, battering journeyman Kendrick Releford in a seventh-round TKO victory.

Releford, like Arreola's previous opponent, Nagy Aguilera, won't be mistaken for either of the Klitschko brothers. But that doesn't take away from Arreola's recent progress. He's in shape (the usually 250-pound-plus fighter weighed in the mid-230s for the second straight fight) and showing good movement. ESPN analyst Teddy Atlas commented that Arreola's defense had improved, an important development for a fighter who once lived to just mix it up.

Arreola is going to get another title shot. It may not come this year; Wladimir Klitschko is busy with David Haye in July and Vitali Klitschko, who pounded Arreola in 2009, is facing Tomasz Adamek in September. But Arreola is an entertaining heavyweight with a decent U.S. fan base. If Wladimir wins and is searching for a rated, American opponent, he could do worse than Arreola.

"I can't say I regret my 20s. I had a good time f---ing up my 20s." -- Arreola, 30, on his fast-food-eating, beer-drinking 20s. Arreola said cutting back on alcohol and not eating out have been big factors in his drastic weight loss.

"Dear Bob Arum, first I would like to humbly apologize for any pain I have caused you and your family. I also want to apologize to Manny Pacquiao for any wrongdoing on my part. You are a great champion. With great humility I ask we work together for the good of the sport we dearly love. It's not fair to the fans and to the fighters." -- Golden Boy president Oscar De La Hoya, who apologized to Top Rank's Arum and Pacquiao in a series of tweets. De La Hoya's apology, coupled with last week's positive meeting between Arum and Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer, gives hope that the two promotional giants can begin working with each other again.

A thaw in the relationship between Top Rank and Golden Boy could put these five attractive fights on the table:

Saul Alvarez vs. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.: This fight is huge -- huge -- in Mexico. Alvarez and Chavez have big followings, and a fight between two of Mexico's top young stars could fill an outdoor stadium. It's a risky bout for two top prospects. But aren't those usually the best ones?

Brandon Rios vs. Victor Ortiz: These two despise each other. Former stablemates under trainer Robert Garcia, Rios and Ortiz have been trading verbal assaults for years. There's a weight difference -- Rios is a 135-pound lightweight while Ortiz is entrenched in the 147-pound welterweight division -- but if they could agree on a catch weight, this fight has action written all over it.

Miguel Cotto vs. Saul Alvarez: Title unification fight, anyone? These two 154-pound title-holders have crowd-pleasing styles. Alvarez could test his skills against one of the craftiest veterans in the business. Cotto could beat back another young opponent looking to knock him off the top spot.

Nonito Donaire vs. Abner Mares: Donaire tried to defect from Top Rank to Golden Boy earlier this year (the issue of his contract is tied up in litigation) in part because he wanted a matchup with Mares, bantamweight's other top dog. Mares is a little busy at the moment as he will face Joseph Agbeko in Showtime's bantamweight tournament final on Aug. 13. But if Mares wins, a Donaire fight becomes about as big as the 118-pound division has to offer.

Abner Mares vs. Guillermo Rigondeaux: These two have met before; Rigondeaux defeated Mares in a decision at the 2003 Pan American Games. Why not do it again?

10. I hope Amir Khan and Zab Judah can make a deal. Right now they are stuck on money (Khan is offering a 60/40 split, Judah wants 50-50), but neither one has an opponent lined up for the summer who would bring in anywhere near the kind of purse this fight would generate. I also hope the promoters realize that this is an East Coast fight and belongs in Atlantic City, N.J., not Las Vegas.

9. Tim Bradley may not fight at all this year. That's bad business.

8. Chavez said that if he beats Sebastian Zbik on Saturday, he wants a shot at Sergio Martinez. Promoter Lou DiBella once told me that he would bring Martinez down to Mexico to fight in Chavez's backyard and let him have his father, mother and aunt as judges. I think he can make that happen.

7. For some reason, I like Glen Johnson on Saturday in the semifinals of Showtime's Super Six Tournament. I'm just not sold on Carl Froch yet.

6. Floyd Mayweather and 50 Cent sure spend a lot of time hanging out together, don't they?

5. Paging Andre Dirrell ...

4. The most popular fighter in Atlantic City this weekend? That will be Zsolt Erdei, the Hungarian light heavyweight who has developed a nice following in the tri-state area. He will fight Byron Mitchell on Saturday.

3. Audley Harrison, who is coming off a lackluster, third-round knockout loss to Haye, has vowed to continue fighting "for his fans." Please, fans, introduce yourself.

2. Freddie Roach has said the reason he wants Pacquiao to fight Juan Manuel Marquez is to shut Marquez up. Roach may have to push for a Khan-Breidis Prescott fight soon for the same reasons.

1. Pavlik can make some noise at 168 pounds. But he is at least two shake-off-the-rust fights away from being ready to take on a top contender. He gets in the ring with Lucian Bute right now, and he's toast.

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