Tuesday July 12th, 2011

NEW YORK -- Generally speaking, words from Bob Arum should be taken with a grain of salt. The 79-year-old promoter -- whose career dates back to the days of Muhammad Ali -- is a master linguist who has been known to embellish a time or two (or three, or four) when asked about one of his fighters. It's normal. All promoters do it. Arum is just really good at it.

But when Arum stood in the ring at the Home Depot Center and declared Brandon Rios to be a future star, one worthy of a lucrative showdown with Manny Pacquiao in 2013, well, he might have been on to something. Last Saturday Rios (28-0) defended his alphabet lightweight title in an entertaining -- and savage -- third-round knockout win over Urbano Antillon. It was Rios's first defense of the belt he won in an equally entertaining -- and savage -- knockout victory over Miguel Acosta.

Rios is a brawler; he comes straight ahead, winging powerful combinations. He is perfectly willing to eat two or three shots if it means he can deliver three or four. Against Antillon -- who most recently went the distance in a brutal, Fight of the Year-caliber contest with Humberto Soto last December -- Rios stood in the middle of the ring and simply wore Antillon down with his power. He ripped Antillon's head back with uppercuts and put him down twice in the third round before the referee stepped in.

There's a lot to like about Rios. He's television-friendly with no interest in putting a decision in the hands of the judges. His last 10 fights have ended early -- nine by knockout, one a disqualification win over an about-to-be-knocked-out Anthony Peterson. Perhaps more impressively, his best wins have come as the competition has improved.

Rios says he is interested in anyone at 135 pounds; there are already candidates lining up to face him. The bulldozing Michael Katsidis is a possibility, assuming he gets through a tune-up fight against journeyman Michael Lozada next month. Katsidis, 30, is on the downside of his career and has been crushed in his last two fights, a ninth-round knockout by Juan Manuel Marquez and lopsided decision defeat to Robert Guerrero. But Katsidis doesn't back down from anyone, so it would be a good fight as long as it lasted.

The most interesting bout for Rios would be against an opponent who isn't available for a while: Marquez. The 37-year-old Mexican (currently No. 4 in SI.com's latest pound-for-pound ratings) is penciled in for a November date with Pacquiao and, assuming that fight is as rough-and-tumble as the previous two brawls between the two, Marquez's next availability likely wouldn't come until next May. If Marquez beats Pacquiao, forget it. There will likely be a rematch and Marquez could go after another fight with Floyd Mayweather or take on another cash cow like Saul Alvarez. But if Marquez falls in a close fight, his stock as a lightweight -- a division he has ruled for nearly two years -- won't take a hit.

A move to 140 pounds is also a possibility for Rios, whose 5-foot-8 frame suggests he can support it. Junior welterweight is boxing's money division, with names like Amir Khan, Tim Bradley and Marcos Maidana bankrolled by HBO's checkbook. Another televised win or two should make Rios marketable enough for one of the top 140-pounders to take him on.

The bottom line: Arum's praise of Rios is real. Boxing needs good, young American fighters and Rios fits the bill.

A lot of people are clamoring for Paul Williams to retire in the wake of his controversial decision win over Erislandy Lara on Saturday, speculation fueled in part by HBO's Roy Jones comments and analyst Max Kellerman asking Williams's trainer, George Peterson, if he would recommend Williams retire in the middle of the fight.

That's premature. Williams, 29, does not show any of the classic signs of a fighter starting to slip. His speech is normal and his work rate -- he threw 1,047 punches, nearly double Lara's output -- is still staggering. He has taken some heavy shots (most notably the not-soon-to-be-forgotten left hand from Sergio Martinez that sent him planking) but he is hardly a punching bag.

What Williams (40-2) may need, however, is a new trainer. For the second straight fight Williams could not stay away from the overhand left, the same punch that Martinez put him down with. Lara doesn't have much power at 154 pounds, less when you factor in having to punch up at the 6-foot-1 Williams. But nearly every one of his shots landed cleanly, a puzzling outcome consider Williams had to know those punches were coming.

Worse, Williams' strategy in his last few fights has been awful. He had significant size and reach advantages over Lara and Martinez but elected to slug it out on the inside. If his goal is to be entertaining, he's succeeded. But to win, Williams needs to use that long jab as a defensive weapon, a style most prominently employed by Wladimir Klitschko. Used effectively, the jab is something no fighter at 147 or 154 pounds can get inside.

It's on Peterson to make those adjustments. If he can't, there are a handful of accomplished trainers (see: jab master Manny Steward, Freddie Roach, Ronnie Shields) who would undoubtedly love the chance to work with a talented fighter who has established himself on HBO's stage.

IF he doesn't fight, he won't deserve the belt & will be a shame for his country. -- Sergio Martinez (@maravillabox), who continues to wage a public PR assault on Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. Chavez is contractually obligated to face Martinez after his next fight or be stripped of his middleweight title belt.

"July 23 is about this: What can you bring as far as your skills? What can you bring as far as your brains? What can you bring as far as your knowledge of boxing? What do you do when you look across that ring and there's a hungry lion named Zab 'Super' Judah looking you dead in the eye, anxious for the bell to go bing? You either fold or you play cards. Me? I'm going to play to win." -- IBF junior welterweight Zab Judah, who will face WBA champion Amir Khan in a unification fight on July 23.

"Ramos is a tough, aggressive fighter but those types of fighters suit me. I promise he will not have enough time to enjoy this victory because I will be taking that belt from him when we meet in the ring. My goal is to be the undisputed 122-pound world champion and I want to achieve this goal by the end of 2012." -- Guillermo Rigondeaux, the No. 1 contender for newly crowned WBA super bantamweight titleholder Rico Ramos. Ramos (20-0) won the title with a one-punch knockout win over Akifumi Shimoda last weekend.

Five fighters who could succeed at a higher weight class.

Amir Khan (junior welterweight): It's likely only a matter of time before Khan makes the jump to 147 pounds. Khan's lanky, 5-10 frame should carry the extra weight without him sacrificing his trademark hand speed. There's still plenty of work for Khan at 140, but if he knocks off the rest of the top dogs (Zab Judah, Timothy Bradley) this year, an oft-mentioned matchup with Floyd Mayweather is a realistic possibility.

Steve Cunningham (cruiserweight): The jump from cruiserweight to heavyweight has become a popular one, with David Haye and Tomasz Adamek finding success (and money) in the division. Cunningham, 34, has established himself as the No. 1 fighter in the 200-pound division and says he wants a shot at a heavyweight title. If Haye and Adamek can do it, an accomplished vet from Philadelphia probably can too.

Lucian Bute (super middleweight): Before he became a feared fighter in the 168-pound division, Bute was a light heavyweight prospect. There is too much cash available at super middleweight for Bute to consider making the jump, but if Bernard Hopkins keeps winning, a showdown in Canada at 175 pounds could be worth millions.

Nonito Donaire (bantamweight): Donaire is a tall (5-7) bantamweight with serious power. He crushed Fernando Montiel inside two rounds in just his second fight after moving up from super flyweight. There are a few good fights left for Donaire at 118 pounds -- most notably the winner of next months Abner Mares-Joseph Agbeko matchup -- but with his size and power, Donaire could compete in a several heavier divisions.

Victor Ortiz (welterweight): Yes, Ortiz just made the jump to 147 pounds this year when he won an entertaining bout with Andre Berto, a fight that set up September's date with Mayweather. In the next few years he could easily make the leap to 154 if a big money fight (Saul Alvarez?) is there.

10. Don't think we'll be hearing much from Kermit Cintron for a while.

9. Sergio Martinez's manager, Sampson Lewkowicz, says his client has no interest in a third fight with Paul Williams. Right. Let's see him moonwalk on that statement when HBO slides a million dollar-plus payday in front of him. How many Darren Barker/Peter Manfredo fights will Sergio have to take to make up that?

8. Williams does need a solid, middleweight fight before he is ready to get back in with Martinez. Arthur Abraham, who is planning on returning to middleweight for his next fight after failing miserably at 168 pounds, would be a pretty good choice.

7. Great to see "Colonel" Bob Sheridan back at work doing blow by blow on the international broadcast of last weekend's Rios-Antillon card. Sheridan was on the shelf while battling a case of pneumonia that reportedly put him in a coma for 30 days. He also was recovering from back surgery that required a six-month rehab. Sheridan is a boxing icon who has called more than 10,000 fights, including more than 900 title bouts. Welcome back, Bob.

6. Shane Mosley's manager, James Prince, says Mosley will fight again. Good luck finding a network that will make him a headliner.

5. Whoever signs Tim Bradley had better get ready to either a) pay Gary Shaw a lot of money or b) gear up for a lawsuit from Shaw. No way Shaw lets Bradley get away for nothing, not with a $1.2 million guarantee coming from HBO, a deal Shaw negotiated.

4. Did the USADA really have to respond to Bob Arum's claims that they were biased against Manny Pacquiao? A simple "That's stupid" statement wouldn't have sufficed?

3. The Youngstown Vindicator reported that Kelly Pavlik and his older brother, Michael, were involved in a scuffle at Pavlik's Canfield, Ohio, home last week. The Vindicator added that alcohol was believed to be involved. Here's hoping Pavlik, a recovering alcoholic, has not had a setback.

2. How about Denis Douglin-James Kirkland? Why? Two junior middleweight prospects with female trainers. Don't see much of that in boxing.

1. Chris Arreola says he's not ready for Wladimir Klitschko, and after watching him last weekend, I agree. Arreola went the distance with journeyman Friday Ahunanya, an opponent he probably should have taken out. Let Arreola fight a few more times this year, let Klitschko take on the winner of Dereck Chisora-Tyson Fury and let Arreola and Klitschko meet in 2012.

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