Friday August 12th, 2011

When it comes to boxing, Americans are sizeists.

We love heavyweights because of their superior size and thudding power. We respond to light heavyweights, middleweights, welterweights and lightweights because we share similar physiques. OK, maybe not that similar.

Bantamweights? Flyweights? Strawweights? Premium networks don't invest much time or money in the peewee divisions and you rarely see them headlining a pay per view.

That could change. Thanks to Showtime, which ponied up the cash for a four-man, single-elimination tournament featuring Abner Mares, Joseph Agbeko, Vic Darchinyan and Yonnhy Perez, bantamweights (the 118-pound division) are pushing their way into the mainstream. On Saturday, Mares (21-0) will face Agbeko (28-2) in the final at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas (10 p.m. ET, Showtime).

What's to like about Mares-Agbeko? Everything, really. Mares, 25, is a busy puncher who relentlessly stalks opponents in the ring. Agbeko, 31, is raw power with a granite chin that enables him to take more punches than a heavy bag. It's rare to see either Mares or Agbeko in a dull fight and expectations are that this one won't be any different.

"You've seen our styles and have seen us fight," Mares said. "We can both brawl, we can both box. It really just depends what we bring into the ring and how we adapt to the styles. I like to give exciting fights. There are times, even Agbeko said, where you go toe-to-toe. I sometimes like that because it makes the fight interesting and exciting."

While the winner of Mares-Agbeko will be declared the division's top dog, it won't be without a debate. The heavy-handed Nonito Donaire, who stopped Fernando Montiel in his last fight on HBO, is waiting to potentially take on the winner sometime next year. If Mares-Agbeko produces fireworks, expect an awfully big buildup for that one.

Now, on to the mailbag:

Kelly Pavlik was limited from the start. He had a nice win over Edison Miranda and that gutsy comeback win over Jermain Taylor was good but they do not make up for the fact that he is slow and easy to hit. In my opinion, Kelly was an overachiever and nothing more than a good fighter with a few nice wins. --Chris, West New York, N.J.

I've heard that opinion a lot, Chris. I don't want to re-write history because I was ringside for Pavlik's first fight with Taylor and that was a pretty impressive win. But if you really look at it, Pavlik's resume is pretty light. As I've written numerous times, he needs to make some substantial changes in his life if he wants to get his career back on track.

Don't you think Sergio Martinez should be fighting super middleweights like Lucian Bute? If he really wants to prove himself he needs to fight bigger guys instead of just looking to make the biggest money fights. He'd prefer to fight SMALLER guys, like Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather. Manny went from flyweight to a junior middleweight! Sergio should not be compared to Manny until he starts beating bigger fighters. --Roger, New York

Why? Pacquiao is a freak of nature. We may never see someone do what he has done ever again. Martinez is probably a natural 154-pounder who is comfortable fighting at middleweight. At 168 pounds -- where opponents are bigger, taller and just as fast -- he would be overmatched. Besides, there are opponents for Martinez in his current weight class. I'd love to see Martinez-Miguel Cotto sometime next year.

Liked your article about Michael Hunter. He sounds exciting. I'd like to hear more about his kid. I haven't been excited about boxing since Mike Tyson but he revives it for me! --Pam, Florida

Whoa, slow down there Pam! Hunter has a long way to go. But there is a lot to like about him. He has obvious skills and his charisma will help his popularity. I do have some concerns about his size though. He's listed at 6-foot-3 (after standing next to him I'd say he's closer to 6-foot-1) and in a division where height has become a significant weapon (see Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko, Tyson Fury) I think he will struggle against taller opponents. But the Klitschko's can't fight forever (right?) and once there gone Hunter has a real chance to make some noise against guys his own size.

Any thought about writing an article about the possible Mariusz Wach vs. Wladimir Klitschko matchup? I know Mariusz is a relative unknown boxer but he's gradually moving up the ranks. --John, New Jersey

That fight is a long way off, John. Wach has great size (6-foot-7) and pretty good punching power but he has no resume to speak of (his last win was against journeyman Kevin McBride). I'd like to see Wach fight on a couple of Klitschko's undercards to build him up before any potential fight. Let Wladimir fight one of the other top contenders (Chris Arreola, Tyson Fury, Robert Helenius) before considering Wach.

What are the chances we see Kelly Pavlik vs Jermain Taylor one more time? --Jimmy, Little Rock

Don't hold your breath, Jimmy. I'm told Taylor is still planning on coming back and I'm sure he's going to want a couple of soft touches before he thinks about a dangerous opponent. I don't think Pavlik-Taylor III is an awful fight but I'm just not seeing either man getting motivated to make it, especially when its doubtful HBO or Showtime would pay for it.

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