CHRIS MANNIX: It says here Lou should be applauded for showing the kind of sense that is often lacking in a business that still allows the likes of James Toney, Evander Holyfield and (up until recently) Meldrick Taylor lace up gloves.
Lou saw what we all saw -- a 31-year old Taylor dropped by a concussive punch for the third time in his last five fights, the last (and perhaps most disturbing) coming at the hands of Arthur Abraham. Reports have surfaced that Taylor was forced to remain in Germany for days following the fight because doctors deemed him unfit to fly. These are not the hallmarks of a healthy human being, much less a healthy fighter.
Now that DiBella has recused himself from Taylor's camp, the onus now falls on Showtime boss Ken Hershman to save Taylor from himself. Hershman's no fool -- he brought Taylor into a European-loaded tournament because he was a name Americans could identify with. But letting Taylor step into the ring against Andre Ward -- a young and hungry fighter who just demolished ex-champ Mikkel Kessler -- is morally irresponsible and, in my opinion, like playing Russian roulette with a man's life.
RICH O'BRIEN: First of all, I hope we can all agree that Taylor's continuing to fight is a mistake, and one that could have dire consequences for his health. His last two fights -- against Carl Froch last April, and against Abraham in October -- ended in 12th-round knockout losses frightening for the shattered state in which they left the once-vibrant Taylor. It is, of course, his choice whether he wants to fight on. But right now that prospect strikes me as downright unseemly, even by boxing standards. For that reason, I think that DiBella, who brought an enlightened and humane approach to the role of promoter (along, of course, with a healthy dose of self-regard), is doing the right thing by recusing himself as Taylor's promoter.
Then again, this is boxing. I don't know what DiBella is giving up (if anything) by stepping aside before Taylor faces Ward in April. But Lou has to figure that there'll be no paydays beyond that bout and that it will be far better to have no connection to what happens in that fight. I'd be much more impressed with, and grateful to, DiBella is he'd managed to persuade Taylor to hang them up right now.
BRYAN ARMEN GRAHAM: The shopworn Taylor has lost four of his last five fights, with brutal knockout losses to Kelly Pavlik, Froch and Abraham. It's an expensive decision for DiBella -- with Taylor guaranteed two more fights in the Super Six group stage -- but it's the right one. Five years ago, when 42-year-old Evander Holyfield suffered a third consecutive defeat against journeyman Larry Donald, the New York State Athletic Commission banned the former champion from boxing due to "diminishing skills." How many more times must Taylor get blasted before a sanctioning body intervenes here?
2. Paulie Malignaggi avenged a questionable defeat against Juan Diaz with a one-sided thumping of Diaz in Chicago last Saturday. Malignaggi is slick and skilled but possesses little power. Do you like watching Malignaggi fights? Who would you like to see him face next?
MANNIX: Is Malignaggi a slick and skilled fighter? Yes. Would I choose to watch speed skating, skulling and a monster truck rally than watch him fight? Same answer. If you're going to showboat the way Malignaggi does, you better bring more than a few flashy combinations and decent footwork. And you better beat someone better than Juan Diaz. Look, Malignaggi had his chance to prove he was an A-list fighter when he faced Miguel Cotto and Ricky Hatton. But Cotto battered him around and Hatton beat him so bad Malignaggi's corner threw in the towel.
I can accept showboating from Floyd Mayweather. I can't accept it from Malignaggi, a man with five knockouts and no career-defining win on his resume. Let him go overseas and get his face rearranged by Hatton or stay here and get carved up by Juan Manuel Marquez. I'll watch, but only because I have to. I'll tell you right now I don't want to.
O'BRIEN: I've got to say that the few times I've talked to Malignaggi I've found him smart and engaging and actually quite likeable. As well as genuinely funny. Then I see him in the ring and after one round I want to smack him with a sock full of manure. He's fast and fit and undeniably skilled, but he has less power than my sister's Chihuahua -- and far less ferocity. And none of his mugging or hip-shaking makes up for that. Remember Prince Naseem Hamed? At least that little popinjay could punch.
I was surprised by how easily Malignaggi handled Diaz this time around -- but I think it had a lot to do with Juan's relative inactivity. A fighter with a reasonable work rate and some genuine power will always give Malignaggi real trouble. Who would I like to see him face next? My first choice would be, say, a prime Mike Tyson -- or maybe Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis and Sonny Liston, all at once. Seriously, I know Malignaggi called out Juan Manuel Marquez, and also has his sights set on a rematch with Ricky Hatton, but I'd like to see him take on Amir Khan. Let's see whether Paulie's clowning can diffuse the electrifying attack of another young 140-pounder -- one who can bring not just the attitude, but also the hurt.
GRAHAM: The ring antics are hardly endearing, but Malignaggi outboxed Diaz in both fights and deserved the victory both times. Of course, the Magic Man lost a criminal hometown decision in their first fight, just one of many suspect verdicts in 2009 -- a trend which threatens boxing far more than Malignaggi's showboating.
Yes, that incessant mugging borders on repugnant -- I'd have much rather seen him go for the knockout when he staggered Diaz during the sixth round on Saturday instead of playing to the crowd -- but Malignaggi's theatrics are harmless. He's not the first clown prince to climb into the square ring. I say Paulie deserves one more shot against an A-lister, whether it's Marquez or a rematch with Hatton. If he loses, the Brooklynite can earn a comfortable living as a gatekeeper at junior welterweight.
3. Timothy Bradley staked his claim to the top spot in the junior welterweight division with a win over top prospect Lamont Peterson. With the wealth of talent at 140 pounds -- Bradley, Juan Manuel Marquez, Amir Khan -- would you like to see a Super Six-style tournament? If not, at what weight class would a future tournament work best?
MANNIX: The 140-pound division is a lot like 168: a lot of good, talented fighters, many if not most of whom don't have the resumes to command big-money fights. Any Super Six-style tournament (which would have to be funded by HBO) would undoubtedly include Juan Manuel Marquez (who along with an unlikely-to-enter Ricky Hatton is the only unquestionable "name" in the bunch), Amir Khan, Devon Alexander, Victor Ortiz and Bradley, who in 2010 has clearly established himself as a top-three fighter in the division. Throw in Nate Campbell or Malignaggi and you have yourself a show. Could it happen? HBO execs have privately loved the Showtime's Super Six and I'm sure the idea of putting on a bigger and better tournament intrigues them. Negotiations would be exceedingly difficult but the end result -- and the attention it would draw -- would be enormous.
O'BRIEN: The Super Six tournament format is an intriguing one. I'm not sure it's the best way to tidy up a division, but so far in the 168-pound class it has produced some compelling matchups. It does seem as though the junior welterweight division is the most suited to a new Super Six tourney -- primarily because there are so many relatively new faces at the top. Let's start with the following matches:
-- Amir Kahn vs. Paulie Malignaggi (see Question 2) -- Nate Campbell vs. Marcos Maidana-- Timothy Bradley vs. Victor Ortiz (Is Ortiz really ready to go all in? This will decide it.)
Then let the winner fight Marquez. That's two years of fistic feasts right there.
GRAHAM: The bantamweight division seems tailor-made for a Super Six-styled tournament: It's rich in talent with a healthy mix of up-and-comers and established vets. HBO could organize a four-man event with alphabet title holders Hozumi Hasegawa, Anselmo Moreno, Fernando Montiel and Yonnhy Perez -- or toss in Joseph Agbeko and Abner Mares and mimic the Super Six format. With domestic interest in the heavyweight division lagging, the salability of a 118-pound tourney may never be higher.
4. The Klitschkos continue to roll along. On Saturday, it was Vitali Klitschko pounding Kevin Johnson in a lopsided decision victory. Break out your crystal ball: What would you like to see from both Klitschkos in 2010?
MANNIX: Moral victories seem to be all you are looking for when facing the Klitschkos: Sultan Ibragimov traded one for his WBO belt against Wladimir in '08 and Kevin Johnson was gunning for one when he dodged and ducked Vitali for 12 rounds last Saturday. You can't blame the Klitschkos for the moribound state of the heavyweight division. They fight every challenger put in front of them and they gun for the ones (David Haye, Nikolay Valuev) that avoid them.
An ideal 2010, at least as far as heavyweights go, would feature two fascinating matchups: Wladimir against Haye, a fight in which the younger Klitschko could move one step closer to a unified title; and Vitali against Valuev, giant against giant in a compelling fight that could see the 7-foot Valuev go down. Beggars can't be choosers in boxing's glamour division. Two good, quality fights in the next calendar year is probably as good as you can get.
O'BRIEN: Okay, I confess: I sat down to watch HBO's delayed telecast of Klitschko-Johnson having made sure I had heard nothing about the result. I wanted to watch this one "live." After three rounds of Vitali's desultory "jabs" and pushing (occasionally pawing) right hands, I was frantically googling for the results, just so I could stop watching. Little brother Wladimir Klitschko has evolved into a very capable, confident and powerful (if somewhat stiff) heavyweight. Vitali, however, remains unwatchable, no matter how much people tell me that he's the "talented one." He's like Jess Willard on lithium.
What would I like to see for the Klitschkos? Outside of brother-on-brother mayhem, I suppose I would opt for opponents who could really bring the fight to each of them. The heavyweight division is moribund right now, but there are a few possibly compelling matchups. Should David Haye manage to solve the pugilistic Rubik's Cube that is Bernard Hopkins, I would love to see him go up against Wladimir, just for the speed-versus-size equation. And I'm intrigued by former cruiserweight champ Tomasz Adamek, who, though only 6-foot-1½ and 215 pounds, took out 256-pound Andrew Golota in October. He'd be a worthy opponent for either Klitschko. Finally, has somebody got a number for David Tua? He's 37, but he can still punch harder than anyone in the division. Let's put him in with Vitali and see if he can't make the big brother work for once.
GRAHAM: What would I like to see from both Klitschkos in 2010? Same thing most folks want: to see Wladimir and Vitali fight to unify the long-fractured heavyweight championship.
Alas, the brothers have promised their mum they'll never fight one another. ("It's not realistic," explained Vitali after September's pasting of Chris Arreola.) Within the constraints of reality, Wladimir has an intriguing mandatory on March 20 against Philadelphia's Eddie Chambers, who outpointed then-unbeaten Alexander Dimitrenko decisively on the Fourth of July. Klitschko-Chambers won't threaten the pay-per-view record Pacquiao-Mayweather is almost certain to establish one week prior. But the underappreciated Chambers, a glorified cruiserweight who slimmed down to 208¼ for Dimitrenko, possesses the hand speed and boxing skills to get inside and test Klitschko's chin. No bold predictions here, but it could be Wladimir's stiffest challenge in years. Afterwards, Wladimir needs to cap off 2010 with a title unification bout with the outspoken Haye. There won't be a unified heavyweight champion until either Wladimir or Vitali loses or retires -- but if Wladmir can defeat Haye and bring the last outstanding alphabet belt into the family fold, it's the next best thing.
For Vitali, I'd love to see a showdown with Valuev, a fight that may be easier to make since the 7-footer lost his alphabet title. Beyond that, a pair of gold medalists from the Sydney Olympics could make interesting pairings. There's Aleksandr Povetkin, a Teddy Atlas protege, who's one of the division's lone unbeaten prospects (18-0, 13 KOs) and a relative greenhorn despite his advanced age (30). The raw power of Odlanier Solis is also intriguing, though the heavy-hitting Cuban needs additional seasoning before going up against a technician like Vitali.