There are words we, as writers, are guilty of overusing. Genius is one. Electrifying is another.
In boxing, there's another word tossed around too often: Crossroads. It seems like every time a middle aged (by boxing standards) fighter who has been slumping lately gets in the ring, it's a crossroads fight. The rhetoric is always that if the fighter loses, his entire career could be in jeopardy. Sometimes it's true: Shane Mosley's fight with Manny Pacquiao last May was a true crossroads fight for Mosley. Other times, it's not. Glen Johnson will challenge Lucian Bute for the IBF super middleweight title on Saturday night. By my count, this will be the 42-year old Johnson's 15th straight crossroads fight.
On Saturday, there is another fight that I think does deserve the title, for both fighters: James Kirkland vs. Alfredo Angulo, who will face off in a junior middleweight title eliminator in Cancun, Mexico (HBO, 10:15 p.m.).
A little background: Kirkland, 27, was a rising star in the 154-pound division. But in 2009 he was busted for possession of a firearm -- a violation of his probation stemming from an armed robbery conviction in 2003 -- and was sentenced to 24 months in prison and fell off the map. Last April, in just his third fight since coming back to boxing, Kirkland (29-1) was knocked out by light hitting Nobuhiro Ishida in the first round.
Angulo, 29, has a similar tough tale: A ferocious puncher, Angulo was a television-friendly junior middleweight with a bright future. But then in 2010 he passed on a lucrative offer to fight middleweight champion Sergio Martinez. A short time later Angulo (20-1) was deported to Mexico, where he has remained due to immigration issues that prevent him from returning to the U.S.
Indeed, it wasn't too long ago that both Angulo and Kirkland were being pegged as stars. Now, it's likely only one of them has a shot at it. Kirkland has rebounded from his surprising loss, reuniting with longtime trainer Ann Wolf and winning two straight fights by early knockout. Angulo has teamed up with Hall of Fame trainer Nacho Beristain and in August won his first fight in 13 months, a first-round knockout of Joseph Gomez.
There is a future for the winner. The junior middleweight and middleweight divisions are starved for talent. Martinez has been mowing through opponents and cash cows Saul Alvarez and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. are lurking out there. They need competition and the winner of Kirkland-Angulo could be it. To the winner goes a posh, high six-figure payday as a headliner. To the loser a long, uphill climb through second tier opponents on pay per view undercards. The stakes are pretty high.
Now onto your e-mail ...
Well, Jason, that's an interesting -- and completely incorrect -- interpretation of the piece I wrote last week. Look back at the item: I wrote, citing a source I knew to have direct knowledge of the pay-per-view numbers, that Floyd Mayweather's fight against Victor Ortiz generated approximately 1.15 million pay per view buys. In the same story I noted that, according to a source with direct knowledge of Showtime's number, Manny Pacquiao's fight with Shane Mosley did 1.3 million. I believe that 1.3 million is better than an approximation, as it has been nearly six months since Pacquiao and Mosley fought and by now the number is pretty solid. At no point did I editorialize; I was simply reporting the numbers of the two biggest fights of 2011.
Now, Mayweather's publicist, Kelly Swanson, issued a news release on behalf of Mayweather and Golden Boy Promotions saying Mayweather-Ortiz did 1.25 pay per view buys. On Twitter, I said I stand by my reporting, and I still do. For starters, the numbers Mayweather and Golden Boy are citing are not the actual counted number of buys, but the numbers they anticipate it will be. It's a commonly used practice. Picking up 30,000 to 40,000 buys over the course of the next few weeks is completely reasonable. But saying that 1.25 million is the number right now is simply inaccurate.
Moreover, I continue to be told the number is in the neighborhood of 1.15 and no higher than 1.2. Besides trusting my sources (which I do), this whole thing is fishy. It took more than a month for Mayweather and Co. to release the number. Usually it doesn't take more than a week or two, tops, to put something out there. What I think is that they were hoping that once nearly all the numbers came in, they would be able to report a number higher than Pacquiao's. And anyone who has ever been inside the contentious, insecure relationship between Pacquiao's people and Mayweather's people understand why.
Here's the greater point: Who cares. At the end of the day, we are talking about the difference between 100,000 buys, at most. Both Mayweather and Pacquiao's events were huge successes. They both are enormous pay per view stars. Mayweather generated -- with the help of a $59.95 pay per view price, the highest suggested price for a boxing pay per view ever -- $78.4 million in revenue against Ortiz, making it the second highest grossing non-heavyweight pay per view event of all time. Both Mayweather and Pacquiao's fights are must see TV.
But Twitter and the Internet websites and message boards continue to be polluted by angry fans who have turned Mayweather vs. Pacquiao into the Sharks vs. the Jets. If it's not "Manny fights Floyd's leftovers!" (an especially dumb argument) or "Floyd's afraid of Manny!" (an equally dumb one) it's something else. I don't get it. Both men are great fighters. Both are compelling characters, albeit for different reasons. Why can't we be fans of both? Why can't we wait until the face each other before we take such vitriol spewing positions on who is better? God willing, that day will come soon.
A little context first: Top Rank's Todd duBoef has started talking about matching Gamboa, arguably the best featherweight (126-pounds) in the world, against Rios, one of the biggest monsters at 135-pounds, sometime next year. Do I think it's a physical mismatch? Actually, no. Rios does have a two-inch height advantage but it's not like he's a prototypical jab-first fighter anyway. And I think Gamboa's power is only going to increase as he moves up in weight. Remember, he was planning to jump to 130-pounds anyway.
That being said, if I'm Gamboa I push for a fight no sooner than the end of the year. He just signed on to work with Emmanuel Steward, and that relationship is going to need some time. Besides, if Gamboa is intent on moving up to 130-pounds I'd love to see a Gamboa-Adrien Broner showdown. That promises to deliver a lot of action and be a good, meaningful fight between two of the best prospects in boxing.
Tim Bradley is the most likely choice at this point. Top Rank is giving Bradley a prime slot on Pacquiao's undercard this month against a quasi name opponent (Joel Casamayor) that Bradley can look good against. There are a few other candidates that will emerge if Bradley looks bad (Mike Jones, Andre Berto, Miguel Cotto) but barring a major setback for Bradley, I think he is the guy.
I've been in contact with Lou DiBella's people the last few days. They have been trying to set up a media day for Taylor in New York, where they can reintroduce him to the public and answer the many questions out there about his health. As for his first opponent, whoever it is will be the softest of soft touches. He will be fighting in his backyard of Little Rock, Arkansas and it says here DiBella will put someone in front of him who is both easy to hit and doesn't hit back much.
As for Taylor being a factor at 160 again ... it's hard to say. In another time, I'd say no. He has lost four of his last five fights and been brutally knocked out in the last two. But there is not much depth at 160-pounds right now. Besides Sergio Martinez, is there anyone that really scares you? Felix Sturm? Daniel Geale? Matthew Macklin? Taylor is 33 and if matched right could put together a little bit of a winning streak. And don't forget, Martinez and Macklin are both DiBella fighters. If Taylor shows he can still compete at 160, those are easy fights to make.