The year 2004 proved to be an interesting year for boxing. Glencoffe Johnson upset Antonio Tarver in the best light heavyweight fight in a few years. Felix Trinidad and Ricardo Mayorga engaged in a “Hispanic Hagler-Hearns”. Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales fought a thrilling rubber match. And Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez produced one of the best featherweight fights in history.
What's better is that 2005 could be even more thrilling. The 5 best matchups of the new year.
Glencoffe Johnson-Bernard Hopkins 2: These two already fought, with Hopkins dismantling the gutsy Johnson in 1997. But, obviously, “The Road Warrior” is a different fighter now. His double upsets of Roy Jones Jr. and Antonio Tarver proved that he is more than a limited pressure fighter with heart. He has some skills, too. Skills that have improved since his loss to “Ex”. Meanwhile, Hopkins – almost 40 years old – somehow seems to be getting better with age. But he's got to slow down sometime, and Johnson may have the right combination of size and experience to pull a third shocking upset. The rematch could possibly be fought at a catchweight of 168 pounds. Odds: Hopkins 3-1.
Felix Trinidad-Oscar De La Hoya 2: Many boxing fans are clamoring for Trinidad-Hopkins 2, but that was a clearcut knockout victory for Hopkins. However, the first Trinidad-De La Hoya fight – a decision victory for “Tito” in September 1999 – was one of the more controversial verdicts in recent memory. And, besides that, both careers could use some help. Trinidad just returned from a two-year retirement, while De La Hoya has been fighting guys too big for him. This is a perfect time to settle an old score. Winner keeps fighting. Loser retires. Odds: Trinidad 2-1.
Kostya Tszyu-Floyd Mayweather: Any doubts as to whether Tszyu was still a fighter at the top of his game were quashed in November when the “Thunder from Down Under” destroyed Sharmba Mitchell. And there's not a better opponent than Mayweather, the former junior lightweight and lightweight king who is now a 140-pounder. It would match Tszyu's awesome power against Mayweather's blazing speed – the ultimate boxer vs. puncher matchup. The fight makes sense for everybody: Tszyu's career is coming to an end, and Mayweather needs an exciting opponent. Tszyu may be a little too exciting. Odds: Pick 'em.
Jose Luis Castillo-Diego Corrales: The irresistable force vs. the immovable object. Corrales, the long bomber from California, is on a career-high after defeating Joel Casamayor and Acelino Freitas in consecutive fights. Castillo re-established himself as the world's best lightweight with defeats of Juan Lazcano and Casamayor. Their battle would be a sure slugfest, with Casamayor testing his power against Castillo's granite chin. Castillo can punch a little, too. Bombs away! Odds: Castillo 2-1.
Manny Pacquiao-Marco Antonio Barrera 2: The first fight certainly wasn't a classic. Pacquiao thrashed Barrera in one of 2003's biggest upsets. At the time, it appeared Barrera was finished as a world-class performer. Obviously, that assessment was wrong, as Barrera rebounded with a brilliant 2004, beating Paulie Ayala and rival Morales for the second time. Pacquiao had that classic draw with Marquez. But neither Pacquiao or Marquez seems thrilled about a rematch – not yet anyway. And Barrera has claimed all along that he wasn't himself against “Pac-Man”. It would certainly be intriguing. Odds: Pacquiao 2-1.