Some fighters, win lose or draw, are always enjoyable to watch – exciting fighters make for exciting, action-packed fights, it’s that simple. There are several of these pugilists who always have me glued to the screen or at the arena, regardless of who they are up against. Here are just a few of them who I look forward to seeing more of in the New Year:
Ivan Calderon (105)
The little guys always entertain me as they are generally more active and tend to fire with reckless abandon. At 105 pounds Ivan Calderon is the best there is at Minimumweight, but the surprise here is that he isn’t a big hitter yet still makes my list as one of those boxers I can’t see enough of. The reason for this is simply his high degree of skill. Calderon, 27-0-0 with only 6 KOs, is a 5-foot southpaw and at 32 years of age remains is one of the best tacticians in the game. He does everything well, has speed, tight defense, slick footwork, and can whistle combinations off his opponents noggin and be gone before the return fire finds its mark. The best part is that the Puerto Rican “Iron Boy” doesn’t dance and run and can often be found right in front of his opposition, yet still escapes unscathed. For the fanatics of the finer points in the ring, Calderon is a pleasure to watch.
Vic Darchinyan (112)
Darchinyan truly is a “Raging Bull” in the ring, applying pressure for as long as anyone can withstand it. With a 27-0 professional record and 21 of those wins by KO, Darchinyan is one of the most dangerous fighters today. Born in Armenia but fighting out of Australia, the 112-pound bomber comes at opponents from a southpaw stance just waiting and measuring before letting loose. There isn’t much of a jab in his arsenal; Darchinyan doesn’t bother with that stuff. His fights haven’t gone the distance since 2003 when Alejandro Felix Montiel somehow survived the 10-round route in a one-sided beating. The current IBF Flyweight champion’s biggest problem may be trying to convince the other champions to face him.
Jorge Arce (115)
Now don’t get me started on the potential war that “El Travieso” Arce versus the aforementioned Flyweight champ Vic Darchinyan would be – that would be considered cruel and usual punishment to tease us like that. While Arce (45-3-1, 35 KOs) moved up to 115 pounds in his previous bout – a four round TKO over Masibulele Makepula in a WBC Super Flyweight Eliminator – he has primarily been in the 108-112 pound range. Always entertaining due to his aggressive style and heavy hands, Arce also is a bit of a “bleeder” which adds an element of suspense to each bout. He has ended each of his past eight bouts the short route and hasn’t lost since a disappointing TKO 11 defeat to Michael Carbajal back in 1999. Arce led 98-91 on all three judges’ cards before the bout was stopped. Like many Mexican fighters, Arce is all excitement and while that may shorten a fighter’s career (Arce is just 27 years old but has had 49 pro fights), it is great while it lasts. As if that weren’t enough, Jorge Arce also happens to be one the most passionate fighters around and generally seems to love the sweet science. His smile is infectious and if little men got the attention from the boxing public that they deserve, Arce would be a household name outside of Mexico.
Rafael Marquez (118)
The best bantamweight is 36-3 Rafael Marquez with his pinpoint accuracy, near-perfect combination punching and tenacity to take the body. His 32 KOs in those 36 wins have made for some explosive endings but most often the Mexico City native will simply breakdown his opponent round by round. The fact that his three losses have also come by knockout translates to 35 of his 39 professional bouts having ended before the final bell. If knockouts equate to excitement, there may not be a more exciting fighter than Juan Manuel’s little brother. Somehow, Rafael has managed his weight to perfection as he now, at 31 is the same weight as when his career started.
Daniel Ponce De Leon (122)
I know, I know, this guy doesn’t have a ton of style but boy, does Ponce De Leon (30-1-0, 28 whacks) ever make up for it with substance. Pound-for-pound one of the hardest hitters in pugilism, the 26-year-old lefty has crushed his opponent 28 times among 30 wins, most of them in highlight reel fashion. While not the most technically sound fighter, the fact that he is so unorthodox is part of what Ponce De Leon so dangerous. Opponents never can know what is coming next or where it may be coming from. It is true that he was outboxed by lanky lefty Celestino Caballero in a lopsided decision loss in ’05, but he is also young enough that he can get better each time out.
Israel Vazquez (122)
WBC Super Bantamweight title-holder Vazquez had another solid year in 2006, going 2-0 with both victories inside the distance. He started the party by defeating forcing Ivan Hernandez to retire after four and then TKO’d tough banger Jhonny Gonzalez in the tenth round of what was a battle. His current win streak is at nine with seven wins the short way as he has now accumulated 30 KOs in 41 wins. If you need to know more about his heart and power, consider that Israel got off the canvas twice against Gonzalez before ending the show. Under the guidance of trainer Freddy Roach, Vazquez could be unbeatable again in ’07.
Juan Manuel Marquez (126)
Marquez may be the best Mexican fighter right now, and that is always saying something. True, WBO Featherweight champ Marquez did lose in 2006 when he traveled to Indonesia and lost to homeboy Chris John, but his subsequent destructions of Terdsak Jandaeng and Jimrex Jaca showcased what makes Juan Manuel “Dinamita.” Able to stalk or counter, Marquez (46-3-1, 35 KOs) has laser-like precision with either hand that explodes on his opponents and breaks them down. He works the body as well as he does the head, and getting seared by the straight right or being bombed by his left hook is like having to decide which method to choose for an execution. His accuracy is simply amazing. Marquez versus Pacquiao back in May of 2004 is one bout I’ll never tire of seeing. A rematch would be incredibly explosive.
To read Part II of “More In The New Year”