The trickle has become a flood.
A few years ago the sport of boxing was worrying about fan attendance, rival sports and television spots, now professional boxing has souped up its reputation with the busiest and most impressive scheduling in 50 years.
Yes, a half century has gone by since the sport saw compelling match ups as we’re seeing in 2009. Not since the 1950s has boxing seen elite fighters and top contenders willing and eager to mix it up.
“It’s been a great year so far and I expect it to get better,” said Richard Schaefer, CEO for Golden Boy Promotions who along with Top Rank, Goossen-Tutor Promotions and Gary Shaw Productions have agreed to match their best with each other. “Boxing fans are getting what they want.”
Even the Contender reality television show amped up their program with a slew of experienced cruiserweights that are engaging in the finale on Wednesday at the Foxwood Resort Casino. The fight card will be televised on Versus.
Rico Hoye, one of the top fighters on that show, said the opportunity to display his craft to a television audience was a gift.
“I’m in the bronze medal match,” said Hoye, who attended in press conference in Sherman Oaks near his training camp. “All in all, it was a great experience.”
The Contender show took place in Southeast Asia and was hosted by Tony Danza. Hoye was one of the dozen or so fighters who battled each other for several weeks.
“I came to L.A. to train with Shadeed and have been sparring with Joel Godfrey,” said Hoye (22-3, 15 KOs), who is scheduled to fight Akinyemi Laleye (12-2, 6 KOs) in an eight round cruiserweight contest.
Both fighters lost in the semi-finals and now face each other.
“I thought I won,” said Hoye, a leading lightweight fighter who now fights in the heavier division. “But I’m grateful for this opportunity.”
In the main event is Troy Ross (20-1, 14 KOs) facing Ehinomen Ehikhamenor (15-3, 7 KOs) in a 10-round bout.
Three other six rounds bouts will featured with Felix Cora Jr., Tim Flamos, Ryan Coyne, Richard Gingras, Alfredo Escalera Jr., and Erick Vega.
Houston fight card
Next Saturday in Houston, a riveting lightweight world championship belt takes place in Houston, Texas.
Mexico’s Juan Manuel Marquez who was last seen beating Cuba’s Joel Casamayor by knockout, now tests a younger and hungrier fighter in boxing machine Juan “Baby Bull” Diaz for the Ring Magazine title, WBA, IBF and IBO versions of the lightweight belts.
“The more championship belts for me, the better,” said Marquez (49-4-1, 36 KOs) who is considered one of the top prizefighters in the world. “I want to unify the lightweight division.”
Marquez’s contest with Diaz opened eyes because of the two fighters remarkable ring skills and devil-may-care attitude inside the ropes. Boxing fans are drooling over this match up.
“To have the opportunity to get both of my titles back, as well as the Ring Magazine belt, it’s going to be a great night next weekend,” said Diaz (34-1, 17 KOs), who formerly held the WBA, WBO and IBF titles but lost them to Campbell nearly a year ago.
In the semi-main event there is WBA featherweight king Chris John defending his title against another Texan in Rocky Juarez. It’s the fourth attempt by the local fighter to grab a world title. It won’t be easy to chase the fleet-footed John.
Dunaway vs. Park
Over in South Korea, Hollie Dunaway is currently training and adjusting to the new climate after preparing for more than a month in Las Vegas. The junior flyweight titleholder is facing Ji-Hyun Park (7-2, 4 KOs) the current IFBA titleholder in that weight division. The fight takes place on Sunday March 1.
Dunaway (21-7-1, 10 KOs) is basically facing an unknown and untested opponent. Park won the IFBA strwaweight title by beating a fighter who only had one pro fight. Then she moved up in weight and captured her current title by beating a girl who had three wins and four losses.
Park has never been tested. But that doesn’t mean she isn’t any good.
America’s Dunaway is a former GBU and WIBC minimum weight titleholder and is moving up in weight. She also moved her camp from Missouri to Las Vegas to get better sparring and training.
Dunaway knows how to win abroad. She captured the minimum weight titles by going to Hungary in 2006 and taking a split-decision over Krisztina Belinszky. That’s a feat in itself.
Heavyweights in L.A.
Last week a press conference was held in L.A. to hail the upcoming heavyweight bout between former world champion Samuel Peter of Nigeria versus Fast Eddie Chambers.
It’s one of those bouts that can make or break either fighter.
Chambers had one shot at the big time and lost before a televised audience against Alexander Povetkin and lost. Now he gets another test and he definitely needs to ace this test to move on.
“It’s an opportunity to show what I can do,” said Chambers, who looks more like a cruiserweight than heavyweight. “We’ll definitely take care of business.”
Peter feels the same kind of pressure.
“What we have here is the green light to prove we Africans are going to be smiling again,” said Peter, who lost his title to Vitali Klitschko with a less than inspiring effort. “I just want everybody to come out and see what happens.”
The heavyweight fight will be opening the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles to professional boxing. The new venue is across the street from Staples Center and seats 7,000. ESPN will televise the impressive heavyweight showdown.
“Historically this is the first boxing event at Nokia,” said Dan Goossen, president of Goossen-Tutor Promotions.
Co-promoter is Duva Promotions who handle Peter.
“It’s an honor to be doing this fight,” said Duva, a savvy boxing promoter with strong genes in the business. “It’s going to be an historic venue for boxing.”
Also on the fight card will be Olympian Shawn Estrada and lightweight sensation John “Covina Kid” Molina.
Proof of 2009’s early half greatness
Many boxing experts point to the 1980s as a great time for the sport, but to me, the more interesting fights were in the 1950s, where it seemed every top fighter fought each other at least once and sometimes two or more times.
This year looks to be shaping up to one of the best since the 1950s with significant challenges taking place almost every week until the month of May.
For example, on March 7, in San Jose, three marquee fighters Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero, Victor Ortiz and James Kirkland take part in tough matches on a fight card in Northern California. The event will be shown on HBO.
On March 14, in England, Mexico great featherweight Marco Antonio Barrera travels across the Atlantic Ocean to try Great Britain’s Amir Khan, a rising star in the lightweight division.
On March 21, in Germany, WBC heavyweight titleholder Vitali Klitschko defends his title against Cuban star Juan Carlos Gomez. On the same day, in Las Vegas, Melinda Cooper fights Monica Lovato for the vacant IFBA bantamweight title.
March 27, in Los Angeles, former heavyweight champion Samuel Peter collides with Fast Eddie Chambers at Nokia Theater. Also on the card will be undefeated John “The Covina Kid” Molina and Olympian Shawn Estrada of East Los Angeles.
On March 28, in Tijuana, Mexico, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., Humberto Soto, Fernando Montiel and Giovanni Segura are on the same terrific fight card. The best fight will probably be Indio’s Antonio Diaz against Jose Luis Castillo.
On April 4, in San Antonio, Texas, Edwin Valero, Joel Casamayor, Julio Diaz, Carlos “Famoso” Hernandez, Jesus Chavez, Michael Katsidis, Jorge Barrios and Antonio Pitalua meet in a lightweight extravaganza. On the same day, Palm Spring’s Timothy Bradley fights Kendall Holt in Montreal, Canada for the WBC and WBO junior welterweight titles.
On April 11, in Las Vegas, Winky Wright and Paul “The Punisher” Williams battle in a middleweight bout that features the two most avoided fighters clashing. If that’s not enough, there is a chance that Riverside’s undefeated heavyweight Chris Arreola may also be on the card.
The list continues through May 2, when Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao battles Ricky “The Hitman” Hatton for the Ring Magazine junior welterweight championship.
Boxing fans may look back on this year as one of the greatest in the sport’s long history and a real Renaissance.
Ontario fight card
Palm Spring’s ringmaster Steve Quinonez (31-13-1) returns to the ring on Friday Feb. 27, against Patrick Lopez (14-1, 10 KOs) of Venezuela in a junior welterweight match at the Doubletree Hotel in Ontario.
It’s another fight card by Thompson Boxing Promotions that is signing an abundance of young sterling prospects. Also on the card is Juan Burgos of Tijuana against Fernando Lizarraga in a featherweight contest. Plus, Riverside’s undefeated welterweight Mauricio Herrera fights knockout puncher Brian Gordon for a scheduled eight rounds. Hector Serrano, Walter Sornoi and Ronnie Rios round out the rest of the bouts.
For tickets and information (714) 935-0900.
Fights on television
Wed. Versus, 6 p.m., Troy Ross (20-1) vs. Ehinomen Ehikhamenor (15-3).
Fri., ESPN2, 6 p.m., Glen Johnson (48-12-2) vs. Daniel Judah (23-3-3).
Fri. Showtime, 11 p.m., Tomasz Adamek (36-1) vs. Johnathan Banks (20-0).
Sat. HBO, 7 p.m., Juan Manuel Marquez (49-4-1) vs. Juan Diaz (34-1); Rocky Juarez (28-4) vs. Chris John (42-0-1).