Closing the Year with Boxing’s Best

by Kieran Mulvaney

What to do when HBO’s live boxing broadcasts have wrapped for the year? Revisit the very best bouts from an action-packed 2012, of course. The last 12 months have provided some jaw-dropping action, and for five days, beginning December 25, HBO will be showcasing seven of the year’s best examples of boxing brilliance. All times are ET/PT.


Floyd Mayweather vs. Miguel Cotto
Tuesday, December 25 at 11 PM


In May, Puerto Rican superstar Cotto put his junior middleweight belt on the line against pound-for-pound king Mayweather. In one of the finest performances of his likely Hall-of-Fame career, Cotto pushed Money May to the edge, forcing Mayweather to dig deeper than he has had to in at least 10 years.

 

Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. vs. Sergio Martinez
Wednesday, December 26 at 11 PM

 

Martinez was regarded as the true middleweight champion. But Chavez had the belt he coveted, and Martinez agitated for over a year for an opportunity to take it from him. When the chance came, the Argentine appeared well on his way to doing what he had sought to do, until a dramatic finale that was one of the most explosive rounds of the year.

 

Robert Guerrero vs. Andre Berto
Thursday, December 27 at 11 PM

 

Three years ago, Guerrero was campaigning as a junior lightweight, having begun his professional career as a featherweight. One month ago, he appeared on HBO World Championship Boxing in just his second bout as a welterweight, taking on a hard-hitting former 147-pound-title-holder whose own professional debut had been at 162 pounds – almost 37 pounds heavier than Guerrero’s. But Guerrero was the aggressor, dragging Berto into an old-fashioned down-and-dirty street fight that was one of the roughest, toughest and best of 2012.

 

Antonio DeMarco vs. Adrien Broner
Friday, December 28 at 11 PM

 

Flashy Adrien “The Problem” Broner inspires a gamut of emotions – and it’s safe to say that few if any of them are ‘indifference.’ Love him or hate him, it is hard not to respect him; increasingly tipped as the sport’s next big star, Broner went a long way to establishing his bona fides with a devastating and dominant performance against Mexican DeMarco.

 

Andre Ward vs. Chad Dawson
Friday, December 28 at 11:45 PM

 

Light-heavyweight titlist Dawson took the unusual step of dropping down in weight to take on super middleweight kingpin Ward. He may still be regretting it, after Ward – in many pundits’ eyes, second only to Mayweather on the pound-for-pound list – opened his full bag of tricks and cemented his place among boxing’s elite.

 

Brandon Rios vs. Mike Alvarado
Saturday, December 29 at 11 PM

 

The moment this junior welterweight clash was signed, boxing fans everywhere had the date circled on their calendars. Both Rios and Alvarado entered the contest unbeaten and with reputations for possessing that rare combination of immovable object and irresistible force. There seemed no way this could fail to be a serious Fight of the Year candidate, and so it proved. Each man dished out and received hellacious punishment, and the contest swayed back and forth, with first one man and the other seizing advantage and momentum, until an ending that seemed to come almost out of the blue.

 

Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez 4
Saturday, Dec. 29 at 11:40 PM

 

Pacquiao and Marquez had pursued each other like Ahab and the whale, across eight years and 36 rounds, before meeting for a fourth time on December 8. Each man insisted beforehand that this would be their final battle, but after six rounds that exceeded even the dizzying heights of their previous encounters, and a conclusive, concussive ending that was among the most shocking and emphatic in years, who would bet against a fifth?

 

Guerrero Batters Berto on His Way to a Decision

by Hamilton Nolan

Andre Berto, Robert Guerrero - Photo Credit: Will Hart

Andre Berto’s last fight before Saturday night was one year, two months, and 21 days ago. For those who suspected that that lengthy, scandal-induced layoff (after testing positive for steroids prior to a scheduled rematch with Victor Ortiz) might render the fearsome Berto (28-2) a bit rusty, congratulations: You were right. Robert Guerrero (31-1), a onetime featherweight, knocked down the muscle-clad Berto twice, closed both of his eyes, and handily manhandled him en route to a unanimous decision victory that was a mild upset of the most brutal variety.

The upset was only mild, because Guerrero is one of those very, very good fighters who teeters on the edge of the sport’s upper elite, lacking only that one superlative quality needed to catapult him into legitimate stardom. He is a very good boxer, but not world-beatingly slick -- a very good puncher but without the sort of thunderous power wielded by Berto, power that can make even the most grizzled boxing fans wince in anticipation of its violence. Yet Guerrero proved on Saturday night that he does possess at least one superlative quality: his will. 

Read the Rest of the Guerrero vs. Berto Fight Recap at HBO.com

Expect Guerrero, Berto to Provide Action for Which to Be Thankful

by Kieran Mulvaney

Boxing fans have much to be thankful at any time of the year. For all its occasional frustrations and controversies, boxing is a sport like no other. There is no thrill more visceral than that moment before a much-anticipated title fight, when the ring empties, the crowd roars, and two combatants stare at each other from their respective corners, ready to do battle.

So it’s fitting that this Thanksgiving weekend, we have a contest that seems, on paper at least, inherently incapable of being a turkey. (Sorry.) Each of the two men involved poses tremendous risk to the other, and yet both men accepted the fight, not because they were mandated to, not because boxing politics forced it to happen, but because they wanted it.

At first glance, Robert Guerrero would seem to be risking the most. Although he holds a welterweight belt, this will be only his second outing at 147 pounds. Before his division debut, a hard-fought win over Selcuk Aydin, his previous bout had been at lightweight, fully two divisions lighter. As recently as 2009 he was a super-featherweight; and the year before that he was a featherweight, 21 pounds lighter than he will weigh on the scale on Friday.

Yet he moved up to welterweight because he wanted the challenge, wanted the opportunity to fight for big money against big names; in Andre Berto, he is facing one of those big names. And while Berto is the naturally heavier man, having fought his first seven professional bouts at middleweight or junior middleweight before settling in to the welterweight division, the downside of defeat is perhaps even greater for him than for Guerrero.

Two years ago, almost to the day, Berto annihilated Freddy Hernandez inside a round to remain undefeated and on course for a big-money fight. That marquee matchup arrived in April 2011 against Victor Ortiz, a sensational encounter in which Berto was knocked down in the first round, rallied to drop Ortiz hard in the sixth and then was dropped to his back as he moved in for the kill. Berto ultimately lost a unanimous decision in one of the best fights of the year. A rematch with Ortiz, scheduled for earlier this year, evaporated when Berto tested positive for a banned substance – a test that the California commission was satisfied was likely the result of a tainted supplement.

For Berto, then, this Saturday is about the rehabilitation of a reputation, as well as a need for victory. For Guerrero, Berto is standing in the way of him reaching the next level. For the winner, riches and bigger fights await. For the loser, the only likely prize is a trip to the back of the line.

While both men are accomplished technically, neither likes to take a step backward. For as long as it lasts, this will likely be a real fight, in which both boxers dig deep and fire fusillades at each other with limited interruption. At the end of the night, it seems certain that both men will have more than earned their money and the chance for a belated holiday weekend.

And for that we, as fans, should be thankful.

CompuBox Analysis: Guerrero vs. Berto

by CompuBox

Like Manny Pacquiao before him, Robert Guerrero is in the midst of a possibly historic climb up the scales. The onetime IBF featherweight and super featherweight titlist is now campaigning as a full-fledged welterweight and in his last fight he seized the "interim" WBC belt from previously undefeated Selcuk Aydin in one of the year's better fights.

Meanwhile, Andre Berto is seeking to complete a comeback that was cut short first by injury, then by a positive test for the steroid nandrolone that scuttled his scheduled June 23 rematch against Victor Ortiz. (Note: Guerrero's November 2006 victory over Orlando Salido was converted to a no-contest after Guerrero's own positive steroid test). As a result, Berto's last fight was a fifth round corner retirement over Jan Zaveck to win Zaveck's IBF welterweight title -- in September 2011, or 14 months ago.

Will Guerrero take another big step toward a megafight with the likes of Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather Jr. or will Berto spoil the party? Their recent CompuBox histories offer the following story lines:

See more Compubox analysis of Robert Guererro vs. Andre Berto on HBO.com.

High Stakes in Berto vs. Guerrero

by Eric Raskin

Andre Berto, Robert Guerrero

Every boxer sees his momentum stall at one point or another. That’s the nature of the sport. There will be injuries. There will be defeats. There will be setbacks.

The unpredictability inherent in any boxing career arc is a reality with which Robert Guerrero and Andre Berto are intimately familiar. They are world-class talents who have both struggled to achieve full-steam-ahead career momentum -- in part due to the usual suspects, injuries and upset defeats.

But they’ve each suffered a more atypical setback as well. Guerrero got not just his career but his entire life rocked when his wife, Casey, was diagnosed with cancer in her mid-20s. Berto saw not just his career trajectory but his personal reputation assailed when he tested positive in May 2012 for performance enhancing drugs.

Guerrero and Berto, for very different reasons, know how suddenly the pause button can be pressed. Berto hasn’t fought for 14 months; Guerrero is one fight removed from a 15-month layoff. So they both understand that every opportunity to establish momentum is an opportunity that must be seized. When these two 29-year-old warriors clash on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, there’s more at stake than a single win or loss. One man will put his setbacks behind him, while the other will risk being defined by them.

Read the Complete Overview at HBO.com.

HBO Boxing 2011 By the Numbers

By Kieran Mulvaney

Photo Credits: Will Hart With 2012 underway, and a new season of HBO Boxing close to kicking off, here are a few facts and figures by which to remember the boxing year that has just passed.

1
The number of rounds it took for the long-anticipated meeting between junior middleweights James Kirkland and Alfredo Angulo to explode into the war we all thought and hoped it would be.

177
The total number of punches thrown by both men in that dramatic first round.

2
Photo Credits: Ed Mulholland Bantamweight champ Fernando Montiel was supposed to provide, at the very least, a stiff challenge to Nonito Donaire, who was moving up from the junior bantamweight division. But two rounds was all it took for Donaire to flatten Montiel with a monstrous left hook that launched the Filipino Flash on the road to potential stardom.

5
The number of times Sergio Martinez knocked down Sergiy Dzinziruk during his middleweight title defense in March.

0
The number of times Dzinziruk had been floored previously in his professional career.

6
The sixth round was the highlight of the fast-paced clash between Victor Ortiz and Andre Berto. Each man had already officially been down once when Berto dropped Ortiz and seemed to be closing in for the kill. But then a powerful left hand sent Berto to the canvas – and prompted HBO commentator Emanuel Steward to erupt in enthusiasm.

4
The number of rounds it took for Ortiz’s star, which had risen in the wake of his Berto win, to come crashing down to Earth: An intentional headbutt of Floyd Mayweather was followed by a point deduction and then, while Ortiz was attempting to apologize to Mayweather for the headbutt (for what appeared to be the third time), Floyd’s left hook and a right hand dropped Ortiz for the count.

36
Photo Credit: Will Hart The total rounds that Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez have fought, without a clear winner emerging from their rivalry.

114-113
The average score, in favor of Pacquiao, of the nine scorecards that have been handed in over the course of the three fights he has fought with Marquez.

86
The sum of punches Miguel Cotto landed on the surgically repaired right eye of Antonio Margarito, en route to a tenth-round stoppage that avenged his controversial defeat three years earlier.

2
The points deducted by referee Joe Cooper from Amir Khan during Khan’s junior welterweight title defense against Lamont Peterson. The deductions would prove decisive in handing Khan a narrow loss, the second defeat of his career.

26
The number of cards televised in 2011 on World Championship Boxing, Boxing After Dark, and HBO PPV.

Boxing's Best Of 2011

By Eric Raskin

The 12 Days of Christmas are fun and all, but for fight fans, the end of 2011 is all about seven days of boxing. From December 26-29, HBO will replay the seven most memorable boxing matches of the year, including Fight of the Year candidates, history-makers and record-breakers, featuring some of the biggest superstars in the sport.

One thing all seven fights had in common was that they featured at least one combatant with something serious to prove (which is a not-uncommon ingredient in fights that turn out to be as great in the ring as they appear on paper). We’ll break down the action of all seven fights, with a little help from HBO commentator Max Kellerman.

Read More at HBO.com

Undercard Overview: Intense Brawling Guaranteed

By Eric Raskin

It was sportswriter Pierce Egan who first dubbed boxing “the sweet science” in the early 1800s. Two hundred years later, Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito, and their undercard cohorts are poised to present an action-packed night of pugilism with nothing sweet and nothing scientific about it. Some fans appreciate a brilliant technical display; every fan loves a brutality-filled brawl. The December 3 pay-per-view card at Madison Square Garden features no less than four fights that just might fit that latter description. Here’s a closer look at who’s leading up to the Cotto-Margarito grudge match:

Brandon Rios (28-0-1, 21 KOs) vs. John Murray (31-1, 18 KOs), 12 Rounds, Lightweights

Photo Credit: Will HartThere isn’t a more polarizing young fighter in the game right now than the 25-year-old Rios. His fighting style is highly offensive, and the things that come out of his mouth are, well, highly offensive. He’s emerged in the past year or so as true must-see TV, whether you’re rooting for him or against him. It almost doesn’t matter who “Bam Bam’s” opponent is—but for what it’s worth in this case, he’s taking on a respected former British and European regional champ in the 26-year-old Murray.

Murray will be highly motivated, as his lone defeat came in his most recent fight, an eighth-round TKO against Kevin Mitchell. He needs to get back on the winning track, and he’ll have the backing of hundreds of British fans flying across the Atlantic to pack the Garden. Still, Rios is the big betting favorite here. He’s riding high off of two thrilling wins so far in 2011, a come-from-behind knockout of Miguel Acosta to claim his first title and a three-round decimation of Urbano Antillon in his first defense. Margarito’s foul-mouthed stablemate is expected to secure successful defense number two on Saturday night, and however long the fight with Murray lasts, it won’t be boring.

Pawel Wolak (29-1-1, 19 KOs) vs. Delvin Rodriguez (25-5-3, 14 KOs), 10 Rounds, Junior Middleweights

This fight requires no selling—at least not via words. Just sit someone down in front of the 10 glorious rounds of warfare that Rodriguez and Wolak gave us at New York’s Roseland Ballroom in July, and they’ll be instantly sold. In that bout, Wolak battled through a hideously swollen eye to gut out a controversial draw, the fourth time in Rodriguez’s hard-luck career that the Connecticut veteran was left flummoxed by the judges.

Wolak is 30, Rodriguez is 31, and they’re each at a crucial juncture in their careers. Both are peaking in popularity on the heels of their July brawl, but only one can make the leap to that next level after this fight. Unless, that is, they give us another Fight of the Year candidate. Then, somewhat like Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward nearly a decade ago, they can rise to new heights together.

Mike Jones (25-0, 19 KOs) vs. Sebastian Lujan (38-5-2, 24 KOs), 12 Rounds, Welterweights

Photo Credit: Will HartIs Jones a future opponent for Manny Pacquiao? For Andre Berto? For the Cotto-Margarito winner? For the past year or so, the unbeaten Philadelphia welterweight’s name has been tossed around in that elite company, but he has to get by merciless Argentine Lujan before any of those breakout fights can come into focus.

Lujan is best known as the poor guy who nearly got his ear literally punched off his head by Margarito back in ’05. The 31-year-old tough guy is now riding a 12-fight winning streak and represents arguably the stiffest test Jones has ever faced. At 28, Jones has emerged as a legitimate top-10 contender in the star-packed welterweight division. With his long jab and all-around skills, Jones appears to have the tools to pass this test. But we won’t go so far as to predict that he’ll box Lujan’s ears off.

Boxing Fans Have Much to Be Thankful For

By Kieran Mulvaney

Photo Credit: Will HartIt seems reasonable to assume that there a lot of people involved in boxing in Mexico, Las Vegas, New York and elsewhere feeling extremely thankful this holiday weekend. At the front of the line: Antonio Margarito, who received a belated go-ahead from the New York State Athletic Commission to fight Miguel Cotto at Madison Square Garden on December 3rd; Bob Arum of Top Rank, who is promoting the bout and who was prepared to move it elsewhere at the last minute until being confronted with a Cotto ultimatum that it had to be in New York or nowhere; officials at the Garden, who assuredly did not want what promises to be a huge event snatched away from under their noses; and the thousands who had bought tickets to the fight and made travel plans to the Big Apple.

This has been a year of highs and lows in boxing – at times, seemingly more of the latter than the former – but even so, there has been plenty for which the rest of us can be thankful, as well. For example:

Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao: Each may be loathed by the other's fans, but for neutrals it's a rare treat to have two such outstanding and contrasting practitioners at the top of the game. Here's hoping in 2012, they give us something to make us truly thankful.

Andre Berto and Victor Ortiz: For what is still probably the leading contender for Fight of the Year.

Pawel Wolak and Delvin Rodriguez: For giving us another Fight of the Year candidate - one so good, in fact, that they're going to do it again, on the Cotto-Margarito undercard.

Freddie Roach and Ann Wolfe: Freddie Roach is the number one trainer in the sport, an always-accessible and engaging interview, and the subject of his own upcoming reality show on HBO. But if Freddie's is the most interesting story among active trainers, Ann Wolfe's is right there with him. Plus she gave me the best quote ever.

James Kirkland: For three minutes of boxing action that still has me breathless.

Joe Frazier: Because although he may be gone, he will never be forgotten.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all. May your beagle make you a memorable holiday dinner of buttered toast and popcorn. 

Fans Weigh In: State of the Welterweight Division

There seems to be a glut of talent in the boxing world right now and it's concentrated in and around the welterweight division. It includes the fight game's two biggest names in Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, as well as the participants in a leading fight of the year candidate, Andre Berto and Victor Ortiz. And it may just be a matter of time before the top-tier junior welterweight Amir Khan joins them there as well.

Who currently stands atop the welterweight division? What fights do you want to see get made there (in addition to the obvious one everyone wants to see)? How does this batch of fighters compare to other historically stacked divisions of the past?

Sound off on the welterweight division in the comments.