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?

 

Writers and Fighters Predict Pacquiao-Marquez IV

by Kieran Mulvaney

Officially, Manny Pacquiao has won two of his three meetings with Juan Manuel Marquez, and Marquez has won none. But there are plenty of different opinions over who “really’ should have won their previous fights, and there are plenty of different opinions over who will win their fourth one. We hit the phone and patrolled the media room at the MGM Grand to gather the predictions of some fighters and writers.

Robert Guerrero, welterweight titlist

Juan Manuel Marquez - Photo Credit: Will HartI like Marquez by decision. I think it’s going to be a lot like the last fight, I just think the determination that Marquez has to pull out a win will be the difference. He knows he has to pull it off big to get the win, and he looks in great shape.  In the last fight, his trainer told him to ease off at the end; this time, he’ll have that pedal to the metal all the way.

Lem Satterfield, RingTV.com

I think it’s going to be Marquez by decision. I think the element of the two new judges, who last week scored a fight for Austin Trout (against Miguel Cotto) on what is basically Miguel Cotto’s home turf, gives me the perception that they’re going to come in here with a balanced view of the fight. This tells me that if Marquez fights as well as he did last time – given that the majority of the media and everyone else who saw the fight thought that he won – he has a good chance.

Ron Borges, Boston Herald

I like Marquez by decision. I think if you put them side-by-side-by-side-by-side, if that’s enough sides, the previous fights all sort of look alike. If you take the previous 36 rounds and put them in a pot, you get a draw. Move a point around here and there, and Marquez is 2-0-1 instead of 0-2-1. I don’t see any way it can go any differently.

Robert Garcia, former junior lightweight champion and current Trainer of the Year

I think we’re going to have a great fight. A lot of people think a fourth fight is already too much. I think we could have five and six and we’re always going to want to watch it because they always bring out the best in each other. The fights are always so close and I think we’re going to see another close fight. It could go either way.

Rich Marotta, KFI Radio Los Angeles

I’m taking Marquez by decision. I think the fight will be fairly similar to the first three fights. I’ve picked Juan Manuel Marquez three times, and I thought that he’s won three times. I’ve scored all the fights for him on my personal scorecard, and I don’t see any reason to go any different. I think that’s how he’ll fight tomorrow night. He might be a little bit more aggressive, but I think it’ll be a close fight but I think that Marquez’ style just confounds Pacquiao.

Joe Saraceno, USA Today

Manny Pacquiao - Photo Credit: Will HartI’ll take Pacquiao by late rounds stoppage. Marquez is bigger and has more armor on him, and I think that might slow him down. I think they might end up exchanging, and I think Manny might get the better of it. I know Manny’s very serious for the fight, more than perhaps he has been for some recent fights.

Brandon Rios, junior welterweight titlist

It’s going to be a great fight, a really close fight, but I think Pacquiao will win by split decision. I see knockdowns because they’re both predicting knockouts, so it should be a good fight.

Kevin Iole, Yahoo! Sports

I see a fight that is very similar to the last one. And I’m taking Pacquiao by decision.

Ryan Songalia, BoxingScene.com

I think we’re going to have a fight that looks a lot like the first three. My issue is wondering whether Manny is still a hungry fighter. I think it was Joe Louis who said, ‘It’s hard to get up and go running in the morning when you’re wearing silk pajamas.’ Manny has silk pajamas with diamonds in them. I hope it doesn’t look like an older man’s fight, with both fighters throwing a lot less punches – although I think Marquez will throw fewer punches anyway because he’s bulked up. Until they get in the ring we’re talking out our asses anyway, right? But I’m going with Manny by majority decision.

Norm Frauenheim, 15Rounds.com

I’ll pick it as a draw. A lot of people think that would be terrible for the sport of boxing, but I’m not convinced of that, because I think it will cause a lot of debate and who knows? Maybe we see a fifth fight. Maybe we need a best of seven series. I think one of the issues with Pacquiao – and I do believe he’s more engaged with this fight – is that as he’s gone up in weight, he’s lost some power. I don’t believe he can knock Marquez out.

Tris Dixon, Boxing News

I’ve got three schools of thoughts on this, actually. The first is that it’s going to be real nip-and-tuck like the other three, that it’s going to go down to the wire and could go either way. The second is that Manny just had a bad night at the office the last time they met, and he is actually bigger and stronger and can just wipe out Marquez. And the third is that now Marquez has his strength and conditioning on message, that he could actually be far bigger and stronger than Manny on the night. I’m more inclined to go with the styles-make-fights thing, which is option number one. So I think it will go nip-and-tuck, and I think the judges will be crucial on the night, as they often are in Vegas, and I think they could vote for Marquez

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.

Preview Morales-Maidana and More - Inside Action Heroes

by Michael Gluckstadt

As fight week approaches, we'll take our first Inside Fight Week look at how each fight is shaping up:

Gene Blevins - Hoganphotos/Golden Boy Promotions

Eric Morales vs Marcos Rene Maidana:

In the main event, a 12-round junior welterweight fight, Erik "El Terrible" is taking on Marcos "El Chino" Maidana. The 34-year-old Morales, who retired in 2007 before stringing together three victories on his Mexican comeback trail, feels he's prepared to get back to the top level of competition. "I am very calm and ready," he says. "The junior welterweight division gives me the opportunity to eat well and to make weight without sacrificing my body like I had to in the past."   

The hard-throwing Maidana is coming off a close but unanimous decision loss to Amir Khan, and the defeat has left a bitter taste in his mouth. "I want to be a world champion again and move past the frustration I have felt since my fight with Amir Khan," the Argentine says. "I am definitely prepared and hungry for this fight."  

Robert Guerrero vs Michael Katsidis:

Robert Guerrero and Michael Katsidis will be fighting for the vacant WBA and WBO Interim Lightweight belt. The fight had been scheduled for early last year, but was canceled when Guerrero stepped away from boxing to care for his ailing wife, Casey. Now that Casey has been cancer-free for over a year, Robert has been able to focus on boxing. "It takes a huge weight off your shoulders and makes everything easier to prepare for fights," he says. "I'm tremendously prepared for this fight.” 

The always-dangerous Katsidis is coming off a loss in a slugfest with Juan Manuel Marquez. With his focus now on Guerrero, he's been training for the fight in Thailand. "It's not comfortable in the ring," he says. "Thailand is very tough and the conditions here are rugged." 

Paulie Malignaggi vs Jose Miguel Cotto:

The former Junior Welterweight World Champion, Paulie Malignaggi is stepping back onto the big stage against Puerto Rico's Jose Miguel Cotto in a 10-round welterweight fight. The flashy Brooklynite is looking to avenge his first ever professional loss, suffered at the hands of Cotto's older brother Miguel. "I know when fighting a Cotto I have to be prepared," he says. "I’m excited for the challenge." The younger Cotto isn't just a famous name. He's gone 32-2-1 with 24 KOs in his 14-year professional career.

James Kirkland vs Nobuhiro Ishida:

In one of the night's most compelling stories, James Kirkland makes his highest profile return to the ring since spending two years in prison for violating parole and purchasing a gun. Kirkland was a rising talent and spectacular knockout artist when he took his forced hiatus. Since returning to the ring, Kirkland's scored two impressive KOs, both within the first two rounds, and looks to make the light middleweight from Japan his third.