By Kieran Mulvaney
The HBO boxing calendar for 2011 enters its home stretch with four major fights, including one on World Championship Boxing and two on HBO Pay Per View. As is always the case with strong and intriguing matchups, each poses intriguing questions:
Nonito Donaire v Omar Narvaez for a bantamweight title
(October 22, Boxing After Dark)
Four years ago, Nonito Donaire burst into the limelight with a devastating knockout of favored Vic Darchinyan, only to spend the next several years in supporting bouts and off-Broadway roles. Last February, he was spectacular in knocking out Fernando Montiel, but since then he has been inactive, largely due to promotional issues. Those issues have now been resolved, and the way is clear for Donaire to do what many think he will and seize a place at the top of the pound-for-pound rankings. With all due respect to Narvaez, this is a showcase bout for Donaire, an opportunity for him to shine and put together back-to-back impressive performances on HBO. Will he seize that opportunity and set the Donaire Era well and truly in motion?
Manny Pacquiao v Juan Manuel Marquez for a welterweight title
(November 12, HBO Pay Per View)
Marquez has twice come within a hair of defeating Pacquiao, and many ringside observers (including this one) thought he eked out victory on both occasions. Three and a half years after their last encounter, Marquez has another chance, but whereas their previous fight was at junior lightweight, this will be at welterweight. Pacquiao has grown steadily into the 147 lb. division, whereas Marquez looked flabby and slow in his one outing in the division, against Floyd Mayweather in 2009. Will the extra weight prove too much, or will Marquez prove that he has the Filipino’s number yet again?
Miguel Cotto v Antonio Margarito for a junior middleweight title
(December 3, HBO Pay Per View)
Margarito’s dramatic 2008 win over Cotto was tarnished when, immediately prior to his next bout (against Shane Mosley) his hand wraps were found to be tampered with. Given the way he beat Cotto down after falling behind early, many observers have long suspected that his wraps were weighted on that occasion, too. Will a second Margarito victory demonstrate that he is able to beat Cotto fair and square – and suggest that maybe he did so before? Or will Cotto this time prove resistant to his foe’s hands, and gain his revenge?
Amir Khan v Lamont Peterson for two junior welterweight titles
(December 10, World Championship Boxing)
In his three previous appearances on American soil, Britain’s Khan has been dominant against Paulie Malignaggi and Zab Judah, and engaged in the 2010 fight of the Year against Marcos Maidana. He is undefeated since his shock 2008 knockout loss to Breidis Prescott and is being mentioned as a possible 2012 opponent for Floyd Mayweather. He has spoken often of moving up to welterweight after this bout in search of bigger opponents. But Peterson is a legitimate opponent who, like Khan, has just one defeat on his ledger, and he’ll be fighting in his Washington, D.C. hometown. Can Khan keep focused on the task in hand, avoid the potential pitfall of looking too far ahead, and position himself for bigger and better things in the coming year?
Post your own answers to these questions in the comments below, and if you sign in with Twitter be sure to include @hboboxing to join the ongoing conversation.