By Norm Frauenheim
A year ends with memories of those who are gone, optimism for those who are emerging and hope for those who are back. There are lessons from unresolved controversies and controversy that never ends. Farewell Joe Frazier, Genaro Hernandez, Ron Lyle, Henry Cooper, George Benton, Nick Charles and George Kimball. It won’t be the same without you. Hello Andre Ward, Nonito Donaire, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, Seth Mitchell, James Kirkland, Gary Russell Jr. and Jose Benavidez Jr. You’re the future.
Those new calendars in the mail are an empty canvas. Opinions and predictions are as irresistible as they are frivolous and about as forgettable as graffiti. Here are a few – the good, the bad and the tongue-in-cheek. But, first, a warning. For anybody who takes any of them seriously, remember that I picked Alfredo Angulo to beat Kirkland, who got up from a first-round knockdown and made the prediction game look foolish with a sixth-round stoppage.
Now, a look at what might – and might not — unfold:
Opinion: There’s a better chance of Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather in 2012 than there is of a fourth fight between Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez. Pacquiao-Marquez IV would look a lot like II and III. What’s the point? It would end in just another noisy controversy about who won. Fair or not, Marquez’ legacy rests on the brilliant way he made Pacquiao look beatable. In subtle adjustments from round-to-round last November, he forced Pacquiao to hesitate and think. It was enough to prevent Pacquiao, an instinctive fighter, from establishing a rhythm. Allow Pacquiao to get on a roll, and there’s no stopping him.
Prediction: Marquez, who keeps his promises, retires
Opinion: Somebody needs to convince Mayweather that his 90-day jail sentence on reduced charges for his role in domestic abuse is a chance to think about a legacy he has put in jeopardy. If he stays out of trouble and vows to devote the next few years to his evident talent, he still can achieve the respect he always believes has been denied him. That respect isn’t an entitlement. It’s won by fighting through adversity. For the first time in his career, he is facing some that he can’t trash-talk or side step. It’s the biggest fight of his life.
Prediction: Mayweather beats Lamont Peterson three months after his release.
Opinion: Mayweather advisor Al Haymon is the elusive powerbroker, whose influence is there, yet hard to quantify. There is power, perhaps, in the mystery. Mayweather has called the publicity-shy Haymon “The Ghost.’’
Prediction: Ghosts will get quoted more often than Haymon.
Opinion: Pacquiao will have to restore some lost confidence after getting a majority decision over Marquez in fight he halting called “not so happy.’’ He also has to find a way to solve troublesome leg cramps, which he says affected him in victories over Shane Mosley and Marquez. The fractured confidence should be easy enough to repair for the Filipino Congressman and lieutenant colonel. But the cramping is another issue. It might be a sign, an early symptom, of a fighter one step past his prime.
Prediction: Pacquiao beats Tim Bradley, then Miguel Cotto in a rematch and gets promoted to major general.
Opinion: World Boxing Council chief Jose Sulaiman is issuing statements and clarifications faster than interim titles. This time, he’s trying to say he didn’t really mean to tell the Filipino media that “beating a lady … it is not a major sin or crime.” In a subsequent statement, he said that he “developed female boxing.’’ Memo to women who hold one of the WBC’s lime-green belts: Do what Riddick Bowe did in 1992 and dump it in the nearest garbage can.
Prediction: Sulaiman will say something stupid.
Opinion: We’re just beginning to see how good Ward can be. With news that he beat a Carl Froch with a left hand fractured in two places, we’re also beginning to see how tough he is. A reported audience of fewer than 500,000 watched his victory on Dec. 17 over Froch in Showtime’s final of the Super Six Tournament. That was disappointing.
Prediction: After the hand heals, he’ll win two in 2012, pushing his record to 27-0. This time, more than 500,000 will watch his patient, yet sure path to pound-for-pound contention.
Opinion: Questions loom as to whether Canelo-Chavez Jr., will ever happen because Chavez Jr. a junior-middleweight, is said to be at about 180 pounds at opening bell. If Chavez Jr. is too heavy for Canelo, he’s too heavy for Miguel Cotto. The weight issue might force Chavez Jr. into a fight with Sergio Martinez late in 2012.
Prediction: Martinez wins a late-round stoppage.
Opinion: People close to Antonio Margarito have urged him to retire. Even if his surgically-repaired eye can withstand further punches, the tissue around it cannot. After years of sustained punishment, it doesn’t take much for it to lacerate and swell. That was evident early in his loss on Dec. 3 to Cotto.
Prediction: A defiant Margarito continues to fight, bleed and lose in Mexico.
Opinion: Referees struggled throughout 2011 to get it right. Russell Mora missed 11 low blows in Abner Mares’ first victory over Joseph Agbeko. Joe Cortez was looking away, toward the timekeeper, when Mayweather dropped Victor Ortiz, whose hands were down and his eyes on Cortez. Joe Cooper took two points from Amir Khan for pushing off Peterson. If Cooper warned Khan, it was only evident after careful review of the tape long after Khan’s loss on the scorecards was announced. Cooper’s penalties were the difference.
Prediction: More instant replay. It works in the NFL. Nobody has a tougher job than boxing’s lone ref. Let technology be his ally.
Opinion: Top Rank and Golden Boy, Bob Arum and Oscar De La Hoya, will continue to exchange insults instead of letting their respective fighters exchange punches.
Prediction: A year from now, we’ll be talking about whether Pacquiao-Mayweather will happen in 2013.