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Bring on the little guys! (cont.)

Posted: Thursday January 19, 2006 5:29PM; Updated: Thursday January 19, 2006 5:29PM

Fair enough, but if DiBella and Shaw can't come to an agreement by Jan. 30, the WBC will put the fight up to a purse bid. If Taylor's camp doesn't agree to the WBC's proposed split, the fighter will be stripped of his title. With that dismal prospect looming, Taylor, presumably at the urging of DiBella, further pumped up the fight this week with some uncharacteristic trash talk, saying, "I don't see [Wright] giving me any problems. I'm really not that impressed with him."

There you go, fight fans! The proud heritage of the middleweight division -- the realm of Ketchel and Papke, Greb and Walker, Zale and Graziano, Robinson, LaMotta, Basilio, Hearns and Hagler -- lives on.

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So, like I said, Bring on the little guys -- and hope DiBella is watching.

The first bout between Morales and Pacquiao, held last March 19 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, was a thriller. The southpaw Pacquiao -- an action-film star and national hero in his native Philippines -- entered the bout as the favorite largely based on his explosive punching power and on the fact that he had, in November 2003, stopped the great Mexican fighter Marco Antonio Barrera in 11 rounds.

Barrera, of course, had beaten Morales two-out-of-three in their epic trilogy, the rubber match coming less than four months before Morales would face Pacquiao. But the hawk-faced Morales withstood the early assault from Pacquiao, which while powerful was at times scattered and undisciplined.

In the fifth round, Pacquiao was cut badly over the right eye -- from either a Morales left hook, as ruled by referee Joe Cortez, or from a clash of heads; the replays were unclear. The cut hampered Pacquiao the rest of the way, though he never let up, and gave Morales a target on which to work from long range with his jarring jab. At the end of 12 brutal rounds, Morales took the win 115-113 on all three judges' cards.

The rematch has been anticipated ever since -- despite the fact that Morales was soundly out-boxed by unheralded Zahir Raheem in a tuneup last September. Promoter Bob Arum barely batted an eye over that little glitch, insisting immediately after the upset that Morales-Pacquiao II would go on as planned, and there's every reason to expect the turnout in Vegas and the pay-per-view buys to back up the wisdom of that decision.

Fans clearly expect more of the same this time around. The question, of course, is whether Pacquiao can do enough differently or enough "more" to produce a different outcome. Under trainer Freddie Roach, Pacquiao has looked more focused and directed this time.

Despite Morales' statements to the contrary, Pacquiao showed in the first bout that he has the power to rock the naturally bigger Mexican. If Pacquiao can work his way inside and avoid being driven backward as he was last time -- and if the match of southpaw to righty doesn't lead to another clash of heads -- Pacquiao could make it a very tough night for Morales.

Either way, let's hope it's an edifying one for DiBella.

You've gotta be kidding

I recently received an e-mail touting an upcoming event at a New York City comedy club. According to the announcement, "Fighters and sports writers are coming together for a night of hooks, jabs and laughs in Punchlines at the Laugh Factory. All currently working sportswriters and boxers are eligible to participate with five minutes of stand-up comedy."

No date is given, but this is clearly not an event to miss! Imagine five minutes of wacky improv from Wladamir Klitschko. Or some topical political observations from Butterbean. Just as long as no one tells Bert Sugar about it, we'll be all right!


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