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In This Corner

By Salven L. Lagumbay

Hopkins, Tarver, Cotto, Bobby
Sun, 11 Jun 2006

Boxing fans get an overdose of action today with two mega-events slated in New York and Atlantic City involving some of the best fighters on the planet. In fact, Solar Sports, the country's undisputed sports channel, has made sure it airs both shows even though they happen almost simultaneously in the United States. Meaning, Solar will have to air one event on a slightly delayed telecast of its program which is set to start at 10 AM today.

Today's two big events also pit two major promoters in a head-on collission of their force and might. In New York, Bob Arum holds sway with his pay-per-view show, while over at Atlantic City, Oscar De la Hoya flexes his new promotional muscles in coordination with HBO pay-per-view. Hence, despite today's ring hostilities, the more significant battle takes place off the ring, pitting a world class promoter against a former protege who continues to be a world class fighter but more importantly, someone who is fast shaping up to be Bobfather's clear next-in-line.

BATTLE OF THE UNDEFEATED. Anyway, expect an all-out war at New York's Madison Square Garden today when the hugely-popular Miguel Cotto defends his WBO junior welter tiara against the loud-mouthed Paulie Malignaggi. Reports coming out of the Big Apple have it that after both fighters came in at 138.25 at yesterday's weigh-in, Malignaggi looked ripped and ready, while Cotto looked very dry. This wasn't a surprise to many observers, as the boxing grapevine has been abuzz lately with talks that Cotto is having real problems making the 140-lb limit.

The Caguas, Puerto Rico-native Cotto (26-0, 22 KO's), the pride and joy of promoter Bob Arum, enjoys cult following in his native country and is touted as the biggest boxing star to come out of that US colony after Felix 'Tito' Trinidad. Cotto, considered as Top Rank's biggest draw after the departure of Floyd Mayweather Jr from its fold, earned plaudits last year when he peeled himself from the canvas to stop Ricardo Torres in the seventh round of that war.

Malignaggi (21-0, 5 KO's), the Brooklynite nicknamed 'Magic Man', is hoping to earn his biggest win to date against a fighter considered by many as the next pay-per-view icon following the footsteps of Oscar De la Hoya. Although he lacks big names in his resume, the light-hitting Malignaggi hopes to use his skills to befuddle a known plodder in Cotto.

Well, let's see if Cotto still has the stamina today, or whether Malignaggi has enough zip to avoid the Puerto Rican's powerful onslaught.

Prediction. The Puerto Rican fight sensation will come out swinging for the fences right at the get-go, and I doubt it if Malignaggi has an answer for that. The challenger's skills will be enough to allow him to survive early, but it will be lights out near the deeper waters. Cotto by late-round knockout.

BUBOY'S MAGIC TOUCH IN ACTION. On the undercard, our very own Bobby Pacquiao tangles with solid veteran Kevin Kelley, the former WBC featherweight boss. The younger Pacquiao earned some measure of fame when he decisioned a marquee name in Carlos Hernandez last time out, but expect Kelley to be a hard nut to crack today.

Prediction: Bobby Pacquiao by a one-sided unanimous decision.

FIGHT TO THE FINISH. In Atlantic City, boxing's demi-god Oscar De la Hoya is co-promoting his own show, headlined by the very explosive light-heavyweight tussle between reigning champion Antonio Tarver and former pound-for-pound topnotcher Bernard "The Executioner" Hopkins.

At yesterday's weigh-in, both fighters came in at 174 lbs, but expect Tarver to be the bigger man today, being the more natural light heavyweight.

Hopkins (46-4-1, 32 ko's) , the long-reigning former undisputed middleweight king, is coming up in weight and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that the former 160-lb king can only grow so much at age 41, so it's safe to say that he should hover around 180 lbs when he goes up the ring today.

Tarver (24-3, 18 ko'S) for his part, is expected to balloon to 190 lbs when leathers start flying today, so coupled with his height advantage, expect Tarver to be easily the bigger man today.

Prediction. However, size and all, Hopkins is believed to be the more superior fighter between the two, and should be able to use his skills and experience to parry whatever physical edge Tarver brings into the show.

Despite his heft advantage, I think Tarver-Hopkins plays out to be a brain game today, and I expect Hopkins to come out the winner by unanimous decision. Tarver, I think, does not that much edge in today's bout outside of his size, plus considering his lack of stamina which was evident in his previous fights, I think Hopkins comes out a decision winner.

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