The boxing schedule on HBO looked pretty weak for the first quarter of 2010, especially with the unfortunate cancellation of the Jan. 30 Shane Mosley-Andre Berto welterweight unification fight. I detailed the rough schedule a few weeks ago.
The network's first quarter includes just two live cards -- a pair of interesting "Boxing After Dark" shows. There's the March 6 junior welterweight unification match between Devon Alexander and Juan Urango and the reshaped March 27 show featuring Marcos Maidana defending his interim junior welterweight belt against Victor Cayo and Ali Funeka meeting Joan Guzman for a vacant lightweight belt in a rematch of last year's horrible draw that Funeka deserved to win.
But whatever HBO's schedule lacked in the first quarter, it picks things up considerably in the second quarter. It looks strong and busy.
Here's a look at what's being planned for HBO (not including pay-per-view fights) and my thoughts:
• April 10: Berto is supposed to return to action to defend against former titlist Carlos Quintana in South Florida with light heavyweight titlist Tavoris Cloud making his first defense against mandatory challenger Glen Johnson in the co-feature. I like this card, which will be used to also raise funds for earthquake-ravaged Haiti, where Berto's family is from. I think Quintana is slick enough and big enough to give Berto a few problems in an interesting style matchup. Cloud against Johnson can't help but be a good fight. And if Cloud can get the win, he will have been introduced to HBO's large audience and set himself up for a possible fight with Chad Dawson down the road. The final particulars are being worked out for both fights.
• April 17: The plan is a split-site doubleheader with super middleweight titlist Lucian Bute facing Edison Miranda in Montreal to be followed by middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik defending against junior middleweight titlist Sergio Martinez in Atlantic City, N.J. This is a tremendous doubleheader and there should be raucous crowds at both venues. Miranda, who is always in entertaining fights, is a major underdog, but he's just wild enough and hits hard enough to maybe make things interesting. Bute-Miranda has officially been announced. Pavlik-Martinez is a first-class, A-level fight that should be competitive and exciting. It has been agreed to, but remains unsigned.
• April 24: This card is official -- heavyweight contender Cristobal Arreola faces former cruiserweight champ Tomasz Adamek (who is 2-0 at heavyweight) in Ontario, Calif., which is Arreola's turf, and interim junior middleweight titlist Alfredo "Perro" Angulo meets Joel "Love Child" Julio in the opener. Both fights should be fun, high-contact rumbles. The winner of Arreola-Adamek is set up for another big fight. Angulo is great to watch, win or lose, and Julio, who is also exciting, faces a must-win situation. Love the card.
• May 8: Paul Williams, coming off his rousing slugfest with Martinez in December, is due to return on this date. The most likely scenario is a junior middleweight fight with former welterweight titlist Kermit Cintron. Williams might not be facing Pavlik or Martinez in a rematch, but the idea of Williams-Cintron has been growing on me since it was first brought up. There is supposed to be just one live bout on this night.
• May 15: The date is set for the American debut of junior welterweight titlist Amir Khan of England as part of his fat new promotional deal with Golden Boy. Golden Boy at first tried to match Khan and Juan Manuel Marquez, but Marquez ultimately declined. That left Golden Boy to try to make the fight it should have been working on in the first place -- Paulie Malignaggi. Lou DiBella, Malignaggi's promoter, and Golden Boy's Richard Schaefer are working on a deal. If it gets done, the fight will be at the Madison Square Garden Theater in New York, which is the ideal spot for it. It will be a hot ticket and a good fight. The HBO opener should also be a good one between junior welterweight prospect Victor Ortiz and veteran former unified lightweight titlist Nate Campbell. This is the epitome of a crossroads fight. It's a must win for both guys if they want to continue getting HBO-level fights. That sense of desperation always raises the stakes and makes a fight even more interesting.
Looking a little further ahead to the summer, Gary Shaw told me that he and Canadian promoter Yvon Michel met with HBO this week and made a deal for Dawson to go to Montreal to challenge titleholder Jean Pascal. However, instead of the fight taking place in June, as originally intended, it will be pushed to July 17 or July 24. The reason, Shaw said, is because Michel told him that Pascal's injured shoulder won't be ready to go in June.
Although Shaw said they came to an agreement, he said he is skeptical about the fight happening.
"I think they're being disingenuous," Shaw said. "I don't believe that they have any intention of fighting Dawson, and you can quote me on that."
Shaw didn't elaborate on the exact reasons, but he sure sounded concerned. Even if the fight doesn't come off, there's plenty of time between now and then, and an excellent second quarter to look forward to.