Your weekly random thoughts ...
• Regarding Tuesday night's second episode of "The Contender," a few observations:
1. Sugar Ray Leonard, who is 51, dominated guest star Oscar De La Hoya, who is 34 and still fighting, in their impromptu jump rope competition. Oscar, Oscar, Oscar! You should be ashamed!
2. Come on guys, stop picking on Miguel Hernandez.
3. One thing I learned from sage trainer Pepe Correa: Pressure bursts a pipe.
4. Who else wants to see conniving Max Alexander get his butt kicked?
5. And who wants to run to the other room, or at least pound the mute button, when shrieking ring announcer Jeff Connor steps to the microphone?
6. My wife, Jenn Rafael, has been watching the episodes with me and has become a fan. Her favorite fighter so far: Sam Soliman.
7. Brian Vera may have lost the season's first fight to Jaidon Codrington via second-round TKO, but whatever Vera does in his post-"Contender" boxing career, you can bet his fights will be exciting to watch.
• I took time to check out last weekend's heavily hyped UFC light heavyweight title bout between Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and Dan Henderson, and I still can't count myself as an MMA fan. It was OK and I was mildly entertained. It's wasn't horrible. It wasn't great. I can't stand the ground game. I have gone out of my way on several occasions recently to watch MMA and to give it a chance to grow on me, but it hasn't. While I have nothing against it, I can't fathom how anyone could find it more exciting than a good heavyweight fight or an Arturo Gatti-Micky Ward-type fight. If you dig it, fine by me, but can we just end this pointless boxing vs. MMA debate? Here's the deal: Take any solid professional boxer and have him face an MMA combatant under boxing rules and the boxer will kill him. Take any decent MMA combatant and match him with a boxer under MMA rules and the MMA dude probably smokes the boxer if they go to the ground. They're different sports. They can both prosper. Let's move on.
• No, it's not true that every single fight for the rest of the year has been canceled or postponed, but after the rough two-week stretch we've had, in which the Fernando Vargas-Ricardo Mayorga card was postponed and the Juan Manuel Marquez-Rocky Juarez and Vitali Klitschko-Jameel McCline cards were canceled, I'm afraid to answer my phone or check my e-mail these days for fear of hearing about another show being called off.
• It's too bad about Klitschko's latest back injury, which derailed plans for a Sept. 22 comeback fight against McCline. Does anyone really believe Klitschko, an old 36, will ever fight again? He spent more than a year in retirement and pulled out of several fights because of various injuries, not to mention that it's been almost three years since his last fight. It's a shame that his boxing legacy has been reduced to being a guy who quit against Chris Byrd, gave Lennox Lewis a tough fight, beat Corrie Sanders for a vacant belt and defended it once against overmatched Danny Williams. I certainly wish Klitschko well. He's a classy person. But it's probably time for him to move on and to yield the spotlight once and for all to younger brother Wladimir Klitschko, the best heavyweight in the world.
• As bummed as you might be about all the carnage to the fall schedule, do you think you are more cranky about it than manager extraordinaire Shelly Finkel? He manages Vargas, Juarez, Klitschko and even featherweight titlist Robert Guerrero, who was supposed to defend his belt against Martin Honorio on the Marquez-Juarez undercard. Talk about a bad month.
• Well, in light of the excellent Marquez-Juarez "Fireworks" card being canceled, here is what I think would have happened: Marquez would have outpointed Juarez in a good fight. Kassim Ouma would have outpointed Sergio Mora, handing "The Contender" first-season winner his first loss. "Contender" season two runner-up Steve Forbes would have outhustled Francisco "Panchito" Bojado to win a decision. And Guerrero would have had a few rough moments, but hung on to win a decision and retain his featherweight belt against Honorio.
• With all the fights being called off, rumor out of Wales is that promoter Frank Warren is insisting that injury-prone Joe Calzaghe not be allowed to use a knife at dinner for fear that he might cut himself before his showdown with Mikkel Kessler. Calzaghe, apparently, is also not allowed to look at any black cats or walk under any ladders. Maybe Calzaghe and I are kindred spirits. Apparently, he also hates flying, but knows it's a necessary part of the job. Just before heading to the United States last week to meet the media and to face Kessler during some promotional appearances before their Nov. 3 fight, Calzaghe put out the following statement: "I'm not a big fan of flying but for once I can't wait to get on the plane! I'm up for this fight big-time and when I see Kessler face-to-face and look straight into his eyes, I will know if he has the fire in his belly." I certainly can appreciate his sentiments about air travel as I chug toward gold status yet again.
• For the record, if Miguel Cotto beats "Sugar" Shane Mosley on Nov. 10, the fight I want to see after that is Cotto against De La Hoya. Forget about De La Hoya's recent comments to me about not wanting to fight a Puerto Rican opponent out of respect for his lovely Puerto Rican wife, Millie Corretjer De La Hoya. If the Golden Boy believes a fight with Cotto is the one the public wants see and that it's the one for which he can make the most money, it will happen, regardless of what Mrs. Golden Boy has to say.
• I know there's a great run of fights in the last few months of the year, but I'm already looking forward to the early part of 2008, which will include Israel Vazquez-Rafael Marquez III and Roy Jones-Felix Trinidad. Not a bad start to next year.
• I'm a big fan of Showtime's "ShoBox" series but there are several prospects I need to see on the show, or at least more of. On my wish list: Joe Greene, 2004 Irish Olympian Andy Lee, Victor Ortiz, 2004 U.S. Olympian Vanes Martirosyan, Mike Alvarado, Raul Martinez, Devon Alexander and Ronald Hearns, among others.
• I don't know about you, but bantamweight Abner Mares has the look of a future champion to me. I can't wait to see him on HBO on Nov. 17.
• How the mighty have fallen. Former heavyweight champion Hasim Rahman, David Tua and Michael Grant all fought last week (and won). All three were on small, low-budget shows. Not that long ago, all three were staples on HBO and making big money.
• When junior welterweight titlist Junior Witter is aggressive, instead of being a defensive stinker like he can sometimes be, he's a tremendous fighter. His seventh-round knockout of Vivian Harris was most impressive.
• I watched heavyweight Adam Richards take care of business in the opening bout on the season finale of ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights" last week. Although he doesn't strike me as a serious contender, his nickname, Swamp Donkey, is one of the best I have ever heard.
• After watching Brittney Spears' performance on the MTV video awards the other night, I had one thought: Bigger train wreck: Spears or Mike Tyson?
• DVD pick of the week: Since I was supposed to fly to Las Vegas on Thursday for Marquez-Juarez, but it was called off, and because Manny Pacquiao's fight with Marco Antonio Barrera is in a few weeks, I was in the mood for Marquez and Pacquiao, so busted out one of my all-time favorite fights: their memorable brawl from May 8, 2004, at the MGM Grand, which seems like my home away from home. Marquez showed incredible heart to survive three knockdowns in the first round and made such a strong rally, that by the time the 12 furious rounds had ended, I had him clearly winning the fight (as did many of my colleagues at ringside). In the end it was called a draw. Someday, we'll see a rematch. Until then, the video of their first fight will have to suffice.