Setting the record straight

Rather than providing clarity, HBO's muddled coverage of Samuel Peter's knockout of Oleg Maskaev and Nate Campbell's victory over Juan Diaz on Saturday left a host of question marks.

Boasting three ringside commentators and the biggest budget of any network, HBO's broadcast should've left no need for further analysis. But with the pompous, pretentious Jim Lampley pontificating on everything except what was actually going on in the ring - he is the blow--by-blow man, after all - and with motormouth Max Kellerman incorrectly connecting the dots on the boxing landscape, it's time to illustrate the implications of the night's events.

Yes, Peter knocked out Maskaev and is now the WBC heavyweight beltholder. And while the best heavyweight matchup out there would be a rematch between the "Nigerian Nightmare" and IBF-WBO titlist Wladimir Klitschko, it doesn't have to happen in order for there to be a quote-unquote real world champion.

Although his unification bout with Sultan Ibragimov was as exciting as watching tarantulas mate, Klitschko did manage to pull out the win. And if Mr. Encyclopedia -Kellerman - bothered to factor in Klitschko's Sept. 24, 2005 victory over Peter, he'd tell the boxing audience what it should know by now: Klitschko already is the legitimate heavyweight champion.

And forget what Lampley and Kellerman say: Peter, 30-1 with 23 knockouts, should next face Wladimir's older brother and former champion Vitali Klitschko.

So what if Vitali, 35-2 (34), hasn't fought since December 2004. The heavyweight division's last undisputed champion, Lennox Lewis, retired rather than grant a rematch to "Dr. Ironfist," who in his last three fights knocked out Kirk Johnson, Corrie Sanders (who had stopped Wladimir) and Danny Williams (who had KO'd Mike Tyson) before stepping away from the sport with numerous injuries.

Yes, Vitali would be getting a title shot after a long layoff, but it's no different than Oscar De La Hoya fighting Ricardo Mayorga for a belt after taking off nearly two years following his defeat at the hands of Bernard Hopkins. If it's good for the "Golden Goose/Golden Boy," it should be fine for the gander, Vitali.

And, like it or not, the belts really do matter to the fighters and Wladimir next has to defend his titles against top-ranked contenders Alexander Povetkin, who is unbeaten, and Tony Thompson.

While he's taking care of that business, there's no reason Peter can't fight Vitali, and if successful, add the WBA belt by facing the winner of the rematch between Ruslan Chagaev and Nicolay Valuev.

The survivors of these respective contests could then meet for the undisputed championship of the world, but as we all know the WBA would add a "regular" champion to go with its "super champion" and someone else would crown an "interim" champion -

is it any wonder why Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is getting boxing trapped in a firm triangle chokehold?

That said, in the meantime someone at HBO needs to have a sit-down with its commentating crew. There are three distinct roles: blow-by-blow (Lampley), expert (Emanuel Steward) and color (Kellerman). In the Campbell-Diaz bout, Lampley was too busy talking over Steward and voicing his own opinion rather than doing his own job and calling what was going on in the ring.

It's Lampley's job to say who is landing what punches, Steward's - when someone isn't talking over him - to explain why and how this is happening, and Kellerman's to supply some wit and context.

This disconnect left Campbell-Diaz sounding like a sports bar disagreement rather than a telecast conducted by professionals.

Moreover, while it may be true that Campbell, with his defeat of Diaz, now has three belts at 135 pounds, he still is not considered the real lightweight champion. That honor - according to The Ring magazine - belongs to Joel Casamayor, otherwise known as the WBC lightweight titlist.

Based on Casamayor's questionable win over Jose Armando Santa Cruz in November, many would disagree with The Ring; but Casamayor earned the WBC belt and the linear title with a split decision over the late Diego Corrales, who had previously beaten Jose Luis Castillo in an epic battle.

Casamayor, 35-3-1 (21), will face unbeaten and - sigh - WBO interim beltholder Michael Katsidis, 23-0 (20), on March 22. This means "The Galaxy Warrior" - Campbell - still won't be the real champion after Casamayor and Katsidis meet, even though the influential Don King is Campbell's promoter.

But all of that drama will take a backseat if Manny Pacquiao can gain a victory over WBC super featherweight champion Juan Manuel Marquez Saturday on HBO Pay Per View.

"Pac-Man" and Marquez fought to a 12-round draw in their first meeting in 2004 at 126 pounds, but if Pacquiao - arguably boxing's most exciting fighter - can get by the gracefully aging Marquez, he will move up to the environs of the 135-pound weight class and will become the epicenter of the division.

Pacquiao, a former champion at 112, 122, 126, would likely target -sigh Part II - WBC interim lightweight champion David Diaz to acclimate himself to the new weight. Then, regardless of the opponent, Pacquiao would be the hottest ticket at 135 and history itself would lie in his powerful hands.

Subsequent victories over the winner of Casamayor-Katsidis and Campbell would catapult Pacquiao into a career-ending matchup with Ricky Hatton at 140 pounds and a future date with the International Boxing Hall of Fame, in Canastota, N.Y.

Finally, HBO suffered one more setback on Saturday: The best action of the night occurred on Showtime, where David Haye showed he is the best cruiserweight in the world with a devastating two-round technical knockout over Enzo Maccarineli. He now owns the WBC, WBA and WBO belts and may soon take his act to the heavyweight division.

Haye's electric victory thankfully left fight fans with only one question - the same one Peter was asking after his win - "Who's next?"


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