Preview of upcoming top fights |

Preview of upcoming top fights

Appeal Sports Writer

In a year of unrealized promise, professional boxing kicks into high gear with four seemingly can’t-miss and intriguing fights over the next three weeks.

Forget about the sure-fire fight of the year – Diego Corrales-Jose Luis Castillo III – turning into a non-fight when Castillo failed to make weight. Forget about Corrales-Joel Casamayor III, which turned into a dud after Corrales failed to make weight and fought as tentatively as Casamayor in a dreary affair.

Although only one of the following four fights is actually pay-per-view worthy, all are worth watching and bring an element of suspense.

Carlos Baldomir-Floyd Mayweather, HBO Pay-Per-View, Saturday, Nov. 4: This is one fight in which it’s tempting to pick Mayweather, 36-0 with 24 knockouts, to easily take apart world welterweight champion Baldomir, 43-9-6 (13). But hold on one second before going to place your money on prohibitive favorite Mayweather.

Forget about Baldomir’s nine losses, six draws and mediocre 13 knockouts. Numbers alone do not do the rugged Argentinean justice. Baldomir is a smaller version of countryman Juan Domingo Roldan, who gave Marvelous Marvin Hagler a good scrap in 1984.

Both Mayweather and Baldomir have two common opponents and against one of them, Zab Judah, Baldomir looked better than Mayweather did. Baldomir beat Judah, who gave Mayweather a run for his money, from pillar to post and nearly stopped the slippery southpaw before taking his world welterweight championship in January.

Although Mayweather also stopped Gatti – he did it in six rounds – Baldomir may have retired boxing’s most exciting fighter after punishing him over nine rounds in July.

There is no doubt the 29-year-old Mayweather is the pound-for-pound best fighter in the game today. What is in doubt, however, is Mayweather’s tender hands. He did, after all, taste his first and only knockdown when he went to his knees after hurting his knuckles on the head of tough Carlos Hernandez.

And make no mistake about it, Baldomir is a big welterweight that more resembles a middleweight, while the slightly built Mayweather – a natural junior lightweight – should be fighting no heavier than 135 pounds.

To win this fight, Baldomir must pressure Mayweather from the opening bell, much like Castillo did in his first fight with Mayweather. If Mayweather hurts his hands, the hungrier Baldomir can win this fight.

Quick Pick: Mayweather’s whole future – including a possible mega-matchup with Oscar De La Hoya next year – is on the line. “Pretty Boy” can be counted on to come in shape and is the fastest, most talented boxer in the game.

I’m going with Mayweather to outspeed and outbox Baldomir and score a unanimous 12-round decision. While not worthy of PPV, this fight should prove to be entertaining.

Sergei Lyakhovich-Shannon Briggs, Showtime, Saturday, Nov. 4: Lyakovich, 23-1 (14), will be defending for the first time the WBO heavyweight belt he won in April from Lamon Brewster in a fight of the year candidate.

While as tall as the 6-foot-4 Briggs, 47-4-1 (41), Lyakhovich will be surrendering about 35 pounds to Briggs, who should come in around 260.

The 34-year-old Briggs is an example of unrealized potential. Even though his win over George Foreman in 1997 was questionable, Briggs’ talent is not. True, former heavyweight champ Lennox Lewis stopped him in five rounds in 1998. But more often than not, the one who has really beaten Briggs is Briggs, who should have never lost to Jameel McCline (2002), Sedrick Fields (2000) or Darroll Wilson (1996).

Briggs has an 80-inch reach (to Lyakhovich’s 74 1/2) and, although he’s too heavy, is a big, strong fighter who can box.

Lyakhovich’s only other significant victory was over Dominick Guinn in 2004. Against Brewster, he failed to listen to his corner and instead of boxing, elected to slug it out and was dropped in the seventh round. Light-hitting Maurice Harris also stopped him in 2002.

Quick Pick: recently ran a photo of Lyakhovich in training. He had a blackened right eye with two big scabs underneath the eye on the cheekbone. Briggs, who can bang and use his weight well, can also box.

I expect Briggs to be too big and versatile and possibly stop Lyakhovich on cuts or otherwise around Round 10.

Wladimir Klitschko-Calvin Brock, Saturday, HBO, Nov. 11: More than any other bout, this is the most intriguing – and best of all, it’s free.

Under the tutelage of Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward, the 30-year-old Klitschko, 46-3 (41), looked like a poor-man’s Muhammad Ali in a 2005 victory over tough Samuel Peter. And although it was Chris Byrd’s fault for foolishly trying to slug with the 6-6 Klitschko, “Dr. Ironfist” battered Byrd for a seventh-round stoppage in April.

The 31-year-old Brock, 29-0 (22), has been hailed as America’s savior in the heavyweight division. And while possessing a big punch (his sudden knockout over Zuri Lawrence proved that) as well as good boxing skills, Brock has looked unspectacular at best. He lacks a certain indefinable something that great fighters possess.

That said, Brock should be heartened by the inconsistency that has plagued Klitschko throughout his career.

Klitschko quit against Ross Purrity in 1998, was knocked down and stopped by Corrie Sanders in two rounds in 2003, was stopped in five by Brewster and barely survived to take a technical win over ordinary and undersized DaVarryl Williams in 2004.

And against the murderous punching Peter, Klitschko was dropped several times in hanging on to take the win.

Quick Pick: I can see Brock stopping Klitschko early, but I’m going with the more experienced and occasionally brilliant Klitschko to take a unanimous 12-round decision.

Manny Pacquiao-Erik Morales III, Saturday, HBO PPV, Nov. 18: Pacquiao, 42-3-2 (33), is the only fighter to stop both Morales and Barrera. The Fightin’ Filipino is the most exciting and aggressive boxer in the sport today.

Morales, 48-4 (34), will be looking for redemption after being stopped in 10 rounds by Pacquiao in January. As with Barrera, Morales is perhaps the most proud, macho fighter in boxing.

While the “PacMan” knows only one way to fight – straight ahead – Morales has increasingly added some boxing skills to go with his considerable punching prowess. That kind of skill resulted in Morales’ victory over Pacquiao in the first encounter.

Quick Pick: I don’t see Pacquiao being able to stop Morales this time around. In fact, I’m tempted to go with a draw. But Morales is on the decline. There’s no other way to explain his losing three of his last four fights. I’ll take Pacquiao via split decision. This fight is definitely worth PPV money to watch.