Even at 53, Kalule may get title shot
Lyle Fitzsimmons

By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Boxing Contributing Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - A word of advice to the handlers of ex-WBA 154-pound champion Ayub Kalule: Get your guy ready. He might have a title shot in his future.

Oh sure, the native Ugandan - best known for giving Ray Leonard a tough go in "Sugar's" final tune-up for Thomas Hearns in 1981 - is 53 years old and hasn't fought since 1986, but assuming all goes well for WBC/WBO middleweight title- holder Jermain Taylor on Saturday, a subsequent call to Kampala hardly seems out of the question.

After all, since establishing himself as the recognized king of the 160- pounders with a pair of 2005 wins over Bernard Hopkins, the 28-year-old Taylor has seemed as intent on clearing the ranks six pounds south as in approaching the 20-defense run of success his predecessor had in his "home" division.

He'll face a third straight current or former junior middle kingpin in title defense No. 4 at the Fed-Ex Forum in Memphis, meeting IBF 154-pound belt- holder Cory Spinks in a 12-round bout that'll headline HBO's initial live show since the record-breaking Mayweather/De La Hoya pay-per-view haul on May 5.

Edison Miranda (28-1) faces Kelly Pavlik (30-0) in the card's initial TV fight.

To be fair, Taylor could easily be excused for his first assault on the demilitarized zone between welterweight and middleweight, which came when he battled pound-for-pound cognoscenti favorite Winky Wright to a competitive 12- round draw in Memphis back in June 2006.

After all, Wright had already fought twice at 160 pounds and since the three- way split verdict has decisively beaten Ike Quartey (while weighing 159 1/4) and will meet the aforementioned Hopkins in a 170-pound bout set for HBO PPV on July 21 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

Taylor's second bout against a fatted calf came in December, when he ground down game, but out-gunned whirling dervish Kassim Ouma - a former IBF 154- pound champ - before a hometown crowd in Little Rock, a mismatch that was mildly acceptable while sold as an "earned" respite from the Hopkins/Hopkins/Wright gauntlet.

But there's no excuse this time.

Even though the middleweight division isn't exactly bursting with well-known viable contenders, it seems a fair bit better for Taylor's long-term approval rating if he'd actually get into a ring with a guy who has claimed 160 pounds as his home turf for more than the eight or so weeks leading up to the bout.

I'm guessing Arthur Abraham - the unbeaten German who owns the IBF's hardware at 160 pounds - could have somehow been convinced to give it a try with Taylor, who'd surely provide more prestige in a loss than anonymous Canadian challenger Sebastien "Double Trouble" Demers would in a win in their scheduled May 26 get-together.

If not Abraham, perhaps a deal could have been struck with fellow German veteran Felix Sturm, who instead fought for and won the WBA's middleweight belt with a 12-round defeat of Javier Castillejo on April 28. Sturm, of course, first gained wide notice in a competitive 12-round scrum with Oscar De La Hoya in 2004.

And even if no attention was paid to the European olive branches, Taylor could have gone the recent route of 168-pound champion Joe Calzaghe and plucked a plum from the "Contender" tree in unbeaten Californian Sergio Mora, who's not been active since an August decision win over one Eric Regan in Sacramento.

Any would have been better than Spinks, who carries little more than name recognition into just his third-ever fight north of 154, and first since 2001. Just three fights back, in fact, the son of the former heavyweight champion was decisively stopped in nine rounds by 147-pound enigma Zab Judah, who's won just once in four subsequent fights.

Instead, Taylor finds himself squarely in a no-win situation. Beat Spinks impressively and it'll be dismissed as what was supposed to happen. But struggle or even lose to the light-hitting stringbean (11 KOs in 36 wins) and it could be a misguided blow to career credibility from which the former Olympian might never recover.

Until, of course he signs to fight Cory's daddy, Leon, next time out.


Aside from the strong mesh of TV friendly styles in the Miranda-Pavlik bout, fans on hand in Tennessee will see the next steps in the careers of a pair of unbeaten youngsters that I'd go out on a limb and forecast as future world champions.

Welterweight prospect Andre Berto, he of the interesting multi-national Olympic back story and the sort of concise, powerful style that translates far better to the pro game, will meet veteran Martinus Clay in a scheduled 10- rounder.

Berto, 23, has won his last 13 fights by stoppage, including a one-round blowout of Norberto Bravo in the initial third of a three-pronged "Boxing After Dark" card from Manhattan's Hammerstein Ballroom in February.

His previous outing was also on HBO, this time ending in a violent sixth-round TKO of useful journeyman Miguel Figueroa in the final run-up to the Taylor- Ouma bout from Little Rock in December.

Berto and his handlers are hoping for a title shot of some sort by the end of 2007.

Also set to go in Memphis is up-and-coming middleweight Ronald Hearns, who's unbeaten in 13 pro fights and seeks win No. 14 against 32-year-old New Jersey product Dennis Sharpe.

Hearns, the 28-year-old son of the former multi-division world champion, last fought in February when he recorded a second-round KO of Chris Grays at the Little River Casino and Resort in Manistee, Mich.

He's recorded stoppage wins in nine straight fights and 11 of 13 overall, including a one-round toppling of Missouri's Ronald Smallwood alongside Berto on the Taylor-Ouma undercard from Arkansas.

Ex-prospect Sharpe began his career with 17 straight victories, but has gone 0-4-2 in his last six fights, including an eight-round unanimous decision loss to James McGirt Jr. - son of former 140- and 147-pound champion and noted trainer Buddy McGirt - in December.


In a move doomed to boost the credibility of neither, heavyweight belt-holder turned would-be medical miracle Tommy Morrison will enter the cage on June 9 to meet mixed martial artist John Stover as part of a "Worldwide Fighting Championship" event at the Cliff Castle Casino in Camp Verde, Ariz.

Morrison, for those living under a desert-charred rock, was a one-defense WBO champion in 1993 before losing his crown via one-round TKO to 11-fight newbie Michael Bentt at the Civic Center in Tulsa, Okla.

He fought nine times over the subsequent few years - including a sixth-round TKO loss to soon-to-be undisputed champ Lennox Lewis - before automatically losing his license due to a positive HIV test result in Nevada in 1996.

He returned to the ring after a 10-year exile in February, courtesy of the dubious powers-that-be in West Virginia, while alternately claiming that the original test results were erroneous and/or that he was virus-free due to lifestyle and conditioning changes.

Regardless, he stopped six-fight journeyman John Castle in round two of a scheduled four-rounder at the Mountaineer Race Track in Chester that night, then was scheduled for a follow-up bout last month in Texas that was foiled at the last minute by a supposed paperwork snafu involving that state?s athletic commission.

And now, it?s off to the big top, errr - cage.

"(UFC president) Dana White always talks about how a top cage-fighter like (UFC light heavyweight champion, Chuck) Liddell could beat a top boxer, so here's a chance to make it happen," said the 38-year-old Morrison, in a May 15 story posted on

"I want to know if Liddell and Dana White really mean what they say or if they are just full of talk. I will take on Chuck Liddell anytime, anyplace, anywhere. It's one thing to talk about fighting someone, but another thing to actually do it. Let's see if Chuck Liddell's heart is as big as his mouth."

Stover, according to MMAWeekly, has had eight bouts as a pro.


While scanning the collection of e-mail and message-board belligerence about my manhood, education, talent and beverage selection that sprouted from a collective gross misinterpretation of last week's opening segment, I came across one MMA flag-waving fan that really seemed to "get it."

In a forum post on, a user named "lafkabij" - a self-proclaimed orange belt with 262 recorded comments - coherently and correctly pointed out that I "never took any cheap shots" apart from a 'gay hotel porn' quip that was actually funny and just a description of (my) reaction. And don't tell me a lot of you guys haven't had to deal with that sort of reaction when introducing MMA to your friends.

"The guy is upfront that he just watched it for 10 minutes. He prefaces his negative reaction to falling back into guard with something like 'I'm sure this was a tactical move by a highly trained athlete, but...'The guy doesn't declare himself an authority in the least. He's a boxing columnist writing for boxing fans who have been inundated with death threats to their sport and are wondering what the new 'fad' is about. He checked it out for a bit, and told them his honest reaction. His reaction."

"He makes a few jokes that shouldn't be offensive to anyone without insecurity issues, and gives his honest opinion on what was going on, while admitting that he doesn't know much about the sport. That's just a fair reaction. I don't agree with it, but he doesn't deserve to be disparaged or harassed for having it. A lot of people do."

"And for everyone who thinks that he should have done an exhaustive study before writing the slightest word on MMA, get real. MMA wasn't even the subject of his entire article, just the lead-in before he went on to talk about other stuff. Much as we love our sport, other people don't owe it to us to study it intensely before having an opinion. I couldn't name you four teams in the premier soccer league, but I know I don't like soccer. Maybe if I watched a whole lot of soccer and learned the ins and outs of it, I would. Maybe that's the case with every sport. But I don't have the time to watch and study every sport, and neither does anyone else."

Thanks lafkabij - whoever you are.

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Jabs, hooks or knockouts, Lyle Fitzsimmons can be reached at

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