Boxing's always-lively pound-for-pound debate gets a new argument tonight when WBC welterweight champion Vernon Forrest attempts to add Ricardo Mayorga's WBA title belt to his collection on an evening of interesting fights on both coasts.
Forrest has moved to the forefront in the discussion of boxing's best on the strength of his past two victories -- convincing decisions over Shane Mosley. At 147 pounds, he is mentioned as part of potential "superbouts" against top names from 140 to 160 pounds.
"I don't really judge myself on a pound-for-pound basis," Forrest said. "It's too fishy for me. All I am concerned about is being known as the dominant welterweight."
Forrest, who meets Mayorga in Temecula, Calif., is the biggest attraction on a rare night when cable networks HBO and Showtime air competing cards. On Showtime, Takoma Park 140-pounder Sharmba Mitchell meets Carlos Vilches in the main event of card from Atlantic City. A convincing win could go a long way toward putting Mitchell (50-3) back in that same pound-for-pound discussion.
Vilches (38-2-2), the Argentine champion, is an aggressive right-handed fighter, in theory the ideal opponent for Mitchell, a quick southpaw.
"He comes to you and wants to fight," Mitchell said. "That's what I want, that's what I love."
Forrest (35-0) takes on the free-swinging Mayorga (24-3-1) in the biggest fight of the night. Forrest, who signed a lucrative six-fight deal with HBO last fall, admits that Mayorga's style, which can often lead toward an exciting outcome, was appealing as he tries to rope one of boxing's biggest names into a big-time fight.
Forrest's name is mentioned in potential matches ranging from 140-pound champion Kostya Tszyu to 160-pound champion Bernard Hopkins, including the man he would most like to fight, Oscar De La Hoya, at 154.
"The whole thing is, I take one fight at a time, and that's Mayorga," Forrest said. "But the De La Hoya fight should be a superfight, but at this particular stage the money isn't there that should be for a fight of that nature, at least on my end. . . .
"I'll fight Oscar, Tszyu, it doesn't matter, but I don't fight for free. I did that for 13 years as an amateur. I want to get compensated for my abilities. I don't feel I have to prove I can fight to anyone."
Tszyu, who holds all three major belts at 140, is the main target of Mitchell. A victory tonight would give Mitchell the No. 2 ranking in the IBF.
"It's a step to something next," Mitchell said. "I have to get through this to get what I want."
Mitchell's path to Tszyu, however, becomes even more confusing when the IBF's new rankings are released. To be ranked first or second, according to the rules posted on the organization's Web site, a fighter must be ranked in the top five and beat another top-five fighter in a 12-round bout.
Arturo Gatti was elevated from No. 4 to No. 1 this week for beating then-No. 3 Micky Ward in November, but the fight only was scheduled for 10 rounds. The Mitchell fight is scheduled for 12 rounds, but both Mitchell and Vilches are ranked outside the top five, as Mitchell sits at No. 6 and Vilches is rated 10th.