COMPETING SHOWS YIELD COMPELLING BOXING
By Scott Shaffer
Dueling dates? Let's do it again!
For months now, the boxing world has been wringing its hands about the supposed insanity of Top Rank and Golden Boy staging competing shows at the same time in the same city on rival networks. Boxing was cannibalizing its audience, they said. Someone has to back down, people predicted. Only boxing would do this to itself, nearly everyone complained. Boxing's supposed night of self-immolation came and went last night, and the result was... awesome! The head-to-head competition brought out the best in everyone, with ten televised fights being aired from 8 to 12:30, making for hours of non-stop excitement. I say, let's do it again!
The results, at least the aesthetic ones, are impossible to dispute: both networks, HBO and Showtime, and both promoters, Top Rank and Golden Boy, put on excellent, all-action shows. Both venues were sold out. There were knockouts, upsets, comebacks, blood-and-guts fights, raw courage and heart-pounding drama all unfolding in real time on different channels. For boxing fans, the night had an urgency that can only be compared to college basketball's March Madness. There was too much going on at once to possibly absorb everything, but that what-am-I-missing-sensation created a feverish pace to the evening. Fans at home struggled with their remotes and picture-in-pictures to keep up with both shows. Quick, change the channel! Guillermo Rigondeaux just got rocked! Leo Santa Cruz is destroying Eric Morel's body! Matthew Macklin just rang up a first-round knockout! Marcos Maidana and Jesus Soto-Karass are engaged in blood feud! Did a world title just change hands on a foul? Jhonny Gonzlez just got knocked out of the ring... and so it went, back and forth all night, bringing an interactive flavor to the fans. Everyone holding a remote became a mini-director, cutting from one location to another in order to avoid missing the highlight of the night.
The dueling main events did not disappoint. Although Saul Alvarez's destruction of Josesito Lopez was totally predictable, there were three knockdowns, and Lopez played his role of the ultimate warrior in defeat to the hilt. Bravery in the face of certain defeat never gets tired for a boxing fan. The night's finale, the ending of the Sergio Martinez-Julio Cesar Chavez , Jr. fight was a thrilling end to a thrilling evening. Chavez, typecast as the spoiled rich kid who didn't want to train, lifted up his image even in defeat by very nearly finishing off Martinez in the last round. Martinez remains the critic's darling, a small, old middleweight willing to risk everything against the best competition he can find. The ending, a bloody Martinez an inch away from getting knocked out but insisting on fighting rather than holding, will be talked about for months, if not years. What would have happened in the days of fifteen rounders? Should Chavez have started faster? Will there be a rematch? It was a fight, and a night, that left many boxing fans unable to fall asleep, replaying all the highlights in their minds, and thinking about the night's implications for the future.
Although Top Rank and DiBella Entertainment will be waiting for the pay-per-view buy numbers before declaring the evening a financial success, it seems like everyone will come out this OK. DiBella retained its franchise player, Martinez, as the true middleweight world champion, Top Rank has Chavez as an even bigger attraction than before, and Golden Boy proved that Alvarez can sell out a big building in the USA.
Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao and all their drama can wait for another time. Here is my dream list for the next round of fights in early 2013: Sergio Martinez moving up to 168 to face Andre Ward (yes, I realize it is completely unfair to ask Martinez, a natural 154-pounder to move up another weight class, but if anyone has a style Ward will have trouble with, its Maravilla); Saul Alvarez against Miguel Cotto provided Cotto beats Austin Trout; Julio Cesar Chavez moves up to 168 to challenge Arthur Abraham for the WBO title; Marcos Maidana challenges Paul Malignaggi in a classic puncher vs. boxer match-up; Jesus Soto-Karass vs. Amir Khan in Khan's comeback fight; and Guillermo Rigondeaux vs. Nonito Donaire for a spot near the top pf the pound-for-pound list. Oh, and one more request... can all these fights happen on the same night?
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