With all the hoopla surrounding the main event, it's easy to forget that six tough fighters gave us three terrific undercard fights on Saturday, including the battered Pablo Cesar Cano. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Last night's HBO pay-per-view headlined by Floyd Mayweather Jr and Victor Ortiz ended in strange fashion, but we've talked about that plenty, and surely will talk about it more.
But right now, let's go another direction and celebrate the six undercard fighters who put on strong performances and three straight good fights prior to the main event.
Cheers to Jessie Vargas and Josesito Lopez, who put on a ten-round scrap that lived up to my lofty expectations and some hype that I started the moment the fight was signed. I'm relieved that the two put on the fight I thought that they could -- I hate when I get someone excited for an undercard fight and it turns out to be a stinker. This one did not. Vargas and Lopez were at times mirror images, and at other points, quite different indeed. Overall, Vargas moved and boxed, staying very active with his hands, and nipped a split decision victory in a fight that had many rounds tough to score. Lopez, to his credit, put up a hell of a fight, and probably would have won had he been able to avoid some stretches of inactivity. Those doomed him, but the two fighters made their shot on the show count.
Cheers to Erik Morales and Pablo Cesar Cano for a bloody, spirited fight. Morales, 35, was fighting for the honor of being the first-ever Mexican fighter in the country's rich boxing history to win world titles in four weight classes. Cano, 21, was fighting on short notice, replacing Lucas Matthysse, facing a Hall of Fame-bound working legend. Neither of them left anything in their gas tanks. Cano and Morales both had their moments in a battle that went back-and-forth, and in the end, a gruesome cut on Cano's left eyelid cut the fight short after 10 rounds. Cano acquitted himself as someone to watch, and Morales picked up that title, achieving the dream that brought him back to boxing in 2010.
Cheers to Saul "Canelo" Alvarez and Alfonso Gomez. The two drew a good house at Los Angeles' Staples Center, and had a responsive crowd. Watching Gomez in the ring last night was kind of a treat. He had clearly scouted Alvarez extensively, had prepared wonderfully, and came to win a fight no one thought he could win. And he didn't win, but he was winning rounds and doing a great job against the young phenom overall. In the end, Alvarez's physical strength was the difference. It was also interesting to watch young Canelo adopt an almost Mayweather-esque style, rolling his shoulder a lot and all but totally abandoning a jab, looking to land hard counters. He doesn't have Mayweather's speed or impeccable technique, nor his defensive mastery, but his offense was interesting, varied, and became more and more effective as the fight went on.
In the end, you may still feel like you were ripped off, and I won't argue with you on that. But these six men didn't contribute to that feeling for you, and they deserve their props. Hats off to them all.