DISCLAIMER: This fanpost has nothing to do with tonight's Pacquiao Marquez fight. I like that match up. This fanpost is about the general state of boxing and the average quality of the boxing matches televised by HBO nowadays.
I'm relatively new to boxing, started watching seriously maybe six or seven years ago, and I've been appalled by just how scarcely the fight I sit down to watch turns out to be well matched or entertaining. It seems like 95% of the fights that get made, especially by HBO, are complete jokes and mismatches, and I'm wondering why everyone thinks that is. It's like the people deciding these things have no understanding of what makes a good, competitive fight.
At least Showtime seems to understand that you start by putting two fighters of relatively equal skill level and stature against each other. Mares/Moreno, Ortiz/Alvarez before Ortiz lost (after about 20 Canelo fights on HBO where Canelo fought nobodies, Showtime finally had him lined up against someone who was at least a strong fighter in his prime with speed and power), Berto/Ortiz, Trout/Cotto, some of their undercard bouts, etc. At least then at minimum you're probably going to end up with a good fight, if not a great one.
HBO finally figured it out with the recent Guerrero and Alvarado fights. The Alvarado fight they obviously lucked into a perfect match up and everyone knew it before the fight even took place, but let's just focus on the Guerrero fight for a minute. It's not like Guerrero and Berto made for the perfect style match up or anything, or that people had been dreaming of that fight for ages, or that there was any magical thinking put into making that fight. Because it really isn't that hard to make a good fight. HBO just finally took two fighters, and this is the point--it can be pretty much any two fighters as long as they are evenly matched, evenly aged (or in their primes) and both have the ability to hurt each other, and put them in the ring.
That's it. In truth, the styles probably were not the best, actually, if you were going to drum up a dream fight, and the fight got dirty at times and just a bit sloppy and chippy, lots of holding, etc, which often interrupted the flow of the action. But at the end of the day, it made for an entertaining fight because both fighters were in their primes, both were about the same size, and both had speed and power, which meant that even if one of them was winning most of the rounds, which Guerrero was, the fight still remained entertaining throughout as Berto still had a chance because with his speed and power he was able to keep landing good shots on Guerrero. He wasn't so completely overmatched in literally every area like we so often see from fighters in HBO fights that he had no hope whatsoever of making anything happen or even hitting the other guy and causing some entertaining action for the viewers.
So from a matchmaking perspective, it didn't even require anything special to put on a good fight like that. It was just that for once HBO didn't match a superstar in their prime against some declining 40 year old.
Or even, say, take Broner vs DeMarco, or Donaire vs Nishioka, for examples. Broner and Donaire are two of the 5 or 10 generational fighting talents that are fighting today. They are superstars, the greats, fighters with strengths in every key area and seemingly no weaknesses. So from a matchmaking perspective, HBO should know that matching a superstar fighter against a good fighter (like DeMarco) is just as much a sin as matching a good fighter against a bad fighter.
I mean even if you fail the matchmaking rule from the last paragraph of simply matching relatively equal fighters with power against each other, then at the very, very, very, very least, if you can't meet that criteria, you at least have to make a fight where the inferior fighter comes with at least one advantage. So maybe it's still a huge mismatch overall, maybe you couldn't find an overall equal for Donaire, but at least the underdog has one thing, maybe his speed, maybe his power, maybe his boxing craft, that even if he is overmatched in every other area, he atleast has one advantage of his own where he is clearly better than Donaire (or whoever) that he can try to exploit that maybe gives him a tiny chance to make a fight out of it, and for the viewer at least gives them one thing they can hone in on and maybe see if a miracle can happen. Plus, like I said, you can at least make a fight out of one advantage, make entertaining action for the viewers, even if it's still hard to win with just one advantage against your opponent's, say, five.
But with these Broner vs DeMarco fights and Donaire Nishioka, Donaire and Broner were better than their opposition in literally every single category. Speed, power, craft, stamina, everything. And when that happens, it's not a fight. Both those fights were embarrassments. Whoever signed off on those should be embarrassed. And really, when it comes to talents like Broner and Donaire, you need a small list that you adhere to strictly when matchmaking them. The only people these generational fighters should be paired against are either each other or the fighters who are almost at that level, or at least have one overall area where they are exceptional.
For example, Abner Mares may not be the overall polished generational fighting product that Donaire is, but he's a very talented offensive fighter with heart, determination, grit, wicked hand speed, and a large array of combination punches. He may not be able to beat Donaire, but it would at least be a very entertaining fight. With these generational guys, it may be the case where you simply can't always find many people who can beat them in the ring for every fight (although they should be doing a much better job than once a century), but the problem with these idiot HBO matchmakers is they're not just putting them in the ring with people who can't beat them, they're actually putting them in the ring every time with people who can't even hit them. It's embarrassing. That's what was so refreshing about Victor Ortiz vs Floyd Mayweather (until that... stopped being refreshing. But that's boxing, even the good things come with bad things attached). We've learned that Ortiz is a flawed fighter, by no means a generational talent, but it was great to see him in there with Mayweather regardless simply because he was the first fighter Mayweather had fought in a long time who checked the following four boxes: speed, power, in his prime, and in the right weight class. As I've gone over, those are just the basics, especially for making a fight with one of these superstars, to making a good fight.
I mean when was the last time we saw a good Floyd Mayweather fight? It's been ages. Even Cotto vs Mayweather, and we saw why vs Trout, was pretty boring. Cotto was able to win a round or two with his intelligence and boxing craft, but again, he didn't check all the boxes. He was too slow to really trade with Mayweather at all, and his power has faded too much over the years to be able to make up for his lack of speed in the way that I believe, say, Canelo Alvarez might now be able to.
See I have no problem with them matching an inferior fighter against Floyd, but that doesn't mean they couldn't have made great fights with him. It's easy, they just don't know what they're doing. Here are a few examples. Amir Khan vs Floyd Mayweather, for however long it would last before Khan gets knocked out, would be a fantastic, enthralling fight. Khan has some of the fastest hands on the planet and knows how to throw great combinations, sometimes to his detriment. This is someone who could actually hit Mayweather and hit him often. Mayweather's superior chin, defense, and power would in all likelihood secure him the victory, but at least it would be a very entertaining fight on the road to the same ending as always.
Here's another one. Canelo Alvarez. This fight would basically be what people hoped the Cotto fight would be with Mayweather. Canelo has much more power than Cotto at this point, in fact I'm not quite sure everyone realizes just how talented Canelo is. I'm just as critical of the people he's fought as anyone, but this guy looks to my untrained eye like the next big one, or rather he looks like he already is and people just don't know it yet because he hasn't been able to prove himself yet, think Broner a year ago. Canelo would be at a disadvantage in terms of speed against Mayweather, but while he's not super fast, he's not slow, either, and when he hits Floyd, it will be the most powerful punch Floyd has gone up against for a long time. If anyone besides Pacquiao can hurt Floyd, Canelo is as good a bet as anyone, and while he's not as fast as Khan, he is likewise a gifted offensive fighter, subtract some speed and add a whole lot of power, and it's the same basic idea. He may not beat Floyd, although he just might, but at least you're putting Floyd in there with someone who is A. offensively capable at an elite level, and B. in their prime, and C. in the right weight class.
When you sit down, think about it, and realize that HBO has not been able to click those three boxes in any of their Mayweather fights in recent memory besides Ortiz, it will give you an idea just how embarrassing their matchmaking is. It's ridiculous. Just three little boxes right there is all it would take for us to get to watch an entertaining fight including the best boxer alive, and HBO can't even figure that out.
Sergio Martinez would obviously be another option who would make an entertaining fight with Floyd. I mean that's three options right there, and they've been there for a year or two or more now (maybe not Canelo but Khan and Martinez definitely). And that's just Mayweather who I'm using as an example. But as you can see there are always a lot more options than you think, which makes it all the more inexcusable that we get so many awful fights and so few quality ones.
Anyway, so for those elite, generation fighters, like Mayweather, or Donaire and Broner in the lower weight divisions who I used as examples earlier, the baseline, the minimum ability fighters you match them up with in the ring have got to be the Abner Mares/Amir Khan level fighters. That's your minimum. Guys who maybe won't win the fight, who maybe aren't quite the all around perfect, generational type fighters as the Donaires or Mayweathers, but guys who at least have an elite arsenal in one area (preferably offensive) and therefore a capability to at least hit Mayweater/Donaire and make it a fight. That's your matchmaking minimum. And then obviously if you can match the Donaire level fighters with the Broner level fighters straight up, that's even better. But no less than the Mares level guys. Nishioka, DeMarco, etc, those guys are not even close. No excuse for that.
Also, for the baseline examples I used offensive fighters like Khan and Mares because they're the most obvious and best examples for what I'm explaining, and their offensive abilities are more guaranteed to make great fights in the scenarios I laid out than elite abilities in any other areas, but it can also work with other elite skills in the proper matchmaking scenarios, like how Marquez's one advantage in boxing craft and counterpunching ability has been able to mitigate Pacquiao's advantages in both speed and power, or how someone like Rigondeaux could potentially also make a great fight with Donaire just as Mares could. But, in general, going with the guy you know can at least get to your Donaire or Broner or whoever it is and hit them back with speed, power, and consistency is always going to be a better probability for making a great fight than going with the crafty, slick defensive boxer. You better make sure the slick defensive boxer also has some power and some offensive capability, otherwise he's just going to get beat the same as every other inferior fighter to Donaire, except it's going to be just that much more of a snoozer because he's going to be basically running all fight. If you're trying to face a talented offensive fighter, or talented all around fighter, against a defensive guy, you better make sure it's a defensive guy like Marquez (or preferably someone like Marquez but faster and more deadly) who can throw combinations back.
And Rigondeaux may very well be someone like that, in fact I think he is. I think he would make an a great with any elite fighter around his weight division, Donaire included. But again, this is more of a specific, unique scenario, looking at one fighter. In general, when matchmaking fights, HBO and everyone else should go by the rules I stated earlier and essentially say, "If I'm looking for an opponent for Mayweather, and I can't get Pacquiao, then who else can hit Mayweather and cause action and actually make a fight for a change as opposed to the last 50 Mayweather fights?" And then you've got the names I listed earlier and whoever else. Khan, Sergio Martinez, Canelo. "Who is going to make a great fight with Donaire?" Broner would be perfect if they ever found themselves at the same weight, and if not, then next up in his current weight division is Abner Mares, plain and simple.
That's the way to go at it. I don't know what methodology HBO has been using, but it's part of why the sport is flailing. You can't expect to grow the sport when the product you are putting out there representing the sport 99% of the time is complete crap. I'm sure all the time people are turning on HBO boxing out of curiosity, thinking "I haven't watched boxing in ages, wonder how it looks in HD, wonder if I'll like it now, maybe this will be cool!" then they watch 10 minutes of it and go, "This is what boxing is now? Was it always like this? This sucks! Guess I just can't really get into boxing, must not be my type of sport," and they're lost for life, or at least for years until someone shows them a cool fight or they luck into seeing one by accident."
Anyway, why do you think HBO doesn't follow these simple guidelines for creating good fights, and is there any hope of them starting? And why is it that showtime seems better at it? Just smarter people working there? They got lucky the last couple years? I'm just imagining that showtime does it better? Sound off!
And for everyone below that superstar level, it should be that much easier, you just match them with opponents of relatively equal ability and size, you make sure there are no glaring red marks on paper going in like one of the fighters is 50 years old or is having to come up in weight 50 pounds, etc etc, just the obvious things that HBO always seems to miss, and then you make sure both fighters have power preferably, or if you're doing power puncher vs slick boxer type of fight you at least make sure that the power puncher actually has more power than the slick boxer and that the slick boxer actually has more speed than the power puncher (otherwise either way it's clearly a mismatch), and then you have a fight.