On Saturday, September 15, Top Rank and Golden Boy, as well as HBO and Showtime, and taking their feuds to a new level, as a pair of major cards will go head-to-head, both in Las Vegas (which is the dumbest part of all), and both featuring major Mexican stars in the main events.
Head-to-head between HBO and Showtime is not new, but until this year, it has usually been something more unavoidable than, say, Showtime trying to compete directly with HBO. The reality is, Showtime cannot compete with HBO in terms of money or in terms of viewers. The highest-rated Showtime boxing broadcasts are on par with the worst-rated HBO boxing broadcasts.
But with Golden Boy aligning heavily with Showtime, due in part to Showtime Sports hiring Stephen Espinoza to lead their brand after Ken Hershman bolted for HBO, we've seen this begin to escalate into something that it's never truly been before.
This is promoters, and thus the networks backing their play, going after the shows on the other side. They'll also be running head-to-head on September 8 (though HBO is Goossen/Shaw that night) and October 13. None of this has happened by accident or coincidence. And even if the other two are "just the way it is," the September 15 head-to-head is absolutely no coincidence. The cards are on the table here.
On HBO pay-per-view, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr will meet Sergio Martinez. Showtime has a lesser main event, with Canelo Alvarez facing Josesito Lopez. The upside is that show won't cost you any more than your normal Showtime subscription rate, while Chavez-Martinez will put an extra dent into your wallet.
So what's the show to watch? Let's run down the eight fights scheduled for the night, ranking them from best to worst, and see what the better play is for the average boxing fan.
1. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr vs Sergio Martinez (HBO PPV)
I don't think there's any real question that this is the best fight of the night, unless you're still 100% against the idea that Chavez is a legit fighter. Personally, I think he's become genuinely interesting over his last five fights or so, making some improvements, but more than just the improvements (which aren't as huge as some believe they are), it's simply the fact that he's shown he's a fighter. He's got a really good chin, he's very determined, and he fights with a chip on his shoulder.
For years, Chavez was "hidden away" on small PPV shows by Top Rank, because HBO didn't want anything to do with him. Hardcore fans didn't have much respect for Chavez. Over that time, he got a little better here and there. Then he hooked up with Freddie Roach. And finally, when HBO was burned by Top Rank taking Manny Pacquiao to Showtime for a 2011 pay-per-view fight with Shane Mosley, the big network caved in and brought Junior on board for fights with Sebastian Zbik, Peter Manfredo Jr, and Marco Antonio Rubio. These were main event fights on HBO, mind you.
That has gone two ways. One, it has made clear that Chavez, even against opponents who aren't big stars or serious contenders, is a drawing card. He's done good numbers on HBO. This has also resulted in some further backlash. While Chavez could mostly ignore a lot of folks before, his presence as an HBO main eventer has raised his profile. He's got something more to prove. This is the fight where he can prove it.
Sergio is Sergio. He doesn't do big numbers, to be frank, but he's an actual top fighter. This is a great fight, in my estimation. It has been demanded by fans of every level, from ultra-casual to diehard, and it's being delivered. The style matchup could also be terrific.
2. Jhonny Gonzalez vs Daniel Ponce De Leon (Showtime)
Outside of the fact that Canelo's fight is bigger, what's the argument that it's better? I don't think there is one, and that's not meant so much as a shot at Canelo-Lopez as it is meant to say that Gonzalez vs Ponce De Leon is a really, really good fight on paper.
Gonzalez will be defending his WBC featherweight title, against by far his toughest challenger since winning the strap. Gonzalez beat Hozumi Hasegawa for the title in April 2011, and has since defended against the Murderer's Row of Tomas Villa, Rogers Mtagwa, Roinet Caballero, and Elio Rojas, who is a quality fighter but also had fought just one time since 2010, and not against anyone good.
Ponce De Leon has won a couple of minor fights this year after going a very respectable 0-2 in 2011, with his losses coming to Yuriorkis Gamboa and Adrien Broner -- and Broner's "win' was anything but convincing.
Gonzalez has it all, except for a chin. Of world-class fighters, his chin's about as fragile as they come. Ponce De Leon can take shots and bring thunder, but he's also easily outboxed. It's a very interesting fight.
3. Canelo Alvarez vs Josesito Lopez (Showtime)
The most distressing thing for fight fans who want to see all of these fights live -- recorded sports are for communists and other undesirables, and that's just a fact of life -- is that Golden Boy was given reason after reason to not run a Canelo show on September 15. Yes, they wanted the date -- Mexican Independence is a big fight weekend every year, but let's be real here:
- They're running in Vegas, not Mexico.
- They're not running a pay-per-view, so they're not bringing in pay-per-view money.
- They cycled through numerous potential opponents before settling on Josesito Lopez, more by necessity than choice.
Obviously, Canelo's network in Mexico would want a fight for the night, and that's maybe the biggest factor here. Canelo vs Lopez is a fight I'd be glad to watch most nights, but no matter what Lopez says, the reality is that he's jumping two weight classes to face this guy, and Victor Ortiz at 147 was able to push him around a little bit in their June fight. It was a great fight, but that may have been Lopez's limit for the time being. Jumping right back in with Canelo three months later? Financially, I can't blame him at all. If he doesn't get beaten up badly, he doesn't lose much here, even if he loses the fight. But purely looking at the fight and nothing more, Lopez has to be considered a major underdog.
The good thing for Golden Boy is, they may have bought themselves another fight where Canelo has large physical advantages, even though they were ready to step him up against the likes of Paul Williams, James Kirkland, or Victor Ortiz on this date.
From here on out, we're into a series of fights that could just as easily have been main events on Solo Boxeo Tecate.
4. Roman Martinez vs Miguel Beltran Jr (HBO PPV)
Pretty good fight, but nothing more than that. Martinez, 29, has done nothing since he was upset by Ricky Burns in 2010, save for a yawner win over Daniel Attah last October. Beltran, 23, is decent, but has never beaten anyone as good as Martinez was at one point, and may well still be.
5. Leo Santa Cruz vs Eric Morel (Showtime)
It's a nice step for the exciting young Santa Cruz, but I'm not wild about watching Eric Morel fight. I said it in April when Morel was gearing up to face Abner Mares: He's a flyweight, and he hasn't beaten anyone really notable in about 10 years. This has two ways it can go: Morel gets outworked by a naturally bigger, much younger man, but gives a game effort, or he gets outworked by a naturally bigger, much younger man, and since that would be two straight major reality checks, he gives up the ghost somewhere in the later rounds. This is for Santa Cruz's IBF bantamweight title.
6. Matthew Macklin vs Joachim Alcine (HBO PPV)
I like Matthew Macklin and he's a pretty good fighter, but this is an also-ran fight for him. Alcine is a 36-year-old former junior middleweight titlist mostly hanging on. I don't suppose it's impossible we could see an upset. Macklin is fairly limited for as solid as he is, and if Alcine has a real "on" night, and Macklin's not fighting his best, it could happen. I still haven't forgiven Alcine for his 2007 snoozer with Travis Simms, and his best two opponents since then (Daniel Santos and Alfredo Angulo) both smashed him good. I'm not going crazy about a win over David Lemieux for Alcine last time out, but it's something. This fight has appeal if you're someone who cares a lot about either fighter or you're someone who cares about pretty much all fights.
7. Marcos Maidana vs Jesus Soto Karass (Showtime)
Look, I saw Maidana at 147 pounds in February, getting dominated by Devon Alexander. Maidana has kept a tough schedule, has fought hard, and has done very well for himself normally. But that "never say die" attitude we saw against Amir Khan absolutely was not there against Alexander. He said die sometime around the eighth round. I didn't like what I saw from Maidana in any way in February, other than he had bigger muscles in his arms moving up in weight. He looked really bad.
8. Mike Lee vs TBA (HBO PPV)
To me, the question is basically whether or not Canelo vs Lopez and Gonzalez vs Ponce De Leon combine to be worth missing Chavez vs Martinez live. Even if Rigondeaux vs Marroquin had stayed on the HBO PPV show, they're mostly about even in overall worth, I'd say. But one main event is the clear best fight of the night, and that's a big deal.
We'll have live coverage of both shows on September 15, as I'll be doing the PPV and Brent Brookhouse will handle the Showtime card. Which will you be watching live?