No matter if you think their fights are foregone conclusions or not, the fact of the matter is that boxing is reaching a simple and wonderful conclusion: Pay-per-view cards need to be cards, not one-trick ponies.
The last major PPV, of course, was Pacquiao-Barrera II. It may also prove to be the beginning of the end for its kind, with an undercard that greatly underwhelmed, despite that it was, in fact, a fairly solid lineup.
Look, I like Steven Luevano. A lot, in fact, and his win on October 6 over Antonio Davis helped me think more of him. But the fight wasn't exactly set up to be a competitive battle. Antonio Davis was brought in as a challenger to showcase Luevano. The Librado Andrade-Yusaf Mack super middleweight bout that went on second was a Shobox main event at best. And again, that's fine, but are either of those guys truly near the top of the division? Andrade may be top ten, maybe not. It was a hell of an entertaining brawl, too, and I'm not trying to knock the fight itself.
Forbes-Bojado was a matchup meant to showcase the comebacking Bojado. Didn't work out that way, as fights with Stevie Forbes have a habit of not doing. It was a moderately interesting PPV opener, but more or less only if you're a diehard boxing fan. Otherwise, you probably didn't enter October 6th giving a shit about Forbes or Bojado, let alone both of them.
Tomorrow night's Cotto-Mosley pay-per-view not only features one of the best and most intriguing main events of the decade, but it also gives us a legitimate lightweight champion on the undercard, as well as the start of the comeback trail for one of the welterweight division's best. The fights are still showcases, and all of them (including Victor Ortiz's card-opening fight) are meant to push something else later on.
But damn, doesn't it feel good to have true lightweight champ Joel Casamayor and former welterweight titleholder Antonio Margarito on the UNDERCARD of a major pay-per-view, instead of waiting around for them to try to make fights on a B.A.D. or Showtime card? (And, yes, I consider most of Showtime's "best" cards to be lesser than your average Boxing After Dark event.)
Casamayor (34-3-1, 21 KO) has been out of the ring since October of 2006, when he beat the late Diego Corrales via split decision to take the WBC lightweight title, as well as take a 2-1 win in their trilogy. The WBC would later strip Casamayor and give an interim title to David Diaz for beating Jose Armando Santa Cruz, using some of the flimsiest logic ever, only to then give Casamayor an interim title belt, after having promoted Diaz, apparently, to "regular" champion.
Now, apparently, Casamayor will be defending the WBC lightweight title, even though Diaz successfully defended it in August against Erik Morales. We'd heard around that time that Casamayor would be awaiting the winner of Diaz-Morales. Now...I...goddamn, but I hate the sanctioning bodies.
The bottom line is this: Joel Casamayor is the lightweight champion of the world. Some people qualify that with "linear," and almost make excuses for it, but no. Joel Casamayor is the lightweight champion. It's no disrespect to Juan Diaz, who holds three title belts. Casamayor is the RING champion, and he has neither been beaten nor retired since he beat Corrales for that position. You can think Diaz is the better of the two (and I think that's debatable, still), but Casamayor is the champion.
So, in essence, he is defending the WBC title (to hell with it, who cares?) and the RING title against... Jose Armando Santa Cruz, who has a couple of decent wins since losing to David Diaz for what was the interim title at the time. Who the hell knows?
Santa Cruz (25-2, 14 KO) is a fine fighter. He was up on every card against David Diaz at the time of the tenth round stoppage that gave Diaz the win. His other loss was to Fernando Trejo, which isn't really as bad as Trejo's record would suggest, the guy is another fighter like Carlos Baldomir or Humberto Soto or Antonio Margarito, who is better than the amount of losses on his record.
I give Santa Cruz a decent shot against Casamayor. Joel's ring rust could play a factor, but if it doesn't, then he shouldn't have much trouble. Casamayor is a world-class talent -- not the most exciting guy a lot of the time, and not the most dangerous puncher, and not the easiest guy to like, but a great boxer whose three losses have come to Castillo, Corrales and Freitas. Nothing to be ashamed of there. I think Casamayor is a guy that could've given Floyd Mayweather, Jr., hell at 135 pounds.
And then there's the Tony Margarito fight. Margarito (34-5, 25 KO) lost his WBO welterweight crown to Paul Williams in a highly-entertaining fight in July. He seems to have finally come to terms with it, and given up on saying he was robbed in the decision. He'll be facing Golden Johnson (25-7-3, 18 KO), a Texan who has been around the block.
Like the Casamayor fight, this should be a cakewalk for Margarito if he's as good as he used to be. But Williams stifled Margarito for much of their fight, and I didn't think Margarito looked too great against Joshua Clottey last December either. Had Clottey not hurt his hands in that fight, Margarito may never have gotten to Williams in the first place.
Margarito is 29, which isn't old, but it's not like we don't still see fighters more or less hit a wall around that age. You have your anomalies like Bernard Hopkins and Juan Manuel Marquez that seem to actually get better with age, but that's still not in any way the norm. And it's been a while since we've seen Margarito truly at his best, probably back to his 2005 destruction of Kermit Cintron.
Margarito should win. But I don't totally count Johnson out, and that's complicated by the fact that we're already hearing Bob Arum and others talk of Margarito facing the winner of Cotto-Mosley. Margarito might just look right past Golden Johnson and find himself in a fight instead of a gift.
As for super prospect Victor Ortiz's bout with Carlos Maussa, I even find that one really interesting. Maussa's a dangerous opponent to be sure, but he hasn't fought in 15 months and hasn't won in 29 months, since he knocked the shit out of the enigmatic Vivian Harris. Ortiz is a hell of a young fighter at 20 years of age, but Maussa has been in the ring with guys like Cotto and Hatton. He can punch, and he'll give Ortiz a nice test.
It reminds me, somewhat, of the Andre Berto-Cosme Rivera fight from this summer, which marked the first time that Berto went a full ten rounds, and the first time he was knocked down. Andre dominated most of that fight, but Rivera gave him troubles by just doing things that Berto hadn't seen in a pro ring before.
Combine these three fights with a marvelous main event, and you've got a winner of a pay-per-view card. Hopefully, this is just the start. Mayweather-Hatton has been given Lacy-Manfredo and Ponce de Leon-Escobedo on the undercard, too. Golden Boy and Top Rank seem to realize that the fight fans are more willing to pay $50 for a pay-per-view event if there's more than the one fight there to draw you in.
And, you know what else? It will simply make for a better viewing experience, be it at the arena or in your living room. The crowd will respond to good fights, which amps up the atmosphere when the big one rolls at the end of the evening. Considering I think we could have some exciting stuff on the undercard, and given that it's Madison Square Garden, Cotto-Mosley could have one of those rollicking crowds that make a good fight even better.