Eddie Gonzalez is back this week with a look at the Chavez Jr vs Martinez and Canelo vs Lopez aftermath, and how the competition between the cards, the promoters, and the TV networks turned into a banner night for the sport of boxing.
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This was supposed to be more "boxing is dead" fodder. Top Rank and Golden Boy Promotions having the audacity to run dueling cards featuring the two biggest young stars in the sport was supposed to be just one more nail in the coffin. It was not supposed to be the best boxing weekend of the year.
But then it was.
By my count, within three hours we got: Two legit Fight of the Year contenders, two sellout arenas in the same city at the same time for the "dying" sport, a rumored "more than 500,000" pay per view buys for a card that did not feature the names "Mayweather" or "Pacquiao" in the marquee. On top of all that we also got a genuine "I will always remember where I was" moment. The best moment of the boxing year (and some might say all of sports) when Julio Cesar Chavez Jr knocked Sergio Martinez to the canvas with a series of left hooks.
A moment that no hyperbole does justice, a moment that caused three rational men in my living room to continuously jump up and down and shout obscenities out of sheer amazement, a moment that caused our very own Scott Christ to type the phrase "Oh My God" eight separate times, in all caps, with exclamation points in his round by round coverage. And it was the perfect reaction. The only way this moment can be beaten is if Miguel Cotto and Canelo Alvarez engage in a bare knuckle brawl on December 1st after Cotto's bout with Austin Trout, like James "The Grim Reaper" Roper and Marvin Shabazz, and that still might not be enough.
Somewhere in the middle of this it hit me: Top Rank and Golden Boy weren't selfish idiots for forcing boxing fans to choose, for running dueling cards on separate networks. No, they were geniuses.
This weekend could have a lasting effect on the boxing world. By all accounts the cards were successes at the gate, with each selling out and earning millions in revenue. Early reports on the projected PPV numbers for Chavez-Martinez are beyond what was expected. We may need to get used to dueling cards from the famously dueling promoters, and maybe we should start enjoying it.
Many criticized Golden Boy for still going ahead with their Canelo card, despite the lackluster opponent and the bigger Top Rank card a few miles away. In reality the competition put them in a win-win situation. If the card underperformed, oh well, it was supposed to. If it did well, its success is multiplied by the fact it went against one of the most anticipated fights in the sport.
What it did do, that benefited boxing fans everywhere, is forced Golden Boy to put together a card that would reward those who chose to take the cheaper, albeit less significant, option. It stacked the card with bouts that should (and ultimately would) end up being brawls, titled the card Knockout Kings, expected early finishes and got them. They even went so far as to steal the UFC gimmick of a knockout bonus to offer literal incentive for their fighters and fights to be exciting.
It paid off when we got a legit FOTY contender in the Marcos Maidana vs Jesus Soto Karass "beat the hell out of each other-fest" (it feels like the only accurate description). The other two undercard bouts on Showtime ended early (one on a headbut caused cut), and Golden Boy thanked the participants by giving everyone a bonus (and Canelo its Knockout of the night bonus, somewhat regrettably).
Top Rank, on the other hand, didn't have to go above and beyond. It had already (along with Lou DiBella) secured what was the second-most clamored for fight in the sport, and was practically assured to be a commercial success. The undercard they gave us was par the course, about what you would expect from a typical big event PPV. A showcase fight for a Top Rank Fighter (Guillermo Rigondeaux), a showcase fight for a fighter that belonged to the secondary promoter (Matthew Macklin), and a closely matched c- feature bout before the main event. It was the last fight where we got a real treat in the FOTY contender between Roman "Rocky" Martinez and Miguel Beltran Jr, a fight that was won on a point deduction and met with lethargy from the live crowd, but was every bit as good as the Maidana Karass slugfest. As boxing fans we got all of this before the jump out your seat and shout obscenities over and over inducing 12th round of Chavez Martinez.
All of this, and some people still found room to complain. I get it, "I don't want to have to choose," and "the promoters don't care about the fans." I know, I thought the same thing Saturday morning. But then I realized a few things, stuff like "this is 2012, I have a DVR, Internet access, a Twitter, a great site like Bad Left Hook that can help me follow all the action and most importantly, a brain."
The thing is, on Sunday afternoons we don't complain that we can't watch all 12 NFL games at once, or during the divisional round of the baseball playoffs where games overlap, or during basketball season when at any time 10 games are on at the same time. No, we make due, we find ways to watch, we generally do something I like to call "think" and we decide which we would like to watch more.
And when we can't make those decisions, we cheat. There are many ways to watch both cards, and most of us utilized them this weekend -- be it ordering the PPV and DVR'ing the Showtime card and watching it later, or finding it on YouTube because if you look hard enough EVERYTHING is on YouTube. Maybe you want to save yourself $60 and just watch the Showtime card and catch the Chavez-Martinez replay Saturday on HBO (or download it immediately after). You can complain about not being able to see both live (even though you can choose to watch one on TV and the other on very easy to find but illegal streams online), but you also cheer about getting such an action-filled boxing weekend.
The thing is, as whole, boxing fans are a resilient bunch. We find our ways onto sites like this, seeking out intelligent boxing banter, arguments and analysis. We somehow end up watching fights that aren't aired in our country or broadcast in the language we speak. If our chief complaint right now is that the two biggest promoters in the sport are giving us too much boxing at the same time, I think those reports of its demise were exaggerated a tad. And I think we, the boxing fans of the Internet, have become a bit spoiled. Enjoy it, because if the sport were as dead as some believe it to be, we wouldn't have any boxing to watch.
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There was a huge, underreported development in the boxing world this past week, a partnership between HBO and ESPN that will ultimately get our sport into more households than before. The effects of this were felt last week, as episodes of 24/7 were aired on ESPN2, and more importantly, highlights of Chavez-Martinez were shown on the flagship show SportsCenter.
Not the typical "two guys touching gloves, one insignificant punch from a middle round, winner raises hand" highlights of the past. No, what we got were actual, significant moments from the fight highlights. As in, 30 seconds of Martinez landing sharp jabs in the middle rounds and (gasp!) the most significant moment of the fight, the 12th round knockdown. And then Martinez getting his hand raised. Many have criticized ESPN's commitment to boxing in the past (mainly when we tune in expecting Friday Night Fights and are greeted with college softball) but this was undoubtedly a step in the right direction.
Surely I am not the only one to notice increased coverage of the sport in the last year or so. Highlights of bouts featuring fighters not named "Floyd" or "Manny" were welcome surprises, and though it may seem small, they have also run results of bouts in their ticker that wouldn't even be anything close to a blip on the radar of the casual fan. Seeing things like "Lucas Matthysse RTD-5 Humberto Soto" scroll across the bottom of my screen gives me hope, especially when it's followed by a brief explanation of how this happened. I am genuinely looking forward to the positive ways this partnership will affect the sport.