Quick Jabs: Wrong Way TV Ratings, Some Hilarious Trash Talk And Upcoming Bouts

I’m getting Pac-Man/Marquez II Fever, but until March 15 rolls around and junior lightweight (130 lbs.) superstar Manny Pacquiao finally rematches with the ultra-talented Juan Manuel Marquez, there are “Quick Jabs” to be had. “I’m going out of my mind (going out of my mind)…”

Wrong Way TV Ratings
This is depressing: According to Kevin Iole of Yahoo!, HBO’s broadcast of Saturday night’s moderately entertaining heavyweight fight did far, far, far more business (1.236 million viewers) than a more meaningful show over on Showtime (273,000) that featured cruiserweights, the division just below heavyweight at 200 lbs. Now, maybe some of this has to do with the fact that HBO is in more homes. Or maybe some of this can be attributed to the seriously entertaining lightweight (135 lbs.) appetizer on the heavyweight undercard.
Even with those things taken into account, though, the disparity is a source of woe. Sam Peter-Oleg Maskaev was a decent scrap by modern heavyweight standards, sure. But the cruiserweight fight, David Haye-Enzo Maccarinelli had the chance to be special, which I would think would attract fans. It wasn’t special — it only lasted two stanzas — but it ended in a big-time knockout and both men showed more skill and willingness to trade than Peter and Maskaev did over six rounds. And I doubt very many people tuned in to HBO for the lightweights, Juan Diaz and Nate Campbell. No, I’m afraid I conclude the same thing Iole does — people are still attracted to the heavyweights. In an ideal world, Haye stays at cruiserweight where he struggles to make weight but clearly makes exciting fights, and takes on all contenders. But the money’s at heavyweight.
I think boxing needs to ween itself off of these guys. Face it, even under the best circumstances, even with the contributions from the Russians over recent years, the heavyweight division is effectively permanently decimated. It’s time to focus on the middleweights (160 lbs.), welterweights (147 lbs.), et al, who produce far more consistently good action and where the talent pool is significantly less shallow than the heavyweight division, which is competing with football, basketball and the like for giant athletes. The more the general public gets a look at the heavyweights, the more they’re going to conclude, wrongly, that boxing is dead.
Some Hilarious Trash Talk
At least Peter brings the wildly entertaining trash talk. There’s been a spate of it going around. Trash talk has always been one of my favorite aspects of sports. I think it’s more predominant in boxing, which doesn’t try to censor it like other sports, and, in fact, encourages it. So I thought I’d relay some more gems from Peter, Campbell and the always-mouthy super middleweight (168 lbs.) Edison Miranda, in case you hadn’t seen it and you’re anything like me in your love of dishing smack.
From Peter, via BoxingTalk, on how he wants a rematch with Vladimir Klitschko but the WBC is ordering him to fight Vladimir’s brother, Vitali… Peter said he has “no problem putting Vitali in a wheelchair first.” (This goes hand in hand with his remarks after he beat Maskaev: “I hit him with one and I him with another. Then I crack him up. My jab was good and then I him in the head and break off his head. I knew he was strong so I was careful. I feel great. I could fight again tomorrow. I’m ready for anyone.”) Like no one else, Peter talks like a slightly more eloquent Incredible Hulk.
The eccentric Campbell, via Maxboxing, reliving some moments from Saturday after his career-making victory over Diaz…
“His body language changed the first round when I hit him with that first right hand to the body and he quivered, ‘ughh’, I said, ‘Eww, yeah.’ I was talking to him, ‘Eww, yeah, like that, don’t ya?’ I talked the whole fight.” (This goes along with his previously reported in-ring hilarity, when he looked at Diaz at the end of the second and shouted, “All night!” And, when his corner asked him near the end if he could bring it for three more rounds: “I’ve got five in me!” And his strange forays into boxing message boards, detailed in the same Maxboxing piece.)
Miranda, whose nickname translates to “Panther,” has been trying to get the Danish fighter Mikkel “The Viking Warrior” Kessler into the ring, and has been in tip-top trash talking shape… Via March 6 news release… “Viking Warrior?” asked Miranda, referring to the former super middleweight champion’s nickname. “Kessler should turn his horned helmet in after disgracing such a tribe of true fighters. He talks like a fighter, has tattoos like he’s a tough guy, but when it comes down to being a real fighter, he’s not even worthy of carrying my gloves.” And, via March 11 news release… “I’m not surprised Kessler the Kitten disappeared when the big cat came around,” said Miranda. “I wish him luck in his future endeavors as a model, actor, race car driver or video game player, because it’s obvious that he’s no longer a fighter.” (Side note: What the hell is wrong with Kessler? He should take this fight instantly. I hope he’s not sulking from his loss to Joe Calzaghe. Kessler’s one of my favorite fighters to watch, but I do worry that he’s a little fragile, mentally.)
Round And Round
Let’s visit some fights that are in the works or that aren’t, shall we?
The biggest name on the ledger is middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik, whose opponent for June has finally been picked, according to ESPN. It’s an underwhelming one: Gary Lockett, a Welsch mandatory challenger who hasn’t fought, well, anybody, which raises the question, as usual, of how he became said mandatory challenger for one of Pavlik’s alphabet belts. I guess anonymous middleweights have been underestimated before (John Duddy, meet Walid Smichet), but the ratio of quality champ to anonymous middleweight is way out of whack here. Now, Pavlik’s the kind of fighter you have to see against anyone, and he’s due a soft touch, so I’ll tune in, but I feel like someone more credible could’ve been unearthed. Promoter Bob Arum’s trying to play up the “Lockett’s trained by Calzaghe’s dad, this could set up Pavlik-Calzaghe!” angle, but I don’t particularly buy it.
One of the HBO undercard fights should make it worthwhile, if Pavlik slaughters Lockett: Club-fisted junior featherweight (122 lbs.) Daniel Ponce De Leon will give super-prospect Juan Manuel Lopez his most serious test, and quite a step up it is. De Leon is frequently fun to watch because of his gigantic punching power, and he’s one of the top five in his very impressive division. And I’m really very high on Lopez, who’s got plenty of power on his own but is quite polished, too, compared to the awkward De Leon.
And fellow super-prospect Andy Lee, a middleweight on course to fight Pavlik some day, will get his own career-best test on the same undercard, against Marco Antonio Rubio, a journeyman/borderline contender who was in the running for the main event against Pavlik. That’s assuming Lee beats “The Contender” alum Brian Vera next weekend, which I think is a given, even if he’s a better class of fighter than all of Lee’s previous opponents.
Sticking around the weight class: Two-time Pavlik victim Jermain Taylor is, according to BoxingTalk, looking to scuffle with Ricardo Mayorga, at an unspecified weight, but presumably just north of middle. I like this one just fine. I thought Taylor was due a comeback-style fight, and Mayorga has proven himself a credible enough opponent — just ask Fernando Vargas — and great for promotional tours, what with his comically villainous behavior. If Taylor is as sharp as he was against Pavlik, he should look pretty beating up Mayorga, but if he reverts to his old bad habits, it could be a long night for him.
The idea is to maybe match the winner of that bout with Roy Jones Jr., and, as I’ve said before, I like Jones-Taylor. Jones, though, is up to some strange business. For some reason, he’s heading over to Germany to be ringside for Markus Beyer’s comeback fight, with the goal in mind of setting up a Jones-Beyer fight. Huh? Jones, who wouldn’t ever go overseas before his career hit the skids, wants to go overseas for freaking Markus Beyer?
Per Maxboxing: An HBO tripleheader featuring up-and-comers James Kirkland and Alfredo Angulo (both junior middleweights, 154 lbs.) and junior lightweight Yuriorkis Gamboa. There’s no prospect I’m more excited about that Gamboa, and while Maxboxing didn’t make clear whether Kirkland and Angulo would fight each other — how good would that be? — they’re both tremendously fun fighters to watch. That the opponents haven’t been named and I’m looking forward to it should tell you how much fun all three are are.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (http://www.tbrb.org). He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.