They often say that one of the differences between boxing cards and mixed martial arts cards is that MMA tries to give people “events” with lots of good fights and boxing just gives people one good main event fight and a bunch of junk beforehand. They are right. But with the Sept. 19 Floyd Mayweather-Juan Manuel Marquez pay-per-view, undercard technology is making a vast leap forward. The card, made official this week, is stacked.
Technically, an undercard doesn’t have “technology,” it’s just amusing to me to say it that way. (Underwire bras don’t really strike me as having “technology” either, but “underwire technology” is a phrase that has been used to promote, say, the Wonderbra. In case you wondered what that woman in the bra was doing there other than being hot.) Anyhow, one wonders if these technological advances brought about via Mayweather-Marquez are a one-time thing, or if they’ll catch on. If you were being a pessimist, you’d have a look at how the undercard for the Nov. 14 Manny Pacquiao-Miguel Cotto pay-per-view is stacking up, per news drips this week, and say, “Maybe not.” But there’s something interesting about both undercards nonetheless. (Including, by the way, a pair of ACTUAL technological advances, albeit only related to, not intrinsic to, these two cards.)
Mayweather – Marquez Undercard
OK, first off, the actual technological advance here is that Mayweather-Marquez, reportedly a 144-pound fight, could be the first card in Las Vegas to use instant replay. I like this, even if I might have modeled it on the more comprehensive New Jersey instant replay system. Basically, if there’s a question about a foul that stopped a fight — perceived or ruled, intentional or unintentional — instant replay can be used. If you saw the junior welterweight Timothy Bradley-Nate Campbell fight this month, you know the value of such things.
But beyond that, we’re talking here about the most stacked undercard I’ve witnessed during my time as a hardcore, rather than casual, boxing fan. Chris John-Rocky Juarez II is a featherweight fight that could potentially lead a terrestrial HBO broadcast; the first bout was one of the best of 2009. Lightweights Michael Katsidis and Vicente Escobedo, whose styles mesh perfectly, will also square off; Katsidis is annually in Fight of the Year candidates, and Escobedo has already been in just such a candidate this year. So that’s three top-notch bouts, if you include the main event, which, despite my skepticism about how competitive it’ll be, is undoubtedly a meaningful fight. The fourth bout, Zab Judah-Antonio Diaz at 145 pounds, may or may not end up being interesting, as I don’t care for Judah and I’m not convinced Diaz’ comeback has much muscle, but I’ve definitely heard of worse undercard bouts. And besides, any Judah fight gives us a chance to see the famed “Chicken Dance” he does when he gets wobbled by a punch. Go Diaz!
There’s nothing not good about this development, even if you have to question the motive. Mayweather-Marquez will be going up against UFC 103 on the same night, so there’s a chance some fight fans may go over to that event if they are having doubts about the main event. There’s also the question of whether Golden Boy Promotions and Mayweather Promotions are trying to deliver really good ppv numbers that exceed those of Pacquiao-Cotto, so that Mayweather can squeeze Pacquiao out of a revenue split should they eventually meet. You know what I say if those are the aims? Fantastic. Competition works.
What I hope everyone realizes, though, is that good undercards are inherently good for the sport. Even if a good undercard doesn’t boost pay-per-view buys — and I suspect in this case, it actually will — it’s a great idea to give fans their money’s worth. MMA fans are loyal to the UFC because they trust they’ll be taken care of, and they often specifically site the top-to-bottom quality of UFC cards. Boxing fans, let alone the general public, aren’t so sure they will be taken care of by boxing. That right there is the stuff of infidelity. Ask anybody whose boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife cheated on them, and I bet you’ll find out that things were unstable at the time of the cuckholding. Good undercards constitute one more way to ensure faithfulness.
The story here is more mixed. Mayweather-Marquez has an amazing undercard. Pacquiao-Cotto might end up having a good one, with a side of meh.
Top Rank’s Bob Arum is looking at putting the junior middleweight Yuri Foreman-Daniel Santos fight on said undercard. Foreman is one of the lest exciting boxers in the sport — can’t punch, doesn’t usually want to engage. Santos is fun when he decides to be, but doesn’t always decide to be. It’s almost certain to be a wretched fight. On the plus side, Arum might be looking at putting on a meaningful lightweight clash between Humberto Soto and Anthony Peterson, a pretty good scrap on paper; a welterweight clash between Alfonso Gomez and Jesus Soto-Karass, not exactly a meaningful scrap but one that looks good on paper; and a lightweight clash for Edwin Valero against somebody, but likely not Joel Casamayor, as had previously been discussed. Valero’s always fun, given his cataclysmic punching power, but I want to see him against somebody who can give him a run for his money before I get too excited about this one.
Steve Kim at Maxboxing had an entertaining exchange with Arum over his criticism of Foreman-Santos. Arum argued the fight would generate headlines, as Foreman wants to be a rabbi, and would bring in new and different ethnic groups, since Foreman is Jewish — two things that are good for boxing. Kim argued that what would really be good for boxing is if Arum just made good fights, which Foreman-Santos almost certainly will not be.
I find it hard to fault either man in their aims. Arum’s strategy of targeting ethnic groups to generate an audience has helped keep boxing from going on a steep decline over the last decade or so with this very method of doing business. And boxing does get buzz when it gets headlines, for better or worse — it’s why so many people ask me about Evander Holyfield’s financial problems all the damn time, because that’s the kind of dreck that usually passes for boxing coverage in the major newspapers, and it’s why more people come to my pay-per-view parties when a fight is featured on Sportscenter.
But I have to side with Kim in this specific case. Foreman may bring in some Jewish fans, and it may bring in some headlines. But being a fighter of a specific ethnicity doesn’t guarantee loyalty from that ethnic group, as the case of Santos being booed in Puerto Rico that Kim mentioned shows. Maybe Foreman will become a star somehow someday because a new Jewish fan base falls in love with him, but he’s just as likely to turn off everyone else watching the Pacquiao-Cotto show. Can I live with one boring fight per undercard? Yeah. So can most fans, I’m guessing. But I’d rather not have to. In this example, the risk outweighs the reward.
(The other technological advance, of a kind: At the same commission meeting where Nevada approved instant replay, the commission was to consider whether to allow a five-person board to review cases where boxers have cerebral hemorrhaging, currently banned entirely from competing in Nevada. Guess who has had some of that hemorrhaging? Valero. The thinking is that medical care has gotten better, so should the ban be absolute? I have a call into the commission. I’ll update y’all when I hear back. [UPDATE: I spoke to Keith Kizer, the boss man there, and he told me the regulation was approved.])