This weekend, I’m voyaging to the land of Boardwalk Empire for the Paul Williams-Sergio Martinez rematch, where I’ll be covering the bout as credentialed media. It’s got a little tiny bit going for it, does Williams-Martinez II. It’s for Martinez’ lineal middleweight championship. It’s a rematch of TQBR’s 2010 Fight of the Year, where the score wasn’t definitively settled. And both men are pound-for-pound top-10, maybe top-5. A little tiny bit going for it. A smidge.
Before getting too deep into that bout, let’s expunge the last remaining issues surrounding the past weekend-ish. Those issues include Hydroxycut and Floyd Mayweather poking a security guard right in his face (allegedly).
- Pay-per-view buys. An early report put the Manny Pacquiao-Antonio Margarito pay-per-view buy number at 1.4 million. That’s a pretty impressive number, if it works out to be true. It’s equal to Floyd Mayweather-Shane Mosley from earlier this year, which, although it had its detractors, was a far more anticipated match-up for more fans. And I think you have to put it all, or most of it, on Pacquiao. The guy has become a massive, massive star, with features on 60 Minutes and other mainstream media outlets giving him the “darling” treatment. I’m sure Margarito brought at least some Mexican fans, but the storyline for this fight in the media was Pacquiao, Pacquiao, Pacquiao, and it was a much higher volume than ever before. There still are only theories about why this show didn’t do as well as expected at the live gate. Remember, 41,000 people or so is nothing to sneeze at, truly awesome in fact, but it’s less than Pacquiao did at Cowboy Stadium against Joshua Clottey, who has no fans; not a single, solitary fan. But I’ve seen, by way of explanation, “economy,” “not as many Mexican fans support Margarito as you think,” “people turned off by the freak show elements,” “Cowboys suck,” “Jerry Jones not as involved in hyping the fight,” “prices,” “novelty wore off,” “Christmas season,” “nobody expected it to be competitive.” I could answer each and every one of those with something like, “But the economy was bad for the Clottey fight, too!” and so forth, but none of it’s really satisfactory. Why would the gate be down but the pay-per-view numbers up, compared to the Clottey fight?
- Pacquiao best all time? Who knows how many headlines out there the last couple days read almost exactly like that — down to the question mark, even. And the answer is a definitive “no.” He’s still not top 10, maybe not top 15, and while it’s impressive he was able to beat a bigger man, it wasn’t a win over an opponent anyone considered one of the best in the world, or even the best at 154 pounds, except the WBC. This win doesn’t do much for his all-time stock in my book, although it sure doesn’t hurt. He gets to be the only octuple “champion” (thanks, bored Wikipedia person!) although he already cemented his belt legacy as far as I’m concerned by winning four lineal championship belts. And really, this is nothing against Pacquiao: It would be hard for anyone to climb too high in the all-time rankings these days. The best three opponents Pacquiao has beaten were… Juan Manuel Marquez, Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, maybe? The best three opponent Sugar Ray Leonard beat were Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns and Marvin Hagler. And Leonard climbed almost as much in weight as Pacquiao did. Which resume you like better? If you stack up the wins of any of the modern era of boxers you’re going to have trouble toppling some of the guys who fought in some previous eras.
- Who’s next. Paul Kelly discussed who he thinks should be next for Pacquiao earlier today, but some of the options also have been discussed by the people who will make those decisions, for Pacquiao but also Margarito. Pacquiao’s peeps are saying they want Juan Manuel Marquez at welterweight. It’s pretty obvious why — they can beat him more easily there. But Pacquiao clearly could make 140 pounds if he wanted and still have the size advantage over the current lightweight champion. Pacquiao-Marquez III at junior welter is my top choice, assuming, as I do, that Floyd Mayweather won’t be an option; Pacquiao-Marquez III at welter barely registers. Andre Berto might actually find himself in the mix, and that interests me modestly; it’s been a while since Pacquiao fought a young up-and-comer. The winner of Timothy Bradley-Devon Alexander would be another good option in the young up-and-comer category, but those two could be tied up by a rematch clause through the middle of next year. And Mosley, whom Pacquiao promoter Bob Arum has been talking up, interests me not in the slightest, nor does a rematch with Miguel Cotto. (Whether these fights are competitive or not is secondary; except Mayweather, maybe, all of them are wipeouts. It’s only a question of who’s most deserving.) Cotto, by the way, reportedly won’t wait for Margarito in the spring, instead fighting Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. perhaps. But Arum does want Cotto-Margarito II, which could be modestly interesting depending on a variety of factors, like Margarito’s health, what better options Cotto has, etc.
- Margarito’s injury, Pacquiao’s condition. The fractured eye socket doesn’t really have much effect on Margarito’s career, probably, but the prolonged beating could. Margarito trainer Robert Garcia did indeed have a bad week — Brandon Rios being out of shape (albeit on short notice), all the camp high jinks with Parkinson’s jokes and glove-loading jokes, and not pulling the plug on Margarito earlier. Is there a school we can send promising young trainers to, on that last count? The broken face is a memorial to how profoundly misguided Garcia’s “I wasn’t going to stop the fight, he doesn’t deserve that” mentality is. The next trainer who says that needs to be unexpectedly hit in the face with a volleyball really hard. As for Pacquiao, he was said to be in all kinds of pain according to TMZ, but you never know if you can count on TMZ — the headline calls him “Margarita” and says Pacquiao “broke bones,” but the story makes no such claim.
- Hydroxycut. Did anybody ever make heads or tails of this? Was anything illegal done or not? Did Margarito take Hydroxycut or not? Was it illegal for him to consume coffee with Splenda? Would Hydroxycut even have helped Margarito at all? This never was resolved to my satisfaction, that I saw. But this is what Margarito has wrought: investigations of Splenda and Hydroxycut. (Was it hypocritical of Freddie Roach to demand an immediate urinalysis, given the feuding between Pacquiao and Mayweather over drug testing? Nah — remember, Pacquiao’s team has said they gave in to all the extra-jurisdictional tests Mayweather wanted.)
- Mayweather’s troubles. The unanimously-issued quip about Mayweather being accused Monday of assaulting a security guard is that Mayweather will fight women and security guards but not Pacquiao. My thought was, geez is this guy ever insecure and jealous. My thinking is, he’s acting out — he’s jealous of all the attention Pacquiao got this weekend, so he’s misbehaving to get the only kind of attention he knows how to get. It’s very tragicomic. (Allegedly. According to the aforementioned TMZ.)
- Fraudley’s solitary punch. Everyone noticed how heavyweight Audley Harrison hardly threw a punch in three rounds against David Haye on Saturday, but I hadn’t noticed right away that he only landed one. One punch! I’d dog out Fraudley but really, everyone knew this fight was a mismatch. For more parochial thoughts on how this debacle came to be and whom to blame, TQBR contributor Andrew Harrison offers his thoughts here, and The Boxing Bulletin’s Dave Oakes offers his here.
- The struggles of two prospects. I suspect everyone was a touch too hard on welterweight Mike Jones and junior featherweight Guillermo Rigondeaux for their performances on the Pacquiao-Margarito undercard. Jones shouldn’t have gone life-and-death with the likes of Jesus Soto Karass, tough likes though they may be. But he made a strategic error early by going bonkers for the knockout in the 2nd and he paid for it by tiring out afterward. So a young guy made a strategic error, and he made it in the name of trying to make a big impression. It happens! Worry a little now, sure, but worry a lot if he struggles next time out. As for Rigondeaux, again, the difference between the amateur game — where Rigondeaux was until recently one of the all-time greats — an the pro game are night and day. It will take an adjustment period, both for how much harder it is and for making an impression. If Rigondeaux figures out the hard part, he can be special. If Rigondeaux figures out the making an impression part, he can be special and popular. It’ll be worth watching to find out, either way.
- Rico Ramos. Rico’s big knockout is week-old news at this point, but I failed to mention it at all in Quick Jabs. If you haven’t had a chance yet, make sure you go over to ESPN3’s website and check out a replay of last Monday’s knockout by the junior featherweight prospect of Heriberto Ruiz. It probably isn’t the Knockout of the Year, but it’s at least an honorable mention. Yes, I’m proud of being an early Ramos supporter.
- Williams-Martinez II, Saturday, HBO, Atlantic City; Pacquiao-Margarito replay. We’ll have a fuller preview tomorrow, I expect, of Williams-Martinez II. The conscientious objectors can catch up on Pacquiao-Margarito Saturday, too. And there are a few noteworthy bouts on the undercard that you won’t see at home. Hungarian ruiserweight Zsolt Erdei makes an appearance in America under promoter Lou DiBella after languishing for years under Universum, and you can read a feature on him by George Kimball here. Middleweight Fernando Guerrero, coming off a tough test against Ishe Smith, goes in much, much easier against Saul Duran, and borderline top-10 heavyweight Tony Thompson stays busy. The most interesting undercard bout, to me, might be the welterweight contest between Steve Upsher Chambers and Bayan Jargal. Chambers is an undefeated prospect, and the team of Jargal, whom I once wrote a feature on in this space, has apparently decided to throw caution to the wind after a series of uneven and uninspired performances and just throw him into the big time.
- Danny Green-B.J. Flores, Wednesday, Perth Australia. These are two men who are badly in need of a live body in front of them, and they’re both getting it. Both are top-10-caliber cruiserweights who haven’t fought anything like quality competition for the most part. Green is exciting and Flores is not, so it’s got that contrast going for it/not going for it, too, I guess. But mainly, it’s just nice to see them in against real opponents.
- Robert Stieglitz-Enrique Ornelas, Saturday, Dresden Germany. Stieglitz is one of those guys on the outs of the Super Six, so he’s defending his super middleweight belt against Ornelas. If you can find an overseas stream, I bet this is a good scrap. Ornelas never stops coming and Stieglitz put up a decent struggle against Ornelas’ brother Librado Andrade. If Ornelas was Andrade’s cousin, would getting a win over Andrade’s cousin avenge the loss to Andrade? That might be getting too far away, blood-line wise, for vengeance that hits the spot. Beating somebody’s brother or dad or son would do it for me, I can tell you.
- Raul Martinez-Rodrigo Guerrero, Saturday, Fox Deportes, Thackerville Oklahoma. This would’ve been a nice card to have around a couple months ago when there wasn’t much going on, but it’s bound to get lost in the shuffle this weekend. Martinez’ prospect train got derailed when he took a huge step up against Nonito Donaire, but it shouldn’t have derailed him too much — hey, it was a HUGE step up — and apparently it hasn’t, because he’s now in this junior bantamweight title eliminator. Guerrero is the guy who took a massive pounding from Vic Darchinyan but never succumbed. Not a bad card, especially since middleweight prospect Matt Korobov is going in against tough journeyman Derrick Findley. But… if only Donaire and Darchinyan were fighting, instead of their respective victims.
- The Rest. There are all kinds of televised/webcast cards all over the place, all of them minor. Fight Night Club (Fox Sports Net/RingTV/ustream) lost one of its Thursday headliners when David Rodela was injured, but junior welterweight Carlos Molina continues on from that appetizing match-up to a non-fight. Also featured: lightweights Ivan Redkach and Fidel Maldonado, Jr… On TeleFutura’s Solo Boxeo Friday, Carlos Baldomir headlines at junior middleweight just a couple months after getting beat all to hell by Saul Alvarez… Lightweight Andy Murray is featured on RTE Saturday, and, as such, probably, the fight will probably be webcast… GoFightLive webcasts the latest bout of super middleweight prospect Farah Ennis Friday… Bild’s website might host some heavyweight fights Saturday, featuring Ruslan Chagaev, Denis Boytsov and Rakhim Chakhkiev, according to BLH… And, although it won’t be webcast/broadcast anywhere in the United States, the latest edition of the U.K. Prizefighter tournament transpires Saturday, this time featuring junior lightweights.