That’s your knockout of the weekend, even if it’s ill-gotten gains, to have Gary Russell, Jr. doing it against someone as undurable as Heriberto Ruiz. Objectionable competition is objectionable competition. Big knockouts, though, are also good knockouts. The first diminishes the second, even if its essential big knockoutness remains.
I’m back after a week’s vacation, but you no doubt noticed I left you in capable hands with the most physically attractive boxing writer staff on the Internet. Take THAT, saddoboxing.com! (Also, they’re smart. And good writers.) That doesn’t mean I don’t have thoughts of my own about what the f is up. I’ll be parceling them out beginning now, with a review of what went down over the just-completed weekend before a massive, massive weekend of boxing ahead.
- The HBO show. The fundamental problem of the HBO program was like the fundamental problem of the Russell knockout: It featured some explosive victories, but at the expense of actual competition. So as great as it is that Saul Alvarez does big ratings, as great as it is that Andrien Broner sells tickets in Cincinnati, as offensively dynamic as Alvarez, Broner and Russell were, it goes to show that there’s more to good boxing programming than simply “exciting” plus “eyeballs on the show.” You want to go for as much of that stuff as you can get, but you also need to try to make things competitive as you can, among other things you want in the mix. You can understand the occasional “pass” being aired on a big network, but all three fights — even if the Russell fight was bonus coverage, in essence — were anticipated to be mismatches by most. Of them, I am least bothered by the “pass” for Alvarez, because Kermit Cintron at least had a theoretical path to victory, and there were a few angles to sell (hyping up Alvarez’ next fight, Cintron’s name, Mexico vs. Puerto Rico, can Alvarez handle a fighter with a rep for having big power). But Broner’s opponent Vicente Rodriguez was way-unacceptable, and I think that his fight airing after some more feasible opponents fell through like Ricky Burns and Eloy Perez once more speaks to HBO’s desperation to build up an American talent, with an emphasis on reaching black Americans. Since they already planned to air highlights of Russell’s fight, you can’t much blame HBO for deciding to air its grand total couple minutes in total. Each of these things, individually, can be defended. Taken together, it’s not the kind of night of programming I want to see on HBO, and judging by some of the response out there, I’m not alone.
- Next for Alvarez. Once, not so long ago, it looked as though Alvarez-Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. for all the “questionably talented/basically fun/strangely popular young Mexican” marbles would be up next. It just seems like a long time ago, based on stuff that’s been said lately. Alvarez’ promoter, Golden Boy, has been drawing lines in the sand about catchweights for the junior middleweight lad. Chavez’ team has been talking up a full-blown middleweight fight. Chavez’ team also has talked about matching him with the winner of this weekend’s 154-pound rematch between Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito. Alvarez himself has talked about Floyd Mayweather, Jr. You can dismiss this as gamesmanship, but there’s an awful lot of it. What’s really discouraging to the chances of Alvarez-Chavez is the sharp negative turn in Golden Boy/Top Rank relations of late. Assuming that figuring out what’s likely to happen is kind of impossible, what’s really worthwhile on Alvarez’ prospective agenda? I still like the Alvarez-Chavez fight best for him, at about 157 or 158. Size differential and Chavez’ improvement make the fight more competitive than I once anticipated, although the few hard shots that landed when Cintron threw with conviction — maybe his power brownout can be explained by such skittish delivery? — suggest to me that Alvarez’ chin is solid, more solid than when he got dropped by Jose Cotto. I like Alvarez-Miguel Cotto for the lineal junior middleweight championship a good deal, too, though. After that, I count Austin Trout, James Kirkland, Carlos Molina and Erislandy Lara as desirable opponents. And while I wouldn’t put it past Golden Boy to make Mayweather-Alvarez in May, I have zero interest in it. It would be on Cinco De Mayo weekend and that means it would go well with a Mexican, and Alvarez’ star power — I know people were chanting “Julio!” at the fight, but I’m not sure if it’s because they want that match-up next or they were endorsing Chavez and are upset over Alvarez’ outside-the-ring troubles or what — would mean it would likely sell. But Mayweather would embarass Alvarez. Embarass him. No matter how much of a generally good all-around fighter Alvarez has become.
- Next for Broner. Broner will spend the next several months honing his Mayweather impersonation. He’s gettin’ it down, with the obnoxious self-glorification (in-ring hairbrushings!) and the shoulder roll (not as good as Mayweather’s, but Broner compensates with better natural power to go along with the speed and reflexes). I like Broner’s personality, although I understand he rubs some people the wrong way. If someone’s going to be a jackass, I want them to be amusing, and that’s what Broner is to me. I mean, dude has someone brush his hair in the boxing ring. Man, though, does he need to get in the ring next with somebody worth a damn. Again, I respect that it wasn’t his fault that guys turned him down. But HBO doesn’t need to air his next fight if a suitable opponent can’t be lured into the ring. YURIORKIS GAMBOA! makes the most sense, but it’s not like there are a ton of great options at 130 pounds; Broner might have to move up to lightweight. If not, anybody in the current Ring top 10 at junior lightweight is acceptable enough to me for ’em to be HBO-worthy, just so long as the brass doesn’t pay out the wazoo for the match-up. He’s a real, real talent with some break-out potential as a funny semi-villain with a following in his hometown of Porkopolis. We just need to see him in against someone who makes sense, to test the extent of that talent.
- Next for Russell. It’s fantastic that Russell’s people could be talked into having a 10-round fight, isn’t it? The way this guy is being manuevered is beyond me. He’s the best all-around fighter of the three who were featured this weekend, and he’s ready to fight someone live — but when HBO insisted, Russell’s side said “no” and ended up with only the promise of a highlights segment. OK. Fine, Russell team. Maybe you don’t think he’s ready for someone live, although why you’d think that is not something I can comprehend. Then go back to ESPN2 or TeleFutura or whatever and get it all out of your system. Otherwise, why waste your time trying to sell HBO on eight-round fights against overmatched opponents or 10-round fights against even more overmatched opponents? Just don’t get it. Like Russell; love his gifts and skill level; don’t dig how he’s being handled.
- 24/7. These dudes hate each other and it’s kind of awesome. I don’t like Margarito and his illegal wraps, I wish he didn’t have a license and I am not as fired up about this fight as some others. But it’s rare to see such venom between boxers, who by and large are professional toward one another, with some showy trash talk they don’t really mean. This is spite, and it runs deep. When Margarito said on this weekend’s edition of 24/7, “Fuck Cotto,” it was obvious that this fight boils down to that, and vice versa. Also, Margarito’s style choices crack me up. He dresses like some hipster/frat boy blend of extra-special douchiness. This edition of 24/7 has been amazing — I wish it wasn’t just a two-episode run. Between the hatred and the controversy and all the other emotions and twists, the pre-fight is pure theater.
- Selcuk Aydin-Jo Jo Dan II. This time, I thought Aydin won it, albeit narrowly — I gave Dan six rounds of this welter rematch, but the knockdowns for Aydin in the 1st and 11th swung it Aydin’s way, even with the point deduction in the 12th. The commentator on the version I saw questioned whether Dan was fighting the right fight, since he was coming forward and throwing a lot rather than countering Aydin and otherwise outboxing him. Thing is, Dan knew he was in Turkey and didn’t get the win last time by outboxing Aydin and surely had little choice but to mix it up a little. It was also a better fight for it, so even if Dan emerges with a real honest loss, the key is that it was honest and he did right by himself stylistically. Aydin would be a good match-up for a the second tier of welters below Manny Pacquiao and Mayweather, because he has power and isn’t a total scrub. Dan, meanwhile, deserves to stay in the mix a bit himself.
- Jorge Arce-Angy Angkota II. I didn’t catch this one. I just want to point out that Arce won a crappy bantamweight belt for some phony “Mexican championship belts” history and now is talking about going back up to junior featherweight to fight Nonito Donaire, who’s likely to fight Wilfredo Vazquez, Jr. next. That means Donaire’s next two fights could be against opponents at the bottom of the top 10 of a shallow 122-pound division, opponents against whom he will be massively favored, and it’s enough to make me worry that Donaire’s going to have another long stretch where he’s not taking the best available challenges. I hope I’m wrong to worry.