Showtime on Saturday evening hosted three major junior middleweight match-ups, and the results were largely satisfactory. Jermell Charlo scored a stunning 1st round knockout of Erickson Lubin. Jarrett Hurd stopped Austin Trout in a bout that was competitive through most of the fight. Erislandy Lara used the main event to Lara-fy the boxing ring, stinking it up in an easy win over Terrell Gausha, but hey, two out of three ain’t bad.
The stated objective of the network is to unify the division. This did nothing to advance that cause. Furthermore, it’s a pointless exercise.
In all three bouts, the favorites won. Aside from Demetrius Andrade, Charlo, Lara and Hurd are about the consensus best in the division already. This changed nothing, except perhaps a scramble of who’s #1, who’s #2 and so on.
And even if Showtime gets what it wants, what meaning will it have? And that’s a question that has multiple levels.
This blog has droned on endlessly about what should be a dead horse already, but still it must be beaten, as it lives yet: These “champions” are not real champions. They’re men who hold belts; they’ve neither beaten the true, lineal champion nor fought as #1 or #2 to fill a vacancy.
Contemplate, if you will, the absurdity of three “championship” fights in the same division on the same card. If you are a hardcore fan, you are used to this sort of thing; you overlook it, because most every fight on TV every weekend is a “championship” fight, and it’s only slightly more absurd to imagine three of them in the same division all on one night in the same ring.
There is no other sport that does anything like this. If you’re a casual or new fan, how could you possibly take seriously the notion of “championships” doled out so easily that a trilogy of “championship” fights could coexist in the span of a few hours?
But let’s say you, the fan, see some value in these title belts that some elevate with the c-word. What is gained by the unification? We’ve already established recently on this blog that more belts doesn’t equal higher ratings; sometimes one belt on the line does better than four.
The eventual unified “champ” will last about as long as your morning coffee and doughnut. As we saw with Terence Crawford’s recent unification, he had dropped one of his belts within the span of 11 days. If he hadn’t, one or more of the belt sanctioning organizations would have inevitably and swiftly stripped him, as these organizations are greedy for a titleholder who will defend said title frequently at the great expense of his purse percentage, and guys with four titles tend to not want to put them all on the line for every fight at such a cost, even when the sanctioning orgs allow it. They have their divisional pets they want you to fight, the ones who have cultivated a ranking with a combination of actual accomplishment and connections (either via schmoozing, or, once upon a time [not to rule out now, but there’s no evidence of it], greasing of palms).
So there will be no lasting reign for these so-called unified champs, and no chance for anyone to supplant so-called unified champ for that honorific. Which goes back to the question of what is gained, a question to which this writer would answer, “virtually nothing.”
If anything was accomplished here, it was extrajudicial to this subject. At least two of the fights should have whetted the generic boxing fan’s appetite of putting two of the three victors in the ring together, and a specific genus of boxing fan would still enjoy seeing the odd man out, Lara, fight one of the other.
If Showtime really wants to bring clarity to the division, it’d stage a mini-tournament involving Andrade, Lara, Hurd and Charlo. The winner would inevitably become the clear champion of the division, save the implausible scenario of someone beneath them somehow amassing a record exceeding any of the four. Hurd and Charlo seem to want one another, Hurd is down to face Lara, Lara’s down to face anyone — because he has no choice but to take any paycheck he can get as a non-attraction — up to and including his buddy Charlo. Andrade and Charlo have bad blood that dates back at least to a canceled 2014 fight between the two.
We’ll see if Showtime can make this mini-tournament happen — sadly, while fan mileage on title belts varies, boxers tend to value them uniformly, which means they’ll allow themselves to be slaves to the whims of the sanctioning organizations ordering them to fight someone less interesting, taking a shitty bout over one that might make them more money AND entertain the fans more.
Post script on another accomplishment of the evening: the continued, surprising development of the Charlo twins as exciting fighters. Once decried as boring Lara-like technicians, these guys are scoring nasty knockouts now, and are emphasizing nasty personalities outside the ring. It’s unsavory to this writer to see them defying the sport’s norm of sportsmanship after victory, but it does add “excitement” in one sense of the word.
(Jermell Charlo drops Erickson Lubin; photo via Tim Casino, Showtime)