Why do I keep doing this to myself? Besides the manifestly obvious fact that I well and truly despise who I am as a person, I can’t, for the life of me, understand this predilection for blatant self-sabotage.
Allow me to briefly pull back the curtain on how these articles get made. Yes, it’s more or less “dumb guy thinks up stupid shit and writes it down,” but the process will help you understand my unending frustration with myself and my choices.
Sometime near the beginning of the week, our fearless editor will email us the fight the schedule for the coming days. It’s more or less “first come, first served” though certain fights are more tailored to certain writers depending on style, taste, etc. A lot of sites will hand out designated assignments, and I would trust anyone on our staff to cover bingo night at a nursing home and make it scintillating, but for us, it’s pretty much “whoever checks their email first,” which is almost never me. So, my laziness generally forces me to try to find something of interest to say about shitty fights where the intrigue is in short supply. I’ll leave it to you to determine the success rate of that particular endeavor.
This week was no different than the scenario described above with the slight exception that I was first on the scene to pick the fight of my choice. This literally never happens. It was obviously a light weekend in terms of star power, but somehow I perused the entire global boxing schedule and willfully decided to cover an Erislandy Lara fight, fully aware of the risks involved. Well, guess who got fucked by Murphy and his Law again?
The risks I mentioned above should be obvious to anyone who’s seen Lara fight before, but if you’re new around here, or to boxing in general, let me attempt to sum it up for you; He’s boring as shit and leaves a writer handcuffed with nothing much to say other than a jaw-breaking yawn.
In his last outing before squaring off against Greg Vendetti in PBC’s main event on FOX on Saturday night, Lara scored a spectacular knockout of Ramon Alvarez, brother of some guy named Canelo. It was this Lara who I anticipated showing up against the unheralded Vendetti — new Lara who finally understood the value of having a highlight reel in the digital era. Remember that thing I said above about me being extremely fucking dumb? Well, there you go. Proof of concept.
I had a whole thing teed up in my head about Lara’s late-career emergence as a power puncher and the accompanying epiphany that entertaining fans could actually be to his benefit. About the Cuban slickster finally sitting down on his punches. About realizing that his age no longer allowed him the luxury of sleepwalking through main event slots.
At 37, Lara is the same age as Alley Mills — the mom on “The Wonder Years” — was when that show premiered in 1988. That doesn’t really have anything to do with anything but when I was little I thought she was like 84 years old and that’s likely the age Lara will be next time he knocks someone out.
The ever-waning attention spans of boxing fans, and the public at large, simply don’t allow for a fighter to get by solely on talent, which Lara has in spades. Being one of the best pure boxers on the planet doesn’t get you very far in an industry-driven largely by bloodlust. We can talk all day about Lara’s footwork, hand speed, and off-the-charts ring IQ, but you know what you’re getting when he steps through the ropes.
Death, taxes, and Erislandy Lara winning a humdrum decision.
That’s what makes the Alvarez KO so frustrating — knowing that Lara can knock dicks into the dirt but simply won’t. This, for the time being, is a free country, and it’s his decision to fight in the manner he chooses but you can’t help feeling as though letting Vendetti finish on his feet was a massive missed opportunity for Lara. At this point, he may as well get it over with and just tattoo “High Risk, Low Reward” across his navel in Olde English font.
Oh yeah, the fight!
Vendetti (22-3-1, 12 KO) acquitted himself well in a fight where some betting houses had him as a 50-1 underdog. With Lara (27-3-3, 15 KO) stuck in second gear for most of the fight, Vendetti was able to get inside and get a little bit of work done. Neither guy was ever in real trouble and the blowout this writer was selfishly hoping for never came to pass. Not exactly dazzling stuff, but it’s two guys punching each other, so what the hell else do you want?
In the end, Lara took home a unanimous decision by scores of 116-112 and 117-111 twice. Shocking, right? If I gave you a multiple choice question of how you thought this fight was going to end and the first answer was “Lara by UD,” would you even bother reading the other choices? You would not.
So where does Lara go from here? He wants the winner of Jermell Charlo and Jeison (somehow not a typo) Rosario, next month, but for either of them it’s like, “why?” Why would they take an extremely losable fight with little fanfare when bigger, easier fights exist? This is the pickle Lara has gotten himself into with performances like the one he put on against Vendetti. Fans don’t want to see him and fighters don’t want to fight him. No matter how big it may be, your supply of talent means dick if there’s no demand to see it.
Boxing is not a meritocracy. It never has been. Winning is good and all, but this is show business. Entertainment begets ratings, and in today’s landscape, that’s the entire ballgame. The more this current generation of fighters realizes that, the more Lara may find himself on the outside looking in.
As the great Doug Stanhope once said, “Boredom is a disease worse than cancer.” Hopefully, Lara realizes this before his pugilistic tumor becomes inoperable.
(Photo by Sean Michael Ham)