By Jason Pribila
On Saturday Night, boxing fans gathered to witness a rematch that was a year in the making. It also happened to be the biggest fight that could be made at the time in the sport of boxing. The pre-fight bad blood was real, and each fighter had 12 rounds or less to make their claim as being the world’s best middleweight.
Despite the fact that several fans and a few “experts” had written the narrative that GGG could not win a decision in Vegas, what the two combatants gave us was a great prize fight. This was not a business decision between fraternity brothers, nor a fight that was determined by the end of the fourth round. This was a high skilled, back and forth fight that was not only on the table in the final round, both fighters fought in the middle of the ring until the final bell.
While it was refreshing that an event of this magnitude did not result in anyone calling their cable or dish providers demanding a refund, the HBO PPV as a whole was more hit than miss. And now that the dust has settled, please allow me to share who I felt were the evening’s winners and losers:
5. Oscar De La Hoya: The CEO of Golden Boy Promotions was once recently seen as the Jerry Maguire of boxing promoters. After having a vast stable of fighters that were on par with Top Rank, De La Hoya soon found out that many of the fighters his company promoted did not actually have the rights to their future fights. Soon those fighters chose to follow their manager/advisor Al Haymon to the boxing fraternity also known as “Premier Boxing Champions”.
Oscar was left with one marquee fighter as he slowly began to rebuild his stable. Turned out that Canelo Alvarez has more staying power than the fictitious Rod Tidwell, but I’m not even sure Oscar believed that Canelo would rise to the top of the middleweight division and P4P lists.
Also, during the lead up to Canelo-GGG 2, Oscar told TMZ that he was seriously considering running for President of the United States in 2020. While his well-publicized bouts with addiction would turn off some voters; who wouldn’t pony up $49.99 to watch Oscar debate the current US President about who is going to pay for the wall between Mexico and the US?
4. David Lemieux: The former IBF middleweight titlist who was knocked out by GGG and out-boxed by Billy Joe Saunders found himself in a bout with Spike O’Sullivan in what could have been his last chance to earn a title shot.
No one has ever denied Lemieux’s punching power, as he scored his 34th knockout while earning his 40th win. Which is why it was surprising that O’Sullivan was talking so much trash leading up to the fight. O’Sullivan doesn’t have the power of GGG or the lateral movement of Saunders.
“Don’t piss me off guys,” was his statement to HBO’s Max Kellerman following the fight. A vicious left hook that floored O’Sullivan at 2:44 of the first round was his statement to the rest of the middleweight division: a division where Lemieux remains not only a threat, but even more importantly marketable.
3. Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez: It is rare in boxing that a fighter in the 112-lb weight class not only rises up the P4P ranks, but he also finds himself on the marquee of packed arenas. “Chocolatito’s” willingness to not only fight but beat the best opponents available made him a fan favorite and greatly influenced HBO’s investment in the Super-flyweight division.
Unfortunately, for Gonzalez as more eyes turned to his division on HBO’s “Super Fly” series, he found himself on the wrong end of a close decision against Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. In the rematch, Gonzalez was knocked out and he was suddenly questioning if he wanted to continue his career.
On Saturday night, he bloodied an over-matched Moises Fuentes, before knocking him out cold in the 5th Round.
While it was good to see “Chocolatito” get his arm raised again, one has to wonder if this gold watch was “fool’s gold”. If he is going to continue on HBO, chances are that he is going to be matched much tougher than he was against Fuentes. And despite the KO victory, there are still questions if he could compete against the division’s elite at this point of his career.#
2. Middleweight Division: Canelo-GGG delivered a fan-friendly fight and the majority of people who saw it would be willing to pay for a trilogy in May of 2019. Even if the fighters go their separate ways, the division seems poised to compete with the welterweight division for box office supremacy for years to come.
In October, we have Daniel Jacobs facing Sergiy Derevyanchenko in a battle of the division’s best. Billy Joe Saunders defends his title against undefeated American Demetrius Andrade.
When we factor in current middleweights Lemieux and Jermall Charlo; and the eventual arrivals of current junior middleweights: Jarrett Hurd, Jermell Charlo, and Jaime Munguia, boxing fans will be spending Saturday nights for years to come watching the middleweight division. Boxing Politics be damned!
1. Saul “Canelo” Alvarez: It had been a rough 12 months for “Canelo” since he was rewarded a Draw for his efforts in his first bout against GGG. The scorecard of 118-110 in his favor, in a fight that many thought he lost, tarnished his efforts over the last three rounds that at the very least tightened up the scorecards.
Since then he was suspended for a banned substance and scoffed when he said the positive test was due to eating tainted meat. His arrival in Las Vegas during fight week caused many to comment that he did not look as “big” as he did for the first fight, implying that he may have been on a beef diet prior to the first bout.
The fact is that GGG would have won the first fight by knockout if he was able to find a home for his right hand. Canelo, a natural counter-puncher, used enough movement to make GGG miss his target with the right the entire night.
This led to Team GGG daring Canelo to fight the rematch “Mexican Style”. Basically saying, we couldn’t cut off the ring last year, so make it easier on us by staying in the middle of the ring.
Canelo did just that. He often came forward and landed hard body shots that caused GGG to look tired during the middle rounds. When GGG rallied, Canelo was able to absorb clean punches that often sent Golovkin’s opponents to the canvas and then to the locker room.
While many people had this fight as a legitimate draw, or even 115-113 for GGG. No one could question Canelo’s courage and willingness to come forward.
For a decade people spent money in Vegas and on PPV to watch a fighter who was the epitome of not getting hit. Even if people tune in to see Canelo get beat, he is a much safer bet to deliver bang for their bucks.
5. Teddy Atlas: The boxing trainer/analyst has been involved with the sport of boxing for over 40 years, and he’s been employed by ESPN for 22 years. His latest niche is to work a “Mutt and Jeff” routine with Stephen A. Smith as they break-down post fight analysis.
Atlas has long spoken out against corruption in the sport. He’s never been shy to call out judges, commissions, or referees. He genuinely loves the sport, and cares for everyone involved from fighters to fellow trainers.
However, on Saturday evening, his ranting and raving about this fight being a robbery misled sports fans that chose not to watch the fight after the first one ended in controversy. He also robbed Canelo from what was truly the greatest moment of his career.
Unfortunately for boxing, many casual sports fans tuned into SportsCenter on Saturday Night and Sunday morning for College Football scores and NFL previews. If they heard Atlas’ rant, they had an excuse to again dismiss boxing as being fixed.
Dan Rafael reported from ringside that many in press row had the fight a draw, or 115-113 for GGG. However, it needs to be pointed out that everyone in Press Row is sitting on the same side of the ring. The official judges are seated on the other three sides of the ring.
I’ve had the honor of being ringside, and I’d be naïve if I didn’t witness the reading of numerous scorecards that were filled out before the fight was consisted. However, this was a close fight that should have given boxing fans a reason to celebrate rather than be put on the defensive.
4. Spike O’Sullivan: He had an opportunity to face GGG back on Cinco de Mayo weekend when Canelo was suspended, but he passed. He instead gambled on himself by facing Lemieux for the mandatory spot for the WBA title.
He talked a ton of trash leading up to the fight, and he was dropped with a single left hook that looked as if it broke his nose. The image of him looking dazed will take a long time for the suits of HBO to consider placing him on a televised card.
At least he gave the guests at my house party the chance to recite their favorite Daniel Day Lewis quotes from “There Will Be Blood”. Spike, Lemieux drank your milkshake!
3. Boxing PPV Model: Many boxing fans were surprised and turned-off by the $84.99 price tag for this PPV. While the main event delivered, and the undercard featured some big names, it is still a lot to ask at a time when sports fans have several other options.
The PPV began at 8pm EST rather than the normal 9pm start time. This was a nice move, especially when main events often start close to midnight.
Early on in the telecast it was announced that the main event was likely to begin close to, but not before 11pm EST. I understand that this needs to be announced so that the late arriving Las Vegas crowd knows when to fold ‘em and get to their comped seats. Unfortunately, this does nothing to entice those who coughed up the PPV price tag to order another fight.
I know that boxing promoters and marketers have done research that shows that PPV buys are based on the main event and not the undercard. This is why they rarely ever mention anyone the undercard during preview shows or commercials.
On Saturday night the telecast began at 8pm EST, and as of 11:15pm the main event had yet to begin. So, for 3 hours and 15 minutes, boxing fans were treated to 29 minutes and 32 seconds of boxing action (which included the minutes between the few rounds of action that took place).
Minus the main event, boxing fans paid for 2 hours and 45 minutes of analysis by the HBO announcers. HBO previously felt that a 30-minute episode of “24-7” and a 15-minute edition of the “Fight Game” was enough time to dedicate to promote the main event.
The UFC is not perfect, but if a bout on their PPV card ends early, they air fights that took place prior to the PPV beginning. I’m certain that the majority of UFC PPV buys are also dependent on the main event, but if they invest they at least to see combat sports during the majority of the time that they set aside to watch the telecast.
The cameras are present. Bring in a B-Team of announcers to call the untelevised portion of the undercard. The more boxers that could be featured on evenings when the most eyes are on the sport can’t possibly be a bad thing.
Luckily the Ohio State –TCU game was competitive or I would have been yelling at my guests for waking me up due to their loud snoring.
2. Gennady Golovkin: It is tough to put “GGG” on this list, but hear me out. Golovkin had 24 rounds to stop a fighter that many felt was ducking him; a man who was not a natural middleweight.
After the first fight, trainer Abel Sanchez said that it is impossible to knock a guy out whose only goal is to not get knocked out. They then dared Canelo to fight “Mexican Style”. When Canelo came forward, GGG did not have an answer. He was breathing heavy, and looked genuinely hurt by the body shots he absorbed. When he landed clean punches, Canelo was able to not only stay upright, but he was often able to counter.
GGG had an amazing run, and is a sure-fire Hall of Famer. There is no reason why he should not continue to fight. However, I don’t see how the outcome of a third fight would be any different. Golovkin is getting further away from his prime, and he will now be facing an even more confident Canelo.
That said, I don’t have any plans following the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday of May, 2019.
1. Mayweather – Pacquiao 2: On the morning of the fight, Floyd Joy Mayweather Jr. posted on social media that he and Manny Pacquiao were close to signing a rematch for December. The timing had everything to do with the number of boxing fans and media assembled down the street from Mayweather’s gym and home.
I told anyone who would listen that Mayweather would win at least 8 rounds against Pacquiao whether they fought at any point from 2010 thru 2015. Of course they waited until many people lost interest, and then duped those who still cared.
Sure, Pacquiao looked great against Lukas Matthysse in his last fight. However, there are rumors that his days of fighting in the US are over due to tax issues.
Mayweather cherishes the “0” in his loss column more than another 9-figure payday. Therefore, he is not going to fight Pacquiao anywhere other than Las Vegas.
Fortunately, the negative press that this proposal was greeted with, as well as the performances by Canelo and GGG; the Instagram post was soon an afterthought.
In fact, Mayweather now claims that he needs a tune-up before the potential rematch.
Hey Floyd, if you really want to stake your claim at being the GOAT… Why not sign-up for a rematch against a guy that you also out-boxed. Only this time it will be for the Middleweight title?