By Jason Pribila: On Saturday Night, Golden Boy Promotions presented “Knockout Kings 2” at the AT&T Center in San Antonio Texas. The card was headlined by Jesus Soto-Karass against Andre Berto, which did not initially cause boxing fans to circle the date on their calendars. However, since it was staged during the dog days of summer when Boxing at its highest level usually takes a lull before the busy fall and winter dates unfold, this card was welcomed by action starved fight fans. Those who tuned in were treated to the fight card of the year.
The main event served up an unexpected result, but it turned out to be only one of the three fights that sent fight fans to social media outlets to express their gratitude. The night was a huge success for Golden Boy Promotions, Showtime, and the fighters that put their lives on the line for our entertainment. It was an evening where there were few “losers”, but I was able to find a few to justify the title of this piece.
So as we will continue to count down the days until September 14, I ask you to join me as we take a look back at July 27.
4. Top Rank: There is still no one better at developing young talent, building them into bona fide ticket sellers and cross-over stars. The fact is that their current stable does not compare to that of their rival Golden Boy. The stars that they have are getting a little long in the tooth, and they will be holding their breath that Manny Pacquiao could return to being Manny when he faces Brandon Rios in November. While they are expanding their product by putting on fights in China, and they are associated with the network that still plays to the widest audience, I am concerned with them being able to add talent in the sports glamour divisions from 140 – 154 lbs. And let’s face it, they are staging a PPV between Juan Manuel Marquez and Timothy Bradley that does little other than earning the winner a potential rematch with Pacquiao in 2014.
3. HBO: The gap has certainly closed between them and Showtime. They need a Pacquiao victory to ensure that they have a potential PPV attraction that could draw one million buys. However, what earns them a spot on this list was illustrated as Andre Berto was getting battered on Saturday Night. Berto was the poster child of what was wrong with how the former regime ran their boxing business. They felt that by over paying for a fighter’s potential they could buy stars. The $900,000.00 that they paid Berto to KO1 Freddy Hernandez stands as one of their biggest missteps. Closing their doors to Golden Boy may pay dividends in the future, but in the short term things seem as if they will get worse before they get better.
2. Mike Jones: No one was screaming louder or longer about the Philadelphia welterweight that was the sport’s best kept secret. Jones was promoted meticulously as he climbed the ranks. He often found TV outlets despite not being with a promoter that was associated with HBO or Showtime. In June 2012, he was well ahead on the scorecards against Randall Bailey. Although the fight was dreadful, Jones was minutes away from winning his first world title, and was on the brink of big money fights. Then, in an instant, it all came crashing down thanks to a Bailey right hand. Fortunately, Jones was with a promoter (Russell Peltz) that does not abandon fighters after they suffer a loss. He would also have the chance to rebuild his career on TV, as Peltz Boxing and Main Events announced their deal with NBC SportsNetwork. However, rather than picking himself up off the canvas and getting back into the ring, Jones decided to find others to blame and asked out of his promotional deal. I would imagine rock bottom came on Saturday night when he was watching a main event featuring a guy getting his hand raised. A guy, Soto-Karass that Jones beat twice and dominated in their rematch. I’m not sure who is “advising” Jones at this point, but I’d advise him to ask his former stable mate Gabriel Rosado about how to behave after suffering a setback.
- Andre Berto: While no one can question Berto’s heart, those that labeled him as overrated throughout his career were quick to tweet “I told you so”. Berto’s previous two losses cost him millions and a chance to fight Floyd Mayweather Jr., this loss will cost him the right to headline another major fight card in the near future. Sure, his injury hurt his chances on Saturday Night, but the fact is that he was never in control of a fight that should have been tailor made for him. Many have criticized Berto for being overpaid while fighting on a path of little resistance, but what fighter or any professional would turn down a job like that. My biggest problem with him was that he was responsible for giving us Mayweather-Guerrero. While this is not the end for Berto, he will have to start over. He needs to establish an identity. Fortunately he is with Golden Boy and Al Haymon, but I hope they use their new relationship with Fox One as they try to rebuild Berto. A move down to junior welterweight may also be a good idea, if he is able to do so.
5. Keith Thurman: The hard punching welterweight passed his first major test by dropping and stopping the game Diego Chaves to claim an interim welterweight title. When Thurman first appeared on a premium network it was more due to his connections rather than anything he accomplished in the ring. On Saturday night Thurman dug deep and fought through adversity to notch his most impressive win in his most important fight. Expect to see Thurman again soon against any number of attractive opponents.
- Showtime: The network has emerged as HBO’s equal. It is a month away from putting on one of the biggest pay per views ever, and their association with Golden Boy is paying off in the short term. They also need to be commended for televising cards with three or more bouts on their telecasts. Had they stayed with the standard of two fights per broadcast, we may have missed the Figueroa – Arakawa gem.
3. Golden Boy Promotions: Anyone involved in the failed Mayweather – Pacquiao negotiations needs to refrain from claiming that they are making their business decisions for the fans. That being said, they put on another great show with six fighters that were brilliantly matched. And they did land the best co-feature for a PPV (on paper) that I could remember in a long time.
2. Omar Figueroa – Nihito Arakawa: This bout was the hidden gem of the three televised fights. The two warriors involved put on a display that illustrates why boxing is must see television. Many fights are made that look like fight of the year candidates on paper, but we never know when we are about to see something truly special. Figueroa won a comfortable decision, but comfort was not felt by either fighter during any of the 36 minutes that they waged war. While the damage sustained by Arakawa was at times tough to watch, his heart made us thankful and feeling justified for not turning away.
- Jesus Soto Karass: The tough as nails Mexican has been a gate keeper in the welterweight division for years. His non-stop punch output often reminded us of a poor man’s Antonio Margarito. Although we thought he reached his ceiling years ago, he remained an honest fighter who was rarely seen as an easy out. After back to back losses to Jones, Soto Karass was beaten down and knocked out by Rosado in a junior middleweight fight in January of 2012. Back to back wins earned him another payday as the opponent for Marcos Maidana. The back and forth war extended his career, and he rebounded by upsetting Selcuk Aydin. On Saturday night, Soto Karass again defied the odds by knocking out Berto. Expect to see the rejuvenated Soto Karass back for what should be a career high payday against any number of attractive opponents. Kudos for Golden Boy for not giving up on Soto Karass, and a tip of the cap to him for taking advantage of his ninth life.
Jason Pribila is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He could be reached for questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org, and followed on Twitter.com @PribsBoxing.
July 29, 2013