By Jason Pribila: There isn’t a sport that asks more of their fan base than boxing. Whether it be a “Cold War” between promotional giants that prevent coveted fights from happening, rising costs of pay per views, bad decisions, or ticket distribution practices that either leave fans in the cold or overpaying; the boxing fan remains loyal to a fault. However, the six furious rounds fought between Juan Manuel Marquez and Manny Pacquiao at least momentarily justified all of the birthday parties, weddings, and anniversaries that fans have skipped in order to watch a fight live.
While the majority of the boxing world was focused on Las Vegas, there were other fights and fighters that earned a mention in my breakdown of Winners and Losers, so let’s get to it.
5. Michael Farenas: The super featherweight of the Philippines found himself as the designated opponent for the returning Yuriorkis Gamboa. Although Farenas was not well known to the American public he was far from a soft touch. Although Farenas had been down twice and suffered cuts above each eye but he was still in the fight. Gamboa found that out the hard way in the ninth round. Gamboa hurt Farenas and went for the stoppage, but Farenas launched a counter left that dropped Gamboa to his knees and into the ropes. Although Farenas was unable to capitalize on the knockdown, he did succeed in being the only fighter on the undercard (other than Gamboa) that I want to see anywhere near a PPV again.
4. Mikkel Kessler: The consensus number three super middleweight in the world sent a message to Carl Froch and Andre Ward that he is very much interested in a rematch against either former foe. While Ward handled Kessler in the opening round of the Super Six Tournament, the Dane rebounded by winning a decision in a hard fought battle against Froch. Since Ward is having a hard time staying healthy, we could eventually see Kessler back in the ring against Froch. Either way, the “Viking Warrior” is poised to make another run at the top.
3. Bryant “By By” Jennings: NBC’s “Fight Night” returned to Philadelphia, right up the road from where they introduced Bryant Jennings to the boxing public in January. Jennings won a decision in the main event of the inaugural show and on Saturday night he was facing Bowie Tupou with the hopes of finishing 2012 a perfect 5-0. Things were going as planned until Jennings got dropped in the third frame. He was able to hold on and eventually stop Tupou with a perfect uppercut in the fifth. Three weeks ago we saw another football player turned boxer turned American Heavyweight prospect get dropped and knocked out in Atlantic City. Jennings seemed to learn from Seth Mitchell’s misfortune and held on until his legs were again under him and able to provide support. Jennings is another busy year or two away before challenging the divisions elite, but he has a good team behind him and the luxury of having his development unfold on television.
2. Main Events / Peltz Boxing: The first season of NBC SportsNet’s “Fight Night” series has already exceeded expectations. They have given us entertaining bouts, discovered a few prospects, and in two weeks they will bring boxing back to network television when Tomas Adamek faces Steve Cunningham in a heavyweight rematch. On Saturday, their show in Philadelphia was no doubt overshadowed nationally by the Pacquiao – Marquez fight, but it was the only show in town for boxing fans in Philadelphia. Hall of Fame promoter Russell Peltz has been matching up Philly’s best for over forty years. His shows are as entertaining from the opening bout thru the walk-out bout. Saturday was no exception as the card was filled with local rivalries. And while Top Rank’s undercard was boring fans and writers to tears, their attention soon turned to the competitive bouts that were being televised for free. Fans turned the channel from a stylistic nightmare that was being contested in an empty arena, and tuned into an evenly matched fight in front of a raucous crowd. This is what happens when an event is run by promoters who put the paying customer’s entertainment at the forefront of their mission statement.
1. Juan Manuel Marquez: Unfortunately much of the pre-post fight talk is about the fact that Marquez looked like a physically gifted younger brother compared to the featherweight who first touched gloves with Pacquiao over eight years ago. The suspicion of PED use that surrounds the sport as a whole will get a lot worse before it gets better. That being said, I want to focus on the eighteen minutes of combat that took place on Sunday morning.
Without Manny Pacquiao, Marquez has authored a Hall of Fame career, and his name will forever be on the short list of the best Mexican’s to ever lace up the gloves. He has spent the past several years being listed as the third best fighter behind only Pacquiao and Mayweather. The previous 36 rounds contested against Pacquiao illustrated exactly how elite Marquez has been for a long time. On Sunday morning he was again being beaten to the punch. Despite scoring his first knockdown of the series, he found himself bleeding through his nose and behind on the scorecards, and then he landed a punch that will make him immortal. A Hollywood script couldn’t write a better scenario for a fighter to leave a sport on top. However, this is boxing, and we’ll be sure to see Marquez again. I would love to see an All-Mexican battle against Brandon Rios before a fifth fight with Pacquiao, but whomever Marquez signs to fight against he should now be considered a boxing treasure, and fans should make it a point to tune in for whatever Marquez has yet to show us.
Winner and/or Loser:
Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios: Rios was ringside, as it was no secret he was on the short list as Pacquiao’s next opponent. He told ESPN.com’s Dan Rafael that he would have taken Gamboa out within seven rounds had they met in April, and the Twitter universe echoed those sentiments. Rios was also a near lock to being honored for participating in the Fight of the Year against Mike Alvarado. By the end of the night the Pacquiao lottery ticket was voided, and he’ll probably have to settle for being in the second best fight of the year. We will know in the early part of 2013 just how this result will impact Rios’ bank account.
5. SMS Promotions: Rapper 50 Cent aka Curtis Jackson made his promotional debut as he was lowered to the ring while rapping as his fighter Yuriorkis Gamboa made his first appearance in the ring in over a year. Jackson succeeded in giving the paying customer something different, and after a very scary moment Gamboa had his hand raised; but overall this was a red-letter day for his company. Originally he was going to partner up with Floyd Mayweather Jr. and promote under “The Money Team” banner, but when it came time for Floyd to write a check or at least hand over his stack of cash, Mayweather balked. That forced Jackson to scramble. He changed his company’s name, and fighters honored their agreement with him. The crown jewel was Gamboa, who was bought from Top Rank for a reported million dollars. The irony is that his first exposure came on a Top Rank card that only paid Gamboa $50,000.00 for his services. Gamboa got dropped during an uneven performance, and then suffered a cut that will likely keep him on the shelf for at least the early part of 2013. The inaugural effort may best be labeled, “No Money – More Problems”.
4. Boxing fans of the EST: Three undercard bouts that went the distance followed by three national anthems meant that the opening bell for main event rang at 12:25 AM on Sunday morning for fight fans who watched in the Eastern Standard Time Zone. Is there another sport that asks its fans to stay up after midnight for the main attraction? Forget about newspaper writers meeting a deadline, as this sport is covered primarily on-line, but how about giving a boxing fan the chance to watch a fight with his son or daughter? Ever consider what someone would have to pay for a sitter if he chose to go out on a Saturday Night to watch a fight with friends? The sport of boxing is followed by an older demographic, but if promoters ever want to seriously cultivate the sport for those fans born post 1973 they will have to figure out a way to get their marquee fighters in the ring on Saturday Night and not Sunday morning.