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23 OCTOBER 2014

 

The Same Old Story


Edison Miranda: HoganPhotos.com
Edison Miranda: HoganPhotos.com

By Matt Wells: Let’s say that you were a researcher for some big candy company. Now, let’s say that you figured out a way to combine two ingredients, perhaps chocolate and peanut butter, into a fantastic new confection. In the real world, you would then go and produce as much of this new product as possible and flood the market with it. In the surreal world of boxing, however, you would market the chocolate and peanut butter separately, in order to build up "hype".

This is the logic, at least, that brings us such events as the one that will happen this Friday when two young and fairly well-known super middleweights, Jean Pascal and Edison Miranda, will step into the ring, not to fight one another, but to (possibly) beat a couple of opponents you’ve never heard of.

All of this is meant to hype up a potential match-up between the two fighters later in the year (June is the date being bounced around right now). The idea is that boxing fans will tune into this card and be so amazed by the performances of both fighters that they will be screaming for them to be paired up together. The built-in assumption here, of course, is that the average boxing fan is an idiot.

First off, we all know that these two men are going to be fighting one another eventually. We know this because of the "subtle" hints the fighters and their promoters have been dropping, such as having the two men hurl insults at each other at a press conference earlier in the week. We know this because the two opponents they will face this Friday have identically lousy 15-3-1 records, and are guys that nobody but their relatives could pick out of a police line-up. We know this because boxing goes through this pointless charade over and over again, and each time the result is the same: a big press conference is held after the card to announce that a fight between the two winners is set to go, usually on the exact date and time that everybody expected in the first place.

That is to say, the result is the same assuming everything goes well. Which, quite often, it doesn’t. Which is why it is strange that boxing promoters still pull this stunt so often.

Let’s get the big question out of the way first: why not have Pascal and Miranda fight each other right now? Miranda is already a well-known quantity for most boxing fans. He has had three high-profile fights on HBO: one in which he dusted Willie Gibbs in the fist round, one in which he knocked off Allan Green, and one in where he got beat at his own high-pressure game by the methodical Kelly Pavlik. Miranda also had that hugely controversial loss to Arthur Abraham, and has popped up on ESPN several times. He is famous for his trash talking and swagger. In short, everybody knows who Edison Miranda is.

Anyway, on to Pascal. He is not a big a name in the States when compared to Miranda, but he has already built a considerable reputation in Canada, and many boxing fans outside the Great White North know of him, and may have even caught him in his one appearance on ESPN last summer. Pascal carries as much swagger into the ring as Miranda, though he tries to mould himself more into the Roy Jones Jr. image than does his potential adversary. The point is that we’re not talking about an average fighter who has padded his record in some remote corner of the boxing world. Pascal is a ready-for-primetime player.

Naturally, a match-up right now between these two men would be a great way to start off the boxing year. And it’s one that many of you have been asking for since it first appeared that these two men were on a collision course. But, of course, being the smart fans you are, you probably guessed that there would be a catch, even if you did get your wish. And Friday’s show is that catch.

The silliest thing about all this is that boxing does nothing but hurt itself with these sorts of stunts. When a potential big moneymaking fight is on the line, why on Earth would they risk it all by putting their two potential opponents in extra fights? Why not make the deal right away and start building up the hype for something meaningful?

What can go wrong with this sort of thing? Plenty can go wrong. The first thing, most obviously, is that one of the fighters could lose. That’s exactly what happened when Erik Morales went up against Zahir Raheem on the same night that his future opponent Manny Pacquiao was fighting. The two were supposed to win and then go on to face each other. They did in fact do that, but not before Morales looked absolutely awful in a decision loss to the tricky Raheem.

No harm, no foul, some might say. Manny and Erik went on to square off in three action-packed fights. That may be true, but don’t think that the sport’s reputation didn’t take a hit when Bob Arum, Morales’ promoter, announced that the first bout would still happen immediately following Erik’s loss to Zahir. You lose and you still get to fight in the big show? Only in boxing, everyone said, or at least those that still paying attention to the sport.

The other obvious problem that can happen is that one or both of the fighters can just look plain bad. While he didn’t have a particular opponent in mind, Ricky Hatton was sure looking for one when he came across to fight in the States for the first time as a big-name fighter. But first he was paired up against supposed light touch Luis Collazo in a fight HBO meant to be little more than a showcase for their new talent. Instead, Hatton, unused to fighting at welterweight, nearly dropped the decision, and to this day many feel that he lost the fight. It took Hatton a long time to get his career back on track after that, and it was only with a win over Jose Luis Castillo that people started taking him seriously again.

Problem number three is that, even if both fighters win their tune-ups, the big show might not go off. That’s what happened after Antonio Margarito and Miguel Cotto both appeared on the same card in December of 2006. Cotto took on Carlos Quintana, whose biggest claim to fame was beating Joel Julio, a fighter who is looking increasingly disappointing. Margarito took on Joshua Clottey, who, while not a bad fighter himself, was still just brought in to lose. At any rate, Margarito-Cotto was supposed to be Cotto’s big summer 2007 fight, but then Margarito decided to defend his title against his mandatory challenger Paul Williams instead. Margarito probably did the right thing, but had he been paired up with Cotto right away, he probably could have got in both bouts, and everyone would have made a lot more money.

The fact of the matter is that these tune-up cards accomplish little. Typically they’re boring. Sometimes they’re disastrous. Never are they exciting. We should be tuning in to see a great fight against two aggressive sluggers this weekend. Instead, we’ll see the same two men swinging away in dreary mismatches.


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