By Jason Pribila: In conjunction with the celebration of Cinco de Mayo, the first Saturday of May has been the day set aside for a big time boxing event. For years fighters like Julio Cesar Chavez, Oscar De La Hoya, Manny Pacquiao, and Floyd Mayweather Jr. have performed on this date, and promoters avoided putting on shows anywhere near it. 2013 was different because we had major cards going head to head on HBO and Showtime in venues like New York, Argentina, and England.
There were several reasons why boxing fans were treated to such a loaded schedule on the last weekend of April. The fact that HBO will be on the sidelines next weekend allowed them to move forward with a scheduled split-site triple-header. Showtime had originally planned on airing Garcia-Judah in February, but a Garcia injury forced the postponement. And finally there is little buzz about Mayweather-Guerrero. Let’s face it; this is Mayweather’s least threatening opponent since Carlos Baldomir. Guerrero is unknown by many, and he hasn’t exactly lit up the screen during previously aired episodes of “All Access”.
There is also the fact that this weekend featured dangerous challengers in the main event. Something I can’t say about next week. So before we drink our first iced cold mint Julep, let’s take a look back at the weekend that was and was not.
5. Sergio Martinez: Another fight that saw the middleweight champion literally limp his way to the finish line is not exactly what we expect from a fighter that burst on to the scene when he won the 2010 Fighter of the Year. However, we are reminded that he burst onto the scene at 35 years old. He was coming off knee surgery that obviously affected his conditioning for this bout against Britain’s Martin Murray. However, he avoided a nightmare, and although he’ll be out for the rest of 2013 he’ll have plenty of time to soak in the fact that he was welcomed home as a hero by over 40,000 of his countrymen.
4. Showtime: Their rival went on the air first with a better supporting card. Chances are that most viewers would have stayed tuned to HBO while the Showtime card was being recorded. Instead, viewers were able to enjoy the Martinez-Murray card before changing the channel in time for the Showtime main event. The fact that Judah made a dramatic final stand was a bonus for the Showtime brass.
3. Danny Garcia: Garcia got off to a “Swift” start and was punishing Judah through eight rounds. He was then able to survive getting buzzed and fought to the final bell keeping his undefeated record intact. Garcia now gets to sit back and watch the Lamont Peterson and Lucas Matthysse battle for the right to face him later in 2013. I like Garcia to grind out a victory over Peterson, but his bravery would cost him against Matthysse. Styles make fights, which what makes the sport and this division, so much fun to watch.
2. Zab Judah: Brooklyn native with a recognizable name who will provide a test before eventually crumbling to the rising star. There was no question why Judah got this assignment, and everything was going according to plan early. It was tough to watch the first half of the fight. Judah looked much like he did against Amir Khan. What looked like he was setting a trap soon looked like a guy that could not pull the trigger. He did the Kostya-two-step early, and later got floored in the eighth. However, rather than losing his cool or looking for an easy way out, Judah fought back. Hurt Garcia and ended the fight looking like the fresher fighter. He exorcised plenty of the demons that plagued him earlier in his career and earned the respect of a foe that did not show him any in the build up to the fight.
Much like Freddie Krueger and Jason Vorhees before him, Judah will be back for yet another “Final Chapter”.
1. Bermane Stiverne: On a weekend that saw many underdogs come close, Stiverne was the only one to finish the deal. By flooring Cristobal Arreola early and then outfighting him to the finish, Stiverne put himself in a great position. He either gets a title shot and eventual beating at the hands of Vitali Klitschko, or he will get to fight for a vacated belt in the event Big Brother retires. In a division that is wide open, Stiverne showed that he improved enough to be a player.
7. “Mayweather” – The commitment that CBS has shown to the sport of boxing no doubt was a major factor in the sport’s richest athlete making the move from HBO to Showtime. On Saturday night they showed the documentary “Mayweather” in primetime as a lead-in to live boxing on Showtime. The film was panned by critics and promptly finished last in its time slot. Not the immediate return on their investment that they were hoping for.
6. Fraudley, Lights-Out, and Campbell: Three fighters entered the ring lost past their shelf life and each was soundly beaten. Harrison lasted a minute. James Toney took a beating on the other side of the world, and Campbell was stopped in four rounds. Let’s hope this is the last time any of these guys are propped up as punching bags.
5. HBO: The Network of Champions took a Mother Nature counter on the chin on Saturday night. A downpour in Argentina forced them to air Martinez-Murray first, air only highlights of a solid fight between Abrego – Decarie, and air Arreola-Stivern on tape delay. To make matters worse, Martinez will be on the shelf and off their airwaves for the remainder of 2013.
4. Amir Khan: I’m officially over Amir Khan. Sure, he will always be in danger against anyone willing to trade with him, but he used to be dynamic enough on offense to blow out guys like Julio Diaz. The fact he was dropped and wobbled is concerning. Khan is out of people to blame and will have extended time off before again putting himself in harm’s way. Who knows, maybe this performance put him as leader in the clubhouse to be Mayweather’s next opponent. Doubt it.
3. Cristobal Arreola: Anyone could get caught in the heavyweight division, but Arreola is at a point in his career where he could not afford a step back. He will always battle with the scale, but he is now on the short end of fire fights. He is likeable and could no doubt again rise up the ranks with another few wins, but it will be a long time before he’s on the A-side of a marquee.
2. Martin Murray: Giving Murray kudos for coming up short is short sighted. The fact is that he had a very beatable Martinez in front of him. He could be excused for starting slow. No one has sparring partners that could emulate “Maravilla”. However, what was Murray’s excuse for not going for broke during the championship rounds? It did not help that the advice from his corner was to “be careful” before the final frame. He even had the benefit of open scoring to know that he needed the twelfth to win the championship. Sure, he may have exceeded the expectations of some, but it appeared that he was content with his performance rather than trying to exceed his own.
1. WBC: For the second straight weekend the much maligned governing body again proved why “open scoring” does not work. In the Canelo-Trout bout open scoring prevented Canelo from taking risks late, and on Saturday it failed to light a fire under Murray. They then outdid themselves when it came to instant replay. In round 10 Murray appeared to score a knockdown that was ruled a slip. They looked at it on replay, but mistakenly waved it off quicker than the referee did. The WBC again showed why they are the worst of the worst.
Jason Pribila is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He could be reached for questions or comments at email@example.com and followed on twitter.com @PribsBoxing.