SHORT-TERM SETBACKS OF NO SIGNIFICANCE TO BOXING LANDSCAPE
The summer of 2007 ended with boxing fans licking their chops in anticipation of an unprecedented fall and winter schedule. After a rather tame month of August, boxing suddenly had too many appetizing fights on deck to really fathom. We saw all the big names lined up side-by-side and allowed ourselves to get more consistently excited about the sport than ever before. It seemed virtually every week would provide viewers with a must-see contest featuring one, if not two of boxing’s best. Unfortunately, fans are beginning to remember why boxing can be one of the more frustrating sports from which to choose as injuries have hindered several upcoming bouts from taking place.
Though no less than four notable September and October match-ups have been cancelled, the sport has suffered no real setbacks, which is what these delays have been inappropriately labeled.
Sure, Fernando Vargas and Ricardo Mayorga aren’t going to throw down in a mouthwatering grudge match this September. Yes, it’s upsetting that Vargas was diagnosed with an iron deficiency and rendered unable to compete, but the postponement was hardly a devastating blow to the sport. The fact of the matter is that particular fight was of little significance to the boxing landscape. While it was highly anticipated for its sure-fire action, the bout stood out for its entertainment value more than anything else. As it turns out, this battle was not all that important and won’t be any more important when it finally occurs on the rescheduled November date. First of all, Vargas and Mayorga have long surpassed their best as evidenced by recent one-sided losses against Shane Mosley and Oscar De La Hoya respectively. Then, there is also the matter of the winner. Vargas has already stated that the fight will be his last. Even though we hear this from fighters all the time, there’s no reason to believe Vargas doesn’t mean it when he says he’s calling it a career. Vargas, in his prime, had better skills than Mayorga, but Mayorga might emerge victorious in this one based on the reckless abandon he brings to the ring, which could be all that counts in a fight between fading fighters that is becoming more personal all the time. A Mayorga victory doesn’t do the sport any favors either; he’s already lost to the biggest names in the junior middleweight division, although he fought on more or less even terms with Vernon Forrest and Cory Spinks, and cannot be expected to seriously compete against the top middleweights. For that, this fight means little to the future of the sport and will be a wild spectacle, nothing more, and hopefully nothing less.
Oh well if Juan Manuel Marquez and Rocky Juarez aren’t competing against each other on pay-per-view this September. Marquez’ postponement of the fight due to a cut suffered in training and subsequent swelling has hardly put the boxing world up in arms. Even the sport’s most dedicated aficionados couldn’t talk that fight into importance. And let’s not forget: Juarez was simply a replacement opponent for Marquez anyway after a withdrawal on the part of Jorge Rodrigo Barrios, who most experts believed would provide a much more entertaining affair but was deemed medically unfit to fight. If Marquez and Barrios don’t belong on pay-per-view with one another, there’s no way Juarez deserves that billing. One has to wonder why Marquez doesn’t wait for Barrios to pass his medical examinations and fight him instead of wasting time with Juarez, who failed miserably in his last attempt at a junior lightweight title when he fought Barrera in their rematch a year ago. If Barrera, often cited as a better brawler, was able to outbox Juarez with ease, it’s frightening to think how easily Marquez will handle him. This particular cancellation is actually both good and bad for boxing fans. They will now compete on Showtime for free but will be forced to go head to head with the more appealing HBO telecast featuring Joe Calzaghe against Mikkel Kessler. Marquez fans will get to see their man fight for free while the rest of the world watches the most anticipated Super Middleweight Championship bout since Roy Jones Jr. fought James Toney thirteen years ago.
What does it matter if we have to wait a little longer for Oleg Maskaev to defend his WBC Heavyweight Championship against Sam Peter? We’ve already been waiting for the two to come to an agreement since Peter defeated James Toney to earn that opportunity in January. Maskaev has done everything in his power to avoid this fight, citing an injury or set of injuries as his latest excuse, to the point that it will be that much more satisfying to watch Peter take out his frustrations on him when they eventually get into the same ring. Delays can be beneficial in that respect in that they get the blood boiling and make things personal, which, more often than not, translates into a better fight than originally expected. If Peter’s frustrations are any indication of what he feels he needs to take out on Maskaev, then boxing fans can expect a brutal contest between two hard-hitting heavyweights that have each shown plenty of susceptibility in the past.
Who really cares if Vitali Klitschko makes his comeback against Jameel McCline? McCline has had three title shots in his career and earned none of them. He’s also lost all three. Everybody is itching for a heavyweight savior, which many still believe is the injury-prone Vitali, so of course, as fans, we want to see him in action as soon as possible, but â€œBig Timeâ€ McCline is nothing more than a big waste of time. Vitali would be wise to sit the fall out, rest up, and meet the winner of the bout between Maskaev and Peter as soon as possible in 2008. If Maskaev defeats Peter, however, don’t hold your breath for him and Vitali to ever make it through a whole training camp.
Imagine the egotism of the heavyweights to think we were including them in all those discussions about how loaded a fall season boxing was going to have. Part of the reason for the season was the fact that we wouldn’t be subjected to any more heavyweight debacles. The fights can’t really fail to deliver if they fail to even come off, can they?
After all the complaining is through, three of these four fights will still take place, whether or not they’re necessary, only now they will be crammed into an already suffocating fall schedule. Undefeated Middleweight Champion Jermain Taylor will still meet undefeated challenger Kelly Pavlik next week. Manny Pacquiao and Marco Antonio Barrera are still scheduled to face off on the night Maskaev and Peter will now be sitting out. Juan Diaz and Julio Diaz still plan on unifying two of the scattered lightweight titles the week after that. Undefeated Super Middleweight Champions Joe Calzaghe and Mikkel Kessler are scheduled to duke it out, only now they will do so at a regular HBO starting time to accommodate American audiences and steal viewers from Marquez, Juarez, and Showtime. The next week, Miguel Cotto and Shane Mosley throw down in a big stakes welterweight championship bout with the winner probably getting a megafight with Floyd Mayweather Jr., unless of course, Ricky Hatton finds a way to upset the number one man in the sport when the two face off to complete the world series of boxing in early December. Speaking of the men of the moment, Mayweather and Hatton are doing a terrific job of reminding audiences about which fight really matters as they promote their bout to perfection. It’s a good sign indeed when a match-up that could be potentially as one-sided as Mayweather-Hatton could is getting more hype than toss-up fights like Calzaghe-Kessler and Cotto-Mosley. We just have to hope casual fans catch these gems as well.
Don’t fret. We’re still very much on the verge of boxing season. Grab your calendars, circle your Saturdays, and do your best to tough baseball season out for one more week.
The big question now is how to go about juggling college football and basketball with the latest fall/winter sport guaranteed to deliver: boxing.