This past week Saul Alvarez announced his next opponent for one of three dates he plans to set for 2014. Negotiations with Miguel Cotto were rumored to be in progress, but apparently both fighters had their own dates set for their next fights and could not resolve the issue. While not the only interesting opponent for Alvarez, Cotto was probably the best, and when compared to the other three fighters under consideration (Alfredo Angulo, Erislandy Lara and Carlos Molina), the final result is a big disappointment for fans like me. The most interesting match that could’ve been made of the remaining options might have been with Erislandy Lara, whose size and boxing ability have the potential to make a difficult fight for Alvarez. The final choice was Angulo, who was actually knocked out by Lara last June. One of Canelo’s most exciting fights to date has been his improvisational chess match with Austin Trout, who was able to comprehensively dismantle Cotto just over a year ago. The resulting perception of these fighters was the precursor to Mayweather-Alvarez, which ended up being as uncompetitive as any of Mayweather’s greatest achievements, but was expected to be very interesting. Most fans are aware that Cotto’s clock is winding down, but he is clearly the most venerable of the fighters previously mentioned, even giving Mayweather a great fight. His style would match most explosively against Alvarez and even based on recent performances, he still consistently achieves higher than Trout, Lara and especially Angulo. Yet, the matchup we’re being presented with is the one least likely to test Alvarez, a fighter still considered by many to be among the best in boxing, and who will be hitting the peak of his performances in the next year or two.
The controversial result of 2014’s Friday Night Fights premier main event between Rances Barthelemy and Argenis Mendez resulted in disputes between fans, analysts and commentators throughout boxing. The basic facts are that Barthelemy scored a legitimately decisive knockout, but not during a legitimate period of the fight, because the round had already ended. The fault is much more that of the referee than Barthelemy, but either way, if any respect is to be shown for the rules of the sport, which always favor the champion in the case of a contested decision, Barthelemy should not be awarded the title. Ironically, this is the perfect example of a situation in which official oversight is needed to remedy the incompetent behavior of the referee, as Teddy Atlas suggested only minutes before the fight on that broadcast. In contrast to that suggestion, however, Teddy took up the part of the devil’s advocate in Friday’s commentary segment. While Dan Rafael gave a succinct and logical explanation of the rules set out by the governing body concerning an illegal blow resulting in the end of the fight, Atlas simply puffed out his chest and began ranting about the inevitability of Barthelemy’s win. Atlas also cited other major sports in which game results aren’t changed based on the appropriateness of a referee’s call, but as Teddy would, in other circumstances, be so eager to point out, boxing isn’t a game (see George Carlin’s football versus baseball routine). It’s true that boxing is a complex alchemy of mental, physical and emotional states all combining to form an approach that will serve as the catalyst for a win or a loss, but that dynamic goes both ways. Argenis Mendez is rumored to have needed to unsafely cut weight before the fight and could therefore be said to have been unprepared, but how can we know now what his reaction to Barthelemy’s characteristic early round blitz would have been? Or what his response would have been to the probable steady decline in Barthelemy’s attack from that point forward? We can’t, because the referee wasn’t competent enough to follow the rules, to position himself properly, nor to acknowledge the cessation of a valid time period. So, the result wasn’t really as inevitable as Atlas would like us to think. Yes, Teddy, baseball games continue in spite of dubious calls in subjective circumstances, but this was not a subjective issue. This is not baseball, this is boxing, a principle I would expect Atlas, of all people, to hold inviolable over calls like these. Want to make incongruous comparisons to other sports that are inherently different (a fundamental tenet of pugilism)? Okay, well, in baseball, the tie always goes to the runner, and the best comparison in boxing is that the champion always gets the benefit of the doubt. How about another American favorite, Football? In the NFL, we’re never going to see a team lose the game during halftime. Let’s hope Mendez gets his title back.
One recent decision that won’t be so disappointing to fans is the announcement that Adrien Broner will exercise the rematch clause from his fight against Marcos Maidana. While initially very impressed by Broner’s talent, I suspected that someone would eventually expose him for his lazy technique even before the eye-opening bout with Malignaggi. Maidana turned out to be that someone. Confusing the result slightly with a headbutt, Maidana did score two legitimate knockdowns and summarily defeated the up and coming Broner. Many fans have speculated that Broner would not want to fight Maidana again, but given Maidana’s position in the division, I was sure the rematch would happen out of sheer necessity. Broner can’t progress any further up the ranks if he’s dismantled by a fighter who’s considered a gatekeeper. He often compares himself to Mayweather and his more flagrant behaviors resemble the worst of Mayweather’s “Money” persona, such as the video he posted of himself using money as toilet paper and then flushing it. You can’t keep that up if losing to Marcos Maidana is the pinnacle of your boxing achievement.