Rousey-Mayweather, that’s what people are talking about. I guess this shouldn’t be a surprise, given that Mayweather’s next opponent, who he’ll be in the ring with in about two weeks, is Andre Berto, possibly the most inappropriate opponent possible for Mayweather, Berto’s status neither warrants the opportunity nor draws the attention necessary to justify the match. Think about it, how much have you heard about this fight? Probably not much, because whether you’re a casual fan or a die-hard addict, you’re not that aware of Andre Berto.
Actually, though, I should really rescind my previous statement about Berto being the most inappropriate opponent. At this point, people are actually pushing for a “no-holds-barred” (UFC-style) fight between one of the greatest technical boxers of all time (I think it’s fair to say) and the 12 and 0 freak-show Ronda Rousey. She, and I emphasize she, is a mixed-martial arts fighter. That alone should dissuade us from seriously discussing the fight, but hey, James Toney had so much success, why not go for it, right? Yeah. Putting a boxer in a mixed-martial arts fight is, at best, an attempt to discover whether a boxer has enough athletic ability to improvise methods of winning a fight other than punching. Merely posing the question implicitly presumes that mixed-martial arts is “a real fight” and boxing is more like a stylized contest. If there’s anything that either sport teaches fans, it’s that no number of bouts between equally matched opponents would prove that argument either way. An unlucky but formidable boxer could walk into an arm-bar in the first round of a mixed-martial arts fight, just as easily as an unlucky but formidable MMA fighter could walk into a check-hook that puts them down for the count. The success achieved in professional wrestling by the clever intermingling of reality and fantasy has had an effect on the entire sports world. Maybe that’s why we’re more interested in entertaining the thought of an emotionally-charged melodrama than we are in analyzing a fight with real-life implications for the sport.
Granted, Rousey is an extremely impressive athlete who would certainly defeat many fighters, man or woman, in MMA or boxing, at her weight and probably above. But, that’s what great fighters do. Real greatness, in the classic sense of the word, doesn’t come from looking scary or impressive on any once specific night. Or, maybe it can, if you’re to believe the UFC. Think about it. Mayweather is an internationally recognized athlete who’s moved up in weight over several years fighting progressively larger, more elite opponents, to establish a 48-0 record. Many of these opponents were some of the best fighters in the world, including guys who will go down in the history of the sport, like Miguel Cotto, Saul Alvarez, and now, Manny Pacquiao–all defeated soundly by Mayweather. Ronda Rousey, in reality, is a novelty warrior in a burgeoning sport with a record of 12-0. That’s twelve wins. Against who? And that pattern holds for the entire UFC organization. Fighters are made and canonized in a matter of months rather than years because the sport itself has no historical lineage.
So, beyond the glaring inconsistencies in the judgment and evaluation of the athletes involved in the potential fight, one is a man and one is a woman. Wait, let me rephrase: one is man with a domestic violence record, and the other is a woman. Does anything more need to be said? If so, Mayweather fights around 154 pounds, and Rousey fights at 135. In other words, while some people might be excited by the novelty, no one will enjoy watching the fight for the same reasons Pacquiao-Mayweather wasn’t a slugfest. In fact, it’s reminiscent of the strange “boxing” match put on by the WWF for Wrestlemania 2 between Rowdy Roddy Piper and Mr. T. The clash of styles would create an awkward, low-action display of frustration that would reveal nothing about either fighter’s talent or legacy. A lot of the people clamoring for this fight are probably the same “fans” who were disappointed in the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight because they thought it should have produced more action or that Pacquiao’s injury prevented him from performing. Neither of those statements is accurate because based on the fighters’ styles, the result was exactly as any knowledgeable fan would expect, and both men did perform at or near their best, which is all you can hope for in any contest. I’m not saying we should blame Rousey for puffing out her chest (so to speak) and making a big scene about challenging a fighter who automatically attracts media attention, just that fans shouldn’t be taking it seriously.
Back on planet Earth, some great fights have been taking place in a broad range of weight divisions. Last weekend, Marco Huck took on relative unknown Krzysztof Glowacki for the WBO World Cruiserweight title. Not only did the fight produce great back and forth action with both men going down, but the pace of the fight was unusually intense for cruiserweights. Well worth watching, I think it should be considered a fight of the year candidate. Just two nights ago the showdown between Leo Santa Cruz and Abner Mares more than lived up to expectations, with both fighters averaging over 70 punches a round and the action rarely slowing for even a moment. Fighting at featherweight, Leo Santa Cruz is still very rangy by comparison to most other fighters in the division, towering a full three inches above Abner Mares, who is the better boxer. Mares made the mistake of rushing Santa Cruz from the opening bell, according to his corner. I’m not so sure it was a mistake, however, as he actually found moderate success in that approach, even though Santa Cruz is the seasoned brawler of the two. While Mares has the superior technique and plenty of power and athleticism, it can be difficult to overcome a physical disadvantage of reach or height for any fighter, no matter how talented. Yielding to his corner, Mares tried boxing from about round three forward, but took increasing punishment as he did so, naturally slowing down over the course of the fight. Being unable to slip away from the wingspan of Santa Cruz often enough to make his infrequent but effective counter punches matter, Mares lost a lopsided majority decision. Both fighters mentioned they’d be willing to work out a rematch, but given the end result, I’d be surprised if there was much demand, despite the fireworks.
The undercard featured some great bouts as well, including Julio Cesar Ceja’s triumphant comeback against Hugo Ruiz. With both men hitting the canvas, the action was intense, measured and effective, with very little wasted motion. Another in the continuing series of great fights from PBC.
Unfortunately, not all matchmaking is quite so inspired. Shane Mosley, who has been inactive for two years after a 1-3 run, was matched against former opponent and former athlete Ricardo Mayorga, who didn’t even feign an effort to make weight. Their first match was lopsided with Mosley putting Mayorga down and out in the last second of the last round, but this one, between an aging Mosley and an inflated Mayorga was slightly more competitive, until the sixth round, when Mayorga was again knocked out, this time by a body shot. Somehow, Mosley’s promotional company, GoBoxing, managed to charge pay-per-view prices for the fight, possibly deluding himself into believing he can mount some kind of a comeback in the division. Certainly not approaching Roy Jones proportions, Mosley still needs to have perspective on his place in the most competitive division in the sport. As boxer-turned-commentator Antonio Tarver showed us recently against an aging Steve Cunningham, just because you still can, doesn’t mean you should.
On the horizon we have the long anticipated showdown between MIguel Cotto and Saul Alvarez. This is a fight that we can count on for action and impressive skill, and while it won’t necessarily determine the direction of the division in the coming years, it will give us a strong indicator of where the top fighters stand, Cotto and Alvarez both being great benchmarks.