After much justified handwringing over the fact that boxing's two primary promotional entities refused to budge from holding big fight cards on the same night in the same town, the crowded marketplace was put to the test on Saturday night.
Top Rank and Golden Boy held events just miles apart in Las Vegas (Apologies, in my setup piece I said the fights would take place in Los Angeles and Las Vegas). Given boxing's propensity for foot shooting, it was a minor miracle that the bouts went down without controversy.
On the contrary. There were large, passionate crowds at both venues (though each promoter was accused of doing a wee bit of fibbing in terms of publicizing how big) and the quality of entertainment overall was terrific.
We witnessed: Two plausible fight of the year candidates, another overwhelming win for a rising star, and a dominant performance for a 22-year-old who's on the precipice of a superfight.
Oh, and in the biggest bout of the night we were treated to both a virtuoso performance and one of the most thrilling final rounds in boxing history.
The night came off so well that some boxing fans and bloggers were saying that it was a great idea to have so much condensed activity, but that's folly.
It's bad enough boxing is ghettoized to late Saturday night, which basically ensures no mainstream sports coverage even if the Caucasian-dominated general sports media were anything but oblivious to the these events that appeal to thousands of Latin fans, the fastest growing demographic in the U.S.
But it's not a good idea to confuse the uneducated or potential fan, and it's never good to force your loyalists to shell out more money or force them to make a choice.
Given that these two companies haven taken their bickering to a high school level, in the final summation the Top Rank card was the party that you had to make an appearance at because it was the biggest, while Golden Boy's was a bit more gritty and fun.
I watched one card live and one card Sunday morning without knowing the results. Here are my thoughts:
Guillermo Rigondeaux W 12 Robert Marroquin
When you see Rigondeaux's 11-0, 8 KO record you might think you're in for a potentially exciting evening, but he's not really that kind of fighter. This may sound counterintuitive, but if you go into the fight not expecting anything exciting from Rigondeaux, you actually get more out of it because you'll be able to focus on his unbelievably subtle and advanced offensive game. He uses every punch in the book and expertly sets up his opponent with feints and body movement. If a knockdown can be described as exquisite, his number on the American in the 12th fits the bill. It is true the Cuban was shaken on two separate occasions so you have to wonder how is going to fare against the very best of foes down the road.
Matthew Macklin KO 1 Joachim Alcine
Alcine should be proud he's one of a select few Canadians to hold a professional boxing title. We even televised one of his bouts in a very brief foray into fight game in 2007. But it's clear at this point that he should be considering his career options. This was his second first-round blowout defeat on a big card in just over two years.
Roman Martinez W 12 Miguel Beltran
An absolute corker, fight of the night in my opinion. Sustained action, you could make a case for either guy winning. It was a split decision and I actually had Beltran winning by three points. Thought he had the crisper punches and he snapped Martinez head back frequently. Martinez was probably more consistent in terms of work rate, and it's true the Beltran face look like it had been hit with a baseball bat by the end. Round 5 represented everything we love about boxing. Rematch!
Sergio Martinez W 12 Julio Cesar Chavez
The biggest fight of the night though maybe not the most important (more on that in a bit). Martinez showed he was a cut above the opponent 11 years his junior by dominating for 11 rounds. It even looked like a stoppage was in the offing during a one-sided seventh. Chavez didn't have too much interest in engaging for most of the night, but he landed a desperate left that hurt Martinez badly in the 12th. The Argentine hit the deck, endured about 30 desperate seconds, and then started firing back with reckless abandon until the bell rang.
So if we're going to ask what would have happened if there was still another round or more to go, we should at least be fair and ask what if the two guys were within 10 pounds of each other. It was obvious that at minimum Chavez was 10 pounds heavier than Martinez due to his penchant for sweating down to weight and rehydrating to a ridiculous degree in the 28 hours from weigh-in to fight time. Does his punch even make an impression without that size advantage? If there is a rematch I would like to see an edict fighters must weigh in on the day of the fight as well and can only gain a certain amount of weight from the official weigh-in the day before.
Leo Santa Cruz KO 5 Eric Morel
If only all corners were as humane as Eric Morel's. Some of the most one-sided 10-9 rounds I've seen in a while. Santa Cruz is the boxing's 2012 comer, putting together a second straight dominant performance. There's no physical resemblance, but stylistically he reminds me of Ray Mancini in terms of non-stop punching output.
Marcos Maidana KO 8 Jesus Soto Karass
This was the second fight of the year candidate and what these guys lacked in skill they made up for in will. Maidana was winning overall but had been hurt badly to the body in the middle rounds. Some people had a problem with the referee stoppage but I did not as Karrass's head was getting snapped back regularly
Daniel Ponce De Leon Tech. Dec. 8 Jhonny Gonzalez
If this fight occurred on another night or without the two other great fights I've mentioned, it would have seemed entertaining enough instead of ho-hum. Some expected the kind of fireworks that would've undoubtedly happened if these guys had met at junior featherweight about five years ago, but since then they've taken hard knockout losses and modified their styles so as to minimize the firepower coming back at them. This was a career-best performance from De Leon; I had him up by three points at the time of the stoppage
Saul Alvarez KO 5 Josesito Lopez
No point wasting too many words on this predictably one-sided affair for Alvarez, but it was arguably the most important fight of the night because Alvarez is poised to meet a Miguel Cotto or Floyd Mayweather in the next 12 months. I would really love to see Alvarez against Cotto. I could see Alvarez ending Cotto's career with a comprehensive beating, but I could just as easily see the resourceful Cotto using every trick he knows to win a clear decision.
Another tough break for Troy
Troy Ross of Brampton, Ont., came out on the short end of a 12-round decision against Yoan Hernandez in a cruiserweight bout in Germany.
I had Ross up by two points but he received some curious advice given he's 37 and this could be his last shot, as well as the fact that no hardcore boxing fan can remember the last time a road fighter won a close fight against a German-backed opponent, as Hernandez was.
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