So continues our marathon coverage of one of the biggest fights of 2011, Floyd Mayweather vs. Victor Ortiz on Sept. 17 on HBO pay-per-view. Previously: the stakes of Mayweather-Ortiz; get to know Victor Ortiz; keys to the fight, parts I and II. Next: final preview and prediction.
This was going to be one of those pay-per-view undercards you don’t feel so bad paying for, even if the Floyd Mayweather vs. Victor Ortiz PPV had been arbitrarily raised to $59.95 in standard definition or $69.95 in high def (although that’s freaking annoying). Then, one of the key fights on the undercard fell apart. Now it’s an undercard with one Mexican superstar in a potentially good but probably one-sided scrap; a fraudulent title bout featuring a living Mexican legend; and a fight that could steal the show between a prospect and bad ass. That’s still not the usual big-fight PPV undercard disaster, but something less than the excellent one expected.
I do everything I can not to be a conspiracy theorist. But it seems like this happens pretty often: a good undercard has a fight or two fall apart at the last minute. This could just be the difficulty with juggling a multi-fight card such that, statistically, there are more chances for something disintegrating. And I’m not sure what the upside is of arranging a good PPV undercard and then bait-and-switching, other than maybe ticket sales…? So, no conspiracy here. But it’s nonetheless disappointing that even when boxing’s powers that be have the right idea, it too often goes wrong.
So here’s a preview of what remains, along with a mention of a couple other weekend bouts.
Oh, and if you’re wondering what that woman at right is all about, there’s a connection. I promise.
- Saul Alvarez vs. Alfonso Gomez. Here’s how big a superstar Alvarez is south of the border, at age 21: For a while, he was engaged to the woman in the picture, Marisol Gonzalez, the former Miss Mexico. Now he just dates actresses and such. What kind of boxer is he, though? Good question. Opinions about him are all over the board. Some think he’s got the talent to be an elite boxer. Some think he’s all hype. I myself started in the “all hype” camp, but I’ve been won over a bit by some of his recent performances. He’ll never be the fastest guy in the world, and that, in my view, limits what he can accomplish. But I thought he would encounter more trouble that he did from the speedy, top-10 junior middleweight Ryan Rhodes in his last fight. Instead, Alvarez completely owned him. Now, I like the idea of him contending with any junior middleweight contender, and might pick him against more of them than not. He’s smart enough, tough enough and aggressive enough to hang with anyone, and he makes up with a lack of speed with good timing. Gomez has had his own brushes with fame, as a contestant in the original “The Contender” on NBC. His talent is meager, but he’s a hard worker who has overachieved, with his best wins probably being over Peter Manfredo, Jr. and Jesus Soto Karass, two fighters of a similar talent/hard work ratio, plus he has wins over faded versions of Arturo Gatti and Jose Luis Castillo. Of course, when he ran into a world-class fighter in Miguel Cotto, he got drilled. Despite improved boxing skills over the years, he’s almost certainly not going to beat Alvarez, who’s better in every way and also has a size advantage. But he’ll go down swinging and give Alvarez a little competition, at least. The only concern for Alvarez is that by all accounts, he’s gotten a little uppity of late due to his success, so if he’s not fully focused this could be something more than a developmental/stay-busy scrap.
- Erik Morales vs. Pablo Cesar Cano. This is Morales, one of the best Mexican boxers ever in a boxing-mad country, going for the dubious designation of “only Mexican to win championships in four different divisions,” which in an era of diluted belts one boxer might have already accomplished and besides, Morales has never won a lineal championship belt. Morales is validated by history nonetheless for wins over all-time greats like Manny Pacquiao and Marco Antonio Barrera, and in his last outing, a close loss to top junior welterweight in Marcos Maidana, he showed he had some boxing left in him at an advanced age of 35. Cano is a replacement for Lucas Matthysse, who pulled out of the fight last week sick, in a match-up that had fans either salivating or worried about whether he would beat the “some boxing left” out of Morales. Matthysse himself was a replacement for Jorge Barrios, who had visa issues, and whose acceptance by the WBC as a valid contender for a vacant title had prompted all kinds of screeds. Cano? He might be worse still than Barrios when it comes to valid title contender. Observe the hoops the WBC had to jump through to justify Morales-Cano, when by their own standards the very first fight on their list should be for the title, not this one. Only 21, Cano struggled to a split decision win over journeyman Oscar Leon last year, and got dropped by the completely unknown Pablo Lugo in June. He also appears to have spent more time at lightweight than junior welterweight. There’s little YouTube footage of the lad, but he seems to be a decent enough boxer, although slow and with an impulse to brawl, and his knockout percentage against ultra-weak competition is respectable. Ye’s also trained by Rudy Perez, who trained long-time Morales rival Marco Antonio Barrera, so he’s got a little something going for him there, too. Unless Morales has dropped off a cliff entirely, though, or Cano is better than expected plus has the fight of his life, this should be easy work for Morales. There’s basically nothing right about this match-up. It’s only wrong.
- Josesito Lopez vs. Jessie Vargas. Here’s the one I think could steal the show. I’m fond of both of these junior welterweights, who come to fight every night. Vargas is the prospect, the top fighter in the Mayweather Promotions stable, but he’s very untested. He’s beaten the faded journeymen types like Walter Estrada (in his last fight) with ease, as he should be if he’s a real prospect. He can box some, but his mental make up is that of a brawler, as he showed when Estrada decided to go toe-to-toe with him. He’s very tall for the division — 5’10” — and I’m of the mind that he at least has the talent to be a quality contender at 140 lbs. But he has to get through Lopez, who’s very similar in his brawler make-up/5’10” height, only with less natural talent and much more experience. And there’s no guarantee he gets through Lopez. Not even a little. Maybe the gang over at Mayweather Promotions thinks Lopez is easy pickings because another of their (less talented) prospects, Wes Ferguson, beat Lopez in 2006. If that’s the reasoning, it’s a mistake. Lopez, in his last fight, upset prospect Mike Dallas, Jr. Both of these men have good power and are not inclined to back down. It really, very well could be the action fight of the night.
In other bouts this week, outside of the PPV undercard:
THURSDAY: Over on ESPN Deportes, top-10 featherweight Jhonny Gonzalez takes on Rogers Mtagwa, who alternates between knockout dummy and unexpectedly tough test. Gonzalez’ chin is always vulnerable, so it’s a semi-risky fight, but Gonazlez also has the power to take him out and can outbox him, too. In the U.K. on Thursday is the latest edition of “Prizefighter,” the U.K. tournament show, some junior middleweights go at it. Another fight that fell apart for was to feature junior flyweight champion Giovani Segura, who was set to fight on Azteca America Thursday in a stay-busy, over-the-limit fight but reportedly suffered an injury.
FRIDAY: U.S. heavyweight prospect Seth Mitchell takes a fight not on HBO as he was once scheduled to do but on TeleFutura, which is where he belongs for the time being until he steps up the competition. And I’m not saying he should step up the competition; I’m not sure he’s ready yet, despite liking him as a boxer. Light heavyweight Mike Lee, inexplicably featured in a recent Subway campaign, fights Friday in South Bend, Ind., home of his alma mater Notre Dame.
SATURDAY: Middleweight Craig McEwan’s appetizing, untelevised Mayweather-Ortiz undercard fight with Kassim Ouma fell apart, alas. That leaves Anthony Crolla the biggest name on the undercard, the U.K. fighter who at one point was in the mix to fight Morales and would’ve been a better replacement than Cano, and was ready to step in but got passed over for reasons that no one has explained. The fight is a token one, a kind of “Sorry you didn’t get the Morales fight, pal” match-up. Although, in fact, Cassius Clay is also on the undercard. No kidding. Different guy, same name.
On Fox Deportes or Fox Sports Net or not at all because “Top Rank Live” is a nightmare from a scheduling standpoint, lightweight prospect Mercito Gesta — he of the sparring championship — is featured. Also, U.K. heavyweight Tyson Fury, who had a bunch of fights fall through, is reduced to a “meh” fight.