It’s been forever and a day since we’ve gone all Quick Jabs or Round And Round, a product of me slowly waking up from my hibernation of a few weeks back. That, and not having all that much compelling material. But the incoming mail tray is stacking up, so we need to get back to emptying it. Look for both columns to appear as regularly as they once did, starting…. NOW.
Besides the fighters/fights/networks mentioned in the headline, we’ll look at a shifting in the balance between HBO and Showtime, fights in the works/fights made for Erik Morales, Andy Lee and several others.
Round And Round
Let’s start with what is happening, or not happening, for the rest of 2011. For a bout originally scheduled for this past weekend, heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko had postponed yet another fight, this time because of a kidney stone. The bout with Jean Marc Mormeck that nobody in their right mind wants to see should now happen in March instead. Wlad’s brother Vitali is the one who had struggled with injuries, but now, out of the last four times he’s scheduled a fight, Wlad has had to postpone or cancel three of them. The first two were reportedly related to an abdominal injury, and the second might have just been an excuse to get out of fighting Dereck Chisora and make a richer fight with David Haye, while the third appears to be wholly unrelated except that it was originally reported as abdominal in nature. It’s not a good trend for Wlad, is all, if it keeps up.
Showtime’s New Year’s Eve card is off after light heavyweight Zsolt Erdei pulled out with a hand injury. There was some attempt to salvage an opponent in the main event for Tavoris Cloud, and the name that was thrown out there was Gabriel Campillo. As a long-time proponent of Campillo getting another big fight, I have to say it’s too bad that didn’t happen, and I’m not surre why Showtime reportedly balked. Instead, the original card will likely be rescheduled, with the junior featherweight Rico Ramos-Guillermo Rigondeaux clash still attached and maybe Cloud facing someone else.
There will still be some worthwhile boxing on New Year’s Eve, though: Jorge Solis and Takashi Uchiyama are due to battle in a meeting of top junior lightweights. Oh, sure, you’ll have to track down a stream for it while drunk off champagne rather than just having it on in the background while “Party In The U.S.A.” plays on the speakers of whatever party you’re at, but it could be a nice fight so think it over.
The early-2012 schedule is starting to fill up, too, so alternately you could just wait until the clock strikes midnight. The most appetizing of those early fights is the Victor Ortiz-Andre Berto rematch Feb. 11 of a welterweight fight that was Fight of the Year-worthy bout the first time around. In a turn of events, the fight will be on Showtime, not HBO, as Showtime outbid HBO. This is a pretty singficant development: Either HBO — which has invested a ton in Ortiz and Berto — is having budget problems, or Showtime is getting a big new infusion, or Showtime’s new leadership’s connections to Golden Boy helped, or HBO refused to overpay for a fight that, for once, didn’t need to be lowballed. HBO reportedly wouldn’t go over $2.15 million, $100,000 less than Showtime offered. Either way, HBO’s smaller competitor somehow stole a fight from it that it really, really wanted (HBO had turned down Berto-Randall Bailey in hopes of forcing Ortiz-Berto II) and who knows what this means for the rest of the year. Has Showtime depleted its budget unnecessarly on one fight? Does this help Showtime gain subscribers? Will HBO have more money for better fights later? Major.
It gets stranger still: Showtime reportedly will air Paul Williams-Nobuhiro Ishida Jan 21, although apparently it isn’t all the way nailed down. That’s not the world’s best fight, although it never offended me as much as it did some others when HBO had long ago accepted it (only to later turn it down last summer). Between the Berto fight going over to Showtime and the Williams fight going over to Showtime, you have to ask if this means that Al Haymon-advised fighters are going to be making a home there now, and what that means for his presumed influence. There’s no common link with HOW these fighters are ending up on Showtime, is all. I have to assume HBO said “no” again to Williams-Ishida, in which case Williams had to end up somewhere and for some reason Showtime was more interested in him against that opponent. Showtime somehow was able to outbid for Berto’s services. It’s downright flabbergasting what’s going on here, and I have yet to see any reliable boxing scribe make much sense out of what’s happening.
But hey, some stuff is happening on HBO. One of those fights is Devon Alexander-Marcos Maidana at welterweight in February. I’ll never not be interested in Maidana, and I’ve lost a ton of interest in Alexander; it’s hard to imagine someone who would be a more interesting opponent for Alexander, but easier to think of a half-dozen more interesting opponents for Maidana. It’s a decent fight, in the end, not a good or great one. It’ll be paired with a meeting of two top-10 junior lightweights, Adrien Broner and Eloy Perez, in what is about as good a fight as either of them can get. The doubleheader Jan. 28 is a bit better, still more in the decent-to-good zone: James Kirkland-Carlos Molina at junior middleweight, a fight I’ve advocated for before for Kirkland, and Erik Morales-Danny Garcia at junior welterweight. Morales’ career revival hasn’t really been tested against a fast-ish, skilled-ish boxer, but then Garcia hasn’t been in against anyone with Morales’ veteran savvy. I don’t fancy Morales’ chances, but I have stopped counting him out of fights until he shows me I ought to, so I’m OK with that fight but unclear why it’s the fight he’s making. What does it do for him?
A second HBO doubleheader also appears to be a go for March 17: Middleweight champ Sergio Martinez against Matthew Macklin and another middleweight bout pitting Andy Lee against Martin Murray. Martinez-Macklin is a more competitive-sounding fight than before Martinez struggled against Darren Barker and Macklin nearly upset Felix Sturm, so count me in. Lee-Murray — which is less “made” than the main event — also has some nice qualities after Murray turned in such a nice showing against Sturm. And it’s all happening on St. Patrick’s Day in New York, with two Irish fighters and one British fighter on the card, so it could be the rare Martinez-headed card that does boffo box office numbers.
Another network in action: NBC Sports’ new boxing program will kick off Jan. 21 with a heavyweight fight between Eddie Chambers and Siarhei Liakhovich, a respectable inaugural showing. Liakhovich performed admirably and excitingly in his last fight, a loss to Robert Helenius, while I’ve always kinda dug Chambers where others have not. I imagine it’ll have to exceed expectations, though, if it’s the kind of fight that Main Events’ Kathy Duva suspects will convince NBC proper to pick up fights from this show she’s running. It also could suffer in ratings just a touch if it’s going up against a Showtime card of some sort.
There’s been all this back-and-forth about whether members of Manny Pacquiao’s team have been having meaningful dialogue with the camp of Floyd Mayweather for a welterweight megafight, and on the side, Top Rank’s Bob Arum has had all these peculiar-seeming investment groups in talks to host the fight. With some of these parties so prone to misdirection and out-and-out lying, I wouldn’t get my hopes up that these glimmers will amount to even a ray of light, and the glimmers might be optical illusions to boot.
(Round And Round sources: BoxingScene; ESPN; RingTV; Maxboxing; news releases)