There is nothing awful that happened this past boxing weekend that wasn’t already easily reprimanded in advance, and reprimanded well. Sometimes, it’s best to let the best word on it all stand, swiftly sweep up the remainders and move on.
In the bout of any meaning — a bout deprived to some degree of its meaning by the failed drug tests of #1 junior lightweight Oscar Valdez — the fighter with all the backing of a network and a promoter and an athletic commission and a belt sanctioning organization and the crowd won a close fight, one many thought he deserved to lose, over the mostly-anonymous outsider. Color us surprised.
Fighting on ESPN Friday despite the failed Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency tests, Valdez edged past his one-time amateur conqueror Robson Conceicao. “Edged” might not be the word. It was one of those 50-50 fights, with Conceicao landing way more punches and Valdez landing the showier ones, especially late (say, some particularly well-timed rights in the 7th and 9th rounds). Still, it wasn’t that Conceiacao was landing lots of punches; Valdez’s bruised face suggested he was in a real firefight. And yet Valdez won a unanimous decision, including a “what th?” 117-110 score and more justifiable 115-112 twice.
You’d never really have guessed it was a close fight based on the way ESPN was calling it. And sure, maybe Conceicao hurt himself in the later rounds with his performance there, but only a house fighter’s opponent would draw scorn from the commentating team for daring to think he’d won a legitimately close bout by raising his hands at the end. It seemed pretty clear that, for however far Valdez has advanced technically, Conceicao bothered him with his movement, timing and clean punches. Boxing, however, constantly asks us: “Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?”
The Evander Holyfield debacle benefits somewhat by contrast, despite the extra layer of vulgarity that it was happening, for less pretense of authenticity. This “boxing” “match” traded on the name of its 58-year-old headliner unabashedly, almost luxuriating in the fact that it was an atrocity and nothing more. Whether it was a true “boxing match” or an exhibition is the kind of thing that ought to be easy to answer, but, y’know. Florida man.
Anyway, it went about as expected based on those who predicted that based on his personality, ex-mixed martial artist Viktor Belfort wouldn’t take it easy on a guy who warmed up on mitts like someone on a 2x slow-motion VCR tape. Belfort jumped on the near-sexagenerian deprived of a license in New York 15 years ago. Bet Belfort feels like a real conqueror for pouncing on a former legend legitimately approaching Social Security retirement benefits age and stopping him in the 1st round! If you didn’t see it, skip it. It’s ugly like you imagine, plus some extra Caligula-level ugliness based on the date of the occasion and who was on the mic.
(Oscar Valdez, left, celebrates the announcement of his decision victory over Robson Conceicao; via)