Friday, May 4, 2012

State of Affairs: Boxing in the last month

Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Miguel Angel Cotto will be squaring off on Cinco de Mayo this year.

More importantly, this is actually the first bout where I feel like Pretty Boy's opponent might have a chance at an upset.

Don't get me wrong, Mayweather will stick, move and pick up enough rounds to win a decision (whether he earns them or not). But Cotto's more active style and natural ability to fight at 154 lbs. make him a threat to pull out a KO victory.

This bout, however, shows a severe problem in boxing: This bout is for Cotto's WBC World Super Welterweight Championship.

That's right, there's a championship belt involved, and not only is the champion a 7-to-1 underdog, but the belt is effectively an afterthought designed to make the fight go 12 rounds.

Boxing's titles outside of the heavyweight belts are a means to an end. Fighters win one in a weight class and immediately drop it to fight in another. This process repeats until the fighter hits a weight class where he can no longer tack on weight to move up.

This problem reared its ugly head a couple of weeks ago when Brandon Rios defeated Richard Abril in a fight at the Mandalay Bay. Also on the PPV, Juan Manuel Marquez fought in Mexico in a squash match that would have made the Funkasaurus blush.

But the problem was the Rios fight. Rios was attempting to gain back the Lightweight (135 pounds) title he lost when he couldn't make weight in his previous bout. This time, he showed up two pounds overweight and gained two more after his allotted hour.

This already cheapened the value of the fight, as now only the interim champion Abril could win the true belt. Which I thought he did. I gave him eight of the 12 most action-devoid rounds ever.

But Rios, a bigger name with a fight against Marquez looming, got the nod from two judges to win the fight.

Judges scoring on name power is a serious problem, and it's reflective of the 'superstar foul' rules in the NBA.

But that robbery overshadows the other, bigger problem: Big-deal matches are becoming boring as watching paint dry. Or grass grow. Or Jon Fitch fight.

Just this past weekend Bernard Hopkins defended his light heavyweight title against Chad Dawson. Now, to be fair, this was hyped well and the title actually felt important.

But man, was this boring! I had to sit through it a second time to score it because I fell asleep shortly after the sixth round ended. I can respect the skills and artistry of boxing, but ultimately, the sport is about punching people.

The two fighters became very repetitive, and it was clear when someone was going to attack. And if I can tell from the TV, then the opponent can tell, which means no one is going to land anything.

Thankfully, the undercard was exciting, but even exciting undercards are becoming rarer. Undercards are when unpolished fighters are supposed to take their lumps, but somehow those fights end up shutting down interest instead of warming the crowd up.

I'm glad the judging was strong here (I had it either 9-3 or 8-4 for Dawson, which two judges agreed to), but it seems like boxing is missing that one big fight where everything comes together.

Cotto-Mayweather has the potential to do it, and hopefully by the end, there will be a fight with hype, high-profile fighters, consistent action and a satisfying decision.

I'd really hate to think that Mayweather-Pacquiao has to be the fight that shows people what boxing can be when done right, but if the fight this weekend doesn't do it, then there aren't many exciting options in the lower weights remaining.

Something needs to get these fighters to step up. Otherwise, the HBO audience will be reduced to purists, nationalists and insomniacs looking for a sleep fix.

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