Urango playing the HBO ‘opponent’ role one more time
It doesn’t matter if you’re referring to vinyl singles with a featured song on one side and a secondary song on the other, cassette tapes with a tune on each side or even CDs offering a radio release and a few rarities. The reality is that we now live in the digital download age and an entire generation is growing up having no idea what an “A-side” or a “B-side” are.
But while these terms are outdated in the music industry, they’re perfectly applicable in the boxing industry. In fact, they’re used more commonly than ever nowadays to describe opposing fighters. The A-side is the guy who’s expected to win, the guy around whom the fight was built; in some cases, he even had the date booked before he had the opponent booked. The B-side is the guy who’s expected to lose, the one who’s there, in theory at least, to advance the A-side’s career.
There are all different levels of each, naturally, and a B-side on HBO or Showtime is frequently a more-advanced fighter than an A-side on ESPN.
Juan Urango happens to be a fighter who fits both of those descriptions.
The Colombian junior welterweight has headlined his share of Friday Night Fights broadcasts, as either an A-side or a “neither side” (where he and the opponent are competitively matched and receive equal billing). From his draw with Mike Arnaoutis to his controversial win over Naoufel Ben Rabah to his impressive victories over Herman Ngoudjo and Randall Bailey, he’s been one of the most reliable ESPN headliners of the last half decade.
Urango has also appeared on HBO twice. But both times, he was a prototypical B-side. He lost 11 rounds out of 12 against Ricky Hatton in the British superstar’s “get well” fight that followed his perilous welterweight experiment against Luis Collazo, and he lost 10 of 12 against Andre Berto in what, coincidentally, followed the unbeaten welterweight titlist’s own struggle against Collazo.
This Saturday, Urango gets his third crack on HBO, and though the gap between A-side and B-side is the smallest it’s ever been for him, he’s still the B-side to Devon Alexander, another unbeaten beltholder being groomed for possible stardom. The HBO broadcast will feature a slickly produced personality profile on Alexander, spotlighting his impact in his hometown of St. Louis. Urango is expected to provide resistance, to apply pressure, to hopefully make it excitingÔÇöbut to lose to the more-skillful fighter, if the script is followed.
Some view this as a last chance for Urango. He doesn’t share that sense of desperation.
“This is a new year for Juan Urango,” he said. “I don’t play baseball – strike three, no, you’re not out.”
It’s true that with a loss, as long as it’s not embarrassingly one-sided, he can stay in the HBO mix.
But win or lose, he might already have struck out when it comes to making the leap from HBO B-side to HBO A-side.
A look at the last decade or two of HBO (and Showtime) history suggests it’s rare for a fighter to make the leap from B-side to A-side, and nearly impossible if that fighter doesn’t experience success in his first opportunity. Here are six categories we found that fighters have fallen into after first appearing in a major HBO or Showtime fight as a B-side:
1. Succeed in first crack as a B-side, become an A-side: Examples of this include Winky Wright, Timothy Bradley and Nonito Donaire. Wright made his HBO debut as a B-side to then-undefeated Fernando Vargas and lost a disputed decision, but the powers-that-be in the sport viewed it much the same as a victory and Wright came back as an A-side against Keith Mullings and against a slew of lesser opponents on HBO Pay-Per-View undercards. Bradley was the B-side against Junior Witter on Showtime, scored the upset and has gradually become more and more of an A-side (to the point that he’s now a cover boy on THE RING). Donaire was the Showtime B-side to Vic Darchinyan, scored the stunning knockout and came back as the A-side against Luis Maldonado.
2. Succeed in first crack as a B-side, become a neither-side: Examples include Micky Ward and Humberto Soto. Ward didn’t get a shot on HBO until 15 years into his pro career, and when he did, he was the B-side to the undefeated Shea Neary. Ward scored the knockout and got five more HBO fights after that, but was never the A-side, falling into the even-money range against Antonio Diaz, James Leija and Arturo Gatti. Soto was an HBO B-side meant to lose to Rocky Juarez, but he scored the upset. Despite his success, he hasn’t quite become an HBO A-side – just a pay-per-view undercard A-side and a neither-side against Joan Guzman.
3. Succeed as a B-side against second-rate opponents, become a B-side to first-rate opponents: The perfect example of this is James Leija. He surprised the favorites on occasion, outfighting Juan Lazcano on Showtime (but getting screwed out of the decision), outfighting Hector Camacho Jr. on HBO (but settling for a controversial no-contest) and outfighting Francisco Bojado on HBO (and getting rewarded with a victory for a change). Performances like these, and his success against the great Azumah Nelson, helped him get bigger opportunities, in which he was inevitably knocked out by major stars like Oscar De La Hoya, Shane Mosley, Kostya Tszyu and Gatti.
4. Succeed as a B-side, then lose next fight and never become an A-side: The classic example here is Carlos Quintana. “El Indio” upset undefeated prospect Joel Julio but remained a B-side and lost to Miguel Cotto. He came back and upset Paul Williams, then got blasted out in one round in the rematch. On April 10, he’ll return to HBO as the B-side to Berto.
5. Succeed as a B-side, fluctuate back and forth between A-side and B-side status: Antonio Margarito fits the bill here, repeatedly inching up to A-side status, then taking a step back. He beat Antonio Diaz as a slight B-side on Showtime, then became an HBO A-side against Andrew Lewis and Hercules Kyvelos. Margarito then lost a close technical decision to Daniel Santos, had to work his way back, became an HBO A-side again for his fight with Paul Williams, but lost. He quickly became an A-side once again for his second fight with Kermit Cintron, upset Miguel Cotto on pay-per-view to become a star and then lost everything he’d built up by getting busted with illegal hand wraps and then busted up by Shane Mosley.
6. Fail as a B-side, keep coming back as a perpetual B-side: Examples of this one include Collazo, Steve Forbes and Frans Botha. Collazo has thus far been a rich man’s Urango, fighting some of the same stars and coming much closer to beating them, but ultimately losing to Hatton, Mosley and Berto. Forbes was a repeat B-side with no A-side hope, losing lopsided fights against De La Hoya and Berto. And Botha was his heavyweight equivalent, a fringe-contending fighter with no A-side potential who got knocked out by Mike Tyson on Showtime’s pay-per-view arm and by Lennox Lewis and Wladimir Klitschko on HBO.
Unfortunately for Urango, he appears headed for the sixth category. His promoter, Leon Margules, however, believes Alexander provides Urango’s best opportunity to break on through to the other side.
“Juan is the experienced guy. He’s been on the big stage many times,” Margules said. “We believe that Juan is the biggest, strongest and best puncher in the division.”
So what if Urango finally gets his HBO victory? Does he become an A-side?
Recent history suggests he shouldn’t count on it. What he’s probably fighting for is the right to remain an HBO B-side. And that’s not the worst thing in the world. If you’re going to be brought in to lose, you might as well get HBO money to do it.
ÔÇó Two additional interesting A-side/B-side observations: First, has anyone ever gone from big-time A-side to big-time B-side in such a pronounced way as Zab Judah? And second, did you notice how often Berto’s name came up as the A-side to all of the B-sides (Forbes, Collazo, Urango and now Quintana)? It would have been interesting to see him in the B-side role against Mosley; hopefully we’ll still get to see Berto in a fight like that before 2010 is out.
ÔÇó Is there a better reality-TV trio than Lou DiBella, Gary Shaw and Dan Goossen? I think MTV needs to put the three them in a New Jersey shore house for a summer so we can watch Louie D., The Shawtuation and Goossi work some shirtless magic.
ÔÇó I thought Andre Ward was excellent in-studio this week on Friday Night Fights. Add the well-spoken super middleweight titlist to the long list of fighters who would be a welcome replacement for Lennox Lewis for the HBO analyst job. (And yes, that list could be summarized in four words: everyone except Leon Spinks.)
ÔÇó If Frankie Gomez really is America’s brightest amateur prospect, what does that say about how meaningless the Olympics have become if he’s signing with Golden Boy instead of waiting two years for the 2012 Games?
ÔÇó So I guess Danny Garcia is one fighter nobody can stack up against in a toe-to-toe matchup.
Eric Raskin can be reached at [email protected]. You can read his articles each month in THE RING magazine.