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Is 2010 a “rebuilding year” for boxing?

12
Jul

“Rebuilding” is the ultimate sports euphemism. It’s a deceptive way of saying, “Don’t expect much from us right now.” It’s a word that points toward the future, implying some eventual payoff, but as we all know, the future is never guaranteed. All that we can be certain of is that whoever or whatever is “rebuilding” is not built to win in the present.

A little more than halfway into the year 2010, boxing, as a sport, isn’t doing much winning. The fight game always has its slumps and it invariably pulls out of them, but the last six months feel like a particularly pronounced downswing.

I wrote two months ago that we didn’t have a first-rate Fight of the Year candidate yet, and we still don’t. Many of the fights we want to see aren’t happening. Certain powerful promoters aren’t getting along particularly well with certain other powerful promoters. And let’s not even talk about the state of the heavyweight division.

But the point of this article is not to hammer you over the head with the negative. It’s to ask this question: Can we categorize this as a rebuilding year for boxing? Are we watching certain developments that don’t necessarily thrill us now but will set up thrills to come in 2011?

Look at the fight calendar, starting with this past Saturday’s bouts pitting Juan Manuel Lopez against Bernabe Concepcion and Nonito Donaire against Hernan Marquez. It’s full of decent matchups, fights you’re happy to watchÔÇöbut fights that you would never go out of your way to demand.

Instead of Concepcion, we really wanted Lopez in there with Yuriorkis Gamboa or Celestino Caballero. We wanted Donaire staring across the ring at Vic Darchinyan, but we had to settle for Donaire against Marquez. We want Tim Bradley vs. Devon Alexander, and instead we’re getting Bradley-Luis Carlos Abregu and Alexander-Andreas Kotelnik. And Shane Mosley vs. Sergio Mora is by no means a bad fight, but something tells us fight fans won’t be calling in to their local sports radio station to express their giddy anticipation.

The only thing resembling a superfight so far in 2010 was Floyd Mayweather vs. Shane MosleyÔÇöand even that was a comedown from the Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight we were hoping for.

Now Pacquiao-Mayweather negotiations are again nearing a make-or-break stage, and without question, the outcome of those discussions will have a profound impact on the whole of boxing. If the most lucrative fight in boxing history becomes reality in November, then 2010 goes down as a fine year for the sport. If it doesn’t happen, 2010 is one of the worst pugilistic years in recent memory.

And if that latter scenario becomes reality, we have to hope this disappointing year has effectively built toward something brighter around the bend. Specifically, we have to hope the build toward fights like Lopez-Gamboa and Bradley-Alexander pays off.

“I don’t question the promoters deciding to build toward those fights instead of making them now,” opined Showtime boxing analyst and longtime fight journalist Steve Farhood. “Those junior welterweights and featherweights are among boxing’s most compelling fighters right now, but they’re not boxing’s biggest stars. That takes a while. If we’re patient, I feel that we’ll be rewarded with fights like Alexander vs. Bradley and Gamboa vs. Lopez. But the time for those fights has not yet arrived.”

If half of the equation in a rebuilding year is to set up major showdowns, the other half is to develop prospects and place them on the brink of a breakthrough.

As the color commentator on the prospect-based ShoBox series, Farhood has come across quite a few exciting up-and-comers from whom he’s expecting big things in the next year or two.

“Fernando Guerrero is a name that jumps immediately to mind,” Farhood said. “Mike Jones impresses me. I love Edwin Rodriguez, I think he’s an exciting fighterÔÇöand the super middleweight division is full of guys like that. Saul Alvarez certainly might turn out to be thrilling. I’d have to put bantamweight Chris Avalos on that list. He’s a puncher in a weight class that I happen to love.”

In addition to those names that leapt immediately from Farhood’s tongue, boxing fans also have Daniel Jacobs, Miguel Angel “Mikey” Garcia, Omar Henry, Matvey Korobov, David Lemieux, Vanes Martirosyan, and a whole stable of former amateur stars from Cuba to get excited about. For several of them, 2011 could be the year they enter THE RING rankings and position themselves for stardom.

2010 has been a mediocre year in boxing, and unless Pacquiao-Mayweather happens, it will likely continue down that path. That’s not to say there aren’t any worthwhile matchups in the months ahead. You have the Juan Manuel Marquez-Juan Diaz II pay-per-view card, the intriguing Chad Dawson-Jean Pascal fight that will fill a RING championship vacancy and the next wave of Super Six bouts.

What we’re lacking is delivery of the specific fights that fans are openly demanding.

And it’s probably not a coincidence that we’re also lacking magnificent action fights.

Maybe 2011 will make up for any of 2010’s shortcomings. At the very least, by the time this year draws to a close, the pieces should be in place. Then it’ll just be up to the fighters and promoters to do their part.

Hopefully, they’ll stop with all the building and instead provide confirmation that 2010 was indeed a year of rebuilding.

RASKIN’S RANTS

ÔÇó One additional note on the ongoing will-they-or-won’t-they situation with the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight: I hope both fighters, their promoters, their advisers and everyone else who profits from boxing and has a role in potentially making this fight happen was watching those clips of Cleveland fans burning LeBron James’ jersey last Thursday night. Boxing fans will feel similarly duped, betrayed and downright screwed if this fight again falls apart.

ÔÇó Maybe we could get Dwyane Wade to take over the Pacquiao-Mayweather negotiations. Clearly, Wade is rather skilled at the art of persuasion.

ÔÇó Juan Manuel Lopez-Bernabe Concepcion was over way too quickly to give us that legitimate Fight of the Year contender we’ve been looking for, but at least it gave us a strong candidate for Round of the Year. That fight was the very definition of “fun while it lasted.”

ÔÇó By the way, with Lopez’s knockout victory, my Quick Picks competition with Bill Dettloff on Ring Theory is all tied up at 84 points apiece. Bill and I never established what was at stake in the competition, and I certainly wasn’t about to place any kind of an even-money bet when I was several points behind, but now that it’s a dead heat, I’m taking suggestionsfor a fun humiliation bet. (And unlike a certain press row pal who vowed to shave his head on live TV and then looked for a loophole to back out, we’ll follow through on whatever penalty we agree to.)

ÔÇó Glass half full: What a delight to see Nonito Donaire, likely one of the five best fighters in the world right now, performing on Showtime instead of some small-scale pay-per-view. Glass half empty: What a shame he was in with an opponent he regarded so lightly that he viewed it as an opportunity for experimentation.

ÔÇó For what it’s worth, I think this coming Friday’s ShoBox card is, on paper, one of the very best in the nine-year history of the show.

ÔÇó Just curious: Are there any fighters from Providence who aren’t known as “The Pride of Providence”? How much pride can one city have to spread around?

ÔÇó You know a guy is badly hurt when he gets drilled, goes down and gets up claiming it was a slip, as Hank Lundy did in the eighth round on Friday night against John Molina. If that was a slip, then Mike Jones knocked out Irving Garcia with a right hand to the temple.

ÔÇó I like the fact that Matt Godfrey gave us a “clich├® alert” before saying on Friday Night Fights that “it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.” Not all borderline top-10 cruiserweights who provide studio analysis on FNF are thoughtful enough to offer that alert. Then again, I suppose it would get a bit tiresome if you had to hear “clich├® alert” before every sentence.

Eric Raskin can be reached at [email protected] You can read his articles each month in THE RING magazine and follow him on Twitter @EricRaskin.

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