The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Saturday Night

The Good
Rafael Garcia: The best thing about last night, in my eyes, was the fact there was a little bit of everything for fight fans. The non-title fight between Andy Lee and Peter Quillin at Barclays Center featured two strong punchers stuck in a Cold War, too aware of each other’s power to take on too much risk, but causing damage whenever they did land. The headliner in the same Brooklyn show, a catchweight bout between Danny Garcia and Lamont Peterson was actually two fights: the first half saw Peterson trying to outbox a stalking Garcia, while the second half saw Peterson put a beating on the lineal super-lightweight champ. Fittingly, it was a match marred by controversy, since this was so from its inception due to the catchweight issue.

But the best fight of the night wasn’t aired on NBC or on any other American network. It was an independent PPV broadcast that took place in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where super featherweights Orlando “Siri” Salido and Rocky Martinez added yet another thrilling chapter to the famed Mexico vs Puerto Rico rivalry. A grueling war of attrition featuring two knockdowns, multiple low blows and enough violent exchanges to raise your blood pressure by a dozen points, Salido vs Martinez easily stole the thunder from Al Haymon’s NBC show, at least for those lucky enough to find a way to see it.

Salido Martinez
Salido and Martinez fought a thrilling war last night in Puerto Rico.

Eliott McCormick: Last night’s PBC broadcast was a decent two-fight set on paper, and though there were some slow and frustrating moments I didn’t come away disappointed. With the exception of Sugar Ray Leonard, NBC’s broadcast improved from the first telecast. Marv Albert still made some basic mistakes but he appeared less impaired than a few weeks ago. BJ Flores offered actual analysis in contrast to SRL’s inane banalities. He’s an asset and should be given more air time.

I appreciated the historical component NBC introduced at the beginning but I don’t think young fans will be won by appealing to nostalgia, as the broadcast did when American sports broadcasting titans Al Michaels, Marv Albert, and the gravitas-providing Bob Costas talked about growing up with boxing in New York. The sport’s history is fabulous and appeals to those of us with affinities for its origins. But for those audience members who want a freshly branded version of a sport with some historically bad associations, and for those who merely want to see a fight, I think they should be cautious not to trap boxing in its past.

There were stretches in both fights where the action brought fans out of their seats. As you pointed out, there was much caution in the Lee vs Quillin bout, which didn’t turn into the firefight some of us thought it might. Quillin was so fearful of getting countered by Lee’s right hook that he fought at a distance, and by doing so, nullified the Irishman’s aggression. Lee doesn’t have the sharp combination-punching skills to set up his best punch without it coming during a frenetic exchange, so the possibility of him knocking Quillin out was small. I don’t have a problem with that fight resulting in a tie, though, and I would watch a rematch.

The Bad
EM – The bad was, unquestionably, the commentating of Sugar Ray Leonard, who marred the broadcast with his platitudinous “I’m really impressed” nonsense. Again, if boxing wants to reach new fans, why is NBC giving air time to someone who clearly knows very little about the fighters he’s paid to commentate on? His presence (along with that of Marv Albert) is counterintuitive to PBC’s presumed wish to give boxing a fresh start on network television. To reiterate, the creation of the PBC, in which boxing returns to big time cable television, is an acknowledgment of the sport’s historical failure in shifting to the premium network/pay per view model. If that’s true, and the creation of this series signals a new era, why does its packaging on television include old, tired voices? Marv Albert is a hall of fame broadcaster but his failings at announcing boxing are obvious, while Ray Leonard brings utterly no substance. He is afraid, or perhaps incapable, of saying anything critical, perhaps because his boxing skills were so preternatural that he never had to spend time thinking about them. His observations don’t even qualify as milquetoast because they’re not founded on tangible evidence.

Aside from some of the missteps on television (and depending on how you scored both fights), I don’t have many misgivings about the last night’s card. The catchweight bullshit in the Garcia vs Peterson bout notwithstanding, the matchmaking was sharp and both fights had fine moments. It would be nice, if, in a two-and-a-half hour block, the PBC broadcast would show three fights instead of two, but I’m content to eat what’s on my plate for now.

No man is more impressed by the mundane than Sugar Ray.

RG – I’m going to use this space to say that many of the fighters featured on PBC so far have left a bad taste in fans’ mouths, and are messing up their chance to gain new fans through free TV. Adrien Broner stank up the joint against a very accommodating John Molina; Vanes Martirosyan and Jermell Charlo both put the audience to sleep instead of trying to do that to each other; and last night, for the better part of the first six rounds, Lamont Peterson threatened to ruin what on paper looked like a very intriguing matchup. Many are saying that he was trying, successfully, to outbox Garcia, but Peterson threw way too few punches and did way too much running during the first half of the fight, and that’s why I thought he gave away at least four of those rounds, maybe all six of them. With that in mind, I have no problem with the close decision win awarded to Garcia.

I can’t help but think the kind of apathetic performances I’ve referred to are not doing Haymon or PBC any favours in attracting the interest of whatever non-boxing fans stumble unto a PBC broadcast. Of course there is more to boxing than knockouts and every hardcore fight fan knows this, but if casual fans are going to be swayed into buying what PBC is selling, we’re going to have to see a few of those on free TV. It wouldn’t be fair to blame Haymon for the way these bouts are playing out, but I wonder if there’s a way he can nudge the fighters into taking more risks in the ring. The fighters themselves carry most of the blame for lackluster fights, and I believe no amount of proselytizing or aggrandizing from the broadcast team is going to turn a boring fight into an appealing one, especially in the eyes of new fans. Rewards are there for the taking for those who are bold enough to take more risks; hopefully the prizefighters who will take part in the upcoming PBC shows will figure that out.

The Ugly
RG – The ugliest thing on Saturday night may have been the very unexpected and very bitter stream of tweets from former three-division champion “Sugar” Shane Mosley. Maybe Mosley isn’t well acquainted with the cesspool of ill-founded opinions twitter can be, or maybe he just resents the fact he was born about 10 years too early to enjoy the Haymon-led boxing renaissance, but no matter the reason, these tweets definitely aren’t pretty: Slide2 Slide1 Slide4 Slide3

EM – Sugar Shane is no longer saccharine. And to think, he was once a cultural touchstone whose name got dropped by Foxy Brown…

Biggest Winner
EM – I don’t think anyone emerged from last night a clear winner, but Andy Lee once again proved his mettle, provided some entertaining moments, retained his title (because of Kid Chocolate’s corpulence), plus was celebrated in the arena and on our twitter timeline. Despite his limitations, with smart matchmaking and a concerted publicity effort by his team, Lee could become synonymous with this new age of cable television boxing. His personality, background, and fighting style epitomize what so many people love about the sport.

Unfortunately, Andy Lee didn’t win his fight outright, and no one came away from last night’s card with a renewed career. If the fighters ‘won’, they did so because of the increased exposure PBC brought them. There were no exceptional performances nor any spectacular moments. Perhaps, in the interest of providing more dramatic television, Haymon can incentivize knockouts with a monetary reward. The project is about building a bridge to the casual fan, after all, and on Saturday nights, when young men are gathered around television sets, drinking like prohibition begins the following day as they tell exaggerated stories of conquest, there is no more direct way to titillate their senses than with an emphatic stoppage.

Rocky Martinez
No fighter did more for his career last night than Rocky Martinez.

RG – For me, the biggest winner was Rocky Martinez, practically resurrecting his career with a career-best performance against “Siri” Salido, who stars in Fight of the Year candidates more often than Kim Kardashian shows her ass on the internet. As we speak, thousands of fight fans are emailing their friends a link to see the fight, a classic barn-burner with more action in it than all of PBC’s broadcasts so far combined. Martinez outboxed the rugged Mexican using lots of movement and sharp combinations. He also showed he has some pop, since he dropped Salido twice en route to a clear decision. Salido, as usual, relied on relentless aggression, lots of pressure, numberless combinations to the body, and the occasional low blow as he tried to wear down his opponent, but his advanced age, the two knockdowns, a point deduction for a low blow combined with Martinez’ commitment to his plan and incredible stamina, gave the Boricua a hard-won victory. A great fight, which became the highlight of the night for anyone who saw it, ended with Martinez acquiring a championship belt, which also grants him the chance to stage more big fights with home field advantage in a shallow super-featherweight division.

Biggest Loser
RG – The race for biggest loser is a dead heat between Danny Garcia and Peter Quillin. Even though I had “Swift” defeating Peterson by a couple of points or so, the truth is, once Peterson stopped impersonating a greyhound and actually pressed the action, he easily and consistently beat Danny to the punch, landing the harder shots and making Garcia look mediocre. Danny never hurt Peterson, he had trouble putting combinations together, and once the exchanges started occurring frequently, he invariably got the worst of it. He’s come a long way from the world-beater who outclassed Matthysse, and many fans believe he should’ve lost his undefeated status last night. The short of it is Danny has very little to salvage from last night, and he will definitely be looked at as an underdog if he climbs to welterweight where names like Keith Thurman and Marcos Maidana wait for a big money showdown the same way the Jurassic Park raptors awaited for the hammock to lower the cow that became their meal.

It’s a safe bet to say Quillin didn’t make the most of his PBC shot, and in fact completely blew it. Last year he vacated a title belt and walked away from a seven-figure payday because Al Haymon told him to do that. This Saturday, for a significantly smaller purse, he was supposed to regain that same belt from Andy Lee, but not only did he fail to earn the judges’ nod, he also failed to make weight on Friday, which means he wouldn’t have walked away with the title even if he’d won. The cherry on top of Chocolate’s weekend is that his failure at the scales also meant he had to give up a sizeable chunk of his purse as a penalty fee. All in all, not the best weekend for Kid Chocolate.

Was Garcia, who won on points, actually the night’s biggest loser?

EM – Despite his (questionable) points victory, I think Danny Garcia emerged the biggest loser. He’s on a bad three fight run, with two of his wins, over Herrera and now Peterson, coming by way of controversial decision, with the other being last summer’s disgrace against Salka. Garcia, who once appeared on the cover of The Ring with the title “The Winner”, is no longer winning conclusively. All of the goodwill he earned by beating Khan, Judah, and on the grandest of stages, Lucas Matthysse, is now gone, and his name is more associated with controversy than accomplishment. It certainly didn’t help last night when, after the fight, only Garcia’s battered face looked like it had been through a boxing match. In this sense he has become the poster boy for the Al Haymon stable, in which the thoroughbreds receive preferential treatment and little can be done to alter their predetermined tract.

In a pure boxing sense, Garcia looks increasingly vulnerable. He is a porous defensive fighter and can be somewhat neutralized if his opponents stay out of range and refuse to stand and trade. Garcia relies on his combination slugging, which ideally climaxes with his great left hook. Peterson took this weapon away yesterday and had Lamont been more active in the first six rounds he might have won comfortably. Afterwards Garcia talked about moving up to 147. I don’t think weight divisions will determine his success, whether positively or negatively, because his power should follow him. Rather, it is the quality of opposition that will trouble Garcia. He can be outboxed, and perhaps even outfoxed. If you don’t stand directly in front of him and are sufficiently skilled, “Swift” can be stymied.

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