Ranking the Most Lackluster Boxing Cards of 2014 So Far
I try to be a glass-half-full kind of guy. Life is full of opportunities for disappointment, so I believe it's a great strategy to look for the positive aspects in any situation or experience.
I have a particularly easy time doing this when it comes to watching boxing. I'm a fan of many different styles and can be absorbed by a tactical defensive battle just as I'm thrilled by a back-and-forth war.
But sometimes boxing matches just don't deliver what you expected them to. Other times, promoters present cards that aren't even compelling on face value.
There were positives to take away from all of the cards on this list. But as fans, we had hoped for more.
5. March 15: Danny Garcia vs. Mauricio Herrera/Deontay Wilder vs. Malik Scott
The main event on this card between Danny Garcia and Mauricio Herrera was not a bad fight. Viewed as a walkover opponent by many casual fans, Herrera staged a crafty and gutsy fight to make things extremely competitive.
But Garcia entered the fight as one of the sport's hottest young champions. In his previous bout, he had tamed the ferocious Lucas Matthysse. The coverage for this fight in the week prior focused on Garcia's debut in his parents' native Puerto Rico.
Herrera largely neutralized Garcia's famed left hook. The challenge also did a great job of controlling the tempo, which made him competitive but slowed down the fight at times. Tactically, it was interesting to watch but not exciting in the way that fans have come to expect from a Garcia fight.
The real letdown on this card was the heavyweight bout between Malik Scott and undefeated knockout artist Deontay Wilder. While not a big puncher, Scott is a very talented boxer and was expected to give Wilder his first taste of competition.
Instead, Wilder knocked out Scott early in the opening round by a left hook/straight right combination. The punches didn't even land solidly, and fans in the stadium booed loudly when the replay was shown.
Talk of a possible dive was rampant in the aftermath. I would never accuse a fighter of throwing a bout without proof, but I will say that Scott did not give the appearance of a fighter who was trying to win.
From wearing a bag over his head at the weigh-in to neglecting to throw a single punch while he camped out directly at the end of Wilder's reach, it was an embarrassing performance for such a gifted boxer.
4. April 12: Manny Pacquiao vs. Timothy Bradley II
For his own part, Manny Pacquiao turned in a strong effort in this rematch, avenging his split-decision loss from 2012, which was one of the most questionable decisions in recent years. But Timothy Bradley, who has usually been among the best-conditioned fighters in the sport, seemed to fatigue after the first third of the fight. As a result, the action the rest of the way was without tension or true excitement.
Bradley seemed intent early on in loading up heavy and going for the knockout. Perhaps that contributed to his fatigue. Perhaps the extra pressure he felt to justify his widely criticized win from 2012 contributed to an extra adrenaline dump.
Either way, it wasn't the fight fans expected or hoped for.
The undercard for this pay-per-view did feature a pretty good scrap for the vacant WBA "regular" light welterweight title between Jesse Vargas and Khabib Allakhverdiev. Lightweight contender Raymundo Beltran looked impressive against super featherweight Arash Usmanee, who was a late replacement.
But pay-per-views depend upon drawing more casual fans, and in general, the undercard was filled with fights that didn't interest those kinds of fans.
3. July 12: Saul Alvarez vs. Erislandy Lara
Like most fans, I had very high hopes for this fight. Saul Alvarez vs. Erislandy Lara was a meeting between the two top fighters in the light middleweight division, not counting Floyd Mayweather. Once again, the rising young superstar Alvarez was making it a point to take the toughest fight available to him.
Canelo pushed the action, but he had very little success catching up to the crafty Cuban and landing with significant punches. At times, he swung and missed wildly.
For his own part, Lara gave away entire rounds due to a lack of any meaningful offensive activity. I scored the fight 115-113 for Lara, but I can't bring myself to cry robbery on behalf of a fighter who spent so much of the night doing so little.
While I think it is reasonable that Canelo got the nod, judge Levi Martinez giving him nine rounds was an outrage. It's worth noting that in Alvarez's three biggest fights now (Austin Trout, Floyd Mayweather and Lara), a judge has handed Canelo a ridiculously lopsided card.
2. May 31: Nonito Donaire vs. Simpiwe Vetyeka
This fight in Macau looked like it had the potential to be truly compelling. Longtime star Nonito Donaire was moving up to chase yet another world title when he faced Simpiwe Vetyeka, who finally ended Chris John's undefeated streak last December. Vetyeka's WBA "super" world featherweight title was at stake, and the bout had the potential to be a true East-West showdown.
But Donaire suffered a bad cut above the eye on an accidental head-butt in the first round. A classic Donaire knockdown at the end of Round 4 put the Filipino-American slugger ahead in the scoring. The fight went to the cards in the fifth round, giving Donaire a five-round, technical decision.
It was a pretty anticlimactic way to see a title change hands. Vetyeka won the first two rounds and looked capable of hanging with Donaire. If there's any justice, Vetyeka will get a rematch.
But this is boxing, so don't count on there being any justice.
1. July 19: Macau China Card Featuring Guillermo Rigondeaux and Zou Shiming
I understand that it's hard to find worthy opponents for a champion like Guillermo Rigondeaux. In April 2013 he gave a boxing lesson to Nonito Donaire, who was then the top 122-pound fighter in the world and a pound-for-pound star.
Sometimes when you beat the best, it means there's not much left.
But I have a hard time believing Top Rank couldn't do better than Sod Kokietgym, who wasn't even on the radar in the world rankings. The guy was literally not even in the top 50 at super bantamweight.
Rigondeaux seemed to show what he thought of the mismatch when he quickly finished Kokietgym in Round 1. HBO didn't even show the fight in its delayed broadcast.
Of course, the main bout on the card from a promotional perspective was Zou Shiming vs. Luis de la Rosa. I can understand why Top Rank wants to open the Chinese market through Macau. And it makes sense to build it behind the Olympic star Shiming.
But Shiming isn't Vasyl Lomachenko, who was facing the likes of Orlando Salido in his second fight. De la Rosa was a perfectly credible opponent for a prospect who was making his 10-round debut in just his fifth fight, and Shiming did good work against him, beating him by unanimous decision.
But boxing fans don't shell out for HBO to watch 112-pound prospects win decisions against unknown journeymen, no matter how exotic the location of the fight.