4 Takeaways from Top Rank Boxing on ESPN Card
Immediately following the savage bloodbath that was Dustin Poirier vs. Dan Hooker in the main event of the UFC card on ESPN on Saturday night was another Top Rank on ESPN boxing event televised live from Mexico.
Arguably the top boxing promotional company in the world, Top Rank pulled virtually the same move the previous weekend—and it's not a bad idea assuming one has a big enough roster of action fighters to pull it off.
Miguel Berchelt certainly fits the bill. He's held the WBC super featherweight title since September 2017, and he had successfully defended it six times before Saturday. More important to the task of keeping combat sports fans engaged after Poirier vs. Hooker was over, Berchelt is one of the best offensive fighters in boxing.
Berchelt was skipping his next 130-pound title defense to make his 135-pound lightweight debut against compatriot Eleazar Valenzuela, and there was no doubt entering the fight that he is the type of fighter a boxing fan would want to show to a newcomer to highlight what makes the sweet science so special.
The WBC super featherweight champion blasted out Valenzuela in just six rounds. It was his 17th straight win, and 16 of those came by stoppage. Here are four takeaways from Saturday's action.
Boxing Needs More Title Unification Bouts
Boxing could use more title unification fights. That, or maybe there shouldn't be so many sanctioning bodies.
But since the latter seems like a long-settled issue, Berchelt's long reign as WBC super featherweight champion is a great example of why it's so important for boxing promoters to work together to get the best fighters to face each other.
The world champions in the division include Berchelt (WBC), Jamel Herring (WBO), Joseph Diaz (IBF) and Leo Santa Cruz (WBA). Berchelt has the most total title defenses out of the four champs, but he hasn't yet faced any of his fellow titleholders to determine who's best.
The most maddening part is that both Berchelt and Herring are promoted by Top Rank. A title unification would be a great step for each fighter, but it always seems to be considered secondary to the company's plans.
Case in point? Berchelt seems headed toward a fight against former featherweight champion Oscar Valdez. That isn't a bad contest, but it's not the kind of thing that will help solidify him as the best 130-pounder in the sport.
Berchelt's Big Plans Should Move Forward Now
Berchelt has big plans for his future. According to Ben Baby of ESPN, he badly wants to be ready to face the winner of the upcoming lightweight unification bout between Vasyl Lomachenko and Teofimo Lopez.
That's one of the biggest fights that can be made, a contest that will crown the first undisputed lightweight champ in the sport since Pernell Whitaker accomplished the feat 30 years ago. Berchelt wants to fight the winner over all other possibilities, even if that means skipping out on Top Rank's plan for him to face Valdez next.
Look, Berchelt-Valdez is a solid scrap, and it's likely to be the next fight. But Berchelt's big plans for huge fights against top stars can start with Valdez and go on from there.
He's long been one of the best titleholders in boxing. It's time to set him loose against the best competition around.
Stay-Busy Boxing Matches Aren't Good for the Sport
In his preview of the fight, ESPN's Steve Kim called Berchelt-Valenzuela a "classic stay-busy fight."
Heck, just about everyone on Twitter said the same thing. Even the ESPN crew calling the fights Saturday night (Joe Tessitore, Andre Ward and Tim Bradley) said it too.
But that's just code for a fight that everyone knows will be a one-sided beatdown.
While the Berchelt-Valenzuela main event could be excused because of the global pandemic, the truth of the matter is that such fights happen all the time because that's just how boxing works.
Or maybe it's better to say it's an example of how boxing doesn't work.
Because stay-busy fights like Berchelt-Valenzuela look ridiculous when offered up just a few minutes after five solid hours of UFC programming.
That company just gave the MMA world arguably the fight of the year in Poirier vs. Hooker.
Top Rank showed us a world champion against a guy who had no chance of winning the fight.
6 Judges? Let's Make It 7 and Make Boxing Better
Near the end of the opening bout, ESPN's Joe Tessitore casually mentioned that there would be six official judges for the evening, three scoring in-person from ringside like usual and three more scoring the fights from television monitors offsite.
Tessitore didn't go into the exact details about why that was happening, but Fight News suggested it was because health authorities in Mexico were seeking to limit the number of people at the event. Whatever the reason, it offered a chance to test out how scoring fights remotely works out before moving to that model for the foreseeable future during the pandemic.
But here's some food for thought: Why not just add more judges remotely anyway?
If there's one thing that plagues boxing over everything else it does wrong, it's that judges just can't seem to tab the winner often enough. Adding more judges could only help. That would mean there is a better chance, statistically speaking, that they would come up with the right winner.
And since we're changing the rules to suit boxing's best interests, let's just make it seven judges so we can limit the number of draws too.