One of the many casualties that the sport of Boxing has faced in the year 2020 due largely to the ongoing COVID-19 global epidemic has been a noticeable absence of marquee bouts that would normally be a fixture on the Boxing calendar under normal circumstances. While this has been due to a variety of reasons not necessarily limited to the COVID-19 virus, it has unfortunately left the sport open to criticism from some due to a perceived lack of quality in the cards that have been presented by a small fraction of promoters who are fortunate enough to be active during this unprecedented time.
On September 26th, the eyes of the Boxing world will focus on the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT where an intriguing card headlined by two twin brothers, who are each rising stars in the sport will take place. This observer is referring to the card that will be headlined by Jermell and Jermall Charlo in separate bouts. A card that will be presented on traditional cable/satellite pay-per-view in the United States and Canada by Showtime Pay-Per-View.
Although much of the attention regarding this card has centered on the fact that it will be shown via pay-per-view, I believe it is fair to discuss the two headline bouts in detail before discussing the various business aspects involved. In the main event, Jermell Charlo will put his WBC Jr. Middleweight world championship on the line against unified WBA/IBF Jr. Middleweight world champion Jeison Rosario in a unification bout scheduled for twelve rounds. This could well be a candidate for Fight of the Year honors of what has been a frustrating 2020 for all.
It is a fight that much like the upcoming Lightweight unification bout between undefeated world champions Vasyl Lomachenko and Teofimo Lopez will have the unique distinction of taking place behind closed doors in a fan-less environment. Normally when discussing a fight of this magnitude, an aspect that would almost certainly come up amongst fans and experts alike would center on how the fighters would deal with what most would associate as the “Big Fight Atmosphere” with a sold out crowd being very much involved in the equation.
Obviously due to the COVID-19 epidemic, this fight will take place under unique circumstances and those circumstances will be front and center in what will be the biggest fight in each fighter’s career. As has been the case with virtually every bout that has taken place since Boxing began trying to resume in June, the central question of not only this fight, but also the second fight that will be co-headlining this doubleheader will center on how the fighters have prepared for battle with COVID-19 overshadowing everything.
While some fans may not think much of this, it is important to keep in mind that it can be stressful for a fighter to prepare for a fight under normal conditions, when you throw in the constant uncertainty and the element of not knowing whether a fight will take place as scheduled, it has to be stressful.
In terms of bow this fight shapes up on paper, both Charlo and Rosario have registered career knockout percentage of over 50%. While this statistic suggests that both fighters are capable of getting an opponent out of there should the opportunity present itself, this is a fight between two boxer/punchers and both fighters have a solid skill set. While anything can happen when two fighters enter the ring, I believe this could be a closely fought tactical battle between two seemingly evenly matched combatants and it might come down to who can be more effective in executing their offense in what could wind up being a close fight on the scorecards if it goes the distance.
Charlo avenged his lone career defeat in his last fight in regaining the WBC Jr. Middleweight world championship in stopping Tony Harrison in eleven rounds in what was a back and forth battle in December of last year. Rosario meanwhile, also won his unified portion of the Jr. Middleweight world championship by scoring a fifth round knockout over Julian Williams in January of this year.
Although it is not necessarily common to see two world champions immediately positioned against each other in a unification bout so soon after each winning their portion of a world championship, it has been done when the sport has seen world champions participate in a unification tournament concept like the current World Boxing Super Series tournaments (WBSS) or the successful Super-Six World Boxing Classic Super-Middleweight tournament that occurred a decade ago, to name a few. One must keep in mind however, that the sport much as the rest of the world is dealing with an unprecedented situation and an argument could be made that a unification bout like this is the type of fight that needed to be made if the promoters promoting the event, in this case the Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) group of promoters, and the main broadcaster Showtime insisted on presenting this card as a traditional pay-per-view event under circumstances of an ongoing epidemic.
While such a decision will be discussed more later in this column, the second half of the doubleheader has just as much intrigue as the unification bout that will close the evening. I speak of course of the battle for interim/regular champion status in the World Boxing Council (WBC) Middleweight ratings between undefeated top contender and former IBF Jr. Middeweight world champion Jermall Charlo and two-time former world title challenger Sergiy Derevyanchenko in a bout scheduled for twelve rounds.
In an effort to explain why this fight is for what amounts to an interim designation in the WBC Middleweight ratings as opposed to the WBC world championship in the 160lb. Middleweight division for a reader who might be confused, the short version is the WBC has designated current WBC world champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez as a “Franchise Champion “ due to Alvarez’ opting to fight between the 160lb. Middleweight division and the 175lb. Light-Heavyweight division in his recent fights where opportunities have been lucrative. Even though the political aspects of the sport would be worthy of a column in its own right to try to explain it more thoroughly, this is why an interim championship designation, currently held by Jermall Charlo, the current WBC mandatory challenger in the Middleweight division will be on the line in this bout.
The bout between Charlo and Derevyanchenko does however, bring together two of the top Middleweights in the world for what is likely to be a competitive bout as well as an interesting clash of styles. In his last bout, Jermall Charlo stopped a very “Game” Dennis Hogan in seven rounds in December of last year. Derevyanchenko meanwhile is coming off a hard-fought loss in his last fight when he challenged for the then vacant IBF Middleweight world championship in losing a twelve round unanimous decision to Gennady Golovkin in October of last year.
Much like the other half of this doubleheader, both Charlo and Derevyanchenko have career knockout percentages of over 60%, with Charlo registering a percentage of nearly 74% having scored knockouts in twenty-three of his thirty career win compared to Derevyanchenko’s ten out of thirteen career wins. Although in terms of overall time in the ring as a professional, the statistics favor Jermall Charlo, it is important to keep in mind that Derevyanchenko’s two career defeats came in world championship bouts, which there was a healthy debate as to who won each of those fights. While Charlo may have more career bouts under his belt going into this encounter, Derevyanchenko certainly has recent big fight experience in dropping close decisions to both Daniel Jacobs and most recently, Gennady Golovkin.
When discussing a fighter with only fifteen bouts in their career prior to a fight like this, it is normal to wonder if it is too much, too soon. In Derevyanchenko’s case, this is not one of those scenarios as not only did he hold his own against both Jacobs and Golovkin, but he also has an extensive amateur background including representing Ukraine in the 2008 Olympics.
As some may recall in his last fight against Gennady Golovkin, a fighter known simply to many fans as “GGG”, there were some that did not give Derevyanchenko a chance against a fighter who had carved out a reputation as a “Knockout Artist” such as Golovkin. Derevyanchenko however, was able to weather an early storm by Golovkin in overcoming a knockdown in the first round as well as a bad cut over the right eye early in the fight to make it an extremely competitive battle that some feel he should have won.
In thinking of how this fight might shape up once the two fighters are in the ring, this observer decided to do some extensive film study of each fighter’s last outings. Although Derevyanchenko came out on the losing end against Golovkin, it is indisputable the success he was able to have in a fight, particularly in the middle and late rounds where he was able to push Golovkin back, hurt him, and do significant damage via body punching.
As this fight approaches, I feel that it is crucial for Derevyanchenko to implement a body attack on Charlo. Why do I feel this way? Not only is a consistent body attack one of the most effective strategies that a fighter can implement, but if it is done from the outset, it can play a crucial role in the scoring of a fight if it is a closely fought bout as Derevyanchenko’s fight with Golovkin was. One might argue that what led to Derevyanchenko’s downfall in that fight, was largely based on the knockdown he suffered in the first round as well as losing most of the early rounds, which put him at a deficit right out of the gate.
While the styles of Gennady Golovkin and Jermall Charlo are different, in Charlo’s last fight, he had difficulty in slowing down Dennis Hogan, who was able to execute an attack in short bursts of offense to the body and head of Charlo in the early rounds. In some ways, Hogan’s approach was similar to how Derevyanchenko approached his attack on Golovkin. The one difference between the two was Hogan used a lot of lateral movement to try and evade Charlo as he came forward whereas Derevyanchenko was willing to engage with Golovkin on the inside and did seem to get the better of some key exchanges as the fight progressed.
In terms of the circumstances odds as this fight approaches, it would appear as though many are expecting this to be one of the more stern tests of Charlo’s career based on current estimates courtesy of Sports Betting Dime “At just 13-2 in his pro career, casual boxing fans may look at Derevyanchenko as a speed bump for the undefeated Charlo. But his two losses were in title fights against Daniel Jacobs and GGG, the former by split decision. Charlo has never faced anyone on that level, which is why oddsmakers opened this fight around -130/+100, only slightly favoring the American. These odds are can differ depending on which one of these sports betting websites you select from, having a top five list certainly speeds up the process.”
The odds appear to indicate that the potential of a close and competitive fight certainly exists. It is important to keep in mind anything can happen. Although Derevyanchenko is a dangerous opponent for anyone in the 160lb. Middleweight division in this observer’s eyes, one could also question what the fight with Gennady Golovkin took out of him as it was a grueling battle. We are likely to get an answer to that question as this fight progresses.
While this doubleheader is being marketed as two pay-per-view cards in one as each half of the doubleheader will headline it’s own portion of a card that features six bouts total, the decision to put this card on pay-per-view has been met with criticism by many fans and experts, including this one. The criticism has nothing to do with the fights that are being presented or the fighters themselves, but rather the decision by Showtime and the PBC group of promoters to put it on pay-per-view in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic, particularly the price point of $74.95.
Longtime readers know that yours truly has long been critical of the traditional pay-per-view model as I have frequently called it an overpriced, outdated, and undervalued model in terms of what is offered to the consumer for what has been an increased price tag over the years.
As technology has evolved and digital streaming networks such as DAZN and ESPN+ have entered the market and provided an economically reasonable alternative to the pay-per-view model, the model has continued to underperform with rare exceptions. As the cable/satellite industry continues to decline in losing pay-TV subscribers, which has not been helped by the current epidemic, one could realistically ask what any pay-per-view attraction will generate in terms of revenue, which is perhaps as compelling a question as anything that might happen in the ring regardless of who is on the card under the circumstances.
In thinking of what Showtime and the PBC could have done to ensure more eyes had the opportunity to see what they will present on September 26th, I immediately thought of two alternatives, YouTube and CBS All Access. Both streaming platforms with a sizable user/subscriber-base.
One, YouTube, has been used occasionally by both Boxing and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) promoters as a pay-per-view platform offering users the chance to see a card at a reasonable price point. CBS All Access meanwhile is owned by ViacomCBS, the same media conglomerate, which owns Showtime networks that had over four million subscribers as of February 2019, would appear to have been a viable alternative to the pay-per-view model in this case, especially if the card were marketed across both traditional and online digital platforms as a way to increase subscribers. Although an argument could be made that YouTube has a wider global reach and could theoretically ensure a more significant return even as a reasonably priced pay-per-view attraction, with CBS All Access heading towards a rebranding to Paramount+, which will include additional content from all ViacomCBS owned networks including Showtime in early 2021, I believe an opportunity to increase subscribers was missed here.
With the PBC group of promoters planning at least two more pay-per-view events between its TV partners Showtime and Fox Sports in the remainder of 2020 after this card, how successful those attractions might be could potentially be gaged by how successful this doubleheader is able to do in terms of buys. In comparison, the one fight that many would argue would be a pay-per-view attraction outside of those events or those that will be streamed on DAZN’s exclusive global platform in the coming months, the Lightweight unification bout between Vasyl Lomachenko and Teofimo Lopez in October will not be on pay-per-view, will not be on ESPN’s ESPN+ digital subscription network with a sizable subscriber-base, but will instead be made available on ESPN’s main network across cable/satellite and live TV streaming platforms.
While the decision to air the Lomachenko-Lopez bout should not be viewed as it not being a viable fight or attraction, much like this doubleheader, the decision to air the card on ESPN is a clear response to the ongoing conditions caused by the COVID-19 epidemic. While all three of these fights are likely to be competitive as well as have solid undercard bouts, it would be a shame if this doubleheader does not produce the types of numbers it could have had it been presented on another platform. It would be an even bigger shame if two fights, which each could be Fight of the Year candidates were more remembered for what could be a “Bad Business Decision” rather than what takes place in the ring.
“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”
Charlo vs. Derevyanchenko / Charlo vs. Rosario takes place on Saturday, September 26th at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT. The card can be seen in the United States and Canada on cable/satellite pay-per-view on Showtime Pay-Per-View for $74.95. Contact your cable/satellite provider for ordering information. Check your local listings internationally.
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