Tuesday, March 29, 2022

End Of March 2022 Thoughts

 Originally, this column was intended to focus strictly on the landscape of the 126lb. Featherweight division that took a significant spotlight during the month of March in the sport of Boxing. Due to circumstances beyond this observer's control however, this column will be expanded to include some of the other events that took place during the last full week of March. This is due in part to technical issues that yours truly experienced during what was expected to be coverage of the RJJ Boxing card, which took place on Thursday, March 24th in Nayarit, Mexico. Unfortunately, due to those technical problems, coverage of that card will be limited to the following results.


In the opening bout of the card, which took place at the Palenque de la Expo, Lightweight Marco Moreno scored a four round unanimous decision over Jonathan Zuniga. Featherweight Hector Cruz scored a six round unanimous decision over Miguel Hernandez. Jr Lightweight Armando Almanza scored an eight round decision over Edgar Vargas. The lone stoppage on the card came when Light-Heavyweight Lester Martinez scored a fifth round stoppage of Jaime Lopez. Jr. Welterweight prospect Salvatore Tapia closed out the evening by earning an eight round split decision over Emiliano Cruz.


While not the usual type of coverage that the reader can expect here on The Boxing Truth® in a full Boxing card being summarized in one paragraph, hopefully such coverage will only be reserved for when circumstances unfortunately warrant it, which was the circumstances this time around. With the brief summary of the events that took place in Mexico on March 24th concluded, it is now time to discuss three specific bouts that took place on Saturday, March 26th. While the Featherweight landscape, the original intent of this column will instead serve as the conclusion, three other bouts took place on this particular evening that will be discussed, two of which, had a similar storyline that coincidentally took place on the same card.


This observer is referring to the card that took place at the new Resorts World Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, NV where two bouts that can be described as “Crossroads Fights” took place. First it was rising Jr. Welterweight prospect Josue Vargas, who was returning to the ring for the first time since suffering a first round stoppage loss in October of last year at the hands of top contender and former world title challenger Jose Zepeda.


For Vargas’ first bout back since that loss he faced Nicolas Demario in a scheduled eight round bout. Although this had all the appearance of a “Comeback Fight” in the sense that it was meant to be a way for a fighter in Vargas’ position to step back in after suffering a knockout loss, without being tested too much, the largely unknown Demario proved to be a more difficult opponent than some may have anticipated. For a large portion of this fight, Vargas was able to out work Demario, but Demario’s ability to catch Vargas with hard counter punches proved to provide a difficult test for a fighter coming off of a knockout loss.


It was Demario’s counter punching ability that led to a knockdown of Vargas in round five. There were also moments where Vargas ended up on the canvas that were not ruled knockdowns throughout the bout. This one knockdown as well as Demario having periodic moments throughout, did give an impression that he was competitive and in the fight in terms of having the potential to win it. It was later in the fifth round however, where Demario would do something that arguably should have resulted in a disqualification loss against him in biting Vargas on his shoulder resulting in a point deduction and subsequently nullified the potential advantage he would have had on the official scorecards.


While Vargas would be able to secure a victory in this bout via an eight round unanimous decision, the story that comes out of this fight is obviously biting incident in the fifth round. Although biting incidents in Boxing do not happen often, they have happened periodically throughout the sport’s history most notably in the mid-1990’s in two separate incidents that occurred in Boxing’s Heavyweight division. First the May 1995 encounter between Andrew Golota and Samson Po’uha where Golota bit Po’uha on the neck in the fourth round, which did not result in a point deduction or even a warning by Referee Eddie Cotton, who was out of position and did not see the foul occur, despite Po’uha telling the referee that he was bit. Video replays would confirm this, but Golota would ultimately stop Po’uha in the fifth round. Perhaps the most notable biting incident not just in that time period, but in the history of the sport occurred in June 1997 when in a highly anticipated rematch Mike Tyson bit Evander Holyfield on one of his ears. Referee Mills Lane deducted two points from Tyson in the third round of that fight when he bit Holyfield. It would be moments after the deduction when Tyson seemingly looking for a way out of the fight, would bite Holyfield a second time on the same ear resulting in immediate disqualification.


Although the Tyson-ear bite incident is still talked about and ridiculed to this day, it is the event that is almost automatically thought of whenever there is an instance where one fighter bites another during the course of a fight. Should Demario been disqualified for his biting foul? As someone who is as old school as they come, I believe the point deduction was appropriate only because rules and regulations as they stand dictate such protocols. Perhaps the various state athletic commissions, international regulatory boards, as well as the Association of Boxing Commissions (ABC) should revisit the issue of protocols when biting occurs and maybe indicate that biting, which was not even allowed in the early incarnation of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) where fights were fought essentially under a no holds barred format, should be grounds for automatic disqualification. As of now, a point deduction for a first offense of biting is the appropriate call under the rules, but obviously, the decision of how many points will be deducted will be the decision of the referee at the time a biting foul occurs until such time as the rules are changed. Both due to the biting incident in this fight as well as the difficulty Demario gave Vargas throughout, it was not the type of performance Vargas was likely looking for in his first fight coming off of a knockout loss, but he did what he had to do and got the victory.


The second bout that occurred at the Resorts World Hotel and Casino also featured a fighter looking to bounce back from a knockout loss.  In February of last year, Miguel Berchelt defended his WBC Jr. Lightweight world championship against Oscar Valdez in what was one of the more anticipated fights of the year. A fight in which Berchelt, a fighter known as one of the sport’s “Knockout Artists” suffered a brutal knockout loss at the hands of Valdez and the loss of his world championship. While it was known that Berchelt had recently recovered from a bout with the COVID-19 virus prior to that bout, he handled the defeat to Valdez with class and did not use that bout with COVID-19 as an arguing point for a performance in that fight in which he was not himself and Valdez simply took advantage of the opportunity and knocked him out in the tenth round after dropping Berchelt in rounds and nine before landing the blow that would immediately end the fight and send Berchelt to the hospital in the tenth round.


Although there is still much that is unknown about the COVID-19 virus and the long-term effects it could have on those who contract it, it was clear to me as I watched that bout that Berchelt was not the aggressive seek and destroy pressure fighter that he had built his reputation on. Whether that was due in part to his bout with the virus prior to that fight or simply it not being his night when he faced Valdez is something that no matter what Berchelt might say, will likely be debated amongst Boxing fans. As Berchelt prepared to make his comeback from that loss, he would do so in a new weight division in moving up five pounds from the 130lb. Jr. Lightweight division to the 135lb. Lightweight division to face Jeremia Nakathila.  Nakathila was taking a step up in class by fighting a fighter of Berchelt’s caliber in being a former world champion, but like Berchelt, Nakathila had established a reputation for being able to score quick knockouts in scoring knockouts of over 75% of his opponents in his twenty-two wins going into the bout. Nakathila had previously failed in attempting to step up in class when he lost to current WBO Jr. Lightweight world champion Shakur Stevenson via twelve round unanimous decision in June of last year as a Jr. Lightweight


The obvious question that I had in mind going into this fight was how would Miguel Berchelt look. To be more specific, the type of knockout he had suffered at the hands of Oscar Valdez was such that it could ruin a fighter both in terms of how that fighter approaches a fight and in terms of that fighter’s ability to take a punch going forward. Despite Berchelt having been stopped twice before prior to facing Valdez, it was a severe knockout and even though Berchelt had scored knockouts in thirty-four of his thirty-eight career wins registering a career knockout percentage of 82%, the severity of what had happened to him the last time he stepped into a ring to compete was something I personally could not ignore.


From the opening bell, Berchelt looked what is sometimes referred to within the sport as “Gun Shy.” In that he hesitated to throw punches. While I thought for a brief moment that perhaps he as a normally offense-first fighter was being more cautious in hesitating to let his hands go, it did not take long for that brief thought to be replace with concern for Berchelt’s well-being. To be frank, what I saw in this bout can be summed up in two words “Target Practice.” Nakathila established the distance in which the fight would be fought and quickly found at home for his right hand. Seemingly whenever he threw his right hand whether it was to the body or head, it connected. Nakathila also mixed in combinations, which kept Berchelt preoccupied with trying to defend rather than throwing punches. A knockdown would be scored by Nakathila in round three as a result of a double jab to the head of Berchelt.


Although the jab is the most elementary of punches, it is perhaps the most effective weapon in a fighter’s arsenal when executed properly. Despite doing his best and for a time holding up to the punishment he was sustaining, Berchelt had increasing difficulty maintaining his balance and his legs would shake even when he would miss a punch. With the fight increasingly going one way, Berchelt had what amounted to a last gasp in the fifth round when he momentarily stunned Nakathila with a left hook and finally opened up with an offensive burst.


In round six, Nakathila had regained control and after knocking Berchelt’s mouthpiece out and across the ring with a right hand, Referee Russell Mora took Berchelt to his corner to have the mouthpiece put back in, but did tell both the fighter and his corner that Berchelt needed to show him something. Three words that usually when uttered by a referee is an indication that the referee is close to stopping the fight. Although Berchelt would make it out of the sixth round, Mora would do exactly that after the round was over putting an end to six rounds of a mostly one-sided beating that Berchelt had suffered.


Even though no one can take anything away from Jeremia Nakathila’s performance in what was the biggest win of his career, as someone who always is concerned for a fighter’s long-term welfare, I was not thinking that I had just seen what could be a star-making performance by Jeremia Nakathila. I was instead thinking I could be seeing what should probably be the end of a fighter’s career.


It has become a habit of this observer to state on a regular basis that I have spent most of my life covering Boxing and by extension combat sports. While this has exposed me to just about everything that the sport of Boxing has to offer and can be seen, both good and bad, I often hesitate when making a statement on when a fighter should retire because I have never been in the ring and thus I understand how someone can question how I could say something like a fighter should retire because obviously, I have never been in a boxer’s position. As someone who has seen and covered fights on every level imaginable in the sport, a proud Boxing Lifer as I often say, I saw signs in this fight that have me concerned for Miguel Berchelt going forward.


Signs such as his ability to take a punch, also known as punch resistance, being significantly diminished in addition to obvious problems in being able to maintain his balance. Although I would very much like to dismiss what I saw by saying that a fighter had what I often refer to as a bad night at the office, I cannot. It is also important for me to state that I am not a medical doctor and I do not have a background in the medical field. Having said this and keeping in mind that Miguel Berchelt had to have passed all medical screenings required by the state of Nevada in order to be granted a license to compete against Jeremia Nakathila, I believe based on what I saw not only in this fight, but also his previous bout against Oscar Valdez that perhaps more testing might be required before Berchelt is allowed to box again. As for what type of testing, I will leave that to those who have a background far more than yours truly to analyze, but I believe Berchelt would be risking long-term damage if he were allowed to continue his career without further extensive medical testing based on what I observed in his previous two fights.


This is not a criticism of the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) or the current medical screening protocols, which are in place. For a sport that has already had enough tragedies throughout it’s history however, I would much rather see one prevented than seeing more extensive medical screenings/testing implemented in response to a tragedy that could be prevented.


Now, we come back to the subject that was originally intended for this column. The Featherweight landscape. Not so coincidentally in regard to that subject, March 26th featured a rematch for the IBF Featherweight world championship between two-division world champion Kiko Martinez and former IBF Featherweight world champion Josh Warrington. This was a role reversal from their first fight in May 2017 where Warrington, then an undefeated WBC regional champion defeated Martinez via twelve round split decision.


In the roller coaster world of Boxing, a lot can change in five years. Warrington went from an undefeated world champion to relinquishing his crown due to the various politics that surround the sport, to suffering his first defeat by a stoppage at the hands of Mauricio Lara, to having an inconclusive outcome in their rematch in September of last year. Martinez meanwhile, had become the definition of a grizzled veteran, who some might refer to as a gatekeeper, a term that this observer does not necessarily view as respectful, but more or less a fighter that was not expected by some to become a world champion again in his career.


Martinez proved those that had given him such a label wrong when he knocked out Kid Galahad in November of last year to win the IBF crown. Sometimes when a rematch takes place several years removed from the first encounter, you do not necessarily know what type of fight might occur when two fighters enter the ring to renew competition. The first fight between these two was very close and competitive where Warrington was able to edge Martinez out for the decision victory. Given the skillset and overall experience of both fighters, I felt, despite the near five years between the first fight and the rematch that we could see a tactical battle.


What we ended up seeing however, was a grueling battle where one fighter showed tremendous courage, while the other showed not only that, but also determination. It appeared as though this might have been a short rematch as Warrington dropped the champion hard in the first round with a hook to the head. To his credit, Martinez was able to get up and survive the round. As the fight progressed and Warrington continued to dish out punishment, Martinez would suffer three cuts over the course of about including two around his eyes and a gash on his forehand. The champion was able to weather the storm and was also able to find periodic success as the bout progressed including what was revealed in the days following the fight, breaking Warrington’s jaw during the fight. Despite the “Game” effort by Martinez, it would not be enough as Warrington would be able to stop him in the seventh round to regain his world championship.


As for what this will do for the landscape of the 126lb. Featherweight division, there are several possibilities that could await Warrington in his next bout. One possibility could be a third fight with Mauricio Lara after an accidental clash of heads led to a no contest in the rematch last September, a possible third fight with Martinez, or a potential encounter with Leigh Wood who is coming off a thrilling come from behind stoppage of previously undefeated Michael Conlan earlier this month. Wood currently holds an interim/regular championship designation in the World Boxing Association’s (WBA) Featherweight ratings. Current WBA world champion Leo Santa Cruz has not competed in the division in recent times, so there is an obvious possibility that Wood might be named WBA champion in the near future, which would open the possibility of a potential showdown with Warrington to be a unification bout.


 There is also the possibility that Wood, who came from behind in a fight he was losing on the scorecards to stop Conlan in the final round, could see a potential rematch with him before a possible showdown with Warrington. The fight, which ended in scary fashion with Conlan being knocked out of the ring and for a time out cold, was a very competitive and exciting fight and there should be interest in seeing a potential rematch between the two. Despite the knockout loss, Conlan, who was hospitalized for a time after the fight in a true fighter’s mentality expressed interest in a rematch the day after the fight took place.


For a division that has historically been one of Boxing’s most storied and most competitive weight classes, it appears some interesting times are ahead for the Featherweights, Who will emerge out of the pack to be considered the number one fighter in the division, which also includes WBC world champion Mark Magsayo, and WBO world champion Emanuel Navarrete as the current world champions in the division, remains to be seen.


“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”


The Boxing Truth® is a registered trademark of Beau Denison All Rights Reserved.


Follow Beau Denison on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Beau_Denison



Saturday, March 26, 2022

Upcoming Feature Update

 We would like to let our readers know that a feature is currently in the works that will discuss what occurred during the final full work of March in the world of Boxing as well as a look ahead to what will take place during the month of April that will be released on Tuesday, March 29th. In the interim, any content that has been sent for release from promoters, networks, and others involved in the sport of Boxing will continue to be made available to readers as they are sent in. Stay tuned.


“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”


The Boxing Truth® is a registered trademark of Beau Denison All Rights Reserved.


Follow Beau Denison on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Beau_Denison

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

RJJ Boxing 3/24/2022 Weights From Nayarit, Mexico

 The official weigh-in for Thursday’s Boxing card promoted by Roy Jones’ RJJ Boxing took place earlier today in Nayarit, Mexico. Weights for the entire card, which can be seen on digital subscription combat sports streaming network UFC Fight Pass are listed below.


Main Event: Jr. Welterweight – 8Rds.

Salvatore Tapia 141lbs. vs. Emiliano Cruz 140lbs.


Light-Heavyweight – 8Rds.

Lester Martinez 173lbs. vs. Jaime Lopez 175lbs.


Jr. Lightweight – 8Rds.

Edgar Vargas 132lbs. vs. Armando Almanza 132lbs.


Featherweight – 6Rds.

Hector Cruz 125lbs. vs. Victor Rodriguez 126lbs.


Lightweight – 4Rds.

Marco Moreno 136lbs. vs. Jonathan Zuniga 131lbs.


RJJ Boxing: Tapia vs. Cruz takes place tomorrow night (Thursday, March 24th) at the Palenque de la Expo in Nayarit, Mexico. The card can be seen globally on digital subscription combat sports streaming network UFC Fight Pass beginning at 10PM ET/7PM PT (U.S. Time.) For more information about UFC Fight Pass including schedules, list of compatible streaming devices, platforms, and Smart TVs, availability around the world, local start times in your area, and to subscribe please visit: www.UFCFightPass.com.


The Boxing Truth® is a registered trademark of Beau Denison All Rights Reserved.


Follow Beau Denison on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Beau_Denison

Jabs And Observations March 2022: Four Pay-Per-View Events In One Month, To Boxing’s Benefit?


Longtime readers know this observer's long-standing criticism of the pay-per-view model in the sport of Boxing. Of several recurring themes over a lifetime covering combat sports, it is perhaps the theme that I have written about the most. While it is something that has become repetitive by my own admission, it is something that unfortunately continues to be warranted both as a regular subject matter for yours truly as well as something that should be discussed by everyone who is involved with the sport whether they be fans, the fighters themselves, trainers, managers, promoters, broadcasters, commentators, and those of us who cover Boxing. With this in mind, I felt it appropriate to dedicate the March edition of the new monthly feature that was introduced in January as a way to frankly try to cover as much ground as I possibly can in regard to the action throughout the sport that I simply cannot cover as they are occurring, a departure from the first two editions of Jabs and Observations however will be that this month’s edition will be centered on one subject “Pay-Per-View.”


Recently, the news in regard to the pay-per-view model has centered on digital subscription-based sports streaming network DAZN choosing to implement what they insist will be an occasional use of the pay-per-view model due largely to the newest multi-fight agreement between the network and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, who returns to their network following a brief venture to premium cable network Showtime where he headlined a pay-per-view event against IBF Super-Middleweight world champion Caleb Plant, in which he completed his goal of fully unifying the Super-Middleweight division. While that event did between 400,000 and 800,000 buys at an $80 price point depending on where you read and who you choose to believe as Showtime and its parent company ViacomCBS, the recently rebranded Paramount does not release actual numbers, and keeping in mind that those “Guesstimates” as I call them are still better than the vast majority of pay-per-view events over the last several years, it is a far cry from the massive buy numbers in decades past that in some cases were in the millions for some of Boxing’s biggest bouts.


Although this should not be a reflection of both Alvarez’ standing in the sport or one of the overall commercial appeal of Boxing as a whole, the consistent dwindling buy numbers for most pay-per-view events are an indication of a much bigger problem the sport faces. It is a problem that I have repeatedly pointed out in various writings as a two-part issue. The first part is the price points for such events have gotten out of control over the last decade and one might even go as far as to say longer than that as most major pay-per-view Boxing events now begin at a $70 or above price point here in the United States, which differs significantly from international countries that offer the same events on a pay-per-view basis, but do so at a much more reasonable price point, in some cases under $30 to use the United Kingdom’s pay-per-view model as an example where most pay-per-view events are capped under that thirty dollar price point regardless of who is the main event attraction for such cards.


The second part of the problem is the mere frequency of pay-per-view Boxing events, which should not be blamed strictly on one network, but rather viewed as a wider scale problem. Simply put, the pay-per-view model in 2022 and in several years past is no longer reserved for the legitimate major events, but are used and basically admitted by those who rely on the model as a necessity to gain revenue. While I do sincerely hope that DAZN will stick to their word of using the model sparingly, unfortunately, they are not the only players who will be using the model and as such it creates a significant issue as to how well each respective card will do in terms of the bottom line buy numbers.


Beginning on April 16th, there will be four pay-per-view Boxing cards in the span of one month running through May 28th. While DAZN will only be responsible for one of those events, the May 7th card, which will be headlined by Saul Alvarez challenging undefeated WBA Light-Heavyweight world champion Dmitry Bivol for his world championship, the likelihood of all four events, which will be split between Showtime and ESPN outside of the one event DAZN is doing will likely be priced at, at least a $70 price point each here in the United States exists.


In the interest of honesty with the reader, I do periodically read the works of others who cover the sport, particularly when I am taking some needed downtime between covering cards and focusing on my own work. Recently, I read one blurb on one website that may have been a fan page that I randomly came across while browsing that listed the upcoming pay-per-view schedule for its readers and ended the content with three simple yet depressing words “Start Saving Now!”


For all of Boxing’s ills, what I often refer to as “Black Eyes” that give its critics more than enough justification to both criticize and mock the sport, I can honestly say as someone who has spent most of his life covering Boxing and by extension combat sports going back to when I was a youngster, I never thought I would see the day where I would observe a listing of a pay-per-view schedule with the conclusion imploring its readers to “Start Saving Now!” It is as much a reflection of the major problem Boxing faces from those who rely almost exclusively on the pay-per-view model to those who are in DAZN’s position in more or less admitting that they needed a pay-per-view component in addition to its subscription-based model, not because the subscription-based model is a failure, but because of pay-per-view being a tool to lure fighters that might otherwise not want to do business with their network, despite the declining state of the pay-per-view model. I can also honestly say to the reader that those three words “Start Saving Now!” put me in a state of depression. Both in terms of what the consumer will be asked to pay to see each respective card, but also as someone who truly has Boxing’s best interest at heart.


When one considers that we are now also in an era where novice “Celebrity” bouts and exhibition bouts now headline pay-per-view events at the same high price points as those events featuring main events where world championships are at stake, it should not be hard for one to understand why it depresses me as someone who wants to see Boxing not only grow, but thrive. I will also say in the interest of honesty that it troubles me to hear some whether they be fans, promoters, or network executives use the sentence “Boxing is a niche sport.” as justification for an over reliance on such a model. While fans are more than entitled to their point of view, in my experience when networks and promoters use that line, they do so when confronted with underwhelming returns on fights that they not only try to sell, but ones that under the original purpose of pay-per-view /Closed Circuit television would not be considered legitimate big fights, much less pay-per-view main events.


The one thing I will say is at least DAZN when announcing their newest agreement with Saul Alvarez were up front and honest about the pricing for the Bivol-Alvarez bout for both current DAZN subscribers as well as non-subscribers. Something that other networks and promoters often wait until the days before a pay-per-view card to announce. Although $59.99 for current DAZN subscribers and $79.99 for non-subscribers is still overpriced, hopefully, if the returns on Bivol-Alvarez do not meet a profitable number, the network will consider at least reducing the price for existing subscribers for their next pay-per-view offering. Another issue that will likely play a factor in that decision process is the scheduling of the other non-DAZN pay-per-view events that will be scheduled around the May 7th Bivol-Alvarez card, which will likely affect the overall buys in addition to the price point for both current and non-subscribers of DAZN.


As for the other three cards over the month’s span of time, let’s discuss each event. First, will be the April 16th Welterweight unification bout between undefeated WBC/IBF Welterweight world champion Errol Spence and WBA champion Yordenis Ugas, which will be broadcast on Showtime Pay-Per-View here in the United States. Although this will be a very interesting fight on paper that I frankly am looking forward to covering, one should question how successful this card will be not only in terms of buys given what is likely to be a $70 or above price point, but also the remaining events in such a narrow timeframe. While this figures to be a good fight, which might have quite a bit of action based on the two fighters' styles, it is also important to note that this will be Yordenis Ugas’ second time as a pay-per-view main eventer after stepping in on short notice in August of last year and successfully defending his title against future Hall of Famer Manny Pacquiao.


Even though there is no disputing Ugas’ skillset or the fact that he outboxed an aging legend who subsequently retired shortly after the fight, he has not been marketed as a pay-per-view attraction and perception in fans eyes might be that he defeated a legend that was at the end of his career in a fight that was not the most entertaining to watch. While Ugas cannot be and should not be blamed for promoters and networks reliance on the pay-per-view model, the perception some might have, could convince some to save their money and thus effect the overall buys.


The second card, which will be offered on a pay-per-view basis here in the United States will take place one week after the scheduled Spence-Ugas Welterweight unification bout when undefeated two-time Heavyweight world champion Tyson Fury makes the second defense of his WBC Heavyweight world championship against number one contender Dillian Whyte in the main event of a card that will be offered through digital subscription sports streaming network ESPN+. While ESPN’s direct to consumer streaming network ESPN+ has grown significantly since it’s inception here in the United States in 2018, the periodic times they have dabbled in pay-per-view outside of their agreement as the exclusive pay-per-view platform for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) MMA pay-per-view events, have been underwhelming. Although again, this can be attributed to the price points for the handful of Boxing pay-per-view events that the network and its parent company Disney have offered through ESPN+, much like DAZN, subscribers have seen a greater value in terms of content offered as part of either a monthly or annual subscription and have not been as willing to pay expensive fees on a per card basis as a result.


In regard to the Fury-Whyte pay-per-view offering, the card will be taking place in London, England at Wembley Stadium and while the pay-per-view event will likely do significantly more buys in the United Kingdom through broadcast platform BT Box Office at a lower price point compared to here in America, the challenge for both the promoters of the bout as well as ESPN/Disney here will be to get a decent amount of buys at a higher price point for a Boxing card that will air during the afternoon hours on the east coast and late morning/early afternoon on the west coast stateside. Though not impossible depending on the sporting event to draw a big viewing audience during daytime hours, both Fury and Whyte are bigger stars in the United Kingdom, despite Fury’s two victories on pay-per-view here in America over Deontay Wilder. The three pay-per-view bouts between Fury and Wilder did produce varying results in terms of buys, but the second and third bouts in which Fury was victorious produced underwhelming numbers.


While not a reflection of how competitive those fights were or Fury’s standing in the sport, one can question whether the selling point of a fight being for a version of the World Heavyweight championship alone will be enough to convince consumers here in the U.S. to buy the event. Given that the buy numbers will likely be impacted in some way by the afternoon start time here in the United States, and despite ESPN's best efforts to market that as a positive given that many main events on pay-per-view typically do not begin until at least midnight for those events that take place during the evening hours, one might wonder if this event would do better numbers if it were included with an ESPN+ subscription, not unlike several international cards that are carried on pay-per-view in the countries where they are taking place, but broadcast stateside on either a digital subscription-based streaming network or on traditional television.


The third pay-per-view card, which will take place outside of the DAZN Bivol-Alvarez pay-per-view event on May 7th will occur later in the month of May with the rescheduled Lightweight bout between undefeated former world champion Gervonta Davis meets undefeated contender Rolando Romero at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY in the main event of a card broadcast by Showtime Pay-Per-View here in the United States.


A bout that was originally scheduled for December of last year, but was changed when Romero had to withdraw from the fight due to issues outside of the ring. The bout, which was scheduled to headline a Showtime Pay-Per-View event, went forward with Isaac Cruz stepping in to face Davis. Although that was a competitive fight, the event did not perform well on pay-per-view as it was scheduled in between a slew of pay-per-view cards from October through December of last year, not unlike the position that this rescheduled event will find itself in. Unlike the previous two events discussed, this fight will not feature a world championship at stake, but will be for an interim/regular championship designation in the World Boxing Association’s (WBA) Lightweight ratings.


The politics that be in the sport, which are just as problematic as the over reliance on the pay-per-view model aside, and keeping in mind that it has little to do with what could be a good fight between two unbeaten boxers, the fact that this event like this previous two will likely be priced at $70 or above without a world championship being at stake or the fighters involved being household names in the sense of their name recognition being enough to draw significant interest particularly amongst the casual sports fan, should indicate how the standard of Pay-Per-View being reserved only for the legitimate special events is not necessarily applied by promoters and networks in 2022 and frankly has not been for some time.


A more crucial illustration of the flaw in relying on an outdated model can be reflected in the total cost that one could be expected to pay for all four of these events. If one were to exclude the slight wrinkle in regard to DAZN's pricing structure in offering a slightly reduced price for current DAZN subscribers for the Bivol-Alvarez bout, assuming that each of the other events are priced at a $74.99 price point to go with the $79.99 price point that Bivol-Alvarez will be priced for non-DAZN subscribers, one will arrive at an estimated total cost of $304.96 not counting taxes and other applicable fees.


Now, the reader is probably asking what my point is by giving that total cost estimate for four pay-per-view Boxing cards. When one factors in the amount of Boxing content that is offered under subscription-based models that come to a fraction of that cost even on an annual or monthly subscription plan, it does not take one who is an expert in the financial industry to see the flaw in the pay-per-view model. One should also keep in mind that Boxing is really the only sport outside of the UFC Mixed Martial Arts promotion that relies heavily on such a model.


To put things in perspective, currently here in the United States, the sports world is in the midst of the NCAA College Basketball tournament. A tournament that even if one does not follow College Basketball regularly during its season draws significant interest amongst even the most casual sports fans. The tournament run known as March Madness draws significant television ratings for the networks that broadcast the games. It was not long ago during the period where the cable/satellite pay-TV industry was in much stronger shape prior to the advent of digital streaming that the NCAA offered an out of market package for both it’s basketball and College Football seasons, which were offered under ESPN branding through cable and satellite providers. While those packages did succeed for several years, as technology evolved, those packages eventually gave way for content that would be offered as part of those cable/satellite packages to be offered as part of a digital subscription streaming option where a subscriber has access to much more content as well as other sports included with their subscription. While professional sports are gradually adapting a similar approach as evidenced in the National Hockey League’s (NHL) recent agreement with ESPN to make their standalone out of market streaming package available as part of an ESPN+ subscription, the biggest games and playoff games are still made available to a wider audience without such a pay wall structure as pay-per-view. Just imagine the backlash the NCAA or professional sports leagues would incur if playoff games, college Bowl games, and the ongoing NCAA College Basketball tournament were only made available on a pay-per-view basis and on a per game basis on top of that. It would be something that those running those respective leagues/organizations would find it very difficult, if not outright impossible to survive.


For Boxing, there is no real benefit by continuing to rely on such a model because not only does the economics no longer benefit the consumer, but by pricing such events so high, it limits the potential audience as well as the potential to expose the sport to new eyes. Although this should be obvious to anyone with an objective view, the question is how can it be fixed to benefit Boxing and the fans that support the sport?


This observer believes strongly in the subscription-based models that have been established by both DAZN and ESPN+ and if I felt that both dipping their toes into the pay-per-view model even on an occasional basis would serve the networks and the sport well, I would say so. Although as I have said in previous columns regarding the pay-per-view subject that some have expressed to me that the root cause of the pay-per-view problem is that fighters are simply being guaranteed so much money that it makes the model a necessity, I am against the idea that a fighter’s pay should be reduced. The bottom line is a fighter’s career can end at any moment each and every time they compete as they are risking their lives. It is therefore important for a fighter to be able to make as much money as they can while they can, but for those around them to also share in the responsibility of preparing the fighter not only for competition, but also for life after Boxing in trying to ensure that a fighter’s earnings will be able to sustain them and grow when their careers are over.


What I am instead referring to is the need for those who rely on the pay-per-view model, promoters and networks to look for alternative sources of revenue. The types of revenue that would essentially allow the revenue that is hoped for by the pay-per-view model, but rarely achieved to be replaced, but at the same time opening up the opportunity to watch the sport and it’s biggest events to a much wider audience regardless of one’s economic standing. It should also not be overlooked that there are those who instead of paying such high pay-per-view fees openly seek streaming events via a third-party website, which is not something that will go away by doing more pay-per-view events. With honesty again being at the core between yours truly and the reader, I cannot put a number on how many times readers and others used to reach out to me via social media and other forms of communication to ask me if I knew of any third-party streaming websites that would be showing pay-per-view events in the days preceding the advent of digital subscription-based streaming networks like DAZN and ESPN+. While I always have said that I would not be a party to such requests and that the best way to view such events would be the legal way of purchasing the events via pay-per-view, it does speak to the problem that Boxing as a whole has not been able to solve.


In regard to seeking other forms of revenue that could replace the pay-per-view model and open up the sport to new eyes, I believe an obvious source would be something that major sports leagues such as the National Football League (NFL) and Major League Baseball (MLB) have used to great effectiveness. Advertising/Sponsorships. You need look no further than the recently concluded NFL playoffs to see what type of audience numbers can be possible by opening up access to the sport without a pay wall structure. How does the NFL and other sports leagues earn revenue beyond the lucrative broadcast agreements with networks and the respective out of market packages on cable/satellite and streaming? Advertising. 


Even as those standalone out of market packages appear to be heading for inclusion with a subscription-based streaming network like what the NHL has done with ESPN, there is still an advertising component. Those who regularly watch Boxing coverage on either DAZN or ESPN+ will likely see advertisements aired either between rounds of bouts or prior to bouts themselves. All of which are revenue generators. Now, some might ask well it might work out for the promoters and networks to turn to advertising, but how would it benefit the fighters who still think, despite evidence that pay-per-view is still the way to go? When I was growing up in the 1980’s and even into the 1990’s, it was not uncommon to see some of the biggest stars in the sport on television and radio commercials as spokespeople for products, which in some cases earned those fighters more money than they would earn simply by relying on pay-per-view revenue or their purse for bouts alone.


With rare exceptions, we do not see boxers take part in commercials beyond advertising their own bouts. This is something that should be openly sought by promoters, a fighter’s management and even networks as a way to not only give fighters an opportunity to earn more money, but also in doing so, market the sport to new eyes, while not relying on a pay wall structure that is pay-per-view to draw revenue. Although much was made of the now severed guaranteed contract between DAZN and Saul Alvarez, that was for eleven fights and $365 million to see his bouts be aired exclusively through DAZN’s subscription model without pay-per-view, one aspect of that deal, which should be implemented is there were incentives for the fighter if certain subscription numbers were met.


This is something that all networks whether they be streaming or traditional television need to adapt. While DAZN in response to the backlash it has faced for adapting an occasional pay-per-view model has said that it was necessary to get Alvarez back on it’s network, I cannot see a network not at minimum setting a standard in saying if fighters insist on pay-per-view, we as the network expect x number of buys not as a break even point, but as a profit point to be met regardless of who that fighter will be competing against with failing to meet that point resulting in the network not being willing to do pay-per-view. Even though such a standard obviously puts more pressure on a fighter, it might be the only way to convince fighters that pay-per-view is not the guaranteed revenue generator that it was prior to the advent of subscription-based streaming.


Would fighters in Saul Alvarez’ position benefit more by being offered guaranteed contracts to fight under a subscription-based streaming model as Alvarez was for a time? Obviously, I think it would vary on a fighter by fighter basis, but if for example a fighter in Alvarez’ position were to fail to draw a buy number on pay-per-view that would be profitable for all involved, what would the alternative be? Step one would involve reducing pay-per-view prices to see if it is strictly the price point for such events that turn off consumers, but a more sensible approach would be to give a fighter a similar structure as Alvarez had in his initial agreement with DAZN in 2018 that would give a flat guarantee for x number of fights, but also implement incentives for meeting certain subscription numbers. It makes it more sensible for the consumer, but it also would put a fighter, a fighter’s management, and a fighter’s promoter in a position to aggressively market a subscription-based network such as DAZN in order to hopefully increase subscriber numbers. One aspect that you also do not see fighters doing much of in present day in addition to commercial advertising/sponsorships, is you do not see the elite fighters in the sport making the television talk show rounds on either late night or morning chat shows that you would see in years and decades past.


While some may not see the benefit of a star boxer making the talk show rounds, what is important about it from a marketing perspective is by doing so, it gets the attention of the casual viewer who may watch talk shows regularly, but might not watch Boxing and other sports beyond occasionally. Thus, by exposing the fighter to new eyes and promoting an upcoming bout as a result, it has the potential to increase the audience and if overpriced/inflated pay-per-view prices are not part of the equation to see those bouts and are replaced by reasonably priced subscription alternatives, the potential audience would likely increase as well as allow the fighters, the networks, and the promoters to earn more revenue by not only increased subscription numbers, but also by the implementation of advertising that would replace the pay-per-view model


All of this at the end of the day might seem like an overly optimistic viewpoint by yours truly, but the bottom line is these are the things that would benefit Boxing, its fans, and most importantly the fighters in the long-term than simply those who continue to rely on such an outdated model just putting events together and putting them on pay-per-view. Something needs to change and without those who think such a model is still beneficial coming to that realization, Boxing will continue to see underwhelming results as well as limiting the sport’s potential to grow. As a Boxing lifer, I want to see the sport thrive and that simply will not happen as long as those who continue to refuse to adapt stand in Boxing’s way. Four pay-per-view offerings likely totaling a $300 expense for a Boxing fan to view every card in one month’s span of time is evidence of preventing the sport’s growth. Anyone who truly has Boxing’s best interest should see that as unacceptable and should demand accountability not just for the sport itself, but for those who support it.


“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”


The Boxing Truth® is a registered trademark of Beau Denison All Rights Reserved.


Follow Beau Denison on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Beau_Denison




Monday, March 21, 2022

Thoughts On Berlanga-Rolls And Cobbs-Rocha

The evening of Saturday, March 19th in the world of Boxing was highlighted by two bouts in two different locations that arguably featured the same storyline. Two rising prospects in separate weight classes each facing their toughest opponents to date in their respective careers. Undefeated Super-Middleweight prospect Edgar Berlanga headlined a Boxing card at the Theater in Madison Square Garden where he faced Middleweight contender Steve Rolls in a scheduled ten round bout. For the twenty-four year old New York native Berlanga, a fighter who has quickly developed into one of the sport’s hottest prospects due to beginning his career with sixteen consecutive knockouts, this represented not only on paper what would be his toughest test, but also a significant step up in caliber of opposition against a fighter in Steve Rolls who had only lost one time previously in his career and that loss came at the hands of “Knockout Artist” Gennady Golovkin during the brief period of time where Golovkin was between two reigns atop the Middleweight division.  


Although Rolls would be stopped by Golovkin in the fourth round of their encounter in June 2019, he did give a good account of himself and was out Boxing Golovkin prior to the time where he was caught and subsequently stopped. In this case, the thirty-seven year old Rolls, a former United States Boxing Association (USBA) Middleweight champion, had a significant experience edge over Berlanga and one could say, despite Berlanga’s track record of scoring quick and often devastating knockouts, he is still a work in progress and not yet on the level of Golovkin, who was a former longtime world champion at the time when Rolls fought him.    


Despite a scenario that amounted to what is referred to as a home team advantage in team sports in favor of Berlanga as the crowd in attendance was heavily in his favor, Rolls succeeded in finding a way to take the atmosphere of the crowd out of the fight almost immediately. He did this by implementing a tactical strategy that had an emphasis on lateral movement, giving angles, and looking to take advantage of openings that the younger Berlanga might give him. What should also not be overlooked in terms of Rolls’ approach was the use of a consistent jab that varied in both the force in which it was thrown as well as how he would mix levels by jabbing to the head and body of Berlanga. 


While this strategy was not necessarily the most entertaining if you were one expecting a lot of action based on Berlanga’s having scored sixteen knockouts in his eighteen professional fights prior to this encounter, it was effective in taking an enthusiastic hometown crowd out of the fight. What it also did was in a way expose Berlanga’s strategy in that he seemingly had a headhunter mentality from the outset looking to walk Rolls down and try to end the fight with every punch he threw. Even though this gave the impression that Rolls may have been building a lead on the scorecards as the fight progressed, Berlanga still landed the harder, more effective punches when he did let his hands go including during an exchange of right hands in the fifth round where he was able to avoid Rolls’ right hand while landing his own, which seemed to momentarily stun Rolls. 


It was indisputable that Berlanga was the consistent aggressor throughout this fight, but from my perspective, he seemed to have one strategy and did not appear to know how to adapt when it became evident that, that approach was not going to necessarily work as he intended. An element that was absent from Berlanga’s offense for virtually the entire fight was the use of a jab as he came forward. The jab is the most elementary punch that can be used throughout combat sports, but it is also one of the most underappreciated weapons that a fighter can have in their arsenal. Not only in terms of being able to establish and maintain distance between themself and their opponent, but also as what is often referred to throughout the sport of Boxing as the “Table Setter” in using the jab to set up other punches and combinations in a fighter’s arsenal. 


The absence of a jab from Berlanga not only limited opportunities to land punches as he pressured Rolls throughout the fight, but it also allowed Rolls openings to land his own jab and move to keep Berlanga chasing him. Although Rolls did not appear to hurt Berlanga at any point in the ten round bout, I felt the fight ended up being far closer than it might have otherwise been at the end of the bout simply because Berlanga limited himself offensively. Despite this, I did feel that Berlanga did just enough to earn a victory on the scorecards based largely on the effect his punches had on Rolls whenever they did land. It was no surprise to see Berlanga earn a ten round unanimous decision, but doing so margins of six rounds to four, and seven rounds to three on two scorecards. 


Although two scorecards coming out seven rounds to three or 97-93 in points might give an appearance of a lopsided bout in favor of Berlanga, the reality is all three scorecards were narrow and round by round, the fight was close. While this does not take away from Berlanga, who retained his North-American Boxing Organization (NABO) championship with this victory over Steve Rolls and should maintain his top-ten ranking in the NABO-affiliated World Boxing Organization (WBO) Super-Middleweight rankings, this should be observed both by Berlanga and his handlers as a close call that might require more time in the gym and to be more specific, training in situations where he will have to make adjustments if he is not able to get to an opponent quickly. 


 The victory over Rolls marked Berlanga’s third consecutive bout in which he had to go the distance. It should not be viewed necessarily as a negative because it is crucial that a fighter know how to go rounds and know how to go deep into fights as the competition level of their opposition increases over time. What this should be viewed as is an opportunity for Berlanga to not only learn from what was a so, so performance, but also the need to add more tools to his arsenal.  


While Edgar Berlanga passed his test against Steve Rolls in New York, unbeaten Welterweight prospect Blair Cobbs faced a test of his own in Los Angeles, CA as he faced fellow prospect Alexis Rocha at the USC Galen Center. Although this bout differed from the Berlanga-Rolls bout from the standpoint of Rolls being much older than Berlanga, this fight between Blair Cobbs and Alexis Rocha did have an element of one fighter being more experienced than the other as Rocha came into the bout with twenty professional fights compared to Cobbs’ sixteen. Rocha also had previously held the WBC Continental America’s championship in the Welterweight division, so this was a step up for Cobbs. Cobbs meanwhile had previously held the North American Boxing Federation (NABF) championship in his career so this was a case where both fighters had achieved success on the regional championship level of the sport, but where one fighter had slightly more experience than the other.  


This also appeared to be a bout where the styles of the two fighters would produce an entertaining fight as both are action-first fighters and like to mix it up with their opponents. It was no surprise given the styles of the two fighters as well as both having high knockout percentages to see exchanges from the opening bell. When fights are fought at such a quick pace as this one was, the challenge for an observer and more importantly those who score a fight in an official capacity is to distinguish which fighter is getting the better of what can be heated exchanges of offense. 


In this case, the fight seemed to follow a pattern, Rocha trying to cut the ring off from Cobbs, who tried to use his lateral movement to offset Rocha’s pressure. Although there were several exchanges throughout the fight where both fighters had their moments, it appeared at least in my view that Rocha had a little more power on his punches, particularly when he was able to land his left hand from the southpaw stance.  


As the fight progressed, Rocha had increased success in finding a home for his left hand on Cobbs’ head. Although Cobbs remained on the move for much of the fight, the dynamic changed in that he became more and more defensive whereas with the success he was having, Rocha became more aggressive. It seemed that Cobbs did not have an answer to avoid Rocha’s left hand. Despite being able to make him miss periodically, Cobbs was unable to land anything to disrupt the pattern of Rocha pressing forward and landing power shots. 


With the combat increasingly giving the appearance of one fighter gradually breaking the other down, I did wonder whether or not Cobbs would be able to turn the tempo in his favor. Even though the circumstances were different, much like Edgar Berlanga, Cobbs did not appear to have a plan B. Unlike Berlanga, who was still able to do enough to gain a victory in his bout against Steve Rolls by landing the more effective punches, Blair Cobbs could not land anything to discourage Alexis Rocha from coming forward. It was also noticeable that Cobbs’ activity also began to decrease as the fight went on. 


 In round eight after administering significant punishment for several rounds, Rocha would finally get to Blair Cobbs dropping him with a flush left hand to the head followed by a right uppercut that sent Cobbs down and badly hurt on the canvas. To his credit, Cobbs was able to get up, but at this point he was in defensive mode and barely managed to survive the round after sustaining more punishment from a Rocha barrage in the closing seconds. 


At this point in the fight, I felt that had the eighth round had more time in it, Referee Rudy Barragan would have stopped the fight. As it was, I was surprised not only based on what had been happening throughout the fight, but what had happened in round eight that the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) allowed Cobbs to come out for the ninth round.  


It was in the ninth round that the fight would come to its conclusion. Rocha connected with a right hook to the jaw that set off a barrage of punches that went unanswered that gave Barragan all the justification needed to stop the fight, which he did. Although I was surprised that the fight was not stopped between rounds eight and nine, it is important for me to be honest with the reader who may not have seen this fight, that both Rudy Barragan and Cobbs’ trainer Hall of Famer Freddie Roach each told him that he needed to show them something or they would stop it. Roach in particular appeared as though he was seconds away from stopping it when he told his fighter shortly before a CSAC physician went into the corner to examine Cobbs that he was getting killed out there. 


Freddie Roach is one of the best trainers not just in the sport currently, but in Boxing history. Roach learned his trade after his own career as a fighter under the learning tree of his trainer the late great Hall of Famer Eddie Futch. Both Roach and Futch have at times made the difficult decision to pull their fighters out of fights to protect the fighter from themselves. While some may criticize Roach for allowing his fighter in this case Blair Cobbs to talk him into letting him come out for the ninth round, there have also been times where Roach has given his fighters the benefit of doubt and given them a chance. While those chances have not always resulted in come from behind victories for his fighters, Roach understands a fighter’s mentality and it is in some ways good that he treats such situations on a case-by-case basis. 


While I feel Roach would have been within his rights to stop this fight as I have seen him do before under similar circumstances, I can appreciate that he wanted to give his fighter the benefit of doubt, while also telling his fighter repeatedly that if he did not show him something in the next round, he would stop it. Although Rudy Barragan did just that before Roach could, if the referee had delayed his stoppage, I believe Freddie Roach would have thrown in the towel.  


For Alexis Rocha, this victory will likely move him up the rankings towards a potential world title shot down the line. As for Blair Cobbs, sometimes fighters do not pass the first significant test that is put in front of them. Despite being stopped in this fight by Alexis Rocha, Cobbs did show a lot of heart by getting up from a knockdown that would have ended the night for most fighters. He also did show a true fighter’s mentality by arguing with his trainer and with the CSAC physician to let him try and fight on.  


Although we live in an era where no matter what a fighter does, they are always under a microscope and criticized either for their performances in the ring or for their conduct outside the ring, if one is objective, they should tip their hat to Cobbs for the heart he showed in this fight. While one loss will certainly not be a career ender and will be something that Cobbs can learn from in the long-term, hopefully, he will not rush himself back into the ring and will allow himself to physically and mentally heal from the punishment he suffered in this fight. Hopefully, after he has taken some time to both digest and reflect on things, Cobbs can begin the rebuilding process. He does have one of the best trainers in the fight game in his corner that can help in that process when the time is right. 


“And That’s The Boxing Truth.” 


The Boxing Truth® is a registered trademark of Beau Denison All Rights Reserved. 


Follow Beau Denison on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Beau_Denison