In what was a sterling performance, Shakur Stevenson, captured his second major world title by stopping Jamel Herring, to win the WBO junior lightweight title at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia. Stevenson controlled the action from the onset, and capped off his dominant outing by scoring the TKO in round 10.
It was an exclamation point on what was an outstanding effort. It's going to take a really good fighter on a great night to overcome the Newark sharpshooter.
Photo Credit: Mikey Williams/Top Rank
But the question has to be asked: how many of you (specifically on the east coast) stayed up to watch it?
After Alabama had put the finishing touches on their latest conquest over Tennessee, the ESPN broadcast, which was scheduled to begin at 10:30 pm (ET) started several minutes late. It began with the Nico Walsh Ali lovefest, which is already getting tiresome to much of the boxing fan base. Then you had Top Rank's prized prospect, Xander Zayas, who faced journeyman, Dan Karpency, around 11:12 pm.
That contest was stopped after the fourth stanza at 11:29 pm. At that point, it was time for Herring-Stevenson. Somewhere around this telecast, the Atlanta Braves had eliminated the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS.
As ESPN ran one feature after another, and had their talking heads preview the fight, you began to wonder if the World Series would begin before this fight kicked off. The build-up was long and monotonous. At a certain point -- less is more.
It was over a full half-hour before Stevenson entered the ring first as the challenger at 12:01 am local time. Which meant that it was technically Sunday morning at this point. He was soon followed by the defending champion a few minutes later. The two southpaws didn't touch'em up till 12:08 am.
By the time Stevenson put the finishing touches on his victory, it was about a quarter till 1.
Yes, this was boxing way, way, way after dark.
And it hasn't gone unnoticed by the viewing public which has the reasonable expectation of being able to see fights and get to bed at a somewhat reasonable hour. The week before the ESPN+ card featuring Emanuel Navarrete and Joet Gonzalez from San Diego began at a time where many had already hit the hay.
How late was it, well, that Friday as I was watching on my phone at Alondra Hot Wings Montebello, California, I actually had to watch the last round in my car, as they closed at 10 pm, and had let our group stick around a bit as they cleaned up.
This is not a knock specifically aimed at one broadcaster or promoter. The reality is that every platform simply takes too much time in-between fights bloviating about their programming, with elongated interludes and intermissions. In short, most of these cards simply take too long.
And too often, they start too late.
What other sport so routinely begins their biggest events so deep into the night? And then doubles down on this by then having their stars perform as much of the populace is in bed?
Perhaps the NFL could get away with such a philosophy, but last I checked they weren't a niche sport struggling for ratings.
But going back to this past weekend, the whole point of having four and six round fights on the broadcast was so that there is a quick and easy transition to the main event. It's reasonable for ESPN, or any other network, to schedule a prime time college football game given it's popularity. In the pecking order, college football will always be a few notches above boxing.
But can they quicken the pace just a tad bit?
So what's next for Stevenson?
Hopefully, he can rack up some defenses of his WBO 130 pound title, after not making a single one at 126, as he quickly out-grew the division.
Who knows if Top Rank can entice the likes of Oscar Valdez (who holds the WBO title at 130) to face Stevenson in the near future, but hopefully in 2022 he can get in a few fights against solid opposition. But it's clear that this is an ambitious young man who wants to go big game hunting as soon as possible.
I get the funny feeling that Top Rank has a match-up with Robeisy Ramirez(who beat him in the gold medal match in the 2016 Olympics in Rio) in mind at some point.
But a bout I'd really like to see, putting aside any promotional rivalries or network alliances, is a showdown between Stevenson and Gervonta 'Tank' Davis. This would be the classic pairing of the master boxer versus the bruising puncher. Two fighters with immense pride who are in their physical primes.
It's the type of fight that boxing needs more of. And yes, this would do significant business on the east coast in the future as Stevenson and Top Rank continue to build his profile. Tank is already an attraction.
Do I think this bout is realistic given the current dynamics of the business?
But it's a fight that I'd stay up waaaay past midnight to watch in-person, though.
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