So I was ringside at the Michelob Arena at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas this past Thursday evening where Teofimo Lopez defended his WBO junior welterweight title against Jamaine Oritz. There is plenty of debate over who won this contest.
To put it succinctly, one guy couldn't, the other guy wouldn't. It was a game of tag where nobody was ever 'it'. It was the type of fight that the old-timers would've said, 'you let'em in for free, charge'em to leave.'
By the end of the night, the 6,206 in attendance were utterly bored by the 36 minute marathon that they had just witnessed. Quite frankly, neither guy really deserved to have his hand raised in victory. But it was Lopez retaining his belt by the scores of 117-111, and 115-113 twice.
Mikey Williams/Top Rank
Then afterwords, Lopez waxed philosophically to Bernardo Osuna of ESPN over what took place.
Yes, 'the Plato of Prizefighting' certainly had a lot to say, and quite frankly, it was more entertaining than the 12 rounds that took place. There's something about these Thursday night Top Rank cards that seems to bring out the worst in fights/fighters. This was supposed to be a showcase event for Lopez, but like Shakur Stevenson back in November, he fumbled away an opportunity to add to his fanbase. Boxing doesn't seem to add new followers, but just punish their remaining ones.
But this latest snoozer got me thinking: why is that more and more fights are becoming letdowns, and why are more of the modern day boxers so inconsistent in their performances?
Well, for me it all goes back to activity (or lack thereof).
Just look at Lopez, who when he handily defeated Josh Taylor to become the recognized champion at 140 last June, was completing a stretch of three fights over a 10 month span. He then capitalized on that momentum by ''retiring'' and then turning down a December date, and then faced a mover in Ortiz off a eight month layoff.
Mikey Williams/Top Rank
After turning pro in 2016, now age 26, Lopez has just 20 professional bouts under his belt (19-1, 13 KOs). For as talented as Lopez is, is he truly a seasoned world-class professional? For all his great nights against the likes of Vasiliy Lomachenko and Taylor, he's had just as many bad ones.
Like many others in this generation (including Stevenson), Lopez won a title in his early 20's with under 20 fights. And with that, suddenly became a twice-a-year performer, basically, as his contracted minimums rose. That is today's boxing business in a nutshell.
These boxers today are good enough to win a particular title, but aren't really given the chance to fully develop their skill sets over time. My belief is that most fighters aren't truly finished products till they get to around their late 20's, and have about 30 bouts under their belts. That's my theory, and I'm sticking with it.
But it wasn't always this way. As you look at Oscar De La Hoya, who won his first world title at age 20 in 1994, you see that in 1995 he had four bouts, five in 1997 and then 3 in 1999, before his activity level died down. During his prime, 'the Golden Boy' was the biggest name in the sport.
Golden Boy Promotions
Floyd Mayweather, who seems to be the blueprint for many of todays boxers, actually had seven fights in the year (1998) that he won this first belt. In 1999 and 2001, he had three fights. And in 2005, he had three appearances. Keep this in mind, as I've mentioned before, it took him 37 fights for him to get to the promised land of De La Hoya in 2007, which sent his career -- and bank account -- into another stratosphere.
Then there was Miguel Cotto, who after winning his initial world championship in 2004, would fight three times in 2005, 2006, 2007 and then 2009. Following in the footsteps of Felix Trinidad, he became the face of Puerto Rican boxing, and was constructed into a bona-fide attraction at the Madison Square Garden through sheer consistency.
I chose to highlight these three because they were American products, who came out of three successive Olympic classes (1992, 1996 and 2000), that eventually became pay-per-view franchises, who are now iconic figures in the sport. Yeah, I long for these days. The boxers were 'better', or at least better seasoned and prepared for the long haul, and with that the fights were generally of higher quality across the board.
Looking ahead, Top Rank planned on having Lopez fight three times this year. Lopez stated in the post-fight scrum with the media that he was going to have his next outing come in the boxing hotbed of Honduras. We'll see if that's news to Bob Arum and Top Rank, as they don't always seem to be on the same page, or book for that matter.
Mikey Williams/Top Rank
For now, he still has to live with the stench of his most recent performance. Lopez, lost in winning.
Larry Merchant, sent me this message about Lopez-Oritz,"that was an abortion of a fight. That's why I dont call it 'boxing', I call it 'professional prizefighting.'"
Well, at least he was lucky enough not to have been there in-person.
Keyshawn Davis looked good in stopping former two-time champion, Jose Pedraza in six. But keep this in mind, Pedraza moved down in weight for this fight after years at 140... Abdullah Mason continues to look like a special talent, still just 19. We'll see if he can take a punch....Hamzah Sheeraz made a bit of a statement in taking care of Liam Williams in less than a round. This is a tall, lanky stick of dynamite...More on this later, but the Ryan Garcia-Devin Haney showdown has been consummated for April 20....Congratulations to a pair of Miami Hurricanes, who have made the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame, Andre Johnson and Devin Hester....I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org....