By Lyle Fitzsimmons
I’ve never met Vicente Escobedo, but he seems like a decent enough guy.
He’s had a solid career. He represented his country at the Olympics. And he seems to genuinely care about the wife and child he referenced during Saturday night’s HBO interview.
As far as human beings go, that makes him above-average in my book.
But in a boxing-only context relating to his title-fight performance against Adrien Broner, the guy’s been getting double-standard love typically reserved for Filipino politicians.
And by the time his lumpy-eyed sniffles began alongside Max Kellerman in downtown Cincinnati, I was getting a little teary-eyed myself.
First things first, though… let’s dispense with some realities.
Regardless of weigh-in issues or event-saving stimulus plans, there was no way Escobedo was beating Broner – short of loaded gloves or a nightstick – in the ring at U.S. Bank Arena.
While he may be too showy for some and too arrogant for others, the now former 130-pound champ is also too quick, has too much pop and plays defense too well for a guy of Escobedo’s completely commendable, but limited by comparison, skill set to handle.
Could I do without the reverential hair-brushing and mock marriage proposal that left poor Max stammering into his microphone? Sure. Is he the sort of fighter my dad – whose teen years included the primes of Joe Louis, Ray Robinson and Willie Pep – would have preferred? Absolutely not.
But in an era where social networking and heat generation are as valued as “works well to the body” and “hooks off the jab,” he’s assembled a total package the “Network of Champions” clearly covets.
He sells tickets, draws viewers and creates buzz.
And, as I posted on Twitter minutes before the opening bell, “Escobedo may stand for all that's right in boxing... but he's an undercard semifinal to Broner's main event.”
Of course, that didn’t stop the idealists from clogging the “#boxing” feed with their plaintive 140-character wails, expressing wistful hope for comeuppance after Broner unapologetically ditched the WBO’s title belt like a piece of passé jewelry.
Funny, when a guy who’s widely admired no longer has use for a sanctioning body bauble, people applaud and say a stand’s been taken against the crooked establishment.
Yet when a black-hatted heel dares make the same statement with his actions – or inactions, in this case – it’s catalyst for words like “disrespect,” “shameful” and “black eye for boxing.”
As if weighing 133½ pounds to a foe’s 130 is any more a competitive advantage than, say, a popular challenger demanding that a less-worshipped champion drop two pounds beneath a division limit to defend his own WBO title belt.
Now that’d be just outrageous.
But I digress.
Either way, shortly after the acumen-overmatched Californian secured his payoff and future title shot and made his way to the ring, it became fairly obvious how his night was going to go.
As he’d done with most of 23 previous foes – only four of whom lasted to the final bell – Broner landed enough sharp shots in three minutes to dispense with any hubris Escobedo might’ve maintained on the stroll from locker room to center stage.
He continued the harsh schooling by more decisive margins over the next few sessions, and by the late stages of round five it had been reduced to a question of when, not if, the opponent initially known as “Chente” would be reduced to “Derrotado.”
Until, that is, Team Escobedo made it academic.
Though he’d remained vertical throughout and was less than 20 seconds from another one-minute rest, the challenger and his corner appeased their conqueror before the break arrived, waving the towel long enough for referee Gary Rosato to certify the surrender at 2:42 of the fifth.
And as he did, the arbiters of boxing propriety did a nimble 180.
Barely down from the pedestals they’d used to harangue Victor Ortiz for sitting with a bloodily mangled jaw 28 days earlier, the self-appointed tough guys reversed course on Escobedo – giving him an ovation for a comparatively passive five-round flameout in the name of a better payday.
It all made me wonder what exactly I was missing.
As I’ve written many times, I don’t have a significant issue with a guy who decides in the course of a fight that his best isn’t good enough and that he’d rather try it another day than take a prolonged beating that’ll adversely impact quality of life in 20 years.
It’s not a tickling contest in there, and for every individual who chooses preservation about 1,000 more probably wish they had. So in the case of a guy with a newborn at home in Woodland – whether Saturday’s fight would have ended especially violently or not – I say more power to him.
But the kudos given by the macho legacy guards were enough to make me gag.
“At least he got some more of Al (Haymon)’s money,” opined one post-fight tweeter, while others piped up with similar sentiments – giving Escobedo kudos for a cash heist in broad daylight while expressing more empathy for his financial status in July than they’d mustered for Ortiz’s health in June.
No matter that the guy they’d branded a coward had beaten his opponent’s face bloody and led on all three cards upon his demise, while the loving dad landed barely 10 punches per three minutes and hadn’t sniffed an even round along the way, let alone a winning one.
In this case, a roll of quarters in the hand was worth two X-rays in the bush.
And as for questions like “Where’s the outrage at a guy just in it for a paycheck,” or “Why no claims that his career is toast for having quit,” it seems their answers aren’t worth spoiling the fairy tale.
At this point I’d take a simply coherent reply to a Twitter query I posed in the midst of the post-retirement Vicente love-in – “Weight or not, how is that more valorous than Ortiz?”
Seems a no-brainer from here, but the ends sometimes do justify the means.
At least as long as you’re in good with the folks shaping the opinions.
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This week’s title-fight schedule:
No fights scheduled.
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. For example, fights for WBA “world championships” are only included if no “super champion” exists in the weight class.
Last week's picks: 0-0
Overall picks record: 322-109 (74.7 percent)
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.Tags: Vicente Escobedo