By Cliff Rold
Over the past two years, the volume of boxing on the air has made for plenty of nights that can come, go, and be forgotten altogether without much consequence.
That’s a natural byproduct of more. Every game doesn’t really matter in an NFL season. Every pitch isn’t pivotal during baseball’s September stretch drive. Most of the basketball season is a framing device for an NBA playoff stretch that lasts months.
It then logically behooves followers of those sports to sort out what they really want to pay attention to. The same is true in boxing. Thursday on Fox Sports 1, we had the sort of card that didn’t pop off the page.
Let’s hope it got some eyeballs because it was damn sure interesting.
And that’s not nothing.
The main event was a pretty classic case, on paper, of an attempt at rehabilitation for a fighter coming off a loss. Sammy Vasquez (21-2, 15 KO) is now going to find out what it means to lose two straight.
That means a hearty welcome back to former welterweight titlist Luis Collazo (37-7, 20 KO).
Collazo hadn’t fought since a stoppage loss to Keith Thurman in the summer of 2015. That was a long layoff in what has been a long career.
Has it really been a decade since Collazo lost a debated decision to Ricky Hatton?
He didn’t miss a beat in dropping Vasquez twice, the second time for the count. For Collazo, the win staves off a tomorrow without boxing for a little longer. Will it lead to another title shot sometime down the line? Maybe not, but it will certainly mean a chance to face another young talent willing to risk the cagey veteran.
It was a good fight in what so far is a very good year for boxing. 2017 is off to the sort of start that is antithetical to the long waiting periods for excitement last year.
Of as much interest here, at least in a viewing sense, was an undercard contest between young Jr. welterweights. Regular viewers of the slate of PBC/Al Haymon-related shows over the last couple years have seen the early development of a red headed Texas kid in a cowboy hat.
Ryan “Cowboy” Karl (13-1, 9 KO) is the sort of guy basic cable boxing has always been good about providing. It’s hard to say how good he might turn out to be yet. He’s now been stopped for the first time but he’s only 25 and clearly still developing.
Win or lose so far, he’s fun to watch.
For the second fight in a row, he was matched with a fellow young undefeated in Eddie Ramirez (16-0, 11 KO) of Illinois. Like Karl, Ramirez was coming off a knockout win in a battle of undefeated prospects, coming off the floor to stop Kevin Watts last September.
Karl-Ramirez was a good television scrap, delivering action. More importantly for Ramirez, it delivered momentum on a national platform. He has the look of a potential contender, proven by fighting other live young guys with the same aspirations.. That’s what should be on display on nights like this.
Also displayed was one of the rapidly improved elements of the PBC’s presentation strategy.
From this corner, one criticism has been a lack of direction at times. There didn’t seem to be much internal logic to the way pieces of their puzzle moved in the first year and half. There can still be improvement in terms of timing and there are longer layoffs than there need to be for fighters whose youth would be better spent fighting.
However, the fights that seem like the natural progression of things are coming together. We just got a rematch between Carl Frampton and Leo Santa Cruz with a rubber match likely. Badou Jack and James DeGale shared a card together in 2015 and followed it with a hell of a fight last month. In the best example, the two biggest ratings draws for PBC, Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia, were finally pointed at each other.
Thurman-Garcia will play on CBS in March. It should do a big viewership and may be the most important fight of 2017 in the US.
The 90,000 tickets already sold for Anthony Joshua-Wladimir Klitschko at heavyweight precludes making a case for the whole world.
Ramirez-Karl is another sign of direction, if on a smaller scale. Both had been featured on PBC cards in the past, delivered quality television, and faced each other on their way towards wherever their combination of dreams and abilities can take them. That’s the way it should be done.
With a deep talent pool available to them in several weight classes, this is the sort of matchmaking that can be accomplished from the prospect to title level regularly through PBC. It is the underlying promise of an endeavor with network television in-roads.
It’s enough to be an interesting Thursday night card but if as a trend sign for 2017 it might be a little bit more than that.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]