By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Move on, boxing fans… they have.
Sometime around midnight ET on Saturday, the prolonged tease of a slow dance between Floyd Mayweather Jr., Manny Pacquiao and anyone who’d had an interest in them ever sharing a ring together ended instead with an ass-out hug and an exchange of fake numbers.
They’re not going home with us. They’re not spending the night.
And there won’t be an awkward walk of shame while we’re secretly posting about them on Twitter.
But as really into them as we all once were, don’t worry.
It’s nothing to get too sad about.
Because not long after they slinked out the door concocting excuses they’ll make for the next desperate suitor, someone a lot hotter walked in with better hair, tighter abs and slicker dance moves.
And within just a few cross-room glances, we’d already forgotten ol’ whatstheirname.
In fact, just 72 hours later, the new “gotta have it” fight for 2013 is obvious:
Brandon Rios and Adrien Broner.
For the 140-pound championship of anyone that gives a damn.
OK, I know that Danny Garcia, Lamont Peterson and even Zab Judah might have more legitimacy when it comes to actually being the preeminent entity at junior welterweight.
But when it comes to a real-world litmus test – read: who’s compelling enough with the gloves off to make you have to watch them with the gloves on – there’s no better twosome out there than “Bam Bam” and “The Problem.”
Rios is a loudmouth tough guy who’s never run from pre-fight hyperbole.
He’s usually – outside of a clinical 12-round disaster against Richard Abril last spring at Mandalay Bay – shown up to deliver the goods in an entertaining manner come fight night.
And by overwhelming consensus, barring a late-stage calendar insurgent, his come-from-behind mugging of Mike Alvarado last month in California was the year’s best scrap.
Meanwhile, though he’s not declared an actual inclination to add five pounds, Broner removed any doubt about his big-stage fortitude on Saturday when a systemic demolition of 135-pound claimant Antonio DeMarco jogged memories of a similar Boardwalk Hall massacre seven years prior.
For those who’ve forgotten it, that one involved Mayweather and Arturo Gatti.
The only thing separating the 2012 savagery from its 2005 prototype was that Floyd’s Italian punching bag – standing a smidge more than 5-foot-7 – was a smidge less than three inches shorter than the Mexican-born one that Adrien brutalized over 23 minutes.
And as for an ability to match Rios on the chattering front, Broner more than made a case during a brief post-victory joust with Mayweather’s all-time favorite premium cable senior citizen.
“I wanted to make a statement that anyone that fights Adrien Broner has stepped in doo-doo that they can’t get off their shoe,” he said. “I bake him, shake him, cook him and eat him.”
He wrapped the soliloquy with a call for followers on Twitter and Instagram, grinding an obviously irritated Larry Merchant’s gears in the same way Mayweather frequently has – though the octogenarian thankfully stopped short of contending what he’d have done to him had they met 50 years ago.
With those intangibles alone, it’s a match made in “World Championship Boxing” heaven.
Not to mention that it’s a recipe for particularly tasty combat.
The 26-year-old Rios has been an apple of Bob Arum’s eye since the summer of 2011, when a frenzied third-round KO of Urbano Antillon prompted the creaky promoter to suggest the Californian could be a successor to his aforementioned Filipino crown jewel.
And Broner’s been frequently branded as a lighter-weight “Money” clone, from potshot offense and shoulder-roll defense in the ring to outspoken antics and opposition baiting beyond it.
In terms of competition, contrast and content, it’s everything the superfight could have been.
Without the drug tests, purse splits and defamation suits.
And by this time next year, I hope… the excuses.
* * * * * * * * * *
This week’s title-fight schedule:
Vacant IBO cruiserweight title – Melbourne, Australia
Shane Cameron (No. 7 contender) vs. Danny Green (No. 11 contender)
Cameron (29-2, 22 KO): First title fight; Unbeaten in career at cruiserweight (3-0)
Green (32-5, 28 KO): Eleventh title fight (6-4); Held WBA title at 175, IBO title at 200
Fitzbitz says: “If Cameron can retain his power while dropping weight, it could mean bad things for popular Australian who’s looked his age in two most recent title outings.” Cameron in 10
IBO super featherweight title – Melbourne, Australia
Will Tomlinson (champion) vs. Irving Berry (No. 33 contender)
Tomlinson (19-0-1, 12 KO): Second title defense; Twenty-first straight fight in Australia
Berry (22-3-2, 9 KO): Second title fight; Lost only career fight outside Panama
Fitzbitz says: “Challenger has fared respectably well at 130 pounds, but dropped only previous fight outside home country and doesn’t look particularly capable of reversing trend.” Tomlinson by decision
Vacant WBC strawweight title – Kunming, China
Javier Martinez (No. 4 contender) vs. Xiong Zhao Zhong (No. 6 contender)
Martinez (13-3-2, 6 KO): First title fight; First fight outside Mexico
Zhong (19-4-1, 11 KO): Second title fight (0-1); Seventh fight against plus-.500 fighter (2-4)
Fitzbitz says: “Aside from the ridiculousness of a title fight with two non-accomplished top contenders, there’s little to distinguish one from another. Tie goes to the guy fighting at home.” Zhong by decision
Last week’s picks: 5-0
Overall picks record: 365-117 (75.7 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 [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.