By Cliff Rold
Lamont Peterson. Andre Berto. Erik Morales.
Lamont Peterson-Amir Khan II: off.
Victor Ortiz-Andre Berto II: off
Danny Garcia-Erik Morales II: if at first you don’t test clean, try and try again. The show must go on.
Welcome to boxing in 2012 as the performance enhancing drug (P.E.D.) issue struck like a Barry Bonds shot into the drink with results that illuminated and indicted the game in ways that had been avoided for far too long. Positive tests, journalist/promoter feuds, accusations, insinuations, politics, and mountains of evidence both real and circumstantial: it was the story that kept on giving.
The runaway choice at BoxingScene for 2012 event of the year was clear: P.E.D.rama reigned.
Let’s unbury any heads left in the sand. P.E.D. use isn’t new in boxing. There are rumors about big name fighters, and around big fights, dating back at least two decades. That doesn’t include the verified incidents.
Roy Jones-Richard Hall had both fighters test positive on initial samples in 2000.
Fernando Vargas was busted after his 2002 defeat to Oscar De La Hoya. Shane Mosley tested clean but was later found to have used before his Oscar De La Hoya rematch in 2003. Orlando Salido lost a win over Robert Guerrero in 2006 when he tested positive.
Boxing’s lack of real governance made it easy to isolate the incidents and move along. Token suspensions and fines were levied and then Floyd Mayweather kicked off a new direction. His insistence in negotiations with Manny Pacquiao in 2009/10 for what was incorrectly described as Olympic style testing (it wouldn’t have been all year random) set the stage. The US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA)/Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency (VADA) debate of 2012 was one element of an evolving specter.
And P.E.D.rama led to the ultimate curtain drawing of the year.
Boxing has famously been described as the red light district of sports. The Garcia-Morales debacle was like seeing the seediest, dirtiest of brothels exposed to the entire world at once. Morales, who tested twice dirty under USADA’s unofficial umbrella on the run up to his rematch with Garcia, was allowed to test until his system was clean and the fight went forward. New York was able to hide behind their lack of pre-fight tests and their lack of jurisdiction over USADA.
After the big money cancellations of Peterson-Khan II and Ortiz-Berto II, the bottom line won. Boxing was slated for its debut at the new Brooklyn Barclays Center. That seemingly was deemed to matter most of all.
Not fighter safety.
Not the integrity of the sport.
After Garcia-Morales II, it’s fair to ask if anything short of a ring fatality will create real change on the P.E.D. issue.
On the farewell edition of HBO’s “Fight Game” talk show, the replay of Juan Manuel Marquez-Manny Pacquiao IV ever present in the backdrop, Jim Lampley honored Nonito Donaire not just for going 4-0 on the year but for submitting to year-round random testing through VADA. Donaire certainly deserves applause for his effort. Dr. Margaret Goodman, formerly of the Nevada State Athletic Commission and now the face of VADA, also was given strong and deserved kudos.
The irony of HBO finding religion is such strong fashion on the P.E.D. issue after one of their cash cows, one of the catalysts of the modern testing debate, was knocked out amid a swirl of suspicion about a cornerman of his opponent, wasn’t lost.
This issue isn’t going away in 2013 but it is likely history will record this year as a fulcrum point in whatever the end game for the sweet science on P.E.D. use will be.
ALSO RECEIVING VOTES
Boxing returns to Network T.V.: (Two (2) first-place votes received) – CBS said farewell in 1997; ABC in 2000; NBC in the mid-2000s (and that was only a small test return during the summer). Boxing on a major U.S. network was thought by some to be a thing of the past. Then, there it was twice in the month of December and to decent T.V. ratings. Network T.V. isn’t what it once was. Basic cable now competes in the ratings both with sports and show ratings. It’s still the largest outlet with the most eyes. Leo Santa Cruz-Alberto Guevara (CBS), based on ratings, may have been seen by more people than any fight on HBO or Showtime this year. Tomasz Adamek-Steve Cunningham II (NBC), despite a controversial decision, gave Joe Couch Potato exciting Heavyweight action for twelve rounds. Is this a sign of things to come or an anomaly during rerun season? Network T.V. is a story to continue following in 2013.
The 09/15 Showdown (Two (2) first-place vote received) – It was almost the night where fight fans asked the question of whether they would pay for two pay-per-view shows on the same night. Instead, it became the night when two major shows drew fans into seats in Las Vegas, HBO pay-per-view exceeded sales expectations, and Showtime garnered a record T.V. rating. HBO’s Sergio Martinez-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. offering squared off with Showtime’s Canelo Alvarez-Josesito Lopez, Top Rank and Golden Boy Promotions took their war to a new level, and the fans won. Worries about damage to the sport were replaced with the elation of a full night of quality action with something boxing doesn’t provide enough of: choice. Throughout the night, when one show was lagging, the other seemed to be heating up. Marcos Maidana-Jesus Soto Karass made it okay to stay off HBO for a few rounds. When Daniel Ponce De Leon-Jhonny Gonzalez fizzled on Showtime, Roman Martinez and Miguel Beltran were making war on HBO. Counter-programming has its downside, but for one night it made boxing feel like the best sort of marathon viewing experience.
Mayweather Goes to Jail (Two (2) first-place vote received) – Hot on the heels of his thrilling, and highly profitable, win over Miguel Cotto, boxing’s biggest U.S. draw was sentenced to jail for a domestic violence issue. It was the sort of headline boxing doesn’t need even if it produced epic comedy by way of Mayweather asking for early release because of low quality food and lack of bottled water. Jail killed the chance to see Mayweather in the ring twice this year though signs point to a possible two appearances in 2013.
“He Glassed Me” (Two (2) first-place votes received) – After losing a competitive if clear decision to Vitali Klitschko, contender Dereck Chisora kept the spotlight on himself and created a magical YouTube moment (magical in the Honey Boo Boo, train wreck, clips for clicks sense). A wild brawl between Chisora and David Haye included a moment when Haye appeared to land a blow while handling a water bottle, leading to Chisora’s memorable “He glassed me” declaration. Death threats and other such cartoon antics set the stage for a big Heavyweight showdown in the U.K., Haye winning by knockout in a good fight. Maybe if Manny Pacquiao had showed up to a Mayweather fight with some Evian or whatever Floyd’s favorite bottled water is, he could have avoided the last runner-up for Event of the Year.
Juan Manuel Marquez-Manny Pacquiao IV (Two (2) first-place votes received) – After three magnificent fights, these two modern greats gave us six more rounds of fantastic. Each man was dropped. Each man got up. And then Marquez landed one of the greatest punches in the history of the sport. Manny Pacquiao: meet internet memes. With a vengeance. After a middling undercard, the chief support bout between Yuriorkis Gamboa and Michael Farenas also delivered fireworks (and a 50 Cent pre-fight show) to set the stage for a fight few claimed they wanted to see going in and no one has stopped talking about since.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]