By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Social media is a fun toy.
But when it comes to worthwhile analysis, it frequently falls flat.
Case in point. While Twitter tends to buckle under the weight of breathless 140-character missives during and after particularly violent slugfests, it often fails to recognize the litmus tests a match must pass to change the label from “titillating opening act” to “can’t-miss headliner.”
I’ll concede the combatants in those bloodbaths have hearts the size of watermelons, courage that goes for days and a “you hit me/I hit you” warrior capacity that I tend to lose after the first few repetitions.
But while I don’t know how it feels to be that good or that tough, I do know what entertains me.
And several rounds of caveman back and forth – no matter the participants – just isn’t it.
So in much the same manner as Harold Lederman instructs us that rounds are judged on clean punching, effective aggressiveness, ring generalship and defense, I’ve decided my four measures for comparing great fights are current/historical significance, departure from pre-fight expectation, in-fight momentum shifts and level of sustained action.
I applied those criteria to my all-time favorite fight – Diego Corrales vs. Jose Luis Castillo I – and scored the 2005 showdown a perfect 40.
Same score goes to the generational classic (32 years ago this past weekend) between Marvin Hagler and my all-time favorite fighter, Thomas Hearns, though the more recent slugfest nudges ahead simply because it lasted a shade more than 29 minutes as opposed to slightly less than eight.
The 14-rounder that matched Aaron Pryor and Alexis Arguello for the first time in 1982 gets a 40 as well, while the fourth go-round between Juan Manuel Marquez and Manny Pacquiao in 2012 also warrants the perfect number thanks to 18 minutes of back and forth that culminated in a shocking conclusion on the sport’s biggest pay-per-view stage.
What all those fights had – in addition to more violence than any 10 “typical” fights – was a compelling angle that involved a championship, a pound-for-pound standing or a legacy, something that drew the viewer’s eye long before it became apparent that the fight itself was pretty good. And it’s having that extra something that allows a match to bypass stimulating and proceed straight to unforgettable.
Corrales-Castillo was a showdown of two of the best lightweights in the world.
Both Hagler-Hearns and Pryor-Arguello involved heavier legends defending turfs against ladder-climbing superstars.
Marquez-Pacquiao was the latest in a series of meetings between men whose rivalry has defined their 21st century era.
The reality is that most “early candidate for Fight of the Year” brawls ultimately shrivel to no more than footnotes. And when compared to ones whose images stay for life, they’re just another one-night stand.
* * * * * * * * * *
This week’s title-fight schedule:
WBC super welterweight title – Oxon Hill, Maryland
Jermell Charlo (champion/No. 5 IWBR) vs. Charles Hatley (No. 1 contender/Unranked IWBR)
Charlo (28-0, 13 KO): First title defense; Has fought in seven U.S. states (MS, NV, TX, AZ, IL, CA, FL)
Hatley (26-1-1, 18 KO): First title fight; Third fight scheduled for 12 rounds (2-0, 1 KO)
Fitzbitz says: Jermell might be the second best of the Charlo brothers, but he’s the best fighter in this matchup by a fair distance. Look for him to ascend the 154-pound heap. Charlo by decision
WBO featherweight title -- Carson, California
Oscar Valdez (champion/No. 6 IWBR) vs. Miguel Marriaga (No. 1 contender/No. 34 IWBR)
Valdez (21-0, 19 KO): Second title defense; Fifth fight in California (4-0, 3 KO)
Marriaga (25-1, 21 KO): Second title fight (0-1); Sixth fight in the United States (4-1, 2 KO)
Fitzbitz says: Marriaga is no easy out, but Valdez is regarded highly for a reason and should have sufficient tools in the toolbox to get by a rugged Colombian. Valdez by decision
WBO junior featherweight title – Carson, California
Jessie Magdaleno (champion/No. 2 IWBR) vs. Adeilson Dos Santos (No. 12 WBO/Unranked IWBR)
Magdaleno (24-0, 17 KO): First title defense; KO/TKO wins in all four California fights (12 total rounds)
Dos Santos (18-2, 14 KO): First title fight; Third fight outside Brazil (1-1, 1 KO)
Fitzbitz says: It’s the next step in the star-building process for Magdaleno, who handled a fading but recognized champion last time out and moves on to limited contender this time. Magdaleno in 6
WBO super middleweight title – Carson, California
Gilberto Ramirez (champion/No. 1 IWBR) vs. Max Bursak (No. 9 WBO/No. 37 IWBR)
Ramirez (34-0, 24 KO): First title defense; Second scheduled 12-round fight (1-0, 0 KO)
Bursak (33-4-1, 15 KO): Second title fight (0-1); All four losses outside Ukraine (2-4, 1 KO)
Fitzbitz says: It’s been too long a wait for Ramirez’s post-Abraham encore as champion, but he’s got the right opponent here to continue his super middleweight ascension. Ramirez by decision
WBA flyweight title -- Osaka, Japan
Kazuto Ioka (champion/No. 2 IWBR) vs. Noknoi Sitthiprasert (No. 2 WBA/No. 39 IWBR)
Ioka (21-1, 13 KO): Fifth title defense; Held WBA/WBC titles at 105 pounds and WBA title at 108
Sitthiprasert (62-4, 38 KO): First title fight; Unbeaten since 2005 after 1-4 career start (61-0, 37 KO)
Fitzbitz says: The Thai challenger has won 61 straight fights, but that number loses some shine when it’s revealed he’s never fought away from home and rarely beaten a better-than-.500 foe. Ioka in 9
WBO bantamweight title -- Osaka, Japan
Marlon Tapales (champion/No. 5 IWBR) vs. Shohei Omori (No. 6 WBO/No. 14 IWBR)
Tapales (29-2, 12 KO): First title defense; Defeated Omori (TKO 2) in December 2015
Omori (18-1, 13 KO): First title fight; Three KO wins since lone career loss (10 total rounds)
Fitzbitz says: The Filipino champ is returning to his ex-foe’s backyard, but there isn’t an obvious reason why he won’t do a similar number in Osaka this time as he did in Kyoto just 16 months ago. Ioka in 7
Last week's picks: 0-1 (LOSS: Burns)
2017 picks record: 21-9 (70.0 percent)
Overall picks record: 843-283 (74.8 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
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.