by Cliff Rold
Let’s call it December madness.
Every spring, college basketball fans, and everyone else who really couldn’t care less the rest of the year, break out the brackets and get ready for the NCAA basketball tournament. There’s something about the thrill of uncertainty, and the process of elimination, that gets juices flowing.
It works that way in most sports, the whittling from many down to one.
Boxing isn’t most sports. It couldn’t be and still be boxing. It doesn’t really work that way. Sure, there’s whittling, but even when it gets down to one there is never really an end. There are just chapters closed and new ones begun. It is the nature of sport where the season is infinite.
For the fun of it, boxing fans often ignore that. The best chapters are so engrossing they cause a sort of suspension of disbelief. Whether the narrative is Lewis-Britton, Ali-Frazier, or Barrera-Morales, those stories stood on their own, and stand the test of time, even as the sport never stopped moving around them.
Right now, the Welterweight division is telling two parallel epics in very separate brackets. On one side, there are the fighters directly (and loosely) aligned with Golden Boy Promotions and Showtime. On the other, Top Rank and HBO.
Unless there is a sea change in the near future, there might not ever be one shining moment. There continue to be plenty exciting ones instead.
Case in point: this Saturday night.
Showtime closes what has been arguably their finest year in terms of product and growth since Don King took Mike Tyson (and Julio Cesar Chavez, and Azumah Nelson, and a bunch more) to the network in 1991. With two Floyd Mayweather pay-per-views, overdue live broadcasts on the west coast, and a slew of quality triple and quadruple headers, Showtime has made bold moves to become boxing’s number one network.
The Welterweight (and Jr. Welterweight) divisions have been a common denominator in the war for viewers and primacy. It is the division most in the spotlight this weekend.
It’s where we might see as direct a bracket eliminator as there can be in this climate.
In the main event, WBA Welterweight beltholder Adrien Broner (27-0, 22 KO) makes his first defense against fan friendly veteran Marcos Maidana (34-3, 31 KO). On the undercard, interim WBA titlist Keith Thurman (21-0, 19 KO) faces another fan friendly veteran in Jesus Soto Karass (28-8-3, 18 KO). With no one currently designated as the WBA’s “Super” champion, it would appear the winners of these two contests are on a collision course.
If those winners are Broner and Thurman, a pair of big talking battlers who don’t lose action in the mist of skill, 2014 adds another element to what already appears to be an intriguing extension of one of the best years in modern boxing lore.
If that isn’t the fight we end up with, even if those are the winners this weekend, it will probably be because like everything else in boxing, brackets can be fluid. Should World Champion Danny Garcia rise from Jr. Welterweight, as is expected next year, he would be a fine reason to stall a Broner-Thurman fight in favor of a showdown with either man himself.
Of course everyone on their side of the bracket should ultimately want the same thing: a chance to generate the public demand to get to the end of their bracket and the winner’s circle that is a chance at taking Mayweather’s “0” and cashing their Mayweather check.
Even without a title right now, Pacquiao serves much the same function in the HBO bracket. He’s the biggest fight, the biggest name, the biggest “I made it” moment available.
Putting aside that a rumored Amir Khan fight would show that one doesn’t really need public demand or impressive wins to get to Mayweather, winning is still the best way to generate interest. Robert Guerrero and Victor Ortiz didn’t get their chance at the brass ring until wins over Andre Berto. Canelo Alvarez had to win a Jr. Middleweight unification match with Austin Trout.
While Broner has always claimed he doesn’t want to fight Floyd, it’s about as believable as thinking the Mega Powers were never going to split up. Thurman has never made similar claims and started calling for the big names before he was really a proven contender. Should Maidana or Soto Karass, or both, pull the upset this weekend, they’ve shown willing to fight anyone. Neither might be likely to get to a Mayweather fight, but they’d be great bracket busters for anyone who does.
Regardless, for at least one week, the WBA title picture gives us the mirage of elimination and destination. It’s an extra ingredient to two solid fights that already stand just fine on their own.
The Weekly Ledger
But wait, there’s more…
Weekend Report Card: http://www.boxingscene.com/yaegashi-rigondeaux-malignaggi-shine-report-card--72626
TBRB Weekly Update: http://www.tbrb.info/
Broner/Thurman isn’t the only possible elimination going on. If WBA Light Heavyweight titlist Beibut Shumenov retains, he may be staring at a unification match with Bernard Hopkins next year…Here’s where there is no bracket. The WBC making Pacquiao the mandatory to Mayweather is a great way to get the WBC some headlines and that’s about it. If the fighters want to make it matter, it does. If they don’t, well, Mayweather and Pacquiao haven’t needed belts for a long time. The belts need them…If anyone reading this isn’t watching Arrow or Grimm, they should be. Arrow has found a way to evolve from the CW’s tween soap leaning into one of the best action shows on TV and it on its way to being the best comic book show ever. Grimm is just fun with copious spooks and gore. Most of network TV sucks. These shows don’t…So Manny Pacquiao has tax problems? Never seen that in boxing before…The BWAA made the right call in expanding their Fighter of the Year ballot from 5 to 9 this year. One can debate if everyone on the ballot this year should be, but there is little doubt more than five men are in the race this year…Finally saw Veteyka’s win over Chris John. The Indonesian falls short of the defense record at Featherweight and, well, good. There was a time when John could have been one of the best in the world but to make that many defenses and never even attempt unification is a pox. All hail Eusebio Pedroza (or Abe Attell depending on which number one comes up with for him).
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 firstname.lastname@example.org