By Lyle Fitzsimmons
By rule, we old guys tend to over-romanticize the past.
Back in our day, we insist, the cars were faster, the women prettier and the food tastier.
Or something like that.
Anyway, under further review and across all walks of life, it’s not always the case. But when it comes to boxing, it seems the “things were better in the past” approach really does hold a little more water.
We’ve all heard the gray-beards rant about the days of eight weight divisions, when champions fought several times a year and how matches between the best fighters were more common than today.
And when it came to fight cards, well… there was more to them than simply a main event. As recently as the 1980s, in fact, when I attended my first professional shows, the evenings seemed far weightier from beginning to end than is typically case on today’s made-for-TV extravaganzas.
For example, pound-for-pound stars Greg Page, Thomas Hearns and Eddie Mustafa Muhammad all fought on a single Muhammad Ali show in 1981. Hall-of-Famer Julio Cesar Chavez provided support to a Larry Holmes main event in 1985. And two more Canastota inductees, Roberto Duran and Barry McGuigan, were undercard players to a Hearns top billing a year later.
Those super cards seemed to go the way of dial-up phones and desktop computers in the new century, as promoters became more and more loathe to bundle all their top commodities together when they could package them separately for high-profile premium cable main events or $49.95 pay-per-views.
But there have been recent signs that old may once again be new.
Golden Boy and Showtime took a giant leap for boxing-kind when they put Danny Garcia and Lucas Matthysse alongside Mayweather and Canelo last September at the MGM Grand, and the same executive principals will play a role in card construction when they return to Las Vegas on May 3.
As a prelude to “Money’s” follow-up against Marcos Maidana this time around, Mssrs. Robert Schaefer and Stephen Espinoza announced Monday that Luis Collazo and Amir Khan will meet in a 12-round welterweight encounter that’ll serve as a de facto eliminator for Mayweather’s late-summer encore.
“We set the bar high with the last (Mayweather) undercard in particular,” Espinoza said. “That’s the trend that Floyd, Golden Boy and Showtime want to continue – solid cards from top to bottom with attractive co-main events that could be main events on Showtime as well.”
It’s also a way, Espinoza conceded, to guarantee interest in a PPV show when the initial perception might be that Mayweather is again meeting an opponent who’s got little chance to beat him.
He was a solid pick to beat Alvarez last summer, but the card reached record sales levels at least partially because of the buzz around the Garcia-Matthysse showdown. This time, because Mayweather’s status as a favorite ranges from 10-to-1 to 16-to-1 over Maidana, more was again needed in support.
“Floyd has been extremely dominant, especially in the last few years,” Espinoza said. “It’s definitely a challenge to come up with opponents who are well-suited and competitive. But part of the lure of Mayweather events is that they’re huge. They’re like the Super Bowl of boxing.”
Schaefer concurred with his TV colleague.
"Both Amir Khan and Luis Collazo have made it known that they want a shot at the winner of the fight between Floyd Mayweather and Marcos Maidana, so what better way for them to prove that they're next in line?" he said. "This fight has the potential to steal the show."
As for Collazo, he seems intent on prolonging the momentum created by a two-round blowout of returning former champion Victor Ortiz on Jan. 30 in Brooklyn. It was his 35th win in 40 fights since turning pro in 2000, and his fifth in six since returning from a two-year hiatus in 2011.
He won and defended the WBA welterweight title once before a close loss to Ricky Hatton in 2006 and lost a WBC title try against then-champ Andre Berto in 2009.
"Defeating Victor Ortiz in January was just the beginning," he said. "Facing and beating Amir Khan on the biggest stage in the sport is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I will take full advantage of this and put myself in the best position to face the winner of the main event. I hope Khan is ready because Brooklyn is coming to take him down."
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This week’s title-fight schedule:
Vacant WBA super flyweight title – Tokyo, Japan
Denkaosan Kaovichit (No. 1 contender) vs. Kohei Kono (No. 2 contender)
Kaovichit (62-3-1, 26 KO): Seventh title fight (3-2-1); Held WBA title at 112 (2008-10, two defenses)
Kono (29-8, 12 KO): Fifth title fight (1-3); Held WBA title at 115 (2012-13, no defenses)
Fitzbitz says: “Though his record isn’t quite as impressive, it seems the younger Japanese contender has spent recent years fighting a better brand of foe than his veteran Thai adversary.” Kono by decision
IBF bantamweight title – Newcastle, United Kingdom
Stuart Hall (champion) vs. Martin Ward (No. 13 contender)
Hall (16-2-1, 7 KO): First title defense; Winless in career against foes with exactly two losses (0-2)
Ward (18-2, 4 KO): First title fight; Ninth fight against foe with plus-.500 record (7-1)
Fitzbitz says: “Ward is by no means the second coming of Lupe Pintor, but he’s fighting a guy who had a 108-loss foe as recently as 2010. To me, that spells good things for the champ.” Hall by decision
WBO light heavyweight title – Atlantic City, N.J.
Sergey Kovalev (champion) vs. Cedric Agnew (No. 14 contender)
Kovalev (23-0-1, 21 KO): Second title defense; Eleven straight victories by stoppage (33 total rounds)
Agnew (26-0, 13 KO): First title fight; Fourth fight against foe coming off a victory (3-0)
Fitzbitz says: “Agnew’s last nine opponents had a combined 10-42-2 record in their last six fights before meeting him. He’ll be rudely (and rapidly) introduced to the step up in class here.” Kovalev in 3
Last week's picks: 3-0
2014 picks record: 16-4 (80.0 percent)
Overall picks record: 563-198 (73.9 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.