by Cliff Rold
It might not steal the show.
After all the ‘will they or won’t they’ leading to the ‘yes they will’ announcement on Thursday afternoon, it would be at least a mild disappointment if they didn’t.
There is an old adage that without a main event, there is no event. September 14 was an event from the moment its main event was announced. Floyd Mayweather versus Canelo Alvarez, for the World Jr. Middleweight crown, is the richest fight available in the sport today. Even if it fails to be a great fight, Mayweather-Alvarez has all the spectacle one could ask for.
A wildly successful multi-city press tour and early revenue records have generated a ton of buzz. The only negative anyone seemed to come up with was a hefty price tag that would make a high definition purchase come in a nickel shy of $75.
That soft point was likely erased with the announcement of a single additional contest. The event now has a red meat scrap even the hardest hardcore fan can love. The consensus top two Jr. Welterweights in the World will throw down for all the marbles on the undercard of Mayweather-Alvarez.
A main event on its own any other night of the year, finally Danny Garcia-Lucas Matthysse is signed.
The undefeated Garcia (26-0, 16 KO) faces a Lucas Matthysse (34-2, 32 KO) who, despite two decision losses, many view as still unbeaten. The potential outcomes range from Matthysse by destruction, to Garcia by decision, to a two-way classic.
We don’t know.
It’s good not to know.
If, at the end of the night, this is the show stealer it looks like it could be, the possibility is there to have a massive audience show up talking Mayweather-Alvarez and leave talking about the men who fought before them.
Something similar happened twenty-five years and change ago in another massive event. On March 29, 1987, in front of a then-record indoor crowd of 93,173, a young vibrant champion in his prime faced the long-time standard bearer of his industry.
The world tuned into Wrestlemania III to see if Hulk Hogan could body slam Andre the Giant. He did. Fans cheered like mad.
But a quarter century later, the match still most talked from the card happened about an hour earlier. The story was simple: fearing a defeat in a previous match, Savage worked over Steamboat’s throat with a ring bell and seemingly ended his career. Shockingly(!), Steamboat recovered in time for a Wrestlemania rematch.
Worked at a brisk pace and telling a story of revenge and athleticism, Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat (with an assist from George “The Animal” Steele) upended Randy “Macho Man” Savage to win the WWF Intercontinental title.
It was a turning point in both men’s careers. Savage would emerge as a main event player on the WWF end of professional wrestling, winning the ‘World Title’ at the following years Wrestlemania. Steamboat, who left the WWF for family reasons not long after his bout with Savage, would re-emerge in the NWA in 1989 and engage in arguably the greatest series of wrestling classics on U.S. soil in the 20th century against “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair.
Now surely, someone reading here will point out that professional wrestling is a scripted endeavor, an athletic soap opera. It’s a fair point. It is also fair to point out the spectacle aspect of a big time boxing match and big time wrestling cards have always borrowed from one another.
Gorgeous George influenced Muhammad Ali. Floyd Mayweather’s shtick crosses over so well he actually played the part of undercard enhancement at a Wrestlemania himself.
The businesses are different. The psychology of the opportunity isn’t. Steamboat and Savage turned out the lights on the perfect night. They knew there would never be a bigger platform for their talents and they took advantage.
Garcia and Matthysse won’t have the benefit of rehearsal. Neither man can rely on a hot valet (the late and lovely Miss Elizabeth) or a weird dude who eats turnbuckles with a green tongue (Steele).
They do have Angel Garcia though.
Being serious, Garcia and Matthysse don’t need any of those things. They have the stage.
Boxing has few genuine household names; guys who might get mentioned as desirable foes for Mayweather somewhere like ESPN’s Second Take. Be it for one round or twelve, this is a rare fight where both men have at least the hope they can enter the fraternity of mainstream names. If they seize this opportunity, both winner and loser can factor prominently in the future of Mayweather at Welterweight and numerous other big fights.
At the least, this looks on paper like the best pay-per-view undercard clash since Joel Casamayor-Diego Corrales I in 2003. It is already stoking memories of fights like Simon Brown-Maurice Blocker and Jeff Fenech-Azumah Nelson I.
It is the best of boxing.
It can also be the best of entertainment. Canelo Hogan might not have the stuff to slam Mayweather the Giant. Garcia-Matthysse has the chops to be Savage-Steamboat.
And Garcia-Matthysse is done.
All that’s left is the anticipation. As Randy Savage might have said, “Ohhhhh Yeah.”
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org