By Jake Donovan, photo by Chris Cozzone
Does a fight between Marcos Maidana and Erik Morales really need an interim title at stake?
After all, it’s a given that the fight –and card in general - is one big interim event, one that comes with a price tag for the television viewer, no less.
‘Tis the season for water-treading boxing events.
It seems that the NCAA Final Four and the start of Major League Baseball always bring out the worst in boxing. Last year, it was Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones putting fans to sleep with a years-too-late rematch that went in with minimal expectations and still managed to fall way short.
The year prior, HBO decided it was a good idea to have Winky Wright return from a 21-month hiatus to fight Paul Williams in Las Vegas on Easter weekend.
This year, we get a top contender and one of the toughest outs in his division taking on one of the sport’s bravest warriors in recent history, albeit one well past his prime and whom hasn’t won a relevant fight in more than five years.
But that win for Morales came on March 19, 2005 against Manny Pacquiao. It was the last time that Pacquiao lost a prize fight, having since went on to become the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world and also its box office king.
Because Morales is the last to hang a loss on the legendary Filipino, any fight in which he engages comes with a built-in tagline.
For example: This weekend at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas (Saturday, HBO PPV, 9PM ET), Maidana now fights the last man to have defeated Pacquiao.
Adding to the buildup is Maidana’s growing reputation as perhaps the toughest out in the division. Such was exhibited in his last fight, when Amir Khan survived his Vegas debut by the hairs of his fragile chin in barely outlasting the dangerous Argentinean despite dropping him early in the fight.
Even in defeat, it was perhaps his most notable performance since upsetting Victor Ortiz more than a year prior. In what is regarded as his breakthrough fight, Maidana overcame three knockdowns in the first two rounds to score a sixth round stoppage and officially put himself on the 140 lb. map.
Put it all together, and you come up with this weekend’s “Action Heroes” title.
In fairness, the event title is actually befitting of both fighters, as neither one needed this fight.
It’s a rare night in which Maidana (29-2, 27KO) has nothing to gain – other than a payday, of course, while trying to keep himself in the mix. A win on Saturday night will be viewed as little more than his picking off the carcass of what was once a great fighter.
In that vein, it can easily be argued that Morales (51-6, 35KO) has everything to gain.
A win – in addition to being a major upset over a fighter few are in a hurry to face– makes him relevant for the first time in years, and goes a long way towards justifying the comeback tour which began roughly around this time last year.
It’s a fight that wasn’t even his first choice. The night was supposed to be about tying up loose ends, as he was originally scheduled to face longtime rival Juan Manuel Marquez in a fight that was nearly a decade overdue, but still deemed as necessary for those who are fans of closure.
When Marquez decided it was in his best interest to instead test the free agent waters and pursue a possible third fight with Pacquiao, Morales and his handlers were left without a fight – and more so, left without justifiable cause to keep a pay-per-view date.
That is, until Morales’ fighting spirit intervened.
The future Hall of Famer not only accepted the dangerous assignment against Maidana, but actually begged Golden Boy Promotions to make the fight happen.
It wasn’t that the fight was floated his way and that with the proper enticement he was convinced to take it. Morales saw something in the Khan fight that makes him believe he has in front of him this weekend, the right opponent to put him in position to become the first ever Mexican fighter to win titles in four separate weight classes.
Such a win would’ve justified his demanding any title shot he so pleases, be it against Khan, Bradley or anyone else holding alphabet hardware these days.
But along came Golden Boy and the WBA to make it way too easy for this weekend’s winner. One begged the other to have something at stake, and now whoever has his arm raised in victory by night’s end will also have a shiny piece of hardware strapped around his waist and the honor of being referred to as interim champion.
It’s a label with which Maidana is already familiar. He carried such status from the time of his HBO-televised win over Ortiz all the way up until falling short against Khan last December.
The latter mentioned bout should’ve been the end of the interim business. Khan was viewed by that same sanctioning body as the full-fledged champ, which functionally made Maidana the mandatory challenger, for the sake of dumbing down things.
The actions taken by Golden Boy and the WBA body mean that – if the odds hold true – Maidana is given a free shot at remaining the top contender to a title he failed to win just four months ago.
Even aside from the general silliness that comes with labeling anything an interim title fight, the fact that Khan is defending his belt the following weekend immediately dismisses any rational claim for why one should be at stake on Saturday night in Vegas.
But this is what has become of our sport. Fighters are given manufactured titles they haven’t earned, taking place in fights that are manufactured as premium events that aren’t being requested.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected] .