By Jake Donovan
Yet another summer flushed down the toilet.
That was basically the feeling when it was learned last week that former two-division titlist Robert Guerrero suffered a torn rotator cuff and was forced to withdraw from this weekend’s highly anticipated showdown with Marcos Maidana.
The bout was to serve as the main event for HBO’s latest edition of Boxing After Dark, the type of fight reminiscent of what the series what represented when created 15 years ago. Instead, it became the latest installment of an industry that continues to test our patience as we are once again forced to endure the dog days of summer.
Fans reacted to the news as if we were denied the best fight that could ever be made, and that we’re left with a gaping hole in the boxing schedule.
The truth is that neither account is true. In fact, the latter couldn’t be more of an exaggeration. Even if it was, the sport has always proven to reload and come back stronger in the ensuing months.
Four years ago, boxing fans went through a wicked drought, one that was forced upon them while watching one major fight after another fall through in leading to a nearly two month stretch absent of significant boxing action. Yet when all was said and done, the back end of 2007 turned out to be one of the greatest stretch runs in recent boxing history.
The following year saw the sport forced to fight off of the ropes. Summer boxing action was limited to the amateur ranks as the 2008 Olympics took center stage. The next several months saw one flop after another as the sport’s attempt to create new stars and reinvent old ones proved to be a huge failure, with one box office dud after another falling in line with a crippled economy.
Then came the night when a new crossover star was born. Manny Pacquiao – his star already on the rise – made the transition to mainstream superstar after forcing Oscar de la Hoya to quit on his stool after eight shockingly one-sided rounds in a bout that became the modern day version of David slaying Goliath (or so the pre-fight odds suggested).
Nothing can be more deadly than death itself, which plagued the summer of 2009. With significant action lacking in the ring, the hottest months of the year became best known for the headlines that were created with one known boxing entity after another meeting his maker – including the endeared trio of Alexis Arguello, Vernon Forrest and Arturo Gatti.
However, it was also a summer of positive headlines and placesetting for bigger events to come later in the year. Press tours had begun for Showtime’s announcement of its groundbreaking Super Six super middleweight tournament. The final pieces were put together for Floyd Mayweather’s long anticipated return to the ring, following a 21-month hiatus. Pacquiao was looking to add to the record books in pursuit of alphabet glory.
By year’s end, the dry summer was long forgotten. While the end of 2009 is synonymous with the beginning of the fallout in attempting to get Mayweather and Pacquiao together in the ring, their constantly being mentioned in the same breath proved to be box office gold – for the first time in a decade, two separate fighters headlined pay-per-view events selling at least one million units in the same year.
The dynamic duo repeated the feat last year, another year that saw a dead boring summer. Despite the summer doldrums, ensuing fallouts early in the fall and still no hope of Pacquiao and Mayweather meeting in the ring for what would go down as the most lucrative fight in boxing history, the sport finished strong with a slew of Fight of the Year candidates in its final six weeks of in-ring action.
The moment it was revealed that this weekend would be without an HBO broadcast, the moans set in that this summer was yet another letdown.
However, it’s proven to be a productive summer and with one heck of a lineup awaiting once the fall season begins.
For all of the talks of Guerrero-Maidana serving as a potential Fight of the Year candidate, the same can be said of the September 10 HBO-televised featherweight showdown between undefeated Yuriorkis Gamboa and former titlist Daniel Ponce de Leon – or at least a hell of a lot of fun for however long the action lasts in Atlantic City. The same can be said of the other leg of the evening’s split-site telecast, as Vitali Klitschko faces Tomasz Adamek in a heavyweight bout that figures to draw 60,000 fans in Adamek’s native Poland.
One week prior, Andre Berto returns to the ring, fighting for the first time since suffering the first loss of his young career. His bounceback fight comes on HBO against welterweight titlist Jan Zaveck.
The man responsible for snatching Berto’s “0” earlier this year was Victor Ortiz, who this weekend will be featured on HBO as the network kicks off its premiere episode of “24/7 Mayweather/Ortiz”, a four-episode installment to hype up their highly anticipated September 17 pay-per-view event.
What has boxing fans buzzing isn’t so much the matchup itself – although one where a Mayweather win isn’t as much of a given on paper as has been the case in far too many of his cherry-picked fights in recent years. Where the night truly becomes an event is in its stacked undercard, one that – dare we say it – should prove to justify the lofty price tag that comes with it.
Another well-stacked pay-per-view show comes less than a month later – October 15, when a strong supporting cast accompanies the long awaited – and perhaps slightly overdue – light heavyweight championship bout between ageless lineal king Bernard Hopkins and resurging Chad Dawson.
Normally boxing thins out around that time and saves up for a strong November. Instead, it remains strong while daring to go up against baseball’s World Series, and not just offering up generic filler.
A week after Hopkins and Dawson throw down in a fight four years in the making, boxing welcomes back with open arms the return of pound-for-pound entrant Nonito Donaire. The amazingly gifted bantamweight champ has been forced to sit on the sidelines while sorting out a contract dispute with promoter Top Rank, but the two sides have worked out their differences.
The end result is one of the very best in the game plying his trade, as plans move closer towards a showdown with undefeated two-division titlist Omar Narvaez.
October ends with the long awaited conclusion of Showtime’s Super Six tournament, as Andre Ward and Carl Froch battle it out in a fight that determines super middleweight supremacy.
For those who believe the winner still has his work cut out for him before being named the true successor to the crown vacated by Joe Calzaghe more than three years ago, don’t fret. Showtime has wisely slotted Lucian Bute’s next fight to piggy back off of the Super Six finale, as the wildly popular transplanted Romanian faces Glen Johnson one week after Ward-Froch.
Then of course comes the third installment of the longtime in-ring rivalry between pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao and lightweight champion Juan Manuel Marquez. Details are still being worked out for the undercard, though notice has already been served that it needs to come correct, as it now goes up against Fox’ first installment of its seven-year deal with U F C.
Plenty of other action is to be had in between and immediately following all of the aforementioned action – the return of middleweight king Sergio Martinez; a possible rematch between Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito; Rafael Marquez pursuing alphabet glory one last time against the streaking Toshiaki Nishoka; and resurging Jorge Arce seeking revenge against Simphiwe Nongqayi, the last man to hang a loss on the legendary Mexican.
Of course, there’s also the heavyweight doubleheader to air live on EPIX this weekend. Undefeated top rated contender Alexander Povetkin enduring his first step-up in class in more than three years when he faces former heavyweight titlist Ruslan Chagaev. A similar tale is to be found in the co-feature, as rising contender Robert Helenius – on the heels of his possibly retiring Samuel Peter a few months ago – meets another faded former beltholder in Sergei Liakovich.
No, it doesn’t quite measure up to the anticipation that came with the suggestion of Guerrero and Maidana beating the hell out of one another. But for this weekend it will do, and given what we’ve endured in years past, and what already lies ahead as early as next weekend, there’s no need for alarm over the scheduling fallout.
Fear not boxing fans, but the dog days of summer are almost over.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected] .