Welcome to the good old days.
As they prep for this weekend’s Showtime PPV finale headlined by hopeful Canelo dance partners David Benavidez and Demetrius Andrade, fans of a certain vintage will recall the loaded Don King cards of the early 1980s, when a high-profile main event was routinely supported by a handful of equally attractive supporting bouts.
Those too young to have watched the Larry Holmes-Gerry Cooney extravaganza in real time in 1982 can click to Boxrec to see that the WBC heavyweight title headliner on June 11 was merely the entree on an hors d'oeuvre-heavy night that had already included a 10-rounder between title challengers Earnie Shavers and James Tillis, a 10-rounder between future champions Trevor Berbick and Greg Page, and a 122-pound title defense by eventual Hall of Fame inductee Wilfredo Gomez.
Now no one’s claiming that Saturday night’s lineup at the Michelob Ultra Arena – formerly the Mandalay Bay Events Center – is quite so chock full of Canastota-bound talents. But given the more modern lean toward lineups of safe spotlight turns for promotionally protected commodities, it’s a pretty good show.
Competitive title fights at 130 and 140 pounds, the return of a dormant but still reigning middleweight champion, and a potential eliminator for the next shot at the sport’s highest-profile PPV superstar.
“Benavidez vs. Andrade,” Showtime executive Stephen Espinoza said, “is a career-defining matchup of two of the most avoided and skilled fighters in boxing whose desire to be great and will to win should push them both to be at their best.”
So, if you’ve got to say goodbye to a network, there are a lot worse ways to do it.
“It’s a very decent card with a main event I give both guys credit for taking,” SiriusXM host Randy Gordon told Boxing Scene. “Canelo simply has to fight the winner.
“If not, he may as well give Jermell Charlo and Billy Joe Saunders a rematch. As for Subriel Matias vs. Shohjahon Ergashev (at 140), this may be the action fight of the night.”
Showtime’s near-40-year run began about three miles down Frank Sinatra Drive at Caesars Palace, where Marvelous Marvin Hagler recorded the last victory of his career against John Mugabi in March 1986.
And its PPV end will come five years after premium cable rival HBO waved the flag, initially with Alvarez’s second pay-per-view bout with Gennady Golovkin in September 2018 and four months later with a World Championship Boxing card that included Claressa Shields and Juan Francisco Estrada.
Showtime’s final regular card is expected to air in mid-December.
Andrade, who’s still trying to get over after titles at two weights, insists he’ll do his part.
“We have ourselves a great fight. Our styles are going to clash really well, and I think we’re going to put on a show. May the best man win,” he said. “This is the Super Bowl of the 168-pound division. This is the biggest fight that can be made. The two most avoided fighters. Yes, I haven’t fought the best because the best doesn’t want to fight me. He can have that same claim. But the time is now.
“This is the fight.”
And for the winner, on to Canelo.
Ironically, longtime HBO blow-by-blow man Jim Lampley will have a ringside role in Saturday’s show, too, co-hosting real-time viewer chats after a week spent providing commentary, reports, and original video content for PPV.com's website and social media platforms.
He began his partnership with the streaming service at Alvarez’s fight with Jermell Charlo in September and he believes the Benavidez-Andrade result will create the subsequent Canelo narrative.
“More concrete evidence will emerge from the fight,” Lampley told Boxing Scene. “Does the tricky southpaw counterpuncher win? If so, how good does he look doing it? And if the favored destroyer wins, how does he look? I suspect Canelo roots for Benavidez. But the fight determines this.
“Intriguing, I think.”
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This week’s title-fight schedule:
IBF junior welterweight title – Las Vegas, Nevada
Subriel Matias (champion/No. 5 Ring) vs. Shohjahon Ergashev (No. 3 IBF/No. 10 Ring)
Matias (19-1, 19 KO): First title defense; Fought 33 rounds in four planned 12-rounders (8.25 average)
Ergashev (23-0, 20 KO): First title fight; Six KOs in nine fights in the United States (9-0, 6 KO)
Fitzbitz says: Given the combined 92.8 KO percentage, this should be fun for as long as it lasts. The guys at The Ring see Ergashev as top-10 worthy without a signature win. It comes here. Ergashev in 6 (51/49)
WBA super featherweight title – Las Vegas, Nevada
Hector Luis Garcia (champion/No. 2 Ring) vs. Lamont Roach (No. 1 WBA/Unranked Ring)
Garcia (16-1, 10 KO): First title defense; Coming off loss at 135 in last fight (KO by 9, January 2023)
Roach (23-1-1, 9 KO): Second title fight (0-1); Third fight in Las Vegas (2-0, 0 KO)
Fitzbitz says: Garcia coming off a KO loss is a red flag, but it’d be more an issue if Roach was a hardcore slugger like Gervonta Davis. He’s not, so Garcia looks like a slightly surer bet. Garcia by decision (51/49)
Last week's picks: 1-0 (WIN: Stevenson)
2023 picks record: 41-13 (75.9 percent)
Overall picks record: 1,292-421 (75.4 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. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.