By Nick Tylwalk
It's depressing being a boxing fan sometimes. No, scratch that. It's frustrating.
On one hand, there's the smug knowledge that you follow and enjoy what for my money is the most exciting sport in the world. So what if the majority of sports fan, especially here in the United States, don't follow boxing any more? When the sport is at its best, they simply don't know what they're missing.
Unfortunately, it seems that we can barely go a week without reminders of why the general public can't fall back in love with the sweet science. Boxing (and the people involved with it) can just drive you crazy with its near total lack of logic and common sense. I don't even have to go back further than this past Saturday for some examples.
(Note: There's a 99 percent chance this post will break absolutely no new ground and will simply come off as a long rant. You've been warned if you continue on.)
Let's start with Sergio Martinez and his 11th-round KO of Darren Barker. It wasn't the most scintillating performance we've ever seen from Maravilla, so I'm okay with people criticizing him a bit. In fairness, though, we might want to keep in mind that:
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- Barker fought covered up like Winky Wright, plus he wasn't very busy, eliminating Martinez's chances to counter. Sergio jabbed a lot, went to the body more than I can ever remember and bided his time. Not sure what else he could have done with such a conservative opponent. Plus Barker deserves credit for being a little better than we all were expecting. In the end, Martinez did open up, which leads me to...
- Martinez closed the show! Even the two men above him on most pound-for-pound lists, Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, let plenty of guys make it to the final bell when the fight is pretty much in the bag. Sergio didn't.
But hey, maybe you think Martinez should have blasted him out of there in one round. That's your right as a fan.
What bothered me more was when Martinez was asked after the fight about the possibility of fighting Bernard Hopkins (if he beats Chad Dawson later this month, I presume) at 170 pounds. He gave what I thought was a very honest answer, saying he doesn't even walk around at 170 pounds and that it would be a lot of weight for him.
It didn't take long for the internets to erupt with the idea that Martinez was ducking Hopkins. Yes, that's what we've come to: Not only do we expect that a guy who only became the middleweight champ 18 months ago move up more than a weight class to take a fight, apparently we demand it. And if not, it must be because he's "ducking" the other guy, right?
How quickly we forget that Martinez fought a guy very few others wanted to fight (that'd be Paul Williams) twice in the last two years. I'm sure Maravilla realizes a Hopkins fight would be a tough battle and probably wouldn't be a barnburner. Since B-Hop hasn't historically drawn as well as his name recognition would suggest, it may not be a gigantic payday either.
But suggesting that just because Martinez doesn't want to leap at the thought of packing on double digit pounds to battle Hopkins means he's scared is asinine. It's not Sergio's fault that the current crop of middleweights leaves a lot to be desired, just as the Klitschko brothers can't be blamed that no heavyweights are able to give them a challenge.
Then yesterday, Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports wrote that since Timothy Bradley signed with Top Rank, you can pretty much take it to the bank that he'll fight Pacquiao in the first half of 2012. It's hard to argue with Iole's logic, making it a textbook case for what's wrong with boxing at the current time. Bradley is essentially being rewarded for declining what would have been a highly anticipated fight with Amir Khan with an even bigger prize - in fact the biggest coup possible, fighting Pac-Man.
Understand I'm not really blaming Bradley for this turn of events. He's an extremely hard working fighter who seems like a genuinely good guy. Depending on what side of the Great Head Butt Debate you come down on, he feels like a guy worth rooting for, someone you'd be happy to see ger such a big break.
It would just feel a lot more like he earned it if he had beaten Khan first. Naturally Bradley wouldn't even be in this position if he hadn't built up an undefeated record and beaten some good fighters. Yet the fact remains that to land Pacquiao, it was much more crucial for him to get out of his promotional deal with Gary Shaw and sign with Manny's promoter than it was for him to rack up another big win.
With the two top promotional companies warring again, these kinds of situations are going to keep happening. We'll still get great fights, but the way they come about and the hoops that need to be jumped through to get there are going to remain ridiculous.
Like I said, frustrating.
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