The Hottest Boxing Storylines for the Week of June 30
Terence Crawford took a big step toward becoming a boxing star Saturday night, knocking out Yuriorkis Gamboa to retain his WBO Lightweight Championship at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Nebraska. Was the win enough to put Crawford on the path to becoming a star? And can Gamboa, once a potential superstar himself, recover from his first career defeat?
Golden Boy Promotions has announced its next card at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, and it appears to be something of a dud. Is this a sign of things to come?
Also, Golden Boy's legal issues have begun in the wake of this month's bombshell resignation of its longtime CEO. What will this mean for the sport going forward?
Speaking of Barclays and duds, why is Danny Garcia taking a step back for his next fight? Have the powers that be lost some faith in him?
Finally, do the lackluster Cotto vs. Martinez pay-per-view numbers show that boxing needs to re-evaluate its PPV model?
All that and more in this week's edition of the hottest storylines in boxing.
Is Terence Crawford the Next American Star?
Crawford took a big step toward becoming the next big American boxing star Saturday night, coming from behind to stop boxing’s former big thing Gamboa in Round 9 of a tremendous action fight in Omaha.
The fight represented a homecoming for Crawford, the first Nebraska-born fighter to win a world championship, and it was the first world title fight in the state since Joe Frazier successfully defended the heavyweight title against Ron Stander in 1972.
Crawford, who won the title by going on the road and unseating Ricky Burns in March, struggled in the early going. He had trouble with Gamboa’s speed, having a hard time settling into a rhythm and getting his timing down.
The first four rounds seemed to indicate that we were on the way to a resurgence from the Cuban former amateur standout, but in Round 5, the fight changed on a dime.
Crawford connected on a crunching counter right hand, stunning Gamboa and putting him on the canvas just seconds later.
From there, it was pretty much all Crawford. He dropped Gamboa again in Round 8 and survived a bit of a scare in Round 9 before ending the fight with a big uppercut that sent the crowd home happy.
The win was a star-making performance for the 26-year-old, and it pretty much establishes him as the man to beat at 130 pounds. And that’s a good place to be.
With his style, which has been more exciting of late, his skills, his personality—you’ll find few nicer and more well-spoken fighters in the game—and potentially significant fights available, Crawford has a real chance of parlaying this big win into something even more significant.
He displayed a cool hand, not wilting under the pressure of fighting in front of his hometown fans or the pressure caused by his struggles with a tricky opponent in the early going. Crawford knocked this one out of the park, and he could be well on his way to becoming a star.
Can Yuriorkis Gamboa Recover?
Gamboa was once boxing’s fastest-rising star, but promotional issues, inactivity and a propensity to be aggressive to the point of carelessness have been his undoing. The 32-year-old Cuban, who captured Olympic gold at the 2004 Summer Games, walked into the CenturyLink Center with a perfect record as a professional, but he left the recipient of a devastating knockout.
The question is: Can he recover?
It’s a difficult question to answer.
Gamboa looked borderline dominant in the early rounds. His speed, precision and ability to dart in and out gave Crawford all sorts of trouble. But as the fight wore on, it was the Omaha native who made the necessary adjustments, timed his foe and took command when the chips were down.
It didn’t help that Gamboa was making his first appearance in a boxing ring in more than a year. It’s somewhat impressive that he was able to hang with as good a fighter as Crawford for as long as he did given all the issues that have plagued his career of late.
The only way for Gamboa to really become a factor once again—make no mistake, he lost, but he wasn’t outclassed—is to stay in the ring and remain active. If he’s not willing to do that, then it’s likely time to move on. His best days are probably behind him, but even if he’s not elite, he’s still a solid fighter who won’t be an easy out for anyone.
Can he still be a factor? Yes, but he needs to fight more than once per year.
Is De La Hoya vs. Schaefer the Fight of the Year?
The punches have begun to fly in what is sure to be the dominant boxing story in the coming months.
Early in June, longtime Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer rocked the boxing world by resigning his post with the company, a job he had held since its inception in 2003. The move came as one of boxing’s worst-kept secrets, as Schaefer’s increasingly sour relationship with company founder and namesake Oscar De La Hoya had made headlines for weeks leading up to the split.
As is customary in these situations, rumors began flying fast and furious regarding Schaefer’s role with the company and potential improprieties in his relationship with powerful adviser Al Haymon. It was only a matter of time before the high-priced lawyers got involved to sort through the mess.
Last week, per ESPN's Dan Rafael, Golden Boy Promotions filed a $50 million arbitration suit against Schaefer, seeking damages against the former CEO for undisclosed reasons. You can all but bet that the issues center on Schaefer’s relationship with Haymon and his propensity to steer fighters managed by him onto Golden Boy-promoted cards without Golden Boy-promotional contracts.
As Rafael reports, the case will be going to arbitration rather than court, because of a clause in Schaefer’s contract that stated that if either party sued the other it would be handled via arbitration rather than a lawsuit. That means that the records will remain away from the public eye, but you can bet that information will find its way out, and when it does, who knows what we’ll find out.
What's Happening with Danny Garcia?
Danny Garcia, the unified junior welterweight champion, seems to be falling from grace just a bit. How else do you explain a fighter moving from the biggest win of his career—co-headlining the highest-grossing boxing pay-per-view in history—to a bit of home cooking while returning to the place of his parents' birth, ending up with a blah title defense against an unknown fighter?
That’s the story of Garcia in a nutshell.
Since retaining his 140-pound titles, with something of an upset against Lucas Matthysse on the Mayweather vs. Canelo undercard, Garcia has been moving backward.
In March he narrowly escaped a homecoming fight in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, taking a disputed majority decision from Mauricio Herrera in a fight many believed he lost. Even if you didn’t disagree with the verdict, the fight was a much closer call than Garcia’s team expected, and if his next fight is any indication, he's looking to take it easy this time around.
Garcia will meet the virtually unknown—and lightly regarded even among those who do know him—Rod Salka in his next fight, scheduled for August 9 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
All indications seem to be that this will be nothing more than a showcase, stay-busy fight for Garcia, prepping him for a unification showdown with Lamont Peterson in the near future.
But even so, there doesn’t seem to be anything at all gained from facing Salka, a Pennsylvania native best known for his stunning lack of anything resembling punching power.
The 31-year-old has just three knockout wins among his 19 professional victories, and he lost his only fight against a notable opponent, dropping a majority decision to Ricardo Alvarez—Canelo’s older brother—late in 2013.
He shouldn’t provide much of a challenge for Garcia, and that makes this a waste of a fight.
Is the Latest Golden Boy Promotions Card a Sign of Things to Come?
Showtime, via its partnership with Golden Boy Promotions, cemented itself over the past year and change as a legitimate competitor for cable boxing supremacy. Under the leadership of executive vice president Stephen Espinoza, the network, which for years was the unwanted stepchild to HBO, resurrected itself with deep, quality cards full of talent and good matchups.
That’s why it comes as something of a surprise that both Showtime and Golden Boy will be the primary architects behind what appears—at least on the surface—to be a dud of a card scheduled for the Barclays Center August 9.
In the main event, Garcia will put his unified junior welterweight titles on the line against the unknown Salka.
In a separate bout, presumably as a prelude to an eventual unification showdown, Lamont Peterson will defend his share of the 140-pound crown against local fighter Edgar Santana. Like the Garcia fight, this appears to be a gross mismatch on paper, as the 35-year-old New York-based Puerto Rican fighter has never beaten a foe of any note.
The only compelling bout on the card features Daniel Jacobs' second attempt—and first since battling back from a bout with cancer that was expected to end his career at best and his life at worst—at capturing a middleweight title.
Maybe this is just the expectations game coming back to bite Showtime in the you-know-what, but given its reputation for quality cards featuring boatloads of talent in compelling matchups, this one feels like a bit of a letdown.
Will Boxing Rethink Its Pay-Per-View Model?
Miguel Cotto’s middleweight championship victory over Sergio Martinez was historic, and it sold out New York City’s Madison Square Garden, but it was something of a dud at the pay-per-view box office.
The fight, which was broadcast by HBO PPV, pulled in somewhere in the neighborhood of 350,000 buys, per Dan Rafael of ESPN.com, a number that fell well short of projections.
So, how did this happen? How did a historic night featuring one of boxing’s biggest icons and the reigning middleweight champion of the world fail to draw the public’s attention?
The promoters will—and have—tell you that the fight ran up against a wicked storm of higher-profile free events in the days and even hours leading up to the PPV. It’s true that the Belmont Stakes, contested just about 18 miles to the east, sucked up a lot of the sports world’s free publicity given California Chrome’s pursuit of the Triple Crown. But is that all of it?
The biggest problem, and the one that likely torpedoed Cotto vs. Martinez, is that PPV was designed for the biggest and best fights in the sport. Cotto has been a draw throughout his career, but Martinez—for all his talent—has never shown the ability to draw much at all.
In today’s boxing climate, it’s not easy to draw on PPV unless your last name is Mayweather or Pacquiao. And even the two biggest stars in the sport have seen their numbers come back to earth a bit in their most recent fights.
Pacquiao’s April rematch with Timothy Bradley failed to top the PPV buys of the first bout, and Mayweather has failed to eclipse a million in two of his last three fights.
The boxing PPV market has been oversaturated for some time now, and fans have begun to respond by refusing to shell out additional cash for bouts that belong on regular pay cable.
It could also be a repudiation of logic, most notably espoused by Top Rank CEO Bob Arum, that undercards don’t matter. The Cotto vs. Martinez undercard was especially weak on paper, and while a couple of the bouts far exceeded expectations, nobody was swayed to part with money by the prospect of seeing Andy Lee or Javier Maciel.
Could the recent spate of poor PPV showings change the business model under which boxing operates? That might be overly optimistic, but fans can sure hope.
Kevin McRae is a featured boxing columnist for Bleacher Report and an auxiliary member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA). You can follow him on Twitter at @McRaeBoxing.