LOS ANGELES – For many who follow the boxing industry closely the “big fight” on Sept. 15 isn’t the Julio Cesar Chavez-Sergio Martinez middleweight championship or the junior middleweight title bout between popular beltholder Saul Alvarez and the sport’s latest “Rocky” story, Josesito Lopez, but rather the battle between the promoters and networks who are putting the opposing shows on in the same city and at roughly the same time.
Chavez-Martinez headlines an HBO Pay Per View show from the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas on Sept. 15. Alvarez-Lopez headlines a Showtime-televised event from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on the same night.
Chavez-Martinez is a Top Rank promotion. Golden Boy Promotions is putting on Alvarez-Lopez. Even casual boxing fans know these two companies don’t get along. Hardcore fans knew neither promotional firm would back off from staging an event during the coveted Mexican Independence Day weekend – which has hosted a major Mexican- or Mexican American-headlined PPV event since Golden Boy president Oscar De La Hoya was still fighting for Top Rank.
Both companies think they promote the bigger Mexican star and put on better fight cards, so both went forward with their Sept. 15 plans, putting hardcore fans and the boxing media in the awkward and annoying position of having to choose which show to watch or cover.
Top Rank has the more significant headlining matchup, a 160-pound fight that fans believe will be competitive. Golden Boy had lined up three competitive opponents for the popular Alvarez, who holds the WBC 154-pound title, but one by one those viable pay-per-view B-sides were eliminated. Paul Williams, the first choice, had his career tragically ended by a debilitating motorcycle accident. James Kirkland, who suffered a shoulder injury in his last fight, didn’t feel he would be ready to fight on Sept. 15 and wanted more money to take the risk. Victor Ortiz was upset by Lopez on June 23.
Golden Boy, who was just as shocked as most fans were when the late sub (for Andre Berto) broke Ortiz’s jaw to earn a ninth-round TKO, figured the rugged 27-year-old slugger from Riverside, Calif., was dangerous enough to make for a Showtime-level opponent for “Canelo.”
However, many hardcore fans and members of the media dismiss the matchup. They say Lopez, who has fought most of his career at 140 pounds, doesn’t belong at junior middleweight or in the ring with Alvarez (40-0-1, 29 knockouts).
Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer says he’s heard that opinion before.
“Some people say Josesito Lopez is too small to fight Saul Alvarez,” Schaefer said during a public press conference at Placita Olvera-Father Sera Park on Tuesday. “These are the same people who gave him no chance against Victor Ortiz.
“These are the same people who said Danny Garcia could not beat Amir Khan. This is boxing, and in boxing you never know.”
De La Hoya also chimed in with the “Ya-just-never-know” line:
“They said Manny Pacquiao was too small to fight me and look what happened. He destroyed me.”
For the skeptics who refuse to consider Alvarez-Lopez a competitive fight, Golden Boy has sweetened the Showtime offering with two “legitimate” matchups: a featherweight title bout between WBC beltholder Jhonny Gonzalez and former 122-pound titleholder Daniel Ponce de Leon and a surefire welterweight shootout between sluggers Marcos Maidana and Jesus Soto Karass.
The aggressive styles of the headline fighters and ridiculously high KO percentages of Gonzalez (52-7, 45 KOs), De Leon (43-4, 35 KOs) and Maidana (31-3, 28 KOs) have led Golden Boy to christen this event “Knockout Kings” and the promotional company is encouraging the fighters to live up to the name.
De La Hoya announced during Tuesday’s presser that fans watching the Showtime broadcast at home can vote on the ‘KO of the Night’ and the fighter who scored it will earn a $100,000 bonus.
The promise of extra cash will no doubt entice the participants of the card to give their all once in the ring, but will that promise of action be enough to sway fans to tune into Showtime during the Chavez-Martinez pay-per-view broadcast?
This question was posed to Alvarez.
“I’m not worried at all about sharing the night with Chavez,” Alvarez said through Golden Boy matchmaker Eric Gomez. “He’s got his date and I’ve got mine. I’m only worried about my promotion.
“I don’t think much about ratings. I have my followers and (Chavez) has his. I know my fans will come out to support me. The only thing I worry about is training. I let my team and Golden Boy Promotions select my opponent.
“I’m motivated to fight Lopez because I know that he earned a title shot with his last fight.”
Alvarez promises that his fans won’t be treated to any rude surprises as Ortiz’s fans were recently.
“The problem with Ortiz was that he was overconfident,” he said. “I don’t do that. I know that I have to approach (Lopez) with the same respect that I would have had for Williams or Kirkland or Ortiz.”
Lopez (30-4, 18 KOs) says Alvarez would be wise to do that. The near 6-foot contender told RingTV’s Dominic Verdin that he walks around at middleweight and will likely feel stronger than ever not having to sweat off his customary 20 pounds during camp.
Lopez also believes that his vaunted chin, which was able to absorb the best shots that Ortiz could deliver, will hold out against the red-headed Mexican’s heavy hands.
“I always spar with much bigger guys,” he said. “I’m used to getting hit by middleweights, light heavyweights, even heavyweights. So I don’t think about whether I can take Canelo’s punch.
“The ability to take a punch has a lot to do with conditioning. If you’re not in great shape you’ll feel the punch more.”
Lopez, who hasn’t had time to get out of shape since the Ortiz fight, says he’ll be in the best condition of his career for Alvarez.
The result may or may not be another upset but Lopez promises an entertaining main event.
“If you’ve ever seen me fight and you’ve seen him fight you know it’s going to be a good fight,” he said. “We leave everything in the ring.”
Photos / Gene Blevins-Hoganphotos / Golden boy Promotions
Video / Daniel Morales and Dominic Verdin
Email Fischer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @dougiefischer.com