Sometimes Boxing Just Can’t Help Itself

Just over a week ago, the dust was only beginning to settle as the world responded to a modern Boxing classic. After years of Heavyweight mediocrity in the excitement department, Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko went back and forth in a thrilling affair that enthused the Boxing public. After some tremendous ups and a few scary downs, Anthony Joshua closed the show in the 11th round and officially emerged as the sport’s biggest new Heavyweight star, all in front of 90,000 rabid fans too. It was dramatic, enthralling and spectacular, a fight that seemingly re-ignited not only the Heavyweight division but in some ways the sport of Boxing as a whole.

Now it was a question of maintaining that momentum though and luckily the weekend following Joshua’s triumph featured a PPV event emanating from Las Vegas. It would be an all-Mexican clash between Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. With tremendous name value, some pre-fight animosity and a combined record of 98-3-2, it seemed a fitting encore for the Wembley extravaganza that had come seven days prior. However, as is unfortunately so often the case with Boxing, behind the numbers and promotion lied a very apparent truth. This was no super-fight, far from it, in fact it wasn’t even really a competitive one. Hyperbolic pre-fight pieces couldn’t change the fact that after over 50 fights, Chavez Jr’s limitations were very much evident.

He’d had some solid showings in the past but hadn’t really impressed in years. Chavez was also only two wins removed from a defeat to Andrzej Fonfara in which he’d infamously quit on his stool after nine torrid rounds. At the time many felt that the result spelt the end for Chavez but unfathomably, two years later he was back in a PPV fight. I appreciate that his greater size intrigued some in the ‘Canelo’ matchup but in reality, Chavez spot in this fight had nothing to do with his résumé or accomplishments but instead simply the combination of his nationality and surname. If that wasn’t already clear enough heading in, it became obvious almost immediately following the first bell.

Chavez’s single advantage was his height but that was almost certainly never going to play a factor. The skill gap quickly rendered that supposed advantage useless because unsurprisingly, Chavez’s complete inexperience with fighting at range meant that he was an easy target for the quicker, sharper and simply better Alvarez. Chavez would make very few attempts at adapting and ‘Canelo’ continued to completely outclass and outscore him for an eventual unanimous decision win. In many ways it replicated more of a sparring session charged by money than it did a ‘blood and guts war’ fuelled by passion and desire. I’m not blaming Chavez Jr here. He certainly didn’t represent himself in the best way this past Saturday night but I don’t want to overly judge a man on the way he acted when confronted by a far superior fighter, it’s just not for me to say.

I do think that the decision to make this fight deserves criticism though. It was all so clearly shallow from the very start and built on a hype that we all really knew it would never meet. The post-fight announcement of ‘Canelo’ next taking on Golovkin is certainly a tremendous positive and spectacular news but nonetheless, to me this Chavez fight represented the worst of Boxing just like last week’s Heavyweight tilt highlighted its best. ‘Canelo’ vs. Chavez was exactly the kind of event that Boxing needs to try desperately to get away from. Fights that are promoted to a level that they’ll never meet. Fights that are mismatches inside the ropes that are made simply for financial gain.

Its fights like this that have consistently damaged Boxing’s stock in recent years and almost linked the sport with a reputation of underwhelming on the biggest nights. I understand that this was just a fight for Alvarez to stay active heading into the Golovkin clash but it’s important to remember that this was a PPV fight on its own. Overall, things are certainly looking up in the Boxing world but Saturday night was a reminder of what’s stunted the sport’s popularity in the last decade. The last two weeks have shown that at its best Boxing can be beautifully brutal, a true spectacle but also that at its worst, it can be farcical and predictable. Not every night can be like the one witnessed in London two weeks ago but we still need some consistency and striving for that level is a good start.

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