Saturday night proved to be an amazing night for boxing and no match showed the future direction of the sport more than Showtime’s Maidana vs Lopez. The fight had every fan in the Home Depot Center standing when the bell rang for each round. Both fighters had their ups and downs, but the constant theme was pressure.
Gone will be the days of boxers dancing majestically in the middle of the ring. With the raw aggression of MMA, and the pressure to pay out larger purses, boxing promoters are favouring fighters like Maidana and Lopez. They want fighters to stand toe-to-toe against each other for 12 rounds or however many lead to the true money grabber, the knockout.
Maidana vs Lopez was non-stop action from the start and a promoters dream. The first round, a feeler round compared to the rest of the bout, featured the two fighters manoeuvring around the ring attempting to land their jab. Lopez did a better job than Maidana and took the on two of the three judges’ cards.
Maidana was able to take control in the 2nd round by landing a flurry of combination set up by his hooks to the body. That flipped in the 3rd when it was Lopez’s turn to show his powerful combinations. At one point in the 4th round he had Maidana against the ropes and hit him with 8 straight punches, a barrage Maidana seemed unable to defend himself from.
The 5th round began as the 4th had ended, with Lopez being the aggressor and Marcos Maidana trying to regain his footing. That footing was found with one minute left in the round when Maidana stepped into a left hook that stopped Lopez in his tracks. Lopez fell against the ropes directly in front of press row and the air could be seen leaving him as the ensuing body blows landed. That was the beginning of the end.
Maidana carried the confidence from his strong 5th round into the 6th and wouldn’t give Lopez an inch of space. Maidana sensed the advantage and took full advantage of the opportunity.
A right hook to the body early in the sixth set up a right hook to the head of Lopez that floored him for the first time. Lopez, stunned by the knockdown, didn’t take the full 8 count but instead returned to action after only 4. That was the last, and most important, mistake made by Lopez as it led to a flurry of Maidana combinations that a drowsy Lopez was ill-suited to defend.
Maidana finished Lopez with an uppercut and a series of over hand right hooks. The referee had no choice but to stop the bout.
It was an amazing fight by both fighters and it is exactly what boxing needs to stay relevant. Gone are the days where boxing fans want to see 12 rounds of jabs and weaving. Crowds no boo at the sight of a clench and become restless if there hasn’t been a knockdown by the 5th round.
A perfect example of this played out in the undercard fights. The Hopkins vs Charlo fight featured tow fighters with power but neither complimented each other’s fighting style. The fighters stalked each other trying to land jabs for points and time the perfect punch, that time never came. It led to a boring match and the crowd was agitated by the 3rd round. The biggest reactions came from Andre Berto, Canelo Alvarez, and other boxers arriving during the match.
The following undercard match was drastically different and featured two fighters that didn’t mind exchanging punches in the middle of the ring. Alfredo Angulo and Erislandry Lara put on a show that thrilled all in attendance. Erislandry began the fight trying to stick to his technically sound game plan but the hyper aggressive Angulo punched him out of that by the middle rounds. During the middle rounds both boxers let loose and the it resulted in Angulo knocking down Lara twice heading into the 10th round.
The crowd in attendance, fans watching on TV, and those following on Twitter were buzzing with anticipation for yet another round of this heavy hitting match but shortly into the round Angulo pulled up after an average looking jab. Lara’s corner rushed the ring and thus began the confusion and speculation. It didn’t take long for the fight to be declared over and for Angulo to be rushed from the ring. It was then announced that Angulo had broken an orbital bone over his eye and was unable to continue. Lara escaped with the victory but the crowd showed it’s respect for Angulo with a roaring round of applause.
The fans recognised the effort both fighters put in and let it be known that both fighters gave them what they had expected. This fight is no longer a novelty for fans, it is what they expect when they purchase a ticket or PPV.
The new generation of boxing fans want to see fist fly and want these fights to end in knockouts. Don’t believe it? Ask any sports site what drives the views for boxing and believe you me it’s not jabs. A Manny Pacquiao photoshopped KO pic trended on twitter for months. His loss in the cards to Bradley was discussed for a few weeks.
We are now seeing the equivalent to the 90’s MLB Long Ball era. Boxing isn’t dying but it has lost much of it’s lustre and the knockout is what will help it return to it’s zenith. As much as it was true that “Chicks dig the long ball,” it is now true that “Bros dig the knock out!”
As Floyd Mayweather Jr. fades away into his farewell tour, so will the days of pretty boy boxing. Boxing is looking at an era of brawlers and big KOs. A stylistic change that both young fans and traditionalist will come to accept and enjoy.