Canelo Alvarez closed the year Saturday night and continued to cement his legacy as an all-time boxing great. Alvarez won a commanding 12-round decision over Callum Smith and captured the unified WBA and WBC super middleweight titles before 12,000 fans at the Alamodome in San Antonio Texas.
And as the boxing year concludes, it was Canelo Alvarez on top of the boxing world. The sport is healthy and continues to shine as a global pandemic continued.
But there had to be controversy as there always is. Saturday night and prior to Alvarez on DAZN, at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut, before another closed venue due to COVID, that term of “three blind mice” applied again to ringside judges.
Undefeated bantamweight Remart Gaballo scored a controversial split-decision victory over former world champion Emmanuel Rodriguez in a fight presented by the PBC and televised on Showtime.
With the victory, Gaballo picked up the vacant interim WBC Bantamweight Title. However, it was clearly seen that Gaballo won at least 10 of the 12 rounds.
In only three of the twelve rounds were Rodriguez and Gaballo separated by more than three landed punches. Overall, Gaballo (24-0, 20 KOs) threw 148 more punches than Rodriguez (19-2, 12 KOs) of Vega Baja Puerto Rico but still managed to connect on 16 fewer power punches.
The punches of the 28-year-old Rodriguez seemed to be cleaner, as he wobbled the Filipino Gaballo on more than one occasion. However, two of the judges favored Gaballo’s aggression over Rodriguez’s ring generalship.
“It was a good fight, but he only won about two or three rounds,” said Rodriguez. “There were two punches from me for every punch he landed. He knows he lost. Everyone knows we won. My team told me to go out and keep boxing him in the late rounds. We knew he needed a knockout in the twelfth round. That was his only chance to win.”
Basically, boxing can’t afford to have outcomes like this and a championship fight that ended with controversy did not help to convince the skeptics. I always said, three ringside observers (judges) will see a fight differently. Boxing is subjective when a fight is in the hands of the judges.
But boxing needs to pay attention. There needs to be improvement with a scoring system. This latest disgrace was one of many this year. The best option, as I have advocated, a national boxing commission or appointing former fighters and champions to score fights.
Heck, fighters will always tell you, in the heat of the battle they are always scoring their fight as they trade punches. However, because the sport is political, and with promoters and sanctioning organizations very rarely on the same page, nothing will change.
Regardless, during the global pandemic, boxing had a successful run when the sport resumed in closed door bubble arenas with Top Rank, the PBC and Matchroom.
And with the success of Mike Tyson-Jones Jr. nostalgia, how many more of the retired will come forward and look to be a part of old timers night in the ring? That fight card generated $80 million off 1.5 million buys. Again, with the success of the first one, it was expected the retired would call for a one-shot deal of a comeback.
The trend, though, could eventually conclude when the perplexity of this loses interest or a severe injury occurs to a former 50-year old champion that no longer has the reflexes or skills. Though, I have to admit, Mike Tyson took me by surprise as he did with others.
Okay, back to business. This is boxing in 2020. The last three weeks of a calendar that resumed with proper medical protocols and very few of those hitches that prevented the big three of Top Rank, PBC, and Matchroom from delivering boxing to fans via TV networks, PPV, and streaming networks on various platforms.
So a reality exists that boxing is strong. Combined with average to good ratings on the ESPN platforms, FOX Sports and Showtime, and Pay per-view, one would believe the sport is strong.
However, some in the industry and those involved with the major three promotions are sustaining and counting the financial losses all attributed to closed doors and no revenue gained from the gate.
Top Rank, leader of the pandemic comeback, has run its course at the MGM Grand “Bubble” In Las Vegas. A deal with the casino/hotel has worked and been successful. But the financial losses of a gaming industry has caused MGM to cut back.
“It’s too mostly for them and we have sustained a mega loss paying fighters and with the bubble medical protocols,” said a source at Top Rank.
The financial loss could not be obtained but it is hefty. The decision was mutual to move on and Top Rank will do so. Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum is seeking different options at venues in Texas and if possible hosting international cards that are contingent on safety protocols.
A possible title defense for lightweight champion Teofimo Lopez in the new year could take place in Australia. Then again, Lopez is a draw in the states and the goal is to recover financial losses with a live and international gate if that is possible.
The PBC is moving along for 2021 and content with their venue agreements at the Microsoft Arena in Los Angeles and the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut.
But the fight in 2021, that boxing is demanding, is Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr. for supremacy at welterweight. Crawford, and Top Rank did their free deal on ESPN but now it’s time for Crawford to market himself and the route is be that pay-per-view fighter.
For Spence Jr. and Crawford to work, Arum and the PBC need to be on the same page. Next are the logistics and opening the doors to more than 16,000 paid customers that attended Spence Jr. and Danny Garcia at AT&T Stadium in Arlington Texas that were contested for a piece of the titles at 147.
Matchroom is content, for now, at continued promoting in the UK before a few thousand fans and that was seen when Anthony Joshua defended his heavyweight titles vs. Kubrat Pulev.
Oscar De La Hoya and Golden Boy highlight their new star on January 2 as Ryan Garcia has his biggest test against Luke Campbell in a WBC lightweight eliminator.
But New York is dark. Madison Square Garden and the Barclays Center, prior to the pandemic were consistent and a constant for the promoters and TV networks. But with no fans allowed, because of NYS medical protocols, the fights are elsewhere.
Gate revenue is a major proportion of revenue for the promoters and a significant part of contributing to the purses of the fighters. For the time being it is too costly to open the Garden and Barclays for championship fights.
Overall, not a bad year and they pulled it off. Boxing is strong but as always there is a need for improvement.
Rich Mancuso: [email protected] Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso YouTube Sports With Rich. Like, Comment, Subscribe.