Three Punch Combo: Notes on Matchmaking, Mayweather-McGregor, and Zab Judah

THREE PUNCH COMBO — When done well, the art of matchmaking in boxing can produce very entertaining fights that make fans want to watch again. When done poorly, it can produce such fights that make fans wonder if they should tune in again. This past weekend we saw perfect examples of matchmaking done well and, to put it kindly, not so well.

Many of us were rightfully dreading PBC’s first televised card of the year that featured slick Cuban southpaw Erislandy Lara against Yuri Foreman. When breaking down this fight, there was essentially no path to victory that could be found for Foreman. He once relied on movement and just enough skill to out-box opponents, but injuries and age had slowed him down. He was never much of a puncher so the hope of catching lightning in a bottle did not exist. As expected, the slick Lara found Foreman to be a sitting duck who offered little resistance in a pitiful mismatch. The fight mercifully ended by knockout in the fourth when Lara connected with a flush uppercut to Foreman’s jaw. This was a fight that had no business being made, let alone as a main event on a nationally televised card.

On the undercard of Badou Jack-James DeGale, there was a match between undefeated prospects Ievgen Khytrov and Immanuwel Aleem. This was a solid fight on paper between fighters with contrasting styles, Khytrov being an aggressive power puncher and Aleem being a fighter who generally relies on his legs and speed. The fight turned out to be much more than anyone expected as it turned into an all-out war with plenty of ebbs and flows. Each had the other in trouble in numerous instances. The fight ended in the sixth with Aleem rallying after being hurt earlier in the round to put Khytrov on the canvas and eventually force the referee to stop the fight. Given their styles and skills, this was a well matched fight that figured to be entertaining. It far exceeded those expectations and may well end up in Fight of the Year discussions at year’s end.

Matchmaking in boxing is a science but it’s certainly not rocket science. When fighters are well matched, we generally get good fights that sometimes turn memorable. When they are not, we get less than compelling fights where the result seems to be pre-determined. This past weekend, the fights that were interesting on paper played out as such in the ring and those that were not played out as expected.

Mayweather-McGregor

Once again this week, talk of a potential bout between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor found its way to the headlines. This time, it was Mayweather making an offer to McGregor through the media that reignited attention in the bout, which was followed by a counter-offer, also through the media, by UFC President Dana White. There was much publicity and attention generated in these actions which was certainly the hope for the parties involved.

A Mayweather-McGregor fight is never going to happen. First off, there are simply too many logistical issues to overcome. What are some of those logistical issues? Well, for one, what boxing commission would sanction such a fight between an undefeated, highly skilled, experienced boxing champion and someone who has never had a professional boxing match? For another, McGregor is under contract with UFC. Dana White would never allow his company’s biggest asset to fight such a major event outside the UFC platform. Further, why would White want to risk his biggest asset in a fight that McGregor would not only certainly lose, but also badly hurt his star appeal?

Another reason, as I alluded to above, is that it is an utter mismatch. How could anyone realistically think that a trained mixed martial artist could suddenly overnight compete with one of boxing’s greats and most skilled fighters in a boxing ring? Mixed Martial Arts and boxing are different sports. There are different skill sets involved. To attempt to cross over to the other sport will take a lot of time as well as training. It would be a difficult transition. Think about this, if Mayweather were to go to MMA would he have the same success he’s had in the boxing ring? Of course he wouldn’t because it’s a different sport.

So why do we keep hearing about a fight that realistically will never take place? The publicity is great for all parties and does not cost them a cent. Mayweather needed to build interest in the Badou Jack-James DeGale card his company was co-promoting this past weekend. What better way to do that than mention a comeback fight against a name opponent that even casual sports fans recognize? And for Dana White, why not jump on the publicity bandwagon and keep the name of your biggest star in the news, front and center? Unfortunately, this publicity stunt will probably continue on and off the next few years as all involved will milk this for all they can.

Under the Radar Fights

Though the schedule is relatively light, there are a couple of under the radar fights to keep an eye on this week. One headlines a Showtime card on Friday and the other features the return of a former world champion seeking one more title opportunity.

The headliner between Adam Lopez and Daniel Roman on Friday’s ShoBox card is another example of matchmaking done well on paper that should lead to a good fight in the ring. These are both solid professionals who are at similar levels in their respective careers. Lopez is a boxer-puncher who likes to mix it up at times. He can also throw a high volume of punches which makes him fun to watch. Roman has a similar style but may be a little more technically sound. He suffered some close losses early in his career but has improved much as a fighter while riding an undefeated streak since 2014. This fight should be entertaining as well as competitive with a lot riding on the line for both competitors.

After three years out of the ring, Zab Judah makes his return on Saturday against journeyman Jorge Luis Munguia. This should be more of the type of fight to shake off the ring rust.

Judah seems like he has been around the sport forever and is attempting to once again jump- start his career in hopes of landing another title shot. With so many names between 140 and 147, Judah can likely earn another decent payday against one of the names as long as he does not stub his toe along the way.  One possibility is a match with Adrien Broner.

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