THREE PUNCH COMBO — On Saturday, Vasyl Lomachenko (8-1, 6 KO’s) makes the third defense of his 130-pound title when he faces Miguel Marriaga (25-2, 21 KO’s) in an ESPN televised main event. Many boxing insiders see Marriaga as an unworthy challenger and expect the fight to be a cakewalk for the ultra-skilled Lomachenko. So why are we seeing such a fight on a big platform like ESPN? It’s the business of the sport that produced the bout.
Top Rank, Lomachenko’s promoter, clearly wanted Orlando Salido as the opponent for Lomachenko for this date. With limited options at 130 for Lomachenko, facing the only fighter he lost to as a pro in what was an entertaining fight made a lot of sense. However, Salido is well aware that there are not a lot of options at 130 for Lomachenko and that he is by far the most marketable name available. Salido set a high price for his services. It was not met and Salido will continue to hold out, believing that one day his price will be met.
So with Salido out, where else could Top Rank turn? They needed to keep Lomachenko busy and wanted him on the ESPN platform but did not have many options. The other top 130 pounders either already had fights scheduled or had previously turned down overtures to face Lomachenko. The list was thin and Top Rank ultimately, in a very calculated decision, settled on Marriaga.
Why Marriaga? He is coming off a loss to Oscar Valdez and his other loss was a one-sided defeat against Nicholas Walters. Lomachenko, of course, dominated the same Walters last November, so the selection of Marriaga as Lomachenko’s opponent wasn’t going to go over well in the boxing community.
The way Top Rank looked at this was that no matter who they picked, the opponent would not go over well after they could not entice Salido to take the bait. Marriaga is a name boxing fans are familiar with and, more importantly, his style is what Top Rank was seeking. In his bouts against Walters and Valdez, Marriaga showed at times an almost reckless abandon. He was willing to be aggressive and let his hands go, hoping to land something big to change the course of those bouts. By being so aggressive, he did land but also got hit a lot.
Why is this important? If Marriaga brings this same style to the ring when facing Lomachenko, we may see something in a Lomachenko fight that we have not seen happen to him since he faced Salido. I would venture to say we are going to see Lomachenko get hit. Marriaga is going to let his hands fly like he did against Walters and Valdez and inevitably land some punches. Lomachenko will counter and pick Marriaga apart but it’s the get hit part that is important.
Top Rank needed an opponent that Lomachenko could handle but also look a little vulnerable against. They need him to get hit. Lomachenko has been so dominant that he is scaring off many potential foes. Why get in the ring with someone who is just going to pick you apart while you are swinging at air? The risk is not worth it. So Top Rank needed an opponent who would be willing to let his hands fly and go for broke in the hopes that Lomachenko gets touched a bit. They need him to look somewhat human and not just a machine that dissects his opposition to bits. If Lomachenko gets cracked a few times, maybe other potential opponents think they can do something and the risk now becomes worth their while. That is how the business of the sport brought us Lomachenko-Marriaga on Saturday.
What Is Next For Mikey Garcia and Adrien Broner?
Mikey Garcia (37-0, 30 KO’s) scored a dominant unanimous decision win against Adrien Broner (33-3, 24 KO’s) in a bout contested in the 140-pound division. Now Garcia and Broner will head in drastically different paths with Garcia on the road to some more substantial fights while Broner must pick up the pieces.
In all probability, Garcia will return to the lightweight division his next time out where he still holds a belt. At age 29 and entering the prime of his career, he is clearly seeking big fights. The most likely opponent for Garcia would seem to be another belt holder at lightweight in Robert Easter Jr. Easter is undefeated with some solid wins under his belt and in need himself of a big fight. Easter is also aligned with Al Haymon and with Garcia having fought under the PBC banner his last three times out, the fight would seemingly be easy to make.
Garcia is a smart individual surrounded by very intelligent people. They realize the importance of marketability in this sport. It’s a big reason why Garcia and his team took the Broner fight. Broner has a name and Garcia needed the name on his resume. Easter may not have the name that Broner has, but Easter does have a belt and a win over him would make Garcia a unified champion and drive his price up. Keep in mind there is a huge name fighting one division below lightweight in the aforementioned Lomachenko who has made overtures about moving up if a big fight presents itself. Well, if Garcia is a unified champion, he would not only make for a natural opponent for Lomachenko in a super fight but also have serious bargaining power when negotiating such a fight.
As for Broner, as I wrote last week, his legacy takes a serious hit with the loss to Garcia. Broner needs to go back to the drawing board to resurrect his career. He is only 28 and has time to get back in the picture. Expect him to take a similar path that he took following his first career loss to Marcos Maidana. Broner will fight the classic “B” level type opponents and get a few wins in fights where he is heavily favored. One such opponent could be Ricky Burns. A Broner-Burns fight has been discussed on and off for a few years and the time may finally be right in the careers of both men to make it happen.
Under The Radar Fights
We have another big weekend of televised action this week. As is often the case of such weekends, a few fights tend to fly under the radar. A pair of fights on ESPN are not getting much attention right now but should not be missed.
On Saturday, Raymundo Beltran (33-7-1, 21 KO’s) returns to face Bryan Vasquez (35-2, 19 KO’s) in a lightweight fight that could turn into a war. The bout will serve as a co-feature to Vasyl Lomachenko’s 130-pound title defense. This is the third time I have featured Beltran in the under the radar segment and for good reason. He has a crowd pleasing style that just makes for good entertaining fights. He constantly presses forward looking to make the fight and draw opponents into exchanges. Vasquez is a solid fighter who has a very similar style to that of Beltran. See why I love this fight? We have two fighters who like to be aggressive and press the action. And two fighters who like to get their opponents into exchanges. Mark my words, this will be a good scrap and be the talk of the boxing community on Sunday.
Another fight that could turn into a war is the Golden Boy on ESPN headliner on Friday night between Mauricio Herrera (23-7, 7 KO’s) and Jesus Soto Karass (28-11-4, 18 KO’s). First off, both have seen their better days., but that’s why matching them together makes a lot of sense. The winner goes forward with one last opportunity and the loser really needs to strongly consider hanging the gloves up for good.
In his prime, Herrera was a technically sound boxer who used his legs and a precise jab to throw off the rhythm of his opponents. He was a master at setting up just the right angles to land sharp punches. But his legs are not what they used to be just a few years ago. This has led to Herrera being more in the pocket and getting hit a lot more. As for Soto Karass, he knows only one way to fight and that is going forward chucking leather. He has never been concerned about defense. Herrera, with his legs not what they once were, will be in front of Soto Karass most of the night. Herrera will find Soto Karass an easy target but also be in position to allow Soto Karass to do what he likes to do and that is throw punches. This could be a lot of fun.
As I so often preach, good matchmaking leads to good fights. The above two fights that are flying under the radar this week are examples of good matchmaking. Don’t miss them as they should be a lot of fun to watch.
Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank
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