By Ivan G. Goldman
With Sergio Martinez defending his WBC middleweight title against Miguel Cotto on June 7, fans will be faced with a string of four big pay-per-view events every month beginning March 8 when Canelo Alvarez gets back into the ring against tough Alfredo Angulo.
Martinez will take on his warhorse of an opponent in iconic Madison Square Garden, a venue sure to be filled with Puerto Rican fans yelling their heads off for Cotto, 33, who’s moving up from light middleweight. Though Martinez is the taller fighter, they are both smallish middleweights. Freddie Roach, Cotto’s new trainer, will no doubt coach his fighter to use his shorter stature to advantage by stepping inside and punishing the body as he did in his last outing. Cotto, an excellent all-around fighter, is one of the most feared body thumpers in the sport.
Martinez, who turns 39 this week, is quick, smart, and one mistake against him can cost you the fight, as Paul Williams learned in their second bout when he dropped his guard in the second round. Julio Cesar Chavez practically knocked Martinez’s head off in the twelfth round, but he rose from the canvas and attacked, winning easily on points. This promises to be a can’t-miss attraction, perhaps the best of the four.
Alvarez-Angulo, slated for Showtime PPV, pits Canelo against a fierce puncher. This is not exactly a tune-up, but Angulo was stopped in his last outing, losing a fierce battle to Erislandy Lara in the tenth round. Angulo, 22-3 (18 KOs), tends to come up short against world-class fighters who can move, and the hard-punching Canelo, also coming off a loss (to Floyd Mayweather) has shown more movement every time out. At age 23 he’s still improving.
The rematch between WBO welterweight champ Timothy Bradley and Manny Pacquiao is set for April 12 on HBO PPV. It’s a pivotal bout for both men. Bradley is out to prove that his split decision victory over the Philippines congressman was no fluke, while Pacquiao is still trying to show that his getting laid flat by Juan Manuel Marquez didn’t signify anything more than a moment of inattention on his part. In his last outing, against Brandon Rios, he proved he’s still a fierce puncher, very quick, and not so easy to hit. Fighting out of a southpaw stance, he’s a nightmare for anyone his size.
Bradley, 31-0 (12 KOs), is tough, quick, and showed phenomenal toughness when he survived a brutal shoot-out with cement-fisted Ruslan Provodnikov to save his title. What’s more, in his last outing he easily outpointed Marquez, the man who stretched out Pacquiao. Marquez, 40, somehow convinced himself he got robbed against Bradley. That’s a delusion.
So far Mayweather’s scheduled Showtime PPV event May 3 may be the least attractive fight on the menu because Floyd’s pitted against a mystery fighter. Mayweather, still playing mind games against the unnamed opponent, was last heard saying he will let fans choose the fighter. It was then announced that fans elected Amir Khan over Marcos Maidana, and then there were no more announcements. Khan has been saying for weeks that he already signed to fight Mayweather at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, but there’s no signature at the other end.
At some point Showtime and Golden Boy will have to start promoting the card and would no doubt like to get final confirmation so they can begin the campaign, but neither entity wants to annoy Mayweather, who is at the top of virtually all the pound-for-pound lists and remains the biggest attraction in the sport. Nor do they wish to irritate Mayweather’s dealmaking advisor Al Haymon, whose huge stable of big-time fighters makes him arguably the most powerful behind-the-scenes operator in the sport.
Four PPV events running from March through June is likely to give fans pay-per-view fatigue. The high-def cost will be somewhere around $275 plus tax if you want to get all four. A disappointing event can make viewers less likely to take a chance on the next one.
My grades for the four match-ups will change as more undercard information becomes available, but this is where they stand at this point:
Angulo-Alvarez. C+. It would be an excellent fight if it were being given away to Showtime subscribers, but it doesn’t belong as a PPV headliner. This is a greedy grab.
Mayweather-TBA. Incomplete for obvious reasons. Against Khan or Maidana this earns a B-. Mayweather is a brilliant fighter and can be great to watch, but his six-fight contract with his network translates into a crummy deal for fans at approximately $75 per shot.
Bradley-Pacquiao. A solid B. Their first fight was rather boring. This one promises to be better.
Cotto-Martinez. B+. Give us a solid undercard and this moves into A- territory.
Sick Justice: Inside the American Gulag, by New York Times best-selling author Ivan G. Goldman, was released in 2013 by Potomac Books, a University of Nebraska Press imprint. It can be purchased here.