New York: Leave it to boxing and take the lead. With sports attempting to make a comeback and hopes there is not another disruption from COVID-19, boxing gave fans a fix the past six weeks.
Six weeks of boxing and inside a bubble at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas concluded Tuesday night. And during a global pandemic Top Rank and ESPN delivered as prominent Latino fighters on the Top Rank roster got back to work.
Felix Verdejo, the Puerto Rico Olympia, made a statement last week with a commanding stoppage and is in line for a title opportunity in the lightweight division. He is one of many that has benefited with the return of boxing and his promoters at Top Rank.
They were the first of the big boys to return.
It worked, though the ratings dragged to a low point as the series of cards came to a conclusion the past few weeks. Perhaps, fight fans wanted to see title fights and champions on the Top Rank roster.
But with no revenue stream, attributed to fans not permitted at the venue, it is difficult to generate a main attraction and championship fight that is accustomed to be seen on Top Rank cards
With exception of a non-title fight for Shakur Stevenson, billed as a return of boxing is back on June 9, there was no Terence Crawford, Vasiliy Lomachenko, Tyson Fury. Missing, the big names and that was expected.
The undercard fighters contracted with Top Rank would otherwise be bypassed on televised arena shows. They got exposure and became the semi and main event. Soon, fans would tune out from their saturation of twice a week shows on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.
It can only go so far. The significant drop in ratings was reflected. An average 397,000 tuned in for Week 1 (Stevenson- Felix Caraballo) a fight that had interest as Stevenson continued his run as that rising superstar in the sport.
In between, there were two Saturday evening and late night cards televised by ESPN and Top Rank from Mexico City, with strict medical protocols put in place by the WBC. A traditional Saturday evening of boxing did not do any better on the ratings meter.
And this past Tuesday, a final telecast of the Summer Series, former featherweight champion Oscar Valdez scored a tenth round knockout over former world title challenger Jayson Velez. That sets up a possible title fight with Miguel Berchelt, the WBC champion at 130
Berchelt, during week seven of the series showed he is that potential superstar from Mexico. His fight averaged over 400,000 fans and that was a positive for one of the two Saturday telecasts.
But, the ratings were hardly over 200,000 on ESPN for that final telecast which highlighted a possible fight with Berchelt and Valdez, two of the prime fighters from Mexico that are promoted by Top Rank.
Disappointing, though boxing fans that tuned in got their fix.
Fighters got in the ring as they passed protocols and testing of COVID-19 as mandated by medical authorities and the Nevada State Athletic Commission. Trainers and personnel were also tested and in isolation.
With exception of some setbacks, five main events cancelled, testing and protocols were effective.Jermel Herring was the disappointment. Two positive COVID results scrapped his original and makeup dates against Jonathon Oquendo, and pushed back his defense of the WBO junior lightweight title.
However, overall. Top Rank and ESPN had a successful and good run. They got back when boxing was dark for months. They appeased fans and had the proper setup to make this work.
They got a jump on the competition and the others are about to follow. Top Rank is on a brief hiatus because of a return of MLB and the NBA that will take the air time.
They resume on that traditional Saturday night, again at the bubble in Las Vegas on August 22. Joe Smith Jr. and Eleider Alvarez get in the ring for the WBO light heavyweight title. Then, the anticipated WBC/WBO super lightweight title on August 29 between the champion Jose Ramirez and Viktor Postol,
Anticipated as this mega fight has been pushed back two times from locations that have been severely impacted by the Coronavirus.
And now it’s time for the others to follow. The PBC and Showtime. Oscar De La Hoya and Golden Boy returned last night with a card of boxing on the DAZN stream network. Safety and medical protocols were followed with outdoor shows and no spectators in attendance.
Vergil Ortiz Jr. stopped Samuel Vargas in seven rounds. In the ring he called out Danny Garcia and Keith Thurman, prominent names in the welterweight division.
Good luck putting that fight together with boxing politics, rival promoters. and networks. Ortiz with Golden Boy. Garcia and Thurman affiliated with the PBC and Showtime.
Yes, boxing is back to normal the way it should be.
Comment: Ring786@aol.com Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso
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