The trend started with Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer trying to provide fight fans bang for their buck back in 2009 with the proposed mini lightweight tournament, “Lightweight Lightning.” Scheduled on the card were Joel Casamayor vs. Julio Diaz, Jorge Barrios vs. Carlos Hernandez, Michael Katsidis vs. Jesus Chavez, and the late Edwin Valero against Antonio Pitalua. Unfortunately, injuries to Casamayor and Barrios caused the card to lose its luster so there was no reason for the card to remain a tournament as originally planned. Still, it wasn’t the last time Golden Boy Promotions would try its hand at creating excellent undercards.
Cards such as Juan Manuel Marquez vs. Juan Diaz II and Marcos Maidana vs. Erik Morales had most fight fans tempted to purchase the card based solely off the undercard. The undercard fights were almost “Boxing After Dark”-worthy and fans wound up with memories of prospects like Danny Jacobs and James Kirkland getting sparked out, respectively.
With the quality of undercards rising, there was just one thing missing to top it all off, a high-profile main event tying it all together.
That was Mayweather-Ortiz. For the first time in ages, Saturday night’s card featured fights that didn’t make fight fans wish the main event was on already.
In Jessie Vargas vs. Josesito Lopez, the fight was the classic “prospect vs. journeyman” step-up that all young fighters have to be part of if they want to become great. The fight was an entertaining one with Vargas being the busier fighter but Lopez coming on strong at the end. Providing drama in the final minute, Lopez almost knocked out Vargas only for Vargas to reach the final bell, emerging with a well-deserved, split decision win.
Fans then got to see the beloved Mexican warrior Erik Morales. With Lucas Matthysse pulling out because of bronchitis, unknown Pablo Cesar Cano stepped in to fight Morales on two weeks’ notice. The thought of Morales vs. Matthysse was mouthwatering, especially as an undercard fight for a major PPV event, so it came to some as a disappointment when Cano stepped in for the Argentinean.
The disappointment was soon forgotten as the fight got underway. For the second action fight in a row, Morales and Cano traded punches in tightly contested rounds where each round seemed to have alternating winners. The fight came to a halt when Cano could not come out for the 11th round because of cuts over his left eye. It was just another brawl in a brawl-filled career for Morales.
What appeared to be a mismatch on paper turned out to be an exciting fight when WBC junior middleweight titlist Saul Alvarez got more than he bargained for against the determined Alfonso Gomez. Getting dropped in the first didn’t discourage Gomez who seemed to be fighting the perfect fight up until the sixth round. In round six, Alvarez caught Gomez with a perfectly timed uppercut before exploding with an exciting barrage of punches. The salvo encouraged referee Wayne Hedgpeth to stop the contest, even if it was a bit too premature.
Not once in the moments leading up to Mayweather-Ortiz did the undercard fights feel like they should not have happened or just be over with already. The trend has been a positive one and even other promotional companies like Gary Shaw Productions and Top Rank have caught on. Next month’s undercard supporting Bernard Hopkins vs. Chad Dawson has Shaw fighters facing Golden Boy fighters in risky contests. Top Rank also seems to be creating interesting undercards on the steam built from Manny Pacquiao-Shane Mosley in May, planning to build upon that by including solid match-ups like Rico Ramos vs. Guillermo Rigondeaux and Mike Jones vs. Sebastian Lujan on its two upcoming major events (Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez III and Miguel Cotto-Antonio Margarito II).
Having better undercards is a trend that obviously makes sense. Now that this trend seems to finally have caught on, hopefully, it will be here to last.
Addressing the Elephant in the Room
Everyone by now has commented on Floyd Mawyeather vs. Victor Ortiz’s controversial outcome after Mayweather knocked out Ortiz with a shot while Ortiz was off guard. Personally, most of the blame should be placed on referee Joe Cortez.
Mayweather had the right to throw that punch. Being kissed in the ring is one thing that shouldn’t be done and slamming your head into your opponent while goading him into a corner definitely shouldn’t either. Ortiz naïvely walked right into Mayweather’s danger zone to try and hug him after Cortez yelled for the break. In the past, Mayweather has often caught fighters off guard, making them pay for it. It should come as no surprise but that does not make him a dirty fighter either.
Getting back to Cortez, he was incompetent as a referee and failed to handle the situation correctly. After the point was taken away from Ortiz, Cortez should have put both fighters in neutral corners before both were allowed to continue fighting. The referee making both fighters touch gloves under his advisement would have been acceptable as well.
Cortez did none of this and possibly should never be allowed to referee a fight of that caliber again. What Ortiz did was absolutely naïve and stupid but the knockout could potentially have been avoided if Cortez had simply acted competently.