Regardless, this card, also featuring highly regarded WBA light flyweight titlist Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez, has finally found a home.
“It’s been a torturous road; I’m glad we’re here and November 17th figures to be a great fight among the two best little guys in the world, the two best flyweights in the world. I see this as [Humberto] ‘Chiquita’ Gonzalez-Michael Carbajal,” said the adviser for Viloria, Gary Gittelsohn, who worked tirelessly to see this fight come to fruition.
The Sports Arena is no stranger to boxing, having hosted many fights throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s and was the host for the 1984 Olympic boxing competition. But the last major championship fight to take place here was back in October of 1996 when Jose Luis Lopez faced Yori Boy Campas for the WBO welterweight title. The bottom line is that this building is in Los Angeles - where this fight belonged - and it was available. Juan Carlos Torres of Zanfer Promotions told Maxboxing, “We were discussing with a friend that lives here in L.A. about the fight and the possibility of different venues and he suggested this because he said he was in the middle of the Latinos, the Salvadorians, the Central Americans. So with ‘Chocolatito,’ ‘Tyson’ Marquez - these fighters are very well known in L.A. and in their country. We think it’s the easiest way for them to go to the show.”
On this same night, HBO will be televising a card from Atlantic City featuring WBC lightweight beltholder Antonio DeMarco against Adrien Broner. When asked if that telecast would overshadow this card, Torres remarked, “Even though Broner is fighting DeMarco, this type of fight is totally different in terms of fan-base, so I don’t see that as a problem. We had ‘Chocolatito’ in Pomona [in April against Ramon Garcia Hirales] on the same date as HBO [which broadcast Chad Dawson vs. Bernard Hopkins II]; it didn’t make any difference. It surpassed our expectations. So not only the fighters but the combination of the main event, I think [the fans] going to come and see it.”
While tickets have not officially gone on sale yet, the plan is to scale the arena for around 6,000 (which means they’ll be breaking out the big black curtains, a mainstay for USC basketball games) and price the tickets between $25 and $150. In terms of television, it will be carried on WealthTV in the States, with Azteca handling the broadcast in Mexico. In the Philippines, it will be a pay-per-view.
But the question is, why is a quality prizefight like this not on either HBO or Showtime?
Gittelsohn, who, for years dealt with both networks, stated, “It’s terribly disappointing and the business has changed and I think there are political issues and promotional alliances that affect a great fight like this getting air time. This was my biggest disappointment in boxing. If there was ever a fight that belonged on one of the premium cable networks, this was it. I did everything I could short of camping out at HBO and Showtime and although I received polite responses, the responses were the same: they simply did not have the room.”
So was this bout ever seriously considered?
“I think that the people who run both networks know boxing and I think both networks know this is a terrific fight that belongs on either Showtime or HBO but I think that there are political issues and a dearth of dates available to put this kind of fight on and, therefore, reluctantly had to pass on this fight,” said Gittelsohn, diplomatically.
The “political issues” Gittelsohn refers to come down to Showtime in 2012 basically becoming exclusive Golden Boy territory and HBO developing an aversion to the little guys other than Nonito Donaire (who currently fights at 122 pounds).
“I’m stunned because sometimes everything is handled...I don’t want to say the word ‘agenda’ but sometimes they’re giving the opportunities to fighters who they don’t push to fight the best out there in their divisions,” remarked Fernando Beltran, whose company represents Marquez, and was much more willing to be outspoken about the current state of the industry. “Right now, what we’re doing is unifying the 112-pound titles with the two best fighters in the division. So I feel very happy and, unfortunately, they’re the ones who are going to miss this fight because one way or the other, we have the tools to make it happen and that’s why we’re doing this fight.”
With or without the premium cable titans, this show would go on.
Beltran says, “We don’t depend on major networks to do a fight. Some promoters do but I’m not that. Some promoters, they don’t get a date; they don’t go and do a show. I have the television with more shows in the world that is TV Azteca and Azteca America, more than 70 shows a year.”
Both Gittelsohn and Beltran were willing to move this main event to another show as an undercard feature on another promoter’s card. But this was always going to be unlikely because the entities who control these dates are usually unwilling to give up these televised slots. Unless you’re the ever-influential Al Haymon, you don’t get to force your clients onto other people’s cards.
There is a thought process that with American audiences, it’s hard to pull a rating with flyweights. Call it the “glass basement” of boxing where anything below featherweight hinders your ability to make money and get on television in this country. In Latin America and Asia, flyweights can earn a lucrative earning. Over here, they are just little guys to television executives, who are perhaps a bit blind to the changing demographics of America (both representatives of HBO and Showtime were unavailable for comment for this story).
“It’s all about the knowledge,” said Beltran, who promoted Erik Morales during his glory days. “Unfortunately, there’s no knowledge here and in Mexico, we appreciate a fighter for what he is, not for how much he weighs and here in America, you need to be in a certain weight to be promoted correctly. In Mexico, we’re open and you can be as popular as the middleweight champion. You can be more popular than the welterweight champion if you are doing tremendously in your career. Look at the glory days, what Jorge Arce did and how he used to paralyze the action fights he used to give.”
Beltran believes the doors at one network are closed to him.
“We’re pleased; we don’t put pressure on the networks because we know - especially Showtime - we know that they work almost exclusively with one promoter, so we’re not bothered. We know how to create; we know how to build. We’ve made so many champions and I don’t think many other promoters can raise their hands and say the same thing.”
But wasn’t there a time when “Boxing After Dark” on HBO regularly featured the boxers from the lower weight classes like Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera, who then became franchise fighters? In fact, it’s what this series was originally intended for as it was launched in 1996 - fights like Viloria vs. Marquez. Now, “Boxing After Dark” is used for Edwin Rodriguez vs. Jason Escalera as mistakes and promises of the past come back to haunt the new regime at HBO Sports.
Ask yourself a quick question: wouldn’t a fight card that headlines with Robert Guerrero versus Andre Berto (a really solid match-up at the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, California on November 24th) be better served by having Viloria-Marquez instead of being supported by Keith Thurman-Carlos Quintana and Richie Abril-Sharif Bogere? (You can call that tripleheader taking place on November 24th under the auspices of Golden Boy and Haymon as “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.”)
Again, is this about the subscribers or fulfilling agendas?
Perhaps Viloria-Marquez isn’t worthy of the top billing on HBO or Showtime from a programming perspective (yes, in boxing, size does matter). Beltran and Gittelsohn don’t necessarily argue that. But it seems like a great appetizer to a bigger entrée; doesn’t it?
Regardless, they are moving ahead. This is a fight fans’ fight card, which will appeal to the hardcore follower of the sport. Can a card like this succeed in Los Angeles without the marketing of HBO or Showtime?
“We’ll see,” said Gittelsohn, who once managed Junior Jones, a junior featherweight/featherweight who some memorable moments on HBO. “I think with the right kind of promotion and if this was being covered by a big network push, with a big press push, I think you can get a very big crowd here. I still expect that the Sports Arena, we’re going back to a venue that hasn’t seen boxing in a long time and I think that, in and of itself, is a novelty and we’ll see how it does. I’m expecting a decent crowd.”
If you’ve watched the recent insta-classic between Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado (which I’ve done more than a few times), you can see Jim Lampley of HBO in the audience smiling broadly throughout the heated fifth round and giving both men an standing ovation at the end of the stanza. Yeah, he was enjoying himself from his ringside seat at the Home Depot Center this past weekend.
“That’s the best round I’ve seen since the first round of [James] Kirkland-[Alfredo] Angulo and I turned to the people around me and said, ‘I gotta think both threw more than 100 punches in the round’ - and I think they did. But it was everything I envisioned that fight could be and I was so excited to see it come off that way.”
Lampley admits it was fun just to be fan on this occasion.
“Oh, yeah, absolutely. As much as I wanted to call that fight, I can totally empathize with Alvarado, who apparently said in the fighter meeting the day before that, ‘It’s kinda of a shame that I have to fight this one because I’d really like love to watch it.’ So I’m the same way; I would’ve loved to have called it but I got to watch it in a pure fans’ way so that I could be lured up out of my seat by the kind of excitement I saw there when I just couldn’t restrain myself anymore. Because when I’m sitting at ringside, I don’t stand up like that,” he said, laughing. “So it was great and I think they fulfilled everything I expected and so many people expected from them.
“They seemed conscious of wanting to do so and they did it. And I love the fact that in almost every round [referee] Pat Russell had nothing to do other than stand out of the way and let them fight.”
Main Events announced on Tuesday afternoon that Odlanier Solis would not be facing Tomasz Adamek on December 22nd on NBC but instead Steve Cunningham, who engaged in one of the best fights of recent years against Adamek back in 2008. Honestly, the promotion ended up with a better bout.
“That seems to be the consensus; I’m happy to hear it,” said Kathy Duva of Main Events on Tuesday evening. “And the response since the press release went out about an hour ago has been overwhelmingly positive, so we’re really excited. The Cunninghams are excited; [Steve] and his wife are beside themselves and I can already see that rivalry is starting to come back. The Polish press is getting into it; everybody is talking about how great the first fight was. So I keep telling everybody, don’t fill out your ‘Fight of the Year’ ballot just yet because you’re going to have to wait till the end of the year to do it.”
As for Solis, the story is that his new adviser, Gaby Penagaricano - who seems to be good at keeping fights from happening - balked at the deal originally agreed on over the summer.
“We were led to believe everything was fine,” explained Duva, who always had this “Plan B” in mind, knowing the history of the Cuban heavyweight. “He either changed his mind or he had never been on board in the first place.”
Soon, Cunningham jumped at the chance to gain revenge on Adamek.
“The contracts went out in about two hours. That might have been a record. [Cunningham] was very excited and motivated to take the fight,” said Duva.
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