Superfight looms this summer -- we hope
You might not know it by perusing the mainstream media (this blog included, sadly), but pro boxing has divisions beyond welterweight.
And if you're as disappointed as I am about the dissolution of Mayweather-Pacquiao simply shift your focus to the featherweight division, because there's a superfight brewing at 126.
That would would be Cuba's Yuriorkis Gamboa against Puerto Rico's Juan Manuel Lopez, a pair of undefeated world champs whose jaw-dropping, show-stopping knockouts Saturday night proved there's plenty of action south of Manny Pacquiao.
In his first start since moving up from junior featherweight, Lopez broke down slick boxer Steven Luevano over six rounds, then flattened him in the seventh to claim the WBO featherweight crown and demonstrate that his power traveled with him to 126.
And in the co-main event Gamboa faced Rogers Mtagwa, who nearly defeated Lopez in October, and dispatched him with a deadly combination -- concussive power, plus the fastest hands in the game. That includes Pacquiao. Watch.
If that clip doesn't make you curious to see what Gamboa can do against a world class opponent, then you must not like boxing. And that's possible. I'm sure people visit this blog just to sneer at the sweet science.
And if that knockout doesn't make you at the very least want to see Gamboa again, then you probably don't like sports, period. A performance like that speaks to the very reason most of watch sports in the first place -- to see what can be achieved when top-notch talent meets meticulous preparation.
Add in an opponent of equal pedigree, someone like, say, Lopez, and you have a bona fide mega fight. Without exaggeration, Gamboa-Lopez is about the most significant fight in boxing outside the welterweight division, pitting evenly-matched world champions, both undefeated and in their primes. That hasn't happened on this scale since Oscar de la Hoya met Felix "Tito" Trinidad in 1999.
*Yes, you could argue that Mayweather-Hatton fits those criteria, but I'm talking here about pick 'em fights. Unless you're a Manchester City fan, it was clear long before the fight started that Mayweather would school Hatton the way he did.*
But will it actually happen?
A fair question given the Mayweather-Pacquiao situation, which showed us that given enough hubris even done deals can be undone.
The good news here is that both men are promoted by Bob Arum, which eliminates the inter-promotional bickering that often prevents the fights fans want to see. Saturday's card was the second the two men had co-headlined, and afterward Arum told reporters he wanted to stage a springtime split-site double header with Lopez fighting in Puerto Rico and Gamboa in Miami.
Possible opponents for either man include WBA superchampion Chris John, and Panama's Celestino "Pelenchin" Caballero, the guy who lifted Steve Molitor's title and the spitter of the hottest verses in all of boxing.
He has also been calling out Lopez for months.
Arum seems determined to milk the buildup to this fight, letting each guy collect at least one more quality win before matching them in a late-summer showdown.
A great idea, and one that could culminate in an a pay-per-view payoff unprecedented in the lower weight classes. With the right push from HBO this bout could transcend the boxing-mad Puerto Rican and Cuban enclaves we already know will support it in huge numbers.
But again, if we know anything about boxing, we know that nothing is guaranteed, except that damn near anything can happen to derail a fight we all want to see.
Guys lose tuneup bouts (see Zab Judah vs. Carlo Baldomir).
Guys get injured in training (see Judah, Zab vs. Shane Mosley).
Guys go to jail (see Mike Tyson, repeatedly).
Not saying that any of those things will happen between Lopez and Gamboa, but we can never be sure that one of them won't. So while delaying this showdown while interest builds might be the most lucrative course to take, the part of me that has been burned by boxing before hopes Arum matches these two stars sooner rather than later.