Saturday night will see Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez step into the ring on HBO pay-per-view to face each other for a third time. While that is the bout that will sell the PPV to the masses, there are three undercard bouts that will also be shown. Scott Christ of Bad Left Hook, one of the best boxing writers on the planet, takes the time to talk to me about those undercard bouts. You can follow all of his updates on Pacquiao vs. Marquez at Bad Left Hook.
Brent Brookhouse: The biggest name on the undercard both in terms of overall ranking and notoriety is Timothy Bradley. Bradley faces Joel Casamayor in the featured undercard bout. Now, as a guy who was a big Casamayor fan when Joel was in his prime, this fight still seems like a waste to me. I also get the impression that it's not exactly the kind of bout the boxing media has jumped behind as a legitimate bout for a show of this cost and importance. Is that fair? Is this a legitimate bout in any way?
Scott Christ: Casamayor is 40 years old and hasn't looked good in a fight since losing his lightweight championship to Juan Manuel Marquez in 2008, which was the first (and to date only) time that the Cuban has been stopped. It's fair to look at the fight as a serious mismatch in 2011. Casamayor has recently struggled against club fighters, and was routed by Robert Guerrero in 2010. Joel is fighting for money at this point, and has lost all of what made him one of the great overlooked fighters of his generation. Bradley, on the other hand, is 28 years old and in the prime of his career, and is making his debut under the Top Rank banner. But it's also a curious fight, as Casamayor can ugly up 10 rounds like nobody's business, and Bradley isn't known for being a particularly exciting fighter to begin with. Top Rank is pushing the fight as something legitimate, but it really isn't. They're hoping most haven't seen Casamayor in a few years, or don't even know or care who he is in the first place. And it runs the risk of sucking the life out of the arena if it winds up as bad as it could be.
Brent Brookhouse: Is this a disappointment for Bradley? After having HBO dump a lot of money into and making big commitments with his fight with Devon Alexander in January, this seems like a major step back. Yes, he's now with Top Rank, but wouldn't the hope coming off of a fight that was supposed to be so big and have such importance be that Bradley would at least be continuing to headline HBO Championship Boxing cards, not fighting shot Cubans on undercards?
Scott Christ: The opinion of Timothy Bradley among a lot (not all, but a lot) of boxing fans took a pretty big hit this summer when he ducked out of an agreed-upon fight with Amir Khan, so I have to guess he's just happy being back in the ring at all. He's fought just two times since 2009, and neither fight was exactly memorable. To get himself on a Pacquiao card is big for him, in part because he's now believed by many to be the next likely opponent for Manny himself, should all go according to plan. That's not set in stone, but I think it makes his jump to Top Rank, and the promoter dispute that sidelined the Khan fight, worth it in the end, if it does indeed happen. Plus, Bradley never wanted the Alexander fight in the first place, because he didn't think it was that big of a fight. Turns out he was correct.
Scott Christ recaps the first Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez bout at Bad Left Hook
Brent Brookhouse: Speaking of Khan, the only man to ever beat him, Breidis Prescott, faces Mike Alvarado in another undercard bout. Prescott certainly didn't develop into a top level fighter after beating Khan and now it seems like he is on the card specifically as an opponent to the undefeated Alvarado. Is this a fair assessment?
Scott Christ: Top Rank is booking him as a semi-name opponent, hoping to juice whatever is left of Prescott's reputation from the Khan win , but they may have picked the wrong guy here for an Alvarado showcase. Prescott is very limited, but Alvarado likes to be aggressive and turn boxing matches into fights, and that's right up Prescott's alley. While Prescott certainly isn't a huge puncher, he does have legitimate power. And he's coming off of a fight in Belfast where he lost a debated, close to decision to hometown fighter Paul McCloskey, which I actually scored for Prescott. It was arguably, outside of the 54 seconds with Khan, the best performance of Prescott's career. Alvarado has wasted a lot of time in his career with outside the ring issues, and hasn't ever really been tested. Prescott could be a trap opponent.
Brent Brookhouse: So there's potential for that to at least be an entertaining fight then?
Scott Christ: If Alvarado doesn't play it safe, it could turn out to be a pretty fun fight. Prescott's biggest flaw is that he's not consistent in any given fight, and tends to lose focus, which makes him dull more than you'd expect for a guy with his KO rate. He also loses his power after the first four rounds or so. But if Alvarado is aggressive, it could be entertaining. It's up to him to make the fight, though.
Brent Brookhouse: The other fight set to make the broadcast is Luis Cruz vs. Juan Carlos Bugos. I've only seen a little bit of each man this week as I prepared for the event and I'm sure what little bit I've seen is far more than most people who will be watching the show. Given that this bout has little to no name value, explain what people should expect.
Scott Christ: Expect a good fight with this one. When the Mayweather vs Ortiz card was announced, I said then that I felt that the opening fight (Josesito Lopez vs Jessie Vargas) would wind up the fight of the night, and it was. Those were the two most "unknown" guys on that show, and that's the situation you have here. It's a really good matchup of two young, talented fighters, plus you have the Puerto Rico (Cruz) vs Mexico (Burgos) thing in play, and that's always a great rivalry renewal in boxing. Cruz is 26 and has some upside, with a long 72" reach for the 130-pound division, but we've seen him struggle this year when he faced veteran spoiler Martin Honorio. That was his only real pro test. Burgos, 23, is a serious talent. His one loss was a good one, as he was competitive in Japan against Hozumi Hasegawa one year ago. Hasegawa is one of Japan's better fighters of the last decade, and I think his experience played a role in winning that fight. Cruz won't have that advantage. I like Burgos in this fight, and I like him as someone to watch long-term. I just think he's the better of these two fighters right now, but this is the type of fight where we'll learn as we watch, too. Both guys have a lot left to reveal about themselves.
Brent Brookhouse: I guess we'll wrap this up with this. Is this undercard a fair and good one for the price of the PPV? Boxing isn't the UFC in terms of selling PPV's for the full card experience, but the days of Don King's loaded PPV cards and even just a few weeks ahead we have an absolutely loaded Miguel Cotto vs. Antonio Margarito card. Even the Mayweather vs. Ortiz show that you mentioned had a Saul "Canelo" Alvarez fight and an Erik Morales bout which was set to be much better before some injuries and other factors causing an opponent change. This seems like a step in the wrong direction for a sport that has made a move in the right-ish direction in terms of PPV undercards. Or am I being unfair?
Scott Christ: This is closer to the bad reputation of boxing undercards than the King days, or the Cotto vs Margarito show, or even the Mayweather vs Ortiz show, which wound up having a really fun undercard as all three fights were good. But it's really not that terrible. Bradley vs Casamayor is a garbage fight and there's no way around that, but Cruz vs Burgos is a good matchup, and Alvarado vs Prescott is a sleeper fight that could turn out to be solid, and also could turn out to be a pretty forgettable fight. The price of the pay-per-view is too much anyway, as they're sticking with $70 in a bad economy to watch this thing in HD, which is absurd. One has to wonder whether they'd be doing this if the revenue generated with the $10 hike hadn't turned out to be so big for the Mayweather fight in September. But it's boxing, and greed almost always wins, so that's what they're doing. But in plain terms, it's not an undercard likely to produce true thrills, and the fights aren't "significant," really. Too much money is generated by having what used to be undercard pay-per-view fights in their own HBO main events these days, but they can do better than they did here, and chose not to go that way.