Bigger and better things for Oscar Valdez and Gilberto Ramirez?
This Friday, in Tuscon, Arizona, a homecoming event is being staged for WBO featherweight titlist Oscar Valdez, who is matched against Filipino upstart Genesis Servania in the main event on ESPN (10:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. PT).
Currently, Valdez is a beltholder in one of the sport’s deepest weight classes, that includes Gary Russell Jr., Leo Santa Cruz, Abner Mares, Lee Selby, Joseph Diaz Jr., Carl Frampton and Scott Quigg.
So the question is: With all the alliances and divisions within the sport (both from promotional and network perspectives) will Valdez tangle with any of these individuals in the near future? It’s great that Valdez is being afforded a platform such as ESPN and all that comes with it but ultimately the viewing audience will want the best possible match-ups.
When asked this question on Wednesday, Bob Arum, whose company Top Rank handles Valdez’s career, told UCNlive.com, “Well, I know that I can’t speak for all of them because I haven’t negotiated but certainly Frampton’s a very good possibility, since Frampton just signed a management contract with Matthew Macklin’s company (Mack the Knife), which manages Michael Conlan.
“So I think the chances of doing a fight with Frampton are certainly not difficult in getting a deal done. As for Santa Cruz and Mares, that’ll take care of itself because there’ll be a winner of that fight and the winner of that fight would be a very desirable opponent. As far as Gary Russell, I think he has some (WBC title) mandatories coming up and so forth. So I can’t speak to that.”
Mares and Santa Cruz, who battled to an entertaining fight in August of 2015 (with Santa Cruz coming out victorious), are co-headlining a card on October 14 at the StubHub Center, in Carson, California, and then are scheduled to rematch at some point in the early part of 2018. Both Mares and Santa Cruz are associated with Al Haymon and Premier Boxing Champions, which now has the majority of its content on Showtime. In the last year or so, several PBC boxers, such as Amir Khan, Daniel Jacobs and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, have ventured outside this realm as they earned career-high paydays.
As for WBO super middleweight beltholder Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez, who co-headlines this card on ESPN, versus Jesse Hart, just who is in the future for him? The Andre Ward/Carl Froch/Mikkel Kessler-era at 168 ended long ago and currently most of the other top-rated super midds are involved in the “World Boxing Super Series” tourney.
Arum admitted, “I’m not sure but there’s (James) DeGale; he’s a possibility. (WBO No. 5-ranked contender Matt) Korobov is a possibility.”
(OK, DeGale, who is the current IBF titlist in the division, would be an intriguing unification tilt. Korobov is more or less a filler fight, at best.)
“We’re in a position now that, if an A-list guy doesn’t pop up, we can still do Ramirez defending his title – or Jesse Hart – against a decent opponent on an future ESPN card. So we’re in a position where we don’t have to chase anybody,” explained Arum, whose company, earlier this year, entered a four-year deal with ESPN to become its exclusive content distributor.
The success of this deal will really hinge on one thing – the quality of fights. And to really make that a reality, it will need Top Rank to reach out to other promoters and broker deals. When asked if others have been amenable to this, Arum stated this example: “The deal we made with RocNation (Sports) to co-promote (WBO junior lightweight titlist Vasyl) Lomachenko-(WBA junior featherweight beltholder Guillermo) Rigondeaux. That’s an example of reaching across to another promotional company and making a deal.”
Judge Adalaide Byrd has been the subject of a lot of discussion the past several days in the wake of her 118-110 scorecard in favor of Saul Alvarez versus Gennady Golovkin. Last year, Top Rank requested that she not work the Lomachenko-Nicholas Walters fight, based on her track record. According to sources, the last straw was the 118-110 card she turned in for the Jessie Magdaleno-Nonito Donaire fight last November.
Top Rank’s request was denied by the NSAC and its Executive Director Bob Bennett.
“Why are they sending out lists of officials for us, for our approval and so forth, then when we make a statement that we’d rather not have an official appointed and they say, ‘Why?’ What, we’re going to make up that she’s a crook? – because she’s not,” said Arum, whose company has been conspicously absent in the 702 recently.
Arum continued, “She’s a nice lady but we said, ‘This is a fact: She’s a very inconsistent judge and therefore we don’t want her in a major fight of ours because the public, in their ignorance, blames the promoter for this bad judging and it’s not the promoter’s fault at all. And we heard yesterday from a lawyer for another promoter that objected to her, Adalaide Byrd, in his client’s fights and that commission told him to go stuff it. So what kind of commission is this?”
Various promoters have told UCNLive.com, off-the-record, about their difficulties in dealing with Bennett. When asked if Top Rank is reticent to put events in the very same city in which they are located, Arum cracked, “Well, check out how many fights we put on his year and answer your own question.”
So just how much of a negative impact does such an occurrence have on the business of boxing? After all, as Larry Merchant once famously said, “Ain’t nothing going to kill it. Ain’t nothing going to save it.”
Arum believes it does damage the reputation of the sport, as a whole.
“For example, in the (Las Vegas) Review-Journal, which should know better on the Sunday after the fight, the columnist wrote a big story on what a black-eye this is for boxing. Well, it’s not a black-eye for boxing. The fighters tried hard; the promoters did everything right – it’s a black-eye for the Nevada State Athletic Commission. It has nothing to do with boxing,” said Arum.
What has become a big problem for those in the business is Bennett’s penchant for trying to play matchmaker in approving preliminary fights – while also licensing Conor McGregor, who made his pro boxing debut against Floyd Mayweather Jr.
“I mean this guy throws out fights. We were doing a fight in Reno, Jose Ramirez against this very good welterweight we subsequently used in California. (Bennett) screwed that fight because the guy was too short! Can you imagine an executive director throwing out a fight with a guy with a tremendously good record because, in his opinion, the guy was too short?!” asked an incredulous Arum.
According to Arum, it doesn’t look like Manny Pacquiao is willing to go back “Down Under” to face Jeff Horn again…So is Eddie Hearn coming Stateside?…Speaking of Conlan, he’s on the undercard this Friday night, in Tuscon, as is Egidijius “The Mean Machine” Kavaliauskas…”Year of the Scab” was one of the better “30-for-30″s, in my opinion…Really enjoying the NFL Network’s “Football Town” on Valdosta High…I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.