A lost weekend in Fresno

Welterweights Egidijus Kavaliauskas (left) and Juan Carlos Abreu. Photo credit: Mikey Williams/Top Rank

Welterweights Egidijus Kavaliauskas (left) and Juan Carlos Abreu. Photo credit: Mikey Williams/Top Rank

 

What was supposed to be a triumphant homecoming in Fresno, California, for Jose Ramirez – who was scheduled to make the first defense of his WBC junior welterweight title – was instead a rather dreary and uneventful event that was broadcast, on Saturday night, to a national audience on ESPN.

 

The boos were heard early on during the Andy Vences-Frank De Alba bout, that was moved onto this broadcast, after Danny O’Connor was hospitalized for severe dehydration, in trying to make the 140-pound limit. Just like that, Ramirez was left without a fight (and attempts by Top Rank to find him a late replacement proved futile) and it was clear that the crowd in attendance was disgruntled by the unfortunate turn of events.

 

Vences is a solid junior lightweight but its seems he simply overthinks inside the ring. The new main event for ESPN was a welterweight bout between Egis Kavaliauskas and Juan Carlos Abreu, a golden opportunity for the “Mean Machine” to state his case as a legitimate contender for WBO champion Terence Crawford, in October. It was his chance to make a statement.

 

“Meh” was the statement he made in winning a rather pedestrian, 10-round verdict over the veteran from the Dominican Republic. Kavaliauskas gave no indication that he’d be remotely competitive against Crawford on this night.

 

And the restless nature of the audience could also be heard during this fight. The bottom line is this isn’t what they came to see – at least not as the main event. Truth be told, the hometown Ramirez – a legitimate attraction in the Central Valley – was given a bit of a lay-up for the first defense of his title that he won, back in March, versus the game Amir Imam in New York. But on this particular occasion, it wouldn’t matter much to the natives of Fresno, if their favorite son was facing Aaron Pryor, Frankie Randall or a propped-up body like Terry Kiser in “Weekend at Bernie’s.”

 

In situations such as these, the partisans are just here to root, root, root for the home team.

 

The lasting images of his promotion won’t be anything that happened inside the ring at the Save Mart Arena but the pictures of a physically drained O’Connor – who, according to ESPN’s Bernardo Osuna, spent four hours in the sauna prior to the weigh-in – who was limp and lifeless and then taken to the hospital for observation. It was an easy call to cancel this fight. You could argue that any fighter who needs to dry out for that long with such extreme measures should’ve been flagged, even if he did make the weight.

 

Ramirez lost a date; O’Connor may have lost a lot more.

 

 

 

Once again another boxer has failed to make weight and brings about the question if boxing (along with other combat sports) needs to have a sea change, not only in the administrative process of weigh-ins but the protocols used by fighters to cut these last excruciating pounds.

 

In this particular situation, with Ramirez-O’Connor being a WBC title fight, they were subject to 30-day and seven-day check-ups, with their weight. A boxer must be within five percent of the weight limit a week before the fight. For years this organization has done this to monitor a fighter’s progress as he heads toward title bouts. In his last two bouts, O’Connor had weighed under 140 pounds.

 

Perhaps his body shut down? Maybe he started camp a bit too heavy? Or perhaps he had an illness that prevented him from training, as he had in the past? These are the unknown variables that only O’Connor and his camp really know.

 

This much can be surmised: Unlike other boxers who try and game the system and gain a physical edge by not making weight, O’Connor really did try – and yeah, you could say he nearly killed himself trying to do so – and a guy in his position really can’t afford to punt opportunities away like this. For O’Connor, this was most likely his last and best opportunity for a major world title on a big stage.

 

But once again the debate will start: Does boxing need to go back to morning-of/same-day weigh-ins, as in the past? Moving this procedure about 25 years ago was once thought of as a safety measure to help the combatants re-hydrate and recover from the effects of drying out. It sounded great in theory, and perhaps there is a lot of truth to this. But one can also state the case that many are now using it to fight at unnaturally low weight classes and then use that recovery time (which is often more than 24 hours) to create unfair physical advantages.

 

Nowadays weigh-ins for major fights are used as a promotional tool to help push pay-per-view buys, so this genie might be completely out of the bottle, never to be put back. First and foremost boxing is a business.

 

The question is, just how many boxers or mixed-martial arts performers simply move up a weight class or two if they knew that they had to weigh in at noon on fight day and not at 3 p.m. the previous afternoon? And would it improve the quality of the product, and, more importantly, ensure a more level playing field?

 

Recently the California State Athletic Commission held a meeting to discuss whether it needed to institute a second weigh-in on the day of the fight, to make sure fighters are at least somewhere near their weight class on the night of the bout. The IBF has a rule that mandates both participants weigh within 10 pounds of the weight limit on the morning of, to be eligible to box for its belt. Back in March, WBO featherweight titlist Oscar Valdez suffered a broken jaw, as he faced Scott Quigg, who weighed in at 142 pounds, on the night of the fight. What made this situation even worse is that Quigg didn’t come close to making the 126-pound weight limit, the day before, and then refused to do another weigh-in or adhere to a re-hydration limit.

 

It has to be pointed out though, in O’Connor’s case, that we are talking about a boxer who stretched himself physically to a point in which he was incapacitated and simply couldn’t make weight. So this may not have really been an administrative issue but an O’Connor issue.

 

Yeah, it’s a problem with many gray areas. There’s something broken here. The question is, just how does it get fixed?

 

 

FINAL FLURRIES

 

More on this later this week but the bout between Manny Pacquiao and Lucas Matthysse, from Malaysia, will be streamed on ESPN+ this Saturday night…Andy Ruiz Jr. defeated veteran trial horse Kevin Johnson via 10-round decision in Fresno…I can’t lie; I saw Daniel Cormier’s UFC heavyweight title victory on Saturday night and, not only was I impressed by the outing, I was entertained by that contest…Speaking of Ramirez, I hear he could be placed on a card in Las Vegas on September 14 (the night before the rematch between WBA/WBC middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin and Saul Alvarez) on ESPN…That week, Golden Boy Promotions has a card on Thursday night…NFL training camps are getting kinda close to starting up…Yeah, this is a real heat wave we have – or still having – out here in Southern California…I can be reached at k9kim@yahoo.com 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.

 

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