The Versus boxing series, which launched in 2006, has been a huge disappointment thus far. Let me be blunt: It sucks.
Bob Arum’s Top Rank has an exclusive deal with Versus. Instead of doing the sensible thing, where Versus would work with whichever promoter offers the best card for the money each time out, they got in bed with the Bobfather and have royally screwed themselves and boxing fans alike.
A promoter can’t help himself when given an exclusive deal with a network—no more than the scorpion could help stinging the frog—and it’s why anyone who isn’t named one should be firmly against it. Witness FoxSportsNet’s deal with Dan Goossen’s outfit, a lame series which proves my point. Or how bad was Showtime back in the day, when Don King held them hostage. When given a chance, any promoter will do a “Roy Jones.”
Remember when Roy was Mr. Pound-For-Pound, but instead of consistently fighting the best, he faced mailmen, bus drivers, and cops? Soon as the check cleared for his lucrative multi-fight deal with HBO, the small town country boy played the Harvard suits like a Stradivarius. HBO might’ve been chagrinned, but why pity the enabler? Especially when their flawed policy has gone unchanged.
Whether they’re dealing with fighters or promoters, any networks broadcasting boxing needs to adopt Showtime’s “No Rights, Great Fights” maxim. It’s what has enabled Showtime Championship Boxing to consistently put on better fights than HBO—in spite of having only a third of their budget. It’s why ShoBox is the best thing going. Clearly, Showtime has a smart boxing man somewhere on their payroll. Go do likewise Versus! Johnny Bos is available.
What makes this so infuriating is that Versus apparently gives Top Rank a $250,000 license fee per show. That’s an enormous budget compared to what ESPN offers promoters for Friday Night Fights. Yet, every Versus card I’ve seen (and I’ve yawned through them all) passes for a mediocre FNF fare.
Fighting between feather and jnr. lightweight, the Mexican Humberto Soto just may be the best around. That’s saying something when the competition includes the likes of Manny Pacquiao, Joan Guzman, Marco Antonio Barerra and Juan Manuel Marquez.
Soto hasn’t gotten an opportunity to fight one of these names—he virtually ran Rocky Juarez out of the ring when they fought in August 2005—but serious fight fans are dying to see him get a crack at one of them. With a #2 ranking at 130 by the WBC, his moment isn’t far.
As good as Soto looked the other night, this was a moment I could’ve done without. Even the most knowledgeable fight fan probably hadn’t heard of Soto’s opponent. In order to get some data on Humberto Toledo I had to consult Boxrec.com. A decent record of 30-3-2 (18) before facing Soto, this Humbnerto hails from Equador, and has fought almost exclusively there and in Colombia.
The combined win-loss record of Toledo’s opponents is 37-104. To understand how poor this is—and thus how meaningless Toledo’s record is—understand that Stephen Hawking would probably be cleared to fight. How the WBC (a.k.a. We Be Clowns) came to rank Toledo #7 is a riddle I don’t expect to ever figure out.
Soto, a fantastic puncher with both hands, dropped Toledo with a short right with 20 seconds left in the first. In the next session, a relaxed Soto wanted to see what the other guy had. Unimpressed, the Mexican stepped it up in the third, dropping him three times; a left hook did it the first and second times, and brutal straight right would ended the night.
Toledo was shaken badly by the last shot, and managed to fall outside the ropes, nearly cracking his skull on a media table. The TKO stoppage occurred at 1:50 of the round, raising Soto’s record to 41-5-2 (25).
These two fighters are at entirely different levels, and should’ve never have been in the same ring together. Shame on you Bob Arum, Versus, the WBC, and the West Virginia Athletic Commission for sanctioning this. It’s bad enough that they pawn this junk off on the public, pretending that it’s competition. But they seem to forget lives are at stake as well.
Ah, but there’s more! The Mountaineer Racetrack in Chester, WV, also played host to two come-backing heavyweights that legitimate boxing commissions—such as Nevada’s and New York’s—will likely never clear.
“Baby” Joe Mesi continued his campaign to get licensed in one of the above mentioned states since suffering a cerebral hemorrhage from his fight with Vassily Jirov in 2004.
Mesi blasted a 40-year-old named George Lindberger (not a spelling error) who last fought in 2005 against none other than Butterbean. The time of the first round TKO stoppage was 1:55. Mesi goes to 34-0 (27) and Lindberger falls to 29-9-1 (25).
And former WBO titlist Tommy Morrison, who tested positive for HIV almost twelve years ago and was subsequently banned from boxing, threw his hat back in the ring. He stopped 4-3 John Castle at 1:49 of the second round. Morrison goes to 47-3-1 (41).
Although his fight wasn’t televised, some stills from his fight were shown and his post-fight interview with commentator Wally Matthews was aired. Morrison will tell anyone who will listen that whatever HIV was in his system has vanished.
This would be the first recorded case of such an occurrence—as far as I’m aware—in history. Even if it were true, the 38-year-old Morrison has spent his time away from the ring doing jail time, coke, and steroids. (All things he candidly admitted to in his interview with Matthews.)
Sad to say, but if he can still prove himself a big attraction, the powers that be will find a place for him at the heavyweight table. I can even see Arum changing Morrison’s moniker from “The Duke” to “The Miracle.”