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Kelsey McCarson's HITS and MISSES: Takeover Edition

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  • Kelsey McCarson's HITS and MISSES: Takeover Edition

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    By Kelsey McCarson

    Boxing is back!

    Okay, boxing had technically been back for a few months now. But didn't it seem to be more fully back to normal with the weekend's lightweight unification battle between Teofimo Lopez and Vasiliy Lomachenko on ESPN?

    Make that double the case now that another edition of HITS and MISSES follows the latest big weekend in boxing, the first installment since the global pandemic began.

    HIT: Teofimo Lopez's Undisputed Takeover

    It's one thing to parade something like "Takeover" around as your nickname while promising to be the next great fighter in the sport. It's quite another to actually pull that takeover off, and do it at the tender age of 23 against a three-division world champion that's a massive betting favorite.

    But that's what Lopez did on Saturday night in Las Vegas, and he accomplished it in a way that almost nobody expected.

    Lopez dominated Lomachenko from the start of the fight. He outboxed the clever southpaw savant in a way few people dreamed possible and took home the unanimous decision win. Even among the few who thought the young lion might somehow usurp the old guard, most of that crew thought it would probably be one big punch that sent Loma down for the count.

    By the end of the night, Lopez had solidified his status as boxing's newest superstar. He also became the first undisputed lightweight champion since Pernell Whitaker.

    But even if the whole WBC Franchise fiasco leaves you in a place that questions that specific designation, Lopez used his post-fight celebration time to call the other WBC belt holder Devin Haney about a possible future showdown.

    So, Lopez is the undisputed best thing to happen to boxing in a long time.

    MISS: Vasiliy Lomachenko's Slow Start

    I like to think Lomachenko is still somewhere out there right now feinting and shuffling his feet around like a dancer. Seriously, though, what was Lomachenko doing for most of Saturday night? He certainly wasn't attempting to win the fight.

    Much was made by the ESPN announcers about how Lomachenko would start slow in fights because he liked to download his opponents' movements before settling on his attacks. But Lomachenko didn't seem all that interested in attacking Lopez until somewhere around the eighth-round. By that time, the 32-year-old was way too far down on the scorecards for anything to matter all that much.

    Sure, the last third of the fight was fun to watch. Lomachenko did end up having his moments including a strong 11th round, but it would have been a better fight if Lomachenko had started sooner.

    Instead, the fighter ESPN has long argued deserved to be ranked above everyone else regardless of weight class dispassionately saw his titles ripped away from him with relative ease.

    HIT: Edgar Berlanga's KO Streak

    Last year, I noted that Berlanga's incredible streak was probably a case of matchmaking gone awry and that Berlanga would likely suffer later in his career because he wasn't getting any rounds under his belt that mattered.

    My reasoning? Even terrifying power punchers like Deontay Wilder and Gennadiy Golovkin didn't dispatch their early opponents in such decisively one-sided ways.

    Maybe it was just the lack of boxing around due to the global pandemic, but now I've flipped on Berlanga's knockout streak. The 23-year-old scored his 15th first-round stoppage in a row against Lanell Bellows on Saturday’s Top Rank on ESPN card.

    It's become one of the most interesting and noteworthy streaks in the sport, and this time Berlanga stopped an opponent who had never suffered that fate before in any round, much less the first.

    Berlanga's 15 KOs in 15 fights is good television.

    MISS: Boxing Judge's Viral 'Social Dilemma'

    Lewis Ritson was awarded a split-decision victory over former lightweight titleholder Miguel Vazquez on Saturday in England in a junior welterweight bout dubbed by the Sporting News as the "worst decision of 2020."

    According to CompuBox, Ritson's "constant forward movement and snappier punches" earned him the nod on two of the judges' scorecards even though Vazquez had out-landed him in all the important punch stat categories (193-141 overall, 80-75 jabs, 113-66 power).

    But the biggest controversy was the viral picture of judge Terry O'Connor apparently looking at his phone during the fight that he scored 117-111 for Ritson.

    That didn't sit well with anyone who believes judges should be watching the fights they're tasked with scoring.

    But in the wake of Netflix's documentary film "The Social Dilemma," that shows just how ingenious today's artificial intelligence is at boosting user engagement so companies can sell advertising time to the unwitting people on the other end who don't know why they can't put their phones down. Maybe O'Connor and others should be mandated to place their phones in a place they can't be accessed during fights.

    That would keep the social media outrage that's going on right now over the few seconds O'Connor spent looking away from the action and point it more toward what appears to be boxing's bigger problem: phones or no phones, too many boxing judges don't know how to score fights.

    HIT: The Wonder of Complementary Programming

    Boxing counterprograms itself so much these days through the different promotional companies and networks out there that it's nice to enjoy at least one day in recent history where a big fight happened and there weren't any other big fights attempting to grab our attention.

    Not only did that happen, but ESPN wisely chose not to split programming between it's MMA and boxing audiences on Saturday.

    ESPN is the home to Top Rank on ESPN boxing as well as the world's leading MMA promotional company, UFC.

    Like Top Rank, the UFC had a massive fight card on its schedule on Saturday, and the boxing/UFC audiences are fractured enough that both cards could have somewhat reasonably ran against each other.

    Instead, the UFC's Fight Night card in Abu Dhabi ran early in the evening, and it meant UFC fans who might be somewhat interested in the big fight in boxing could be funneled to the main card featuring Lopez vs. Lomachenko.

    That's great for both sports, the promoters and ESPN, too. Top Rank's Bob Arum and UFC's Dana White might hate each other for personal and political reasons, but the rising tide of complementary programming on ESPN will ultimately have all ships rising.

    Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel

    Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank

  • #2
    Very good report. The Riston thing was well-explained.