This writing appeared on the boxing website ucnlive.com as part of a monthly column series. The published version can be seen here: http://ucnlive.com/march-truths/
Boxing can be a welcome distraction in a time of uncertain truths. In an age where fact and fiction are increasingly determined by personal belief rather than by what is true; untarnished honesty should be cherished wherever it can be found. I believe it was HBO Boxing’s Max Kellerman who once pointed to an empty boxing ring during an HBO broadcast and said something to the effect of ‘the truth will find you in there’. Ironically enough, Kellerman isn’t always the most honest of brokers when it comes to describing the truths surrounding the events he covers. Yet I believe it would be hard to argue that his statement as he pointed to that empty ring was a false one.
The sport of boxing was always a refuge of honesty for me. Not the business or the judging of course, but the fights (and the fighters) themselves. There is a certain ‘truth’ that’s created when two fighters meet in the ring. One fighter might be immensely more skilled than the other; while another bout might feature one fighter who has been inactive and is out of shape. The truth that flows from these type of encounters will probably not be that entertaining; but it will be true. However, when certain motivations, fighter traits, and timing all align; the ensuing honesty can be thrilling.
My first exposure to this sort of honesty was probably the first fight between former heavyweight champions Evander Holyfield and Riddick Bowe in 1992. Even at the age of 12 I understood that both Holyfield and Bowe were not only fighting; but they were exhibiting a truth that would be hard to find elsewhere. As my love for the sport grew, I came to realize the two fighters I idolized most were former middleweight champion Marvin Hagler and former heavyweight champion Joe Frazier. I idolized them not only for the way they fought, but for the way they carried themselves as men. Both said what they meant, and did what they said.
Our current culture seems ill equipped to produce individuals cut from the same cloth as Hagler and Frazier. And it’s hard to deny the truth that boxing’s popularity has dipped since the days when Hagler and Frazier were household names. Yet the fact remains that the sport of boxing is still capable of producing that ‘beautiful truth’ that so many fans of the sport admire. Last year we saw the likes of Roman Gonzalez vs Carlos Cuadras for the WBC super flyweight title and Orlando Salido vs Francisco Vargas for the WBC super featherweight title. Both bouts exhibited a ferocious honestly as each fighter left nothing in the ring. The month of March in our current year has three bouts whose truth has the potential to thrill those that choose to watch.
The first of these bouts takes place on March 4th at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York; where WBA welterweight champion Keith Thurman will take on WBC welterweight champion Danny Garcia. The winner of the bout will no doubt lay claim to be the best welterweight in the world. Whether or not this will be true will be open to interpretation of course. The bad blood between the two fighters seemed to be contrived at first; more of the professional wrestling variety than an actual beef. But the much discussed antics of Danny Garcia’s father and trainer Angel Garcia might have actually kindled some authentic hatred between the two fighters. Hatred and honesty don’t always go hand in hand. But in boxing, honest hatred can lead to an encounter whose truth will be hard to forget.
Speaking of Angel Garcia and honesty, I was rather surprised (not really) that Angel’s press conference tirade was featured in the promotional videos for Showtime’s Thurman vs Garcia ‘All Access’ series. After the horror displayed by those promoting the event at Angel’s behavior, I couldn’t believe (actually I could) that they would seek to exploit what they felt was such a despicable display. I guess their outrage can now be seen as an ‘alternative fact’.
Both Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia will bring power into the ring with them on March 4th. I suspect Thurman will try and use his superior movement to avoid trading power shots within Garcia’s preferred range. Both fighters are flawed in ways, but Garcia would seem to have a deeper reservoir of experience to draw from because of his past experience. Both remain young and relatively hungry, despite their inactivity. The ingredients are there for a beautiful truth being laid bare come March 4th.
One week later on March 11th from the Turning Stone Casino in Verona, NY former middleweight title holder David Lemieux will take on middleweight contender Curtis Stevens. Both fighters have the distinction of finding out that current middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin’s power is indeed a hard truth. Lemieux and Stevens have been circling each other and trading insults on social media for some time now. While there may not be extreme bad blood between the two, there seems to be an honest disagreement to be settled on March 11th.
The truth of this matchup is that most likely someone is getting knocked out. For boxing fans that is usually more than enough to peak a certain interest. Each fighter has explosive firepower, though Lemieux seems to deploy it with less restraint than does Stevens. I remember when Lemieux fought Gennady Golovkin many were hoping Lemieux would come forward in an effort to go to war with the middleweight champion. The skill and presence of Golovkin revealed that hope to be a false one. Against Stevens, Lemieux might feel more emboldened to throw caution to the wind; and Stevens has shown he is willing to respond accordingly. The truth that flows from such honest decisions could make March 11th a bloody one.
A week later on March 18th the final of these three bouts will take place at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The aforementioned IBF, IBO, WBC, and WBA (super) middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin will take on WBA (regular) middleweight champion Daniel Jacobs. There are many interpretations of the truth surrounding Golovkin. Some say he's a typical business man in making fights, while others say he's avoided like the plague. Some say he's a slow plodding brute, while others say he's a highly skilled - ring commanding killer. More often than not, it seems that whatever a person believes on these matters is determined by their personal feelings toward Golovkin and his team.
Golovkin is very good, this is a fact. How good, we may never find out. The middleweight division in this era has proven to be short on worthy challengers. A move north to the 168lb. super middleweight division might be the only way to truthfully answer how good Golovkin is. With that being said his opponent on March 18th might be his very best to date. Daniel Jacobs might have the size, power, and movement to make things interesting against Golovkin. If this were indeed to be the case, the resulting truth would be immensely captivating. For watching Golovkin face any kind of honest adversity would elicit the feeling of watching an indestructible force show weakness for the first time.
Yet out of the six fighters featured in these three March bouts Daniel Jacobs seems to be the biggest question mark. His inactivity and lack of quality opponents combine to make his performance on March 18th an unpredictable one. However, as Max Kellerman said - the truth will find him in the ring. Fight fans will know once and for all if what Jacobs has said about his chances against Golovkin is indeed true.
So March will indeed be a month of truths for fight fans. We can only hope that the honesty reaches levels seen in fights like Arturo Gatti vs Micky Ward, Diego Corrales vs Jose Luis Castillo, or Marvin Hagler vs Tommy Hearns. But of course this might be too much to ask. That kind of honesty is as rare in boxing as it is in everyday life. The truths in the sport of boxing outside of the ring will continue to resemble truths in our current culture. They will be open to personal belief and disposition. The truths surrounding Premier Boxing Champions, different promoters, and fight negotiations will mostly be seen as an individual chooses to view them. Yet the in ring truths that boxing provides on March 4th, 11th, and 18th will be objective and honest. And for that, we should all be thankful.