(credit: Craig Bennett, Showtime)
Here are the two dramatic things that happened Friday night on ShoBox:
1. World-class junior middleweight Erislandy Lara demolished Ronald Hearns, a fighter who has also been demolished by trial horse Harry Joe Yorgey.
2. Formerly world-class middleweight Jermain Taylor, who is making a comeback from a brain bleed, got dropped by unproven Midwestern fighter Caleb Truax, and had to struggle to make it to the final bell and win a unanimous decision.
When that's the highlight reel, you have a huge programming problem.
Nothing about this card was worthwhile on paper, and even the seemingly exciting moments were more sad than thrilling. It might not be much longer, at this rate, until ShoBox is but an empty husk of a brand. The occasional "special editions of ShoBox" that divert from its main mission -- putting young fighters in tough match-ups -- were already annoying, but when they're mismatches of this caliber where the most unexpectedly competitive element of the main event really only confirmed that a formerly noble fighter has been reduced to hanging on by the skin of his teeth, well, we're talking about a complete subversion of the very concept of the show.
Lara did what he was supposed to, and he's a fighter who deserves to be on TV -- in big fights. Why was he in against Hearns, a fighter who was also knocked out in his last fight, besides the Yorgey loss? We all knew how this one would end. That it was celebrated by some for ending as early as it did makes no sense to me, because it said next to nothing about Lara. If Lara wants to fight people like Hearns to stay busy, fine, but we don't need to see him get slaughtered in one round on Showtime.
Taylor looked subpar but not actually bad for most of the fight, yet also was boring. Then got dropped hard in the 9th round by Truax, who didn't lack for effort in this bout and was game but is, frankly, a club fighter. Taylor rallied a bit and backed Truax off, but spent most of the last two rounds holding on for dear life, and he ought to have been warned for how excessive it was and docked a point if he didn't listen. Taylor can be forgiven a bit for freaking out in the post-fight interview about getting dropped and surviving for the first time in his career, but that he was so exceptionally jazzed suggested his brain might not have been all the way back from either the bleed or Friday's knockdown. Taylor isn't, as he maintained, ready for top opposition. He should return to retirement, if he can be so badly hurt by a club fighter.
Showtime has new leadership and it was inevitable that there would be some rockiness in the transition of power. But there's far too much of this kind of trash happening between the actually good fights. Taylor is an Al Haymon-advised fighter; another Haymon-advised fighter, Fernando Guerrero, was supposed to be on the card before pulling out with an injury; and according to boxing adviser Greg Leon, Hearns is a Haymon fighter, too, although I couldn't independently confirm that. Whether it's two or three Haymon fighters showcased Friday, Showtime is, for no clear reason, putting tons of Haymon fighters on Showtime, and more often than not, against opponents that no one demanded. And that's not its only problem right now.
Right the ship, Showtime, and do it quickly.
I thought Taylor's post fight interview was bizarrely delusional and dangerous... When asked about getting knocked down and whether that worried him he cheerfully shouted "Nah' Man! I been knocked OUT!! LOTTS'A TIMES!!!" as though it were a tick in the plus column. Taylor has always been kinda just a big dumb fighter, and never a guy who was too keen at seeing reality, but this was pathetic. And standing next to him, listening to him sound like a complete idiot celebrating as though he'd just won his first championship by KO in a FOTY candidate, as opposed to holding and grappling his way to just barely surviving against a journeyman kind of opponent, were Pat Burns and Lou DiBella. I found it a little sickening to watch and listen to them clearly ready to cash Taylor out, with seemingly little concern for his health.
I'm not quite as harsh on the new folks as Showtime as you, Tim. I think in theory Truax was the prospect in a crossroads matchup with the aging veteran, which is another common ShoBox theme. Sure, Caleb looked like a club fighter and built his record against middling-to-weak opposition, but he did knock Taylor down. While that's because Taylor is shot, I did find out what I needed to know about both fighters: Taylor needs to retire, and Truax should stay in Minnesota.
Lara looked great and Hearns is terrible, but we all know nepotism is the reason this matchup ended up on premium cable. It's not a problem that's exclusive to boxing.
That was rough last night. I tweeted it, but I'll say it here too: at least if we're getting a mismatch, my take is at least we don't have to watch it for very long. So in that sense, while I didn't like Lara-Hearns, Lara took care of business and got him out of there in a way that kind of made a statement.
Then there's Jermain Taylor. And he one of TWO Haymon fighters coming back from supposedly career-ending brain injuries. Where is the accountability for that? And where is the accountability for staging match ups like this over and over? Doesn't some network CEO or President eventually say "Holy shit, these ratings are LOW!!!" and threaten someone with a blackjack or taser or something?? This shit is baffling to me.
And Taylor's post-fight interview disturbed me. If I were him, I'd be dejected for getting floored and hurt by that guy. Instead he watches the replay screaming "Chyeah! Get up boy! Get up!" at his slo-mo self. Shoot me.
@PatrickConnor Which other Haymon fighter are you thinking of?
Anyhow, it's hard to imagine why anyone thought this card was a good idea. It got panned the second it was made and it was absolute shit in reality.
Taylor's interview was disturbing, but I can conceive of how someone who never survives post-knockdown could see this as some kind of accomplishment. He's still misguided on the macro level.
@tstarks Ahh...forgot Dirrell left Haymon and Shaw. Well, he did start his comeback before he had, and was on that card with Taylor prior to cutting himself loose. Make it 1 1/2.
Those NBC cards main events puts on have become what showtime should be. If Haymon is as savvy as they say he will realize it is risky to be associated with poor match up long term. I guess Taylor likes his eggs scrambled.
@ThePJ They're a nice middle ground, the NBC cards.
Haymon's savvy is overrated. He gets his guys on TV and paid, but long-term, he's hurting his product.