Combat sports are in fine fettle, thankfully, despite the disappointment of the recent “Fight of the Century.”
The Floyd “Money” Mayweather clash with Manny Pacquiao on May 1 may have been the richest contest in boxing history, but it fell lamentably short of living up to its billing. Fight of the Century? It wasn’t even fight of the month!
James “Chunky” DeGale winning the IBF super-middleweight title in Boston against Andre Dirrell on Saturday was a much more absorbing affair. Dirrell was knocked down twice early on but showed admirable resilience against the Brit to last the 12 rounds.
DeGale won by unanimous decision and was pushed all the way by the gutsy American.
Earlier in the month, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez pummeled James Kirkland in short time, and last week middleweight sensation Gennady Golovkin crushed Willie Monroe Jr. in six rounds.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship has made a fair contribution too. Daniel Cormier stepped in at short notice after Jon “Bones” Jones was suspended for another misdemeanor. He smashed Anthony “Rumble” Johnson into submission in three rounds to take the vacant light-heavyweight belt on Saturday in another hugely enjoyable bill. No UFC show disappoints, thanks to its president Dana White ensuring that the best always face the best. Matches are unpredictable, as opposed to boxing, where the fragmentation of titles means it is rare for the finest in each division to face each other and they can deliberately avoid the most dangerous fighters throughout their entire careers.
Top line boxing action wraps up this month with another Brit, Amir Khan, crossing the pond, this time to New York, to face Chris Algieri in a welterweight match that could lead to the winner getting a title shot, possibly against Mayweather in his farewell bout.
Cormier-Johnson topped a high quality UFC 187 bill which included Chris Weidman defending his middleweight title by stopping faded veteran Vitor Belfort in the first round. Weidman had to overcome an early onslaught by the popular Brazilian before taking control and pounding him to stoppage and probable retirement.
Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone was marvelous entertainment too, claiming his eighth consecutive lightweight victory, apparently breaking John Makdessi’s jaw with a kick to the head in the second round.
The Fight of the Night, though, was between former heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski, who stopped one of his closest friends, Travis Browne, with 19 seconds left in the first round of a mesmerizing brawl.
“Rowdy” Ronda Rousey is taking a break from UFC duties for commercial reasons and to recover from injury, but she has enriched the franchise immeasurably. When she fights again later this year, mixed martial arts will get another boost.
The spectacular boxing action looks set to continue throughout the summer as WBC middleweight champ Miguel Cotto defends his title against Daniel Geale on June 6, and a week later, WBC heavyweight champ Deontay Wilder bids to retain his unbeaten record and fearsome knockout reputation against Eric Molina.
Andre Ward, another unbeaten boxer, makes a welcome return after nearly two years due to management turmoil and injury. He will take on Paul Smith in a non-title catchweight bout.
The Mayweather-Pacquiao bout may have been a huge anti-climax, but at least it didn’t define the present overall state of combat sports.
The best aspect of the $500 million-plus it generated was that it inspired the next generation of fighters to try to emulate them – but entertaining the paying public and giving better value for money will be a much higher priority.