A comment I saw on social media Sunday seems to have perfectly summed up the collective response to Saturday’s big boxing card in Brooklyn: “Charlo put Lubin to sleep. Lara put the crowd to sleep.”
Following a sensational Round 1 KO of Erickson Lubin by Jermell Charlo and a hard-fought stoppage of Austin Trout by Jarrett Hurd Erislandy Lara out-pointed over-matched Terrell Gausha in a fight that had some members of the crowd chanting “This is boring” while other spectators simply chose to walk out.
I am not the kind of fight writer who is quick to criticize defensive specialists. I appreciate boxing as an art form, but merely as an exercise in brutality. But the reality is this–boxers get paid based upon their ability to supply entertainment, not simply on their ability to win rounds. And a performance like the one Lara turned in on Saturday night does nothing to advance his career.
It’s a problem he shares with his countryman Guillermo Rigondeaux. Both fighters are outstanding technical boxers. But both have been accused of putting fans to sleep.
Again, I am a fan of great defensive boxing. I disagree with anybody who felt Rigondeaux’s master class against Nonito Donaire was boring–it was a tremendous performance and Donaire’s face yesterday showed he had been thoroughly beaten up. I found Lara’s split-decision loss to Saul Alvarez exciting, as well, even as it was clear that Lara was hurting himself with a lack of activity. But the cat-and-mouse game that happens between a an outstanding offensive fighter and a great defensive one can be very exciting to watch.
Where Lara and Rigondeaux have hurt themselves is when they have been lack-luster against lower-tier opponents. Gausha should not have been able to finish the fight with Lara.
I think a lot of this has to do with the extensive amateur careers that Lara and Rigondeaux had in Cuba. In an amateur tournament, avoiding damage is essential, in order to advance and fight well in the next round.
I cannot fault a fighter for avoiding damage in any circumstance–indeed, I applaud him for it. But the business reality demands action. And a fighter who fails to provide it will hurt his career, even as his body may remain relatively unscathed.