Robinson Conceicao Loses Controversial Decision in PED Scandal Marred Fight
This fight was a tremendous black eye for boxing which as a sport is in a precarious place. Oscar Valdez the reigning WBC 130lb champion tested positive in the lead up to the fight for the banned substance Phentermine. Rather than strip the champion whose A and B samples tested positive the WBC kept him as champion and the fight moved forward anyway. What little punishment Valdez received was in the handing out of a twelve month probation which amounts to him being punished for any dirty tests in the next year long span. What makes this even more disheartening is that the substance only stays in the system for twenty hours so it is miraculous that they caught Valdez in the first place. This should have been a big win for the anti-doping measures in the sport to catch a fighter looking to gain an advantage but instead it made a mockery of the meager systems in place. Fighters have spoken out in anger over the way this situation was handled with Caleb Plant, Ryan Garcia and Devin Haney all voicing their frustration. Performance enhancing drug expert Victor Conte weighed in to dismiss Valdez’s excuse of switching from coffee to herbal tea as the explanation. My rebuttal: first if it is the tea test the tea, second the fighter must know what they put in their body and it is their responsibility to be aware of what is banned and what they consume.
When the decision was rendered after twelve rounds of action Conceicao wore a face of disbelief after he out landed and out maneuvered the champion over twelve rounds. At 16-0 the thirty-two year-old Brazilian was in his first title fight and fought the fight of his life in front of a partisan Tuscon, Arizona crowd. Referee Tony Zaino told them to “give hell at the bell” and Conceicao took it to Valdez early on. Conceicao appeared to win the first five behind an active jab and Valdez struggled to put together much offense of his own. Valdez was limited to scoring the occasional left hook but was peppered throughout as his face began to show the wear and tear of the fight. By round six Valdez found a spark and began to bring the fight to Conceicao who began to lose control of the action. Valdez began putting his punches together as Conceicao faded to holding, moving and showboating. Conceicao’s lead began to fade when the previously mentioned referee Tony Zaino bizarrely took a point in the ninth round when Robson tapped Valdez in the back of the head during a clinch. Zaino called a rabbit punch and without any warnings previously issued deducted a point. The boxer versus puncher style clash meshed to an active but ineffective close over the final three rounds. The judges scored the fight 117-110 once with two 115-112 scores to give the win to Oscar Valdez by unanimous decision. Scores have varied significantly with Ring scoring for Valdez but Boxrec having it for Conceicao and a host of scores on Eye on the Ring.
I had the fight scored for Robson Conceicao 114-113 but will concede the fight had a lot of tight rounds. 117-110 feels way too wide for Valdez but those 115-112 scores feel more reasonable especially if the ninth is scored 10-8 for the deducted point and not 9-9 like I had it. Seeing the reaction across fan forums and fighter reactions on social media this fight will get a robbery review article like I did for the Charlo vs Castano fight.
Evander Holyfield Loses in Farcical Triller Card in Florida
Triller is continuing in its reputation of clown show boxing with another farce of an event with fifty-eight year-old Evander Holyfield coming in on short notice to face Vitor Belfort on pay-per-view. Holyfield had not competed since 2011 and despite his body looking fantastic he just does not have anything left. I watched videos of him hitting the pads and saw a man in complete slow motion. Evander is a legend and I know the recent trend of retired fighters making comebacks is a thing now but the commission and promoters involved should be ashamed of themselves. Boxing is not a game like basketball or baseball where it can be fun to watch the old guys have some fun. A bad hit or a bad fall can be fatal and it is irresponsible to allow fights like this to take place. I refused to watch this event and have no desire to watch Holyfield get knocked over in less than two minutes. I have no desire to see faded ex greats embarrass and endanger themselves nor do I want to be part of the problem. If we watch these fights they keep making them.
Boxing as a Sport?
On ESPN+ I keep coming across a show called The State of Boxing with Tim Bradley, Andre Ward and Mark Kriegal. I have never spent much time watching it but the last few months have been disastrous in the sport as the big fights keep falling apart and the bar goes lower and lower. COVID-19 hurt all sports last year and despite the empty arenas there were plenty of good fights last year and cards typically held together. There were some interesting storylines and a lot of hope heading into 2021. The opening half of the year had exciting fights, upsets, controversies and a fun schedule to close the year. However, big fights continue to be cancelled/postponed, overshadowed by bad scoring and semi pro boxing continues to reign supreme as the best fights in boxing struggle to materialize. Some ESPN writers in the wake of the Logan and Jake Paul fights comment on younger audiences and venues filling for the undercard with attentive on lookers. I point to Triller for putting on farce fights but there is a hope that the young fans will stick and the nostalgia fights will get old eye balls back to boxing. The big question is whether this will work? Many hardcore fans are starting to get angry and that frustration is being voiced online amongst fans ready to pack it in. Right now boxing appears to exist in two universes, the universe of professional boxing and its titles and controversies and the world of this semi pro boxing that ignores the ratings and titles and shoots for pure cash and social media clout. It would be hopeful to say the new fans brought in by Triller will watch “real boxing” and the annoyed hardcores will suck it up and keep watching anyway despite complaining. It reminds me of all the “I’ll never watch Floyd vs McGregor” only to see these guys on the round by round commenting. I think the more realistic scenario is the kids moving on to the next trend when the Paul’s decide to take their show on the road to the next trend they can cash in on. Boxing still has a degree of popularity and an avenue to make money in a market not well regulated without much barrier to entry. When the game is up we will see if the new fans stay. My outlook on their decision leans negative but we will see.