By Paul Magno | January 08, 2024

Hurray for mediocrity! 

Anthony Joshua vs. Francis Ngannou in Saudi Arabia was announced late last week, a (poop) scoop pinched into the boxing news punch bowl by the always annoying, does-not-know-anything-about-boxing-and-doesn’t-even-seem-to-particularly-like-boxing Ariel Helwani. 

Nobody (without a money interest in the event) should be the least bit excited about Joshua-Ngannou, except for maybe Helwani, who is such an Ngannou fanboy that I’d lay even money on there being mason jars full of drinkable Ngannou sweat in his fridge (also great for making Ngannou sweat popsicles in the summer!). 

Otherwise, for any reasonable and sane human being boxing fan, this fight is what it is-- a cynical money grab that is not only a waste of time, but also an extreme cockblock to the natural flow of what SHOULD be happening at the high end of the heavyweight division. I could rattle off at least a half-dozen names of top heavyweight contenders who could/should be fighting Joshua, but none of them will get that opportunity next because there’ll be a clown show scheduled for that date, sponsored by a nation that only cares about washing the blood away from its burgeoning tourism department. 

And, in case anyone even remotely knowledgeable needs to be reminded again, Ngannou did NOT beat Tyson Fury back in October. He lost a fairly-one sided decision and only “won” this second go at a boxing money fight because he scored a flash knockdown against a mind-muddled, mostly disinterested Fury and did not look as horrible as many thought he’d look. 

But, yeah, mediocrity rules in boxing today, as long as it can be packaged in such a way to tickle the withered cockles of the boxing media, who can repeat nothingness often enough to trick fans into thinking it’s actually somethingness. 

For example, Oscar De La Hoya gave happy-tail media a tour of his new Vegas mansion a day before his guy Vergil Ortiz Jr. got back into the ring for the first time since August of 2022 (with his last fight of any consequence being in August of 2021), after a series of illnesses, missed weights, and general fuck ups.

The end result of De La Hoya’s hospitality?

Lots of fluff pieces about Ortiz and his return to the ring. And even when Ortiz’s much-blathered about debut at 154 was scuttled when the contracted weight was pushed up to 156, nobody in that media gaggle said a word-- despite Ortiz’s inability to make weight being THE story of his career for the last three years or so. Why would they? Oscar was so nice to them at his totally awesome mansion. He posed for pictures with them. Plus, there was champagne!

By the way, I’m just letting you know that if De La Hoya ever gave me a "tour" of his mansion, I'd slip away and squeeze out an upper decker in all of his toilets and then try to nab some incriminating kitchen utensils near his master bedroom. 

And this is precisely why I’m pretty much unemployable in this current boxing media world. Just to SAY such a thing-- GASP-- after such hospitality!

By the way, Ortiz’s comeback bout with no-hoper Fredrick Lawson was everything you would’ve expected it to be. It was a blowout. But Golden Boy’s saving grace, another Tony Weeks shit stoppage, will deflect attention from the fact that Lawson had no business being in the ring with a monster like Ortiz, especially not in the main event of what’s supposed to be DAZN “premium” content. 

Weeks would top himself on Saturday, waving off the contest at the 2:33 mark of the first round, just as Ortiz began to unload on the hapless Portland-based Ghanaian. It wasn’t as frustrating of a stoppage as his screwing of Ismael Barroso versus Rolly Romero last May, but only because Lawson had already been wobbled by an Ortiz jab and no smart boxing person expected anything more than a KO loss from him, anyway. This laugher wasn’t going past two, even with the ghost of Steve Smoger refereeing. 

But, speaking of Ismael Barroso…

The 40-year-old Venezuelan’s first-round starching of the annoyingly smug UK “next big star” and recent Golden Boy signee Ohara Davies was a thing of beautiful divine justice. After being on the pointy end of a brutal world title screw job versus Rolly Romero eight months ago, Barroso took matters into his own hands and cracked Davies’ potato crisp chin to grab the interim WBA 140 lb. title and ensure at least one more major payday. Final fight stats? Barroso: 8 of 22 total punches landed. Davies: 0 of 9 total punches landed.

As I said a couple weeks back when the UK’s Sunny Edwards was starched by Bam Rodriguez:

“Most UK fighters are wildly overrated when they come up to compete on the world stage, especially at the lower weights. With the limited talent pool from which to draw opposition and sparring in their home region, you simply don’t know what’s what with smaller UK Brits until they compete in the Americas or Asia.”

Barroso over Davies (on the first US-based TV boxing show of the year), however, was the only bright boxing moment of the last week or so. Boxing is starting off 2024 with a decided “meh” vibe to it. Let’s hope things get better….or much worse (so I can have more material for these hateful columns of mine).

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