(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.