Boxing fans deserve better than mismatches
MANILA, Philippines - Tomorrow night, on Saturday, March 18, two of the best young fighters from the Philippines will be in action against Indonesian fighters.
On paper it looks like unbeaten Pinoys Jack Tepora and Christian Araneta will get some international experience at home, and they’ll raise their hands triumphantly – the conquerors of Indonesian invaders who sought to topple them.
The only way we’ll learn anything new about Tepora and Araneta from the “Who’s Next 4” card is if they grab the microphone after the fights and tell us their favorite foods or colors. Because the matchmaking for this card is indefensible.
Let’s start with the main event. Tepora has a record of 19-0 with 14 knockout wins. Tepora holds the WBO’s Oriental junior featherweight (122 pounds) and is rated number 11 in the world by the organization. From a distance, the 30-year-old Yon Armed (14-7, 6 knockouts) looks like a decent opponent who is good, but not too good.
"He better make sure he delivers on that, that he can knockout me out because if he can't, I will knock him out," Tepora is quoted in a press release sent by the promoter Omega Pro Sports International after Friday’s weigh-in.
Uhh, yeah, you really should be able to. Consider that Armed has fought 3 times outside of his home country, and each time he’s been knocked out in three, two and one round, respectively. The length of his international fights is like a countdown to his chin detonating.
Five of Armed’s 21 fights have come against fighters making their pro debut, according to Boxrec, and another 5 came against fighters who had zero wins before facing him. His last two fights came against a fighter making his debut (Slamet) and another with a 0-1 record (Manuel Junior), and in the fight before that, he lost a 5-round decision to a 4-12 opponent.
Tell me how a win over Armed proves anything to those watching the fight?
The situation is even worse for Araneta (13-0, 11 KOs), a heavy-handed brawler whom I’d consider a top 5 or 10 talent in the country. A video I snapped of his last fight against Philip Luis Cuerdo, a seventh-round knockout win, was shared widely on Facebook, with people comparing him to a young Pacquiao.
He’s knocked out world-rated fighter Jesse Espinas (another excellent talent) and gave Jason Neri his first loss in 2015.
So why, may I ask, is he fighting Demsi Manufoe (11-6, 8 KOs) instead of someone worthy of his ability?
Let’s dissect Manufoe’s record.
Ten of his 17 fights have been against people making their debuts - more than half! - and another two had zeroes in their win column. So that’s 12 fights. His other 5 fights were fought abroad, and each of those ended by a knockout loss within the first 3 rounds.
"I don't feel any pressure fighting at the Waterfront for the first time,” Araneta is quoted in the release.
You really shouldn’t feel any pressure whatsoever fighting Manufoe, considering that he’s never beaten a fighter who had previously won a professional fight.
Somehow the WBO saw fit to sanction this mismatch for its vacant Oriental light flyweight title, which will likely result in Araneta earning a top 15 ranking should (when) he win.
This fight is the fourth installation of Omega’s “Who’s Next” series, which is televised on a delayed basis by GMA. While it’s great to see a major television network getting involved to air fights (would be much better if it was live), and a new promoter that is serious about putting on shows in the Philippines, the fans who are paying between P100-500 a ticket to watch at the Waterfront Casino and those watching on television deserve better than matchmaking which works as a slight of hand trick. Looks like a good fight, then poof, not anymore.
Omega is not the only promoter who has made fights like these, and the Games and Amusements Board must take part of the blame for approving what looks like will be early blowout wins for the two Filipino prospects.
Boxing is a dangerous enough sport, and to match top unbeaten fighters with fighters for whom the word “professional” is a stretch makes it even more dangerous. Not to mention, it creates inflated records and stagnates the prospects’ competitive edge.
For the good of Philippine boxing, let’s do better. “Who’s Next?” Hopefully someone who can give these fighters a real challenge. The Filipino boxing fans deserve better than this. – Rappler.com
Ryan Songalia is the sports editor of Rappler, a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and a contributor to The Ring magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @RyanSongalia.