The game has changed, it was, I suppose inevitable, but nah, I don't love it. How could I, and would you, if for 25 years you've never not enjoyed OG Bob Arum at the dais presiding over press conferences to hype Top Rank promotions? There was no Arum at Madison Square Garden on Thursday afternoon, to spice up the Vasiliy Lomachenko centered affair with a wry aside, or semi outrageous assertion. There was no dais, in fact.
Mark Shunock directed traffic for a tightly-directed 30 minute session of promotion designed to spotlight the ring return of pound for pound ace Lomachenko. The 34 year old five star ring general is seeking to get a win Saturday night in the MSG Hulu Theater versus New England standout Jamaine Ortiz, and then get after the belt-holder at lightweight, Devin Haney.
Shunock, the Top Rank in-house fight night in-ring emcee, is about as good as it gets in handling this format, which is in a format we started seeing maybe 5 years ago in the US. The format is meant to be a bit more up to date, and prevent the parade of droning on by dignitaries and others without much to add beyond ass-kissing thank yous. It also has the attractive feature of being boring, or predictable if you want to be euphemistic. There were no questions from contentious pricks, which meant that curveballs were absent. The stream went live at 12:55 PM, the festivities kicked off right at 1 PM, and by 1:35 PM, the main eventers were doing a face off for photogs.
Lomachenko, in English, said it was an easy decision to blow off boxing for awhile, and instead stay in Ukraine, with his family, to defend his nation from the Russian invasion. He spoke Russian then, saying he wasn’t in active defense, he patrolled his city to encourage curfew, when asked to share what he’s been doing since Vladimir Putin’s disgusting land grab began. “I want to give Saturday it will be Sunday in my country to give the Ukrainian people a little change, good emotion,” Lomachenko said.
For the record, Loma last fought on Dec. 11, 2021, bettering Richard Commey by a wide margin in NYC. Award-winning journo Gayle Falkenthal covered it for NY Fights. Click here to read her effort.
Loma has sparred with Ortiz, and the 16-2 (11 KOs) master class prof said sparring and a real face-off are different, because conditioning isn’t the same. He guaranteed an interesting fight. “I’m focused on my job, on my boxing, you can’t stop thinking about your country, it’s always in your head, but now I’m focused,” he said.
And how much does Lomachenko, who went pro in 2013, want to be undisputed at 135? “It’s my dream, it’s my goal, but I don’t want to talk about my fight, after Saturday we can talk about my future,” Loma said. In other words, no questions about Haney, please.
Ortiz (16-0-1, 8 KOs), in indoor shades, spoke softly, telling viewers he manifested this aim, to fight Loma, into existence. “Saturday night you’re gonna find the best Jamaine Ortiz, I guarantee that,” the Worcester, Mass resident, promoted by the estimable Jimmy Burchfield Sr, said softly. “It’s gonna be the Technician, the real technician, Saturday night.” (Ortiz last fought in May of this year, decisioning vet Jamel Herring. See footage below.)
Cuban lefty Robeisy Ramirez (10-1) sat to the right of Loma, while his foe, 26-2 Argentine Jose Matias Romero sat next to Jamaine Ortiz.
To start the show, 6-0 Nico Ali Walsh, 7-0 Duke Ragan, 3-0 Richard Torrez Jr, 5-0 Delante Johnson and 7-0 Troy Isley fielded queries from Shunock. To a man, each showed deftness in answering questions. Being in the Top Rank sphere, there is a certain expectation and corporate structure, which can head off some of the uncertainty and pitfalls which can hit young guns. No, not one of these dudes went off on a fun rant, they acted, frankly, professionally, beyond their years. Now, the format doesn’t encourage spontaneity, so it doesn’t necessarily result in a session guaranteed to offer un-scripted bombshells, but that’s largely why it is utilized.
It also struck me how the game has changed, as I watched the production from my home office and saw the changeover, from the undercard crew, to the main event talent. Shunock told the audience the switch was coming, theme music kicked in, and the fighters in the top two bouts on the card sat down. This is efficiency, THIS is slick production, THIS is Top Rank. This is fitting the age we are in, with McKinsey management consultant mode in effect. It results in Bob Arum being sidelined, it reduces the possibility of drama being manufactured, this is progress, one could argue. I understand intellectually why it is so, but nah, I don’t love it.