When I wrote last week that the fight between Joseph “Jojo” Diaz and Jesus Rojas was too good a fight to be stuck on Facebook instead of a major TV network like HBO, Showtime or ESPN, I was worried that I had become out of touch with the modern media landscape. Maybe with its larger reach putting a fight on Facebook was better than having it on a premium network, maybe young people like to watch events on phones more than TV’s, maybe Facebook really is the future of sports broadcasting. After Saturday night’s debacle, I feel much better.
The internet was furious as Golden Boy’s stream was spotty, the video quality was lacking, and upwards of 40,000 people lost the stream completely for huge portions of the fight. Dan Rafael called it an “epic failure” and couldn’t even provide a score for who he thought won the fight because he had missed so many rounds due to the bad connection.
When the fights were running smoothly, people complained that Mario Lopez’s commentary was so biased towards the Golden Boy-backed fighters that it made the fights difficult to watch. Streaming might be the future of live sports, and this mishap could prove to be no more than a growing pain for showing fights on Facebook, but two great fighters like Jojo Diaz and Jesus Rojas didn’t deserve to be the unfortunate victims of a failed tech experiment.
That being said, the fight was good. Although he came in overweight and therefore was ineligible to win Rojas’ WBA featherweight title regardless of the fight’s outcome, Diaz was able to maintain a brisk pace throughout the fight, matching Rojas’ incredible stamina until the closing rounds of the fight when he had built enough of a lead on the judges scorecards to earn a unanimous, 116-112, 115-113, 117-111 decision victory.
Although he will hold onto his title, the loss was Puerto Rico’s Rojas’ first in nine years and only his second loss overall. For Diaz, although he did not become a title holder, he moved to 27-1, with his sole loss being to the elite Gary Russell Jr. This was a great fight between two very real contenders; it’s just a shame that not everybody got to see it who wanted to.
In other action, Emilio Sanchez moved up to featherweight, began training with Joel Diaz and bounced back from a shocking knockout loss to unheralded Filipino Eugene Lagos with a dominant 5th round TKO victory over Christopher Martin on Estrella TV. The fight was never close, as the once promising Martin continued his downward slide, getting dropped in the third and ultimately stopped two rounds later when referee Jack Weiss watched him take flurry after flurry from Sanchez without responding. The win moved Sanchez to 16-1, while Martin dropped to 30-11.
Ricardo Espinoza had never fought in Tampa, never fought in a ten-round fight and never fought anybody good, but on Friday night, none of that mattered. The streets of Tijuana must be filled with some hellaciously tough boxers sporting sub-.500 records, because despite having faced a parade of Mexican journeymen, Espinoza showed he is the real deal by shocking and stopping Daniel Lozano on Telemundo. Lozano looked good early, but in the second round Espinoza showed the power that led to him knocking out his last seven opponents, as he dropped Lozano twice before Lozano’s corner had seen enough and stopped the fight themselves.
On the same card, Cuban Hairon Socarras won a wide, unanimous decision over Puerto Rico’s Jose Nieves, with scores of 100-90, 100-90, and 99-91. With the win, Socarras moved to 19-0-3 with 12 knockouts.
Don King-represented undefeated heavyweight Trevor Bryan knocked out BJ Flores in the fourth round to win the “WBA Interim Heavyweight Title.” Flores was knocked down six (yes, six) times over the course of the bout which took place in his hometown of Phoenix, Arizona. He blamed the loss on abandoning his gameplan which was to stay on the outside and box. After the fight, Bryan expressed an interest in facing the winner of WBA “regular” Champion Manuel Charr and Dan Rafael’s best friend Fres Oquendo.
In a sport that is already killing itself by diluting what it means to be a champion, having these two men fight for a belt is doing nobody any favors. This is a great era for heavyweight boxing, and there are dozens of great matchups to be made, but this was not a championship-caliber fight and anybody who told you it was is selling you something.