It's make or break time for two rising lightweights when they meet again to settle the score in a WBA title eliminator Saturday night on SHOWTIME.
If boxing history has shown us anything, it’s that controversial decisions are as commonplace as fat lips and bloody noses. In many instances, disputed outcomes can be beneficial in that they generate the kind of back-and-forth debates not only involving the participating fighters, but fans of both the celebrating winner and the aggrieved loser.
More often than not, each side wants some kind of definitive closure, which only can come from a rematch that either certifies the legitimacy of the scorecards from the original bout or raises new aspersions as to who actually is the more deserving of the two principals.
Just such a debate has raged in the 265 days that will have passed since Chris “Primetime” Colbert took a razor-thin, 10-round unanimous decision over Jose “Rayo” Valenzuela in Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Garden on March 25 of this year, all three judges giving the nod to Colbert by the same 95-94 margin.
Not surprisingly, Colbert (17-1, 6 KOs) figured he was clearly deserving of the victory, while Valenzuela (12-2, 8 KOs) – who registered the bout’s only knockdown in the first round and had Colbert in distress in both the sixth and eighth rounds – howled in protest like a scalded hound. One fighter’s version of the original story might be buttressed and the other’s debunked when the much-anticipated do-over takes place this Saturday, December 16 at the Armory in Minneapolis, a scheduled 12-round affair which will be televised as part of an historic SHOWTIME Championship Boxing card (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
Colbert-Valenzuela II, a WBA lightweight title eliminator, shares co-main event status with a title defense by WBA Super Middleweight Titlist David Morrell Jr. (9-0, 8 KOs) against Sena Agbeko (28-2, 22 KOs), but even that attractive matchup might take a backseat to the simmering nastiness that has existed in the eight-plus months since Brooklyn native Colbert and the Mexican-born, Renton, Washington-based Valenzuela concluded a fight that continues to raise questions as to whose version of the story is the more accurate.
The card as a whole takes on special significance in that it drops the curtain on SHOWTIME’s 37-year affiliation with boxing, a fact that might have nudged Colbert, who had vehemently vowed that he would not grant a rematch to “sore loser” Valenzuela, into finally acquiescing to a fight he has said will produce another favorable outcome for himself, only more definitively so.
“F--- no,” an incensed Colbert said when asked, in the aftermath of his first fight with Valenzuela, if he would make himself available for a second go against his instant arch-rival. “He was being a sore loser. If he had took his loss like a man, I would have given him a rematch, like I took my loss like a man. So now he ain’t getting nothin.’”
Nor did the favored Colbert feel the need to apologize that he had not clearly asserted his superiority to Valenzuela, as he had predicted would happen beforehand.
“In boxing, sometimes you’re gonna win pretty, sometimes you ain’t,” Colbert reasoned. “Today just wasn’t a pretty win, but it don’t matter. I got the win.”
“ He was being a sore loser. ” Lightweight Contender - Chris Colbert
Valenzuela, not unexpectedly, interpreted Colbert’s comments – which also included his insistence that he would switch back from lightweight, a division in which he made his debut against the naturally larger “Rayo,” to his more familiar comfort zone at junior lightweight – as a tacit admission of defeat and a suggestion that the perhaps fortunate victor of what some viewed as a tainted decision was afraid of being exposed should the two again square off inside the ropes.
“I beat him,” Valenzuela, a hard-punching southpaw who connected with 117 power shots to Colbert’s 77, according to CompuBox , said with an air of certainty. “I thought I won. I was hitting him with the harder shots. I dropped him. I dominated. But it is what it is.”
So, what has changed in the interim to convince Colbert to reverse course and accept the rematch with Valenzuela that he had insisted would never happen? Well, money almost always plays a part in such cases, but so does personal pride. No fighter who wins a decision that is not universally accepted by the public wants any lingering questions as to his worthiness to go unanswered. As always, pugilistic beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Former world champion Zab Judah, like Colbert a Brooklyn native, said on Shawn Porter’s podcast, The Porter Way, that he thought Colbert had done enough to get a nod from the judges that perhaps wasn’t as close, or as wrong, as it might have seemed to others.
“The reason why I saw Chris Colbert won the fight was he dictated the pace,” Judah said. “He pushed the fight forward. He stayed with his jab. He kept coming. He did not allow (Valenzuela) to push him. Now, if he was able to be pushed backwards, to be hit like that, we can beg to differ. But he came forward the whole fight. He pressed the whole fight. He set the pace.”
Interestingly, both Colbert and Valenzuela had come into their earlier meeting following the first losses of their pro careers, which had taken some of the shine off each previously undefeated fighter. Colbert, who was coming off a 13-month layoff, had dropped a one-sided, unanimous decision to Hector Luis Garcia on February 26, 2022, in Las Vegas, while Valenzuela was knocked out in three rounds by Edwin De Los Santos on September 4, 2022, in Los Angeles. That made their first matchup a quest for restoration of prestige for both men, something that again will be the case on December 16, but perhaps even more so.
Colbert, for sure, can ill afford to be at less than his often flashy best. His Mexican trainer and father figure Aureliano Sosa once dubbed him “Lil’ B-Hop,” given his apparent stylistic similarities to the great Bernard Hopkins. But Hopkins had moments of adversity during a lengthy Hall of Fame career, learning from any missteps and adjusting as necessary to avoid repeats, a task that often is easier said than done once the opening bell rings.
For a closer look at Colbert vs Valenzuela 2, check out our fight night page.