‘Why do you make pound-for-pound lists?'
‘Oh, I hate making weight class rankings'
‘…I don't take awards seriously, so here are our half-baked awards….”
Welcome to the world of boxing in 2023, in which talking about the in-ring action is something that appalls most hardcore fight fans.
I am an avid consumer of Bill Simmons’ sports content, one of the biggest gimmicks in his basketball book was to make tiers and lists. It is interesting to go through history and think about how people fit into the scheme of things. Yet, in boxing, try to write down the ten best fighters in the world and watch how someone mocks you for even trying…why is this?
Promoters and media entities have taught us to talk about the nonsense happening outside the ring instead of the action inside the ring. Why might that be? We're not seeing the best fight the best enough, so childish feuds, rivalries, and political talking points are now the language used by hardcore fight fans.
I am not sure many hardcore boxing fans even enjoy fight night or going to boxing gyms. The conversations and language used in boxing sub-circles show ownership and membership to this underworld that seems to be fulfilling. Buying into the concept that any fight is impossible to make is pathetic; it works against our own best interests as fight fans, but by lazily saying words such as “realistic fights” or “they will keep it in-house” has us thinking in a capacity that allows promoters to do such a thing. We need to dream big, and fail big as a sport, ask for great match-ups and not accept that a fight can't be made due to a rival promoter being the reason. In 2022, we only got a few good fights, mostly in women's boxing.
Vote for the 2022 ESPN Ringside Social Award for Men’s Boxer of the Year 🏆
— ESPN Ringside (@ESPNRingside) December 26, 2022
Not unlike politics, the ownership to a said party seemingly makes you have to subscribe to certain issues. Boxing is now forcing fans to pledge allegiance to sanctioning bodies, promoters, and networks, which will be their guiding light in the darkness yet to come.
I would leave if I didn't build a small business around boxing. I really would. The sport is a reflection of the world right now. People find interesting and compelling people they're drawn to, excusing their flaws, only to parrot tropes of other injustices saying things aren't fair because of double standards. Two wrongs don't make a right.
The modern era is the era of the excuse. How can I justify this? How can I justify that? It isn't the era of what I have accomplished in the ring. We have top fighters, who haven't won a world title, and have no interest in world titles, and a guy like Luis Alberto Lopez, fighting in relative obscurity when he fought his way out of the b-side to become a world champion. We don't talk about lists and pound-for-pound lists anymore because, for most people, the idea of thinking about in-ring action is difficult, hard, and not fun. You have to put yourself out there and stand on your beliefs and principles, which is difficult. We have a lot of people who want to go with a “group-think” mentality as opposed to speaking to what they see.
Naoya Inoue inched closer to the top spot after becoming undisputed bantamweight champion, but Terence Crawford remains No. 1 after a dominant title defense 😤
— ESPN Ringside (@ESPNRingside) December 22, 2022
This is why Jake Paul is here. Paul is making good fights based on his skill set and is more compelling than any other figure in the sport. He sees the weakness in the marketplace and is slowly taking over the sport.
The issue is this. Boxing as a sport is secondary to the social aspect of making friends through boxing. Boxing is now a social club as much as a sport. This makes lists, awards, and rankings difficult because it disrupts the social nature of the social network. It is why people don't watch amateur boxing – simply, they are not being told what to watch.
Boxing is now simple, someone says something, and if it is loud enough, it is true.
As Kazuto Ioka and Joshua Franco fight with seemingly no U.S. TV, it sums up the sad state of affairs in boxing in which the fights themselves are secondary to faith-based beliefs around their favorite fighters.