If boxing were a business, the customer would always be right. How often, as a consumer, are we told by promoters or representatives how to think about a certain match-up, as opposed to an enticing one we want? It is no different than on Capitol Hill, and politicians from both sides figure out ways to phrase arguments against people and have those voting, at times, vote against their best interests in the guise of being a part of a community.
When speaking of Robert Moses, the famed biographer Richard Caro stated in The Power Broker the following. “Hospitality has always been a potent political weapon. Moses used it like a master. Coupled with his overpowering personality, a buffet often did as much for a proposal as a bribe.”
Now tell me if that doesn't feel like boxing in a nutshell. Gone are the days of enveloped bribes, and now we have the need for access. Media needs access to events or fighters. To do that, they have to broker power; many outlets in the industry only look at numbers and not quality, which is a status thing. The whole dynamic is based on how you can navigate and read a room. The business component of boxing is somewhat secondary to the delegation of relationships and powers within the inner circle of the boxing world.
It is often said that boxing is a business, but I think it is a disguise. Business usually means wealth, a lot of boxers are poor, and money is often the motivation for training so hard. I know when I only had a few thousand dollars, my goal was simply to make more money because I wasn't happy, and I figured that not having a lot of money was the reason, though it wasn't.
I often reflect and see that pitfall I once thought was one of the downfalls, as money is the enticement, but the political lingering of the sport creates the make-or-break nature of the beast. Who gets along with who matters just as much in some instances as goodwill amongst executives in boxing is vital for longevity.
We are now in the most unhealthy time I have ever seen as a fight fan. We're looking at a pay-per-view fight between Regis Prograis and Jose Zepeda, a good fight for the WBC vacant world title, but to watch it on Saturday at home is comparable to a ticket to the fight, as it costs $59.99. In a few weeks, this will be followed by Terence Crawford fighting David Avanesyan for $39.99 on BLK Prime, and then to start the year, we will get Gervonta Davis vs. Hector Luis Garcia on PPV. I haven't seen an announced price, but I almost assume it will be $74.99.
That is nearly an extra $200 in a little over a month, and we haven't gotten Errol Spence Jr.'s next fight announced as well, which will be behind a paywall.
Now on top of the paywall, you have navigation as a new issue. Can people use Fite TV, BLK Prime, and even Showtime PPV? It sounds silly, but boxing has an older audience, knowing is half the battle, and being able to get things to work will be another salvo is fired. How many fight fans will give up on streaming a pay-per-view by not knowing or not trusting a provider? It seems possible, and more so, we're heading towards more and more boxing behind paywalls, meaning that the fights will be less relevant than ever unless they're between two of the best fighters in the world.
Fights with emerging stars on pay-per-view rarely build a new star; they distance a new star. Not unlike a senator making a run at the White House, only a few make the transition, but right now, we have too many fighters labeled as pay-per-view stars, to the point in which what is a stand-alone fight.
We're getting quality fights that would be great TV for a small fee, but the price points we see in an economic depression do not match the magnitude of the fights. Pay-per-view is supposed to be a celebration of a great legacy, in my opinion, as a beloved fighter, who you spent years with us, can be on pay-per-view, and obviously a great fight, but too many fighters are on pay-per-view in fights that don't matter, meaning more and more fighters will be anonymous despite being some of the top fighters in the division.
Pay-per-view is where the money is, but it is also what makes boxing so inaccessible. We are pricing out hardcore fight fans, who now go to other sports. This is becoming a middle-aged sport, as the content, outside of influencer boxing, relies on a steady income stream. Boxing, like YouTuber, CalixBoxing 2.0, says perfectly, and I am paraphrasing is more of a “Country Club sport” than an accessible sport.
I couldn't help but think of the sorrow I got yesterday. My grandma looked at me and said she had lived too long. The unhappiness on her face, and I tried to say things that would help, but I am not sure it did. Death is so final and conclusive. I've been thinking about it a lot. You get no comfort from death because it is unknown, and beyond that, you have no clue what it is after. We just know no one comes back the way they were.
Though boxing will never die, it's at that place where if people don't make the fights, a lot of young fans will not be interested. A good friend told me a while back, “boxing is about to get really boring.” I am always an optimist, but I understand the thought. I find hope in the youth and the bureaucracy.
We have entered an era that Walter Lippman once called “manufacturing consent.” As Lippman saw the news media creating the opinions, which then be echoed, what Lippman wouldn't forsee was social media creating an echo chamber to raise unhelpful voices to the forefront.
Not just is boxing not a business, but it isn't a place of a true professional. Juveniles, immature, and the un-astute often rewarded, and how can that not be compared to politics? Boxing is a political endeavor with aspects of the sport glorified as a business because money and success have to come from the ambiguous word, business, right?