Boxing has a problem and this problem isn’t new.
It’s been a long-standing issue that unfortunately fans, media, promoters and networks seem all too willing to accept. The best fighters aren’t competing against one another because “It doesn’t make sense business-wise.”
I’m not quoting anyone in particular, I’m quoting the entire sport of boxing.
Currently, we have three of the original and most important divisions in the sport, lightweight, welterweight and heavyweight, effectively paralyzed by what many are claiming to be “business decisions.”
At lightweight, Vasiliy Lomachenko and Mikey Garcia sit atop the division. Both are pound for pound top ten fighters and both have a big fan base that would make for a spectacular event in any city. What these two also share are rival promoters/managers that refuse to work with one another. Mikey famously refused to fight for 30 months and successfully escaped his contract with Top Rank Promotions who coincidentally promote Lomachenko. Mikey now operates as a free agent, but since his return he’s done all of his fighting under the PBC-Al Haymon banner. Top Rank and thus Lomachenko won’t do business with Garcia because of the 2 ½ year freeze out but mostly because of the ties with PBC/Haymon. After a few days of unrest, fans and media accept this explanation. Boxing does itself no favors.
At welterweight, we have the same promotional and managerial culprits at work. Terence Crawford, promoted by Top Rank, and Errol Spence (PBC/Haymon) are both highly skilled operators. Like Lomachenko and Garcia, Crawford and Spence are top ten pound for pound and the top two fighters in their division. Both men are equipped with a tackle box of skill and like to finish their opponents in devastating fashion. Spence is coming off of a win against the aforementioned Garcia and Crawford just beat former two division world champ Amir Khan. Both were underwhelming fights for various reasons against overmatched opponents making a Spence v. Crawford clash all the more important. Recently both men were candidly caught on camera challenging one another to a fight, with Crawford issuing a winner takes all bet of one million dollars. They shook on it. The fans were hopeful, the media was salivating, retweets and likes aplenty!
Unfortunately after the Khan fight, Bob Arum of Top Rank Promotions gets into the ring and during the post fight interview goes on a rant about how Al Haymon is the sole reason that Crawford and Spence isn’t happening. Spence in turn in a separate interview states that because of Crawford’s alleged low Pay Per View sales he’s no longer willing to accept a 50/50 purse split with Crawford. Fans and media understand Spence’s business dilemma. Boxing shoots itself in the foot again.
That takes us to the most storied and glorious division in the sport, the heavyweight division. In this corner we have the undefeated, 29 year old Anthony Joshua. Olympic Gold Medalist and owner of 3 of the 4 major belts the sport’s sanctioning bodies have to offer. Joshua, from England, has beaten the likes of Wladamir Klitscho, Dillian Whyte and Joseph Parker. He’s an impressive specimen at 6’6” with power and skills to boot. He’s disposed of 21 of his 22 opponents inside the distance. Standing across from him is undefeated, 33 year old, 6’7”, whirling dervish, Deontay Wilder. Wilder owns the fourth piece of the of the undisputed sanctioning body puzzle, the WBC belt and has stopped 39 of his 41 professional opponents. Joshua is promoted by Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing and Wilder is promoted/managed by none other than Al Haymon/PBC. Joshua, like all Matchroom fighters, fights exclusively on the DAZN streaming platform. Wilder’s fights usually land on PBC outlets such as Showtime and Fox. This March it was reported that DAZN was making Wilder a $100 million dollar offer for three fights, one of which being a Joshua showdown. To the amazement of fans and press Wilder and his team turned down the deal and re-signed with Showtime for similar money. In doing so Wilder all but strangled any hope in getting an undisputed heavyweight champion. The fans and media empathize and respect Wilder’s loyalty to Showtime. Boxing simply can’t get out of its own way.
These business decisions are killing and have been killing the sport.
Can you imagine applying boxing logic to other sports? Could the Patriots have not played the Rams in the super bowl because they weren’t a big enough name? Or maybe Virginia could have played Michigan State in the NCAA final this year instead of Texas Tech because The Spartans are bigger draw and they play on the same network.
Boxing should apply the best compete against the best mentality that other sports are beholden to. This talk and acceptance of the business end of the sport is nonsense.
Business Shmizness, JUST MAKE THE DAMN FIGHTS!