We MIGHT Be Witnessing Positive Shift in Boxing



We MIGHT Be Witnessing Positive Shift in Boxing

David Benavidez next fight will not be against Canelo Alvarez.

That we can almost say for certain as news hit last week that Canelo, who has reportedly been more ‘hands-on’ in the process of selecting his next opponent, is on the verge of finalizing the long-awaited showdown with current WBC middleweight champion Jermall Charlo.

We heard that Benavidez would instead be facing Cuban fighter, David Morrell.

Morrell is red-hot and his momentum cannot be denied. In a story, they had quotes from Benavidez and Morrell’s teams, and both sides seemed adamant about making that fight.

The news was sudden and welcomed, and the topic took over Boxing Twitter for the evening. The expectation was for an October or November SHOPPV.

The Twists and Turns of Making A Fight

But it seems as though the story was also news to Benavidez, who responded on social media by saying the Morrell fight was not agreed to and then told FightHype that he “wants to make the big fights.”

This could be a strategy to appear like he has more options in an effort to gain control over negotiations with Morrell’s team, but Benavidez appeared genuine in his claim that he hadn’t yet seen an offer.

Charlo has not defended his middleweight title in two years—he last fought in June of 2021 beating Juan Montiel by unanimous decision.

Eddie Hearn of Matchroom, who has worked with Canelo since his departure from Golden Boy Promotions in 2019, has made statements about Charlo not being competitive with Canelo based on him not fighting in twenty-four months.

Maybe he’s right, but maybe it’s sour grapes after being unable to secure Canelo’s September date with Dimitry Bivol.

In fact, Eddie recently made comments about talks with Skills Challenge’s Prince Khalid regarding a possible fight with Badou Jack—WBC champion at cruiserweight.

Boxing Promoters Have Balls In the Air, the Juggling Is Constant

This is not the first time this year that one of Eddie’s fighters contradicted his statements. AJ responded on Instagram following comments Eddie made that the former unified heavyweight titlist would be facing Dillian Whyte next, making it clear he had heard nothing about it.

One of AJ’s new stablemates, Ryan Garcia, was also in the news recently after having a very public disagreement over opponent choices with his promoter, Golden Boy’s Oscar De La Hoya, on, you guessed it, social media.

Both fighter and promoter engaged in a Twitter/Instagram war over De La Hoya’s claim he would attempt to make Ryan Garcia-Manny Pacquiao—this would be the second attempt since the start of the 2020s.

The news came a day after Garcia put out a hit list of who he wanted next. The opponent list included Rolando “Rolly” Romero, Isaac “Pitbull” Cruz, and Teofimo Lopez, and he’d officially accepted Rolly’s title challenge offer days before posting the list.

Following some choice words Ryan had on a few podcast appearances, and the social media beef, his team sent a letter to Golden Boy claiming that they had violated the terms of the promotional contract and even broke California laws.

Fighters and Boxing Promoters Co-Exist, Sometimes Uneasily

The letter, which was obtained and reported on by Mike Coppinger of ESPN, insisted Ryan’s promotional contract with Golden Boy was now invalid.

Golden Boy followed up this aggressive attempt at separation by filing suit against Ryan, attempting to enforce the current contract.

It certainly is nothing new, fighters and promoters disagreeing publicly over career direction, I mean.

And I could give you half a dozen more names that have made indirect comments regarding their disapproval over the fights being offered to them by their promoter, but the speculation alone would necessitate a multi-part write-up.

Still, something feels different with these specific cases.

Typically, when a fighter or promoter makes conflicting public comments of one another, it gives anti-fans of that promoter/fighter a social media soapbox for which to sound off—as if their unflinching bias makes them the purest product of objectivity.

An adage I’m sure most have heard at one point or another from a promoter is, “The fighter is the boss,” as if they live to serve at the behest of the fighter. Don’t get me wrong, that is how it should absolutely work, and the dynamic certainly looks that way on paper.

Boxing Is Set Up Weird

How things play out is a bit different. And I’m not saying that promoters actively work against their fighter’s interests, on the contrary. Promoters are in the business of making the best fights possible for their fighter. The problem is that the promoter and fighter are at odds over what that means.

Look at the Ryan situation, for example. Ryan is supposed to be the boss, and he is certainly the only one taking punches on fight night, but it is De La Hoya’s experience in the fight game as both a fighter and promoter that he uses to assess the next option for the warriors under his umbrella.

Pacquiao would undoubtedly do better business than Rolly, but it is this kind of rationale—the promoter knows best—that leads to these misunderstandings. The bottom line, Ryan should be in charge, right?

In fact, I could make an argument in favor of every opponent suggested by the aforementioned promoters.

Promotional outfits, specifically those with network backing, do not just pick potential opponents out of a hat. There is a certain amount of market research that goes into these choices and the idea is to find the right balance of risk and reward.

Casual Fans Are Now Smarter Than They Used To Be

Fans have long caught on to the risk/reward game plan of promotional outfits and their tendency to keep things “in-house.” This notion has become boxing’s narrative and where it used to be only “hardcore fans” that understood this truth, it is now a talking point of even the most casual boxing fan.

It is a cloud that hangs over boxing and is often used by the sport’s detractors, like what steroids did to baseball, except the insane amount of home runs helped that sport’s appeal, but the best fights NOT being made has done no favors for the sweet science.

Change Seems To Be In the Air

However, 2023 is starting to take the shape of something that could dispel the notion that boxing is not in the business of making the best fights. With Tank-Garcia in the books and Crawford-Spence on the horizon, there is a tangible change in the air.

Fighters are demanding the best fights in many cases, some of them long past due. Mall Charlo had been accused of not fighting Demetrius Andrade for years, and Canelo was accused of ducking them both, and, yet, we’ve heard rumblings of both those fights happening next.

AJ-Wilder was a fight that should’ve happened at least twice by now, and there is reason to be hopeful that it happens before the end of 2023.

Does any of this prove that boxing is changing for good? No.

But with the biggest names in the sport advocating for themselves publicly and, possibly, despite their promoters, we could be witnessing a real shift.

The kind of problems boxing has can’t be fixed in a day or week or year, but it can change, and it would have to start somewhere.

Sure, there are going to be cases like David Benavidez where a fight we were hoping to get is passed on by a fighter on the verge of a big fight, but the Crawford-Spence fight is serving a cause that has a two-way effect.

First, they are fighting, finally, and that should inspire others, especially if the promotion is a success. But they are also showing fighters the dangers of over-marination. Unlike Pacquiao-Mayweather, who everyone wanted to see fight when they both seemed unbeatable.

That fight broke all the records, but we’ll never know what it could have done at the height of it all, and before Pacquiao lost.

Neither Crawford nor Spence has lost a professional fight, and yet you still have fans, and media, claiming this fight is past its due. Fighters are seeing the benefit of fighting the best, and they’re also seeing the risk of waiting too long.

It is not too late for Crawford and Spence to put on a financially successful fight-of-the-year candidate, just like it is not too late for boxing to correct course.

We need to continue to encourage fighters to speak out, and not against promoters, necessarily, but for themselves.

We need to demand transparency from promoters. For example, Eddie Hearn has made it clear that AJ’s August opponent is the springboard to a December showdown with Wilder. It is easier to not crap on a fight with Whyte (which I like regardless) if you know he’s merely the “match” that sets off the Bomb Squad fuse.

Here's hoping these trends we’re seeing from 2023 don’t come and go as quickly as trends on Tik Tok, but dancing around the issues will always be the low-hanging fruit rotting from the “vine.”