NOTE: The (#) listed are for footnotes at the bottom. These are my digressions and tangential thoughts that I didn’t think fit into the main body of this essay.
On different comment threads recently there have been discussions regarding "ducking" and "matchmaking" in boxing. I wanted to explore these two subjects as I believe they are related even if separate conversations about each were occurring.(1)
Before beginning I want to state that I am all for boxers making as much money as they possibly can. (2) However, I want to concentrate on more of a pure fan’s perspective of boxing as sport and boxers engaging in competition to prove who is the best. A response to a comment I made about Kovalev-Stevenson presented the fair and reasonable point that fans shouldn’t be expected to separate the money factor form other aspects of boxing. Just be forewarned that I am not including considerations about making the most money by fighting certain fighters.
Matchmaking is a necessary part of boxing. I would go as far as saying that matchmaking is essential to building a boxer. Matchmaking, as I understand it, is there to build a fighters confidence, get him used to the pro game, and improve raw skills. As a fighter grows matchmaking can legitimately be used to provide a fighter with a fight he is almost certain to win in order to allow him to see various styles - southpaw, pressure fighter, speed, etc. - and then make adjustments during training as needed. Matchmaking is also used to catapult young fighters into TV spots and an attempt to develop them into stars. I am fine with all of this even if it sometimes leads to hype machines and guys who are later exposed (Andre Berto, I’m looking at you).
My position is that once boxers become stars, however you wish to define a star, then the sort of matchmaking listed above needs be long forgotten. This is where competition against the best needs to take priority. I bring this up as a response to recent comments about the match making of Cotto-Trout and Pavlik-Hopkins.
These may have been bad style match-ups but not bad matchmaking. Cotto was a 154 World Titleist as was Trout. They should be fighting! Pavlik may have made a bad decision going up in weight to face Hopkins but he was widely considered the best 160 lber and I have no problem with Pavlik wanting to test himself.(3) He should be lauded for that fight. For a star boxer the risk/reward ratio should be different than for an up-and-comer or an established gatekeeper.
Ducking seems to be a more constant theme on the threads lately. As of this writing I do not know if the definition of "ducking" has been agreed upon in order to move the discussion along or if it will stay stuck on the "He ducked"/"That’s not ducking" spectrum. For the record I don’t think saying a fighter is ducking implies he is scared. At least not scared like walking into a haunted house scared. I do think that a boxer may have serious concerns about how a certain fight will affect his career or his record or his earning potential (which I am not talking about). These concerns don't mean he isnt ducking, either. I also think there are legitimate reasons for a fighter to not put another fighter at top of his list that wouldn’t constitute ducking. After a while, if two fighters are both on top of the division and there is no Cold War preventing the bout then, yes, it is ducking.(4)
In conclusion, this was a long-winded way of stating that if a star boxer is still as concerned about matchmaking as he was earlier in his career then he will inevitably be a ducker at some point in his career.
(1) My main way of reading BLH is to download different articles with comments threads open on my way to the subway. I then read the article and/or comment thread during my morning commute. This causes me to frequently lose my way on which comments are for which article and to also conflate different arguments in one thread with arguments from another. This is most likely a reason why I am bringing these two subjects together.
(2) Having said this, I find the payday differences between top guys like Floyd and Manny and their opponents to be egregious. I understand the argument that these opponents are making career high money and shouldn’t complain. My point is that nobody is paying big money to watch Floyd and Manny shadowbox - they need opponents - and as such I see absolutely no reason, for instance, that Floyd is compensated $80 million to Canelo’s $20 million.
(3) I do agree that this was a bad decision for Pavlik. He was lineal 160 champ, why go up in weight at that time. I just don’t have a problem with him fighting an opponent the caliber of or style of Hopkins.
(4) Floyd-Manny can be used as an example of this, I suppose. I used to be in the "Floyd is ducking camp" but due to time or plain ambivalence I have swung to believing other overriding factors were more at play than either ducking the other. Although the argument can be made that the Cold War was in effect during that time despite the negotiations that occurred.