Are you getting the sense, like I am, that how boxing is acting right now is going to continue for a spell, and people probably don’t know how long that is?
And by “how boxing is acting,” I mean what fights are being made, and what ones aren’t.
You may have watched ESPN’s Tuesday night fights, the show topped by a Mikaela Mayer vs Helen Joseph scrap. It was an easy W for Mayer, though it must be said that we shouldn’t leap to all the conclusions because of that. Joseph fought at 118 two fights ago, and looked like she was over-trained, but no one should snatch all credit from Mayer (13-0, 5 KO), whose technique was solid as she stayed focused for the duration of the 10 rounds.
And during the event, we heard the ESPN crew weigh in on various subjects. To be honest, that is often more entertaining to some of us than the fights in this coronavirus period, because we aren’t seeing the best fight the best, or even just plain old 50-50 coin-flip fights. (And there is reasoned thinking for setting it up that way, by the way, even if I as a fan am not overly enthralled.)
One of the between-fights subjects Tuesday was what’s next for Terence Crawford. The Nebraska welterweight talked to Max Kellerman about his options, and said, sure, he’d like a Manny Pacquiao fight. But his main message was this: “Coronavirus is effing things up, and I’m not going to accept a massive pay cut because the game has changed for the promoter.”
He can take that stance, and act accordingly; boxers have more freedom, typically, than do athletes in the less niche-y sports.
For example, did you hear about the WNBA brass telling 30-year-old Washington Mystics forward Elena Delle Donne that no, she can’t get a medical exemption from them? Delle Donne, league MVP in 2015 and 2019, wanted to skip playing this season while COVID-19 is still sneaking up on people. She got Lyme disease in 2008, and, she says, has to treat lingering issues on a daily basis.
Delle Donne says that playing basketball is a risk she’s not inclined to take, and she’d rather do social distancing, and have a better chance of not being infected. (And her team, the Washington Mystics, would still have to pay her salary if she was granted a medical waiver.) So far, the league has said “tough tamales.” A panel of doctors, allegedly independent but on behalf of the league, said she should play. Elena is immunocompromised, has a doctor’s note, but the man, er, the league is basically forcing her to come to work.
Boxers are offered fights, and as much more independent contractors, can take the offer or leave it. Higher-end fighters can negotiate contracts with promoters, advisers, and broadcast platforms, and those contracts can ensure so they have, for example, no fewer than three fights per year. Those high-tier dudes and ladies have better leverage than do the less glittering specimens, who usually don’t have the luxury of waiting as long for a perfect foe and payday. But most top-level players don’t have infinite leverage. Yes, Floyd Mayweather basically picked and chose and accepted fights that he wanted, and then platforms and all them fell in line.
Crawford has leverage, because he’s seen as one of the three best boxers in the world by most pundits. Promoter Top Rank isn’t of a mind to say, “Hey, Bud, take it or leave it. We can’t set up cards to allow paying customers to watch you fight right now. That means less money is in the pot to pay you. So you fight Ray Robinson, for 35% of what you usually make, and then hopefully by early 2021, things are back to normal enough so fans can gather at an arena to watch your next fight. And then we can set up a marquee fight, and you can go back to earning what you were before the virus changed shit up.”
I mean, that basic spiel might in fact be what Crawford is told, but I’d bet in a very gentle way. It doesn’t mean he will accept the reasoning. In other words, would I be so surprised if Bud said he’s good and doesn’t rush to fight until 2021? I wouldn’t be. You see all these bigger fights get mentioned and then get pushed back a month at a time. Maybe we see none of those matchups you are craving until 2021.
Ah, but that show must go on — just not as it was. A version of “the show” is what we’ve been getting from Top Rank. Matchroom will be comparable with their Fight Camp, though their finale show has a heavyweight contest of note, Dillian Whyte vs Alexander Povetkin, topping the bill. Golden Boy has their toes in the water with a Vergil Ortiz Jr-Sammy Vargas faceoff July 24, then on August 28, Jorge Linares meets Javier Fortuna — not a coinflip fight, but at least two names you know, all of those shows on the returning DAZN.
We don’t know when Crawford will decide to lace up again. The man always looks in shape, so if word dropped that they found a foe and a date and Crawford’s return is the third week of September, I’d not be shocked.
As far as a possible foe, on Tuesday the ESPN voices tossed around some names. Mark Kriegel doesn’t think there are really any good options for the WBO 147-pound champ Crawford, within the economic context of the day. But Tim Bradley said he thinks Ray Robinson would make for a good dance partner for Bud.
And guess what? The 34-year-old Robinson (24-3-2, 12 KO) watched the Tuesday night fights and saw the segment. How’d that feel?
“I feel like my name should be said, so it felt good,” Robinson told me. He’s unaffiliated with a promoter at this time, after doing stints with Star Boxing and DiBella Entertainment, so Split-T Management would be point persons if Crawford-Robinson goes beyond theory.
Robinson drew with Egidijus Kavaliauskas and then Josh Kelly his last two times out. He’s a veteran, so he’s properly cynical about how the system works. He’s not likely to get extra love from judges when he’s the obvious B-side against a connected pugilist. So does Robinson think he would need to stop Crawford to get a W?
“That’s a good question, we both know how the politics are. I’m going in there in looking for the KO anyway,” Robinson said. “It will be that much sweeter to beat him that way!”
If you don’t know, these two are acquainted.
“This fight is drama, me and him have history,” Robinson said. “I beat him in the US nationals (in 2005). And he was so mad he was trying fight me after! So let’s run it back!”
You may have heard Matchroom is going to return to the United States, too, on Aug. 15 in Oklahoma. The event promoted by Eddie Hearn will run outside, a section of the downtown Tulsa streets blocked off. No fans will be present and social distancing will be demanded when Mexican Julio Cesar Martinez defends his WBC World Flyweight title against Puerto Rican McWilliams Arroyo.
It got me thinking, so I asked Robinson, rated No. 14 by the WBC, what he thinks of this setup: Crawford vs Robinson, outdoors at Memorial Stadium, on the campus of the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, home to the Cornhuskers football team.
“Perfect! I’d fight him in his grandma’s backyard,” Robinson said.
He’d be a considerable underdog, that’s not debatable. And those are the sorts of fights we will continue to see, at least until more clarity arrives in America.