Something I have been thinking about in the wake of Floyd Mayweather stealing all of your money, again, is how favourably we should remember Floyd's win over Manny Pacquiao. At the time the narrative was that Pacquiao was past his prime and injured and — as is the custom with a Mayweather fight — Floyd was a coward refusing to engage. Now, I think it would be impossible to argue that Pacquiao was his best self that night but since then he has gone on to a pretty outstanding career twilight. I try not to spend too much time worrying about the legacy of Floyd, but I think beating Manny deserves perhaps a little more praise and a little less scorn.
Anyway. This weekend is "loaded" according to Lance Pugmire of The Athletic. Of course, the loaded weekend features Naoya Inoue, Jermall Charlo and Jamie Munguia in such lopsided fights that sports books are presently not offering odds on a knockout in the Inoue fight. Childish bullshit like this — calling a trio of stay busy fights a loaded weekend — has tanked Pugmire's reputation in my eyes, though I know he probably just wants to drum up excitement for a weekend of boxing that does feature three of the more well known fighters in the world today.
Given how well The Athletic covers both baseball and hockey — among other things — it was a little disappointing that they too became an advertisement factory for boxing promotions. The argument is that being negative about boxing will only drive people away. I would counter this with a simple premise: stop putting terrible, lopsided fights on television and perhaps more people will want to watch boxing events. But that's me, always cooking up some crazy idea to foist upon the nation.
Boxing is starving. The pandemic wiped out whatever momentum was built by a burgeoning welterweight scene and the return of meaningful heavyweight fights. Staying true to form, boxing itself then decided that was a good time to have Fury v. Joshua fall apart over macho bullshit hissy fits. The buzz around 160 is all but gone, with Canelo off to 168 to hunt larger prey and Golovkin a husk of what he once was. The Jacobs' and Saunders' of the world have fizzled out of prominence, though BJ did get a nice payday for having Canelo cave his face in. Andrade, perhaps the most skilled fighter left at 160, has returned to the inactivity that has prevented him from really becoming a star. He's fought just once since January of 2020.
Stack all the normal boxing fuckery atop legitimate pandemic related issues such as Teofimo Lopez testing positive for COVID-19 just days before he was set to fight and you end up in a situation where the most watched fight of the year was Floyd Mayweather paling around with a YouTuber.
So much of the discussion around these issues never gets off the ground because we are always talking about it in the micro. This guy needs to be more active, that promoter needs to stop sheltering this fighter and on and on and on until our ears are bleeding. The real problems can never be addressed because we're all content to keep propping up the one or two percent of fighters that ever make it to television status on a regular basis. The systemic issues like lack of youth interest, poor development of talent in the big amateur programs and get-rich-quick thinking about every fighter that shows an ounce of promise. The obsession with undefeated records to the point that I am suspicious of anyone that has a loss on their record, and doubly suspicious of fighters who do not.
And the big one, the problem that has allowed the likes of Bob Arum and Don King and the PBC brain trust and an assortment of other grifters to rob young men and women blind. While the fighters take years off their lives in terms of both length and quality, promoters have feasted even in this meager buffet because there is absolutely no legitimate protection for fighters from predatory contracts and promoters. The Anthony Joshua's and Canelo's need not worry about these things, but the fighters who are fighting to make a living do.
It's no secret that fighters get screwed all the time, and it is partly because they have no means of collectively bargaining. Say what we will about baseball, but their union was able to negotiate as punishment for cheating with foreign substances a ten day paid vacation. And there is something to be said for knowing what everyone else is getting paid. Frankie Lindor can point at other comparable shortstops and say that one and get his money.
And before we get into an argument about unions, I'm not even going there. I don't think a union is possible or even necessarily for the best, but there should be some level of protection and guidance for marginal pros. Naoya Inoue made his HBO debut against a guy who worked at a goddamn bank. Bivol knocked out an Australian roofer a few years back. The jokes about plumbers and factory workers playing in the NBA back in the 80s has become a reality for boxing in the modern era.
If boxing has contracted in talent to the point that there are not enough solid working professionals to sustain this already top heavy economy then perhaps we should just let it die. However, I think these problems can be solved. There's simply no appetite to do the hard work of rebuilding the sport when the handful of big promoters can dine out on their handfuls of stars. It becomes an exercise in starvation for the rest of us.