On April 4, Andre Ward posted this to Instagram, with the caption, “I’m going to keep it short and sweet, you got what you asked for, now you have to see me JUNE 17TH. This time leave the excuses at home.” We, the adoring public have been blessed to buy a pay-per-view rematch of a good (not great) fight with Sergey Kovalev that both sides agreed to rematch clause for. We HAVE TO see him.
If that weren’t enough, during HBO’s $70 commercial for Canelo Alvarez vs Gennady Golovkin (aka Saul Alvarez vs Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr.), Ward, while being “interviewed” by HBO’s professional cheerleader/fluffer Max Kellerman, admonished writers who had not elevated him to no. 1 on their pound-for-pound lists, because his first fight with Kovalev was billed “Pound For Pound.” I wish I were making this up. Yes. A fight poster means that people who had not agreed to a premise must update their entirely mythical rankings to suit the whims of a 33-year-old orphan who demands your adulation but doesn’t give a fuck about your entertainment.
Praise him, indeed. Might I tithe to the church of Andre and thus be blessed.
2017 has been a good year for boxing. Not a great year, but good. Following a few absolutely horrific years, you might be inclined to be grateful and give thanks. I’m not. I’m paying the same, or more, to see good fights. I’m seeing the fights that I want to see because even the once mighty Premier Boxing Champions has fallen back to making competitive fights to turn a nickel. More or less, the people who reap the greatest reward are being forced into supplying a passable product to make a profit. I don’t think that getting what I’m paying for is a reason for celebration.
We are used to seeing promoters act in unscrupulous, avaricious, and downright baffling ways. We know that they do so merely to make as much as money as possible. There’s a certain arrangement between the fan and the promoters. We act like we’re always getting fucked, but laugh when they joke about how the only they give a shit about is the bottom line. Bob Arum is practically the patron saint of gleefully glib greed at this point. The worst thing a promoter can do in all reality is act like they care about fans or fighters. They’ll be denigrated as hypocrites.
Floyd Mayweather was not the first fighter to think, or even behave like, a promoter. In my lifetime, that honor belongs to Ray Leonard, a “businessman-boxer,” according to Seth Abrams in Eric Raskin’s excellent oral history “Disputed: Hagler vs. Leonard.” I’ve always had a certain disdain for Leonard, and some of that may be because of his business first dealings. Fights, like sausages and laws, are best not seen being made.
Only part of that explains my irritation with the current crop of “businessmen-boxers.” What irks me is the demand for credit for the business portion. As though that’s what I’m interested in. If you watched HBO’s insipid series ‘Face Off with Max Kellerman’ for Canelo-Chavez, you got to see 21st century trash talk. The stone faced Alvarez, fresh off his wins against a welterweight and a nobody, glowered at a neutered Chavez while they argued about who was/is/was the A-side. It might’ve been that both sides knew what a farce the fight was and veered into the financials, but it seemed to be the only point of interest.
That brings me back to Ward, who has gone out his way to ensure everyone knows that his rematch with Kovalev has been entirely under his terms. Who the fuck else is he going to fight? If you don’t get the deal you demand, you’ll retire? OK. Add to that, Ward got what he wanted; he and Roc Nation are lead promoters for the fight. He’s responded by doing absolutely nothing to sell it. Instead of sticking around the day after Canelo-Chavez to film “Face Off” with Kovalev, Ward bailed and offered only a muted excuse for his behavior, according to Nicole Duva of Main Events (TQBR requested comment/explanation from Roc Nation, but our emails have not been returned at the time of publishing this piece). That’s not the behavior of a savvy businessman who wants to control a promotion. That’s the behavior of a fractious child who is throwing a temper tantrum.
I’m a consumer. I absolutely want every fighter to get a fair shake, full stop. But I’m paying to see fights, not litigation. I don’t care who is the A-side. I don’t care who enters the ring first. I won’t even try the challenge by citing “champions” who’ve taken short money or entered the ring first to get a big name in the ring. I do not care. I simply want the best fight available.
Ward was contractually obligated to a rematch with Kovalev. Canelo Alvarez could’ve kept ducking. Golovkin, the rosy-cheeked Kazakh with the Jimmy Neutron haircut, has looked just a little flat his last few fights. Maybe that’s the reason the fight got made. I tend to favor economics and think it was made just before its sell-by date. I’m thrilled to see both fights; they are two of the best match-ups in the sport. I don’t need a rundown of whose ego took what bruises to get them signed.
It’s entirely possible that I’m turning into an infernal grump. It’s entirely possible that I have social media overload. It’s also entirely possible that I just want to see good fights and have endured so much bullshit that I no longer give a damn.
- I haven’t written since Anthony Joshua vs Wladimir Klitschko. That was a goddamn good fight. Heavyweights are dramatic.
- I kept saying that I didn’t think Joshua had anything special, I was wrong. His chin is legit, and so is his heart. Badass performance; same from Klitschko. Both guys fought their balls off.
- Not sure what’s going on with Joseph Parker, but he looks like hammered shit lately. It’s not just that he looks overweight — everything looks off. His timing is fucked and he seems to be regressing technically. He needs to get the hell out of New Zealand if he wants to make a real run.
- Arguably the best fighter on earth, Terence Crawford, takes on Felix Diaz this Saturday. Anyone actually care? I love watching Crawford fight, but Top Rank needs to get him in with someone near his level. Pacquiao or another contender at welterweight would be my first choice, but I’d settle for seeing him vivisect Adrien Broner.