If you use any forum, any social media or almost any place where boxing fans can join each other to share an opinion you would assume that the fight game is on it's last legs. You would, if you listened to those supposed fans, believe that by 2016 there will be no professional boxing, fan numbers will have bottomed out to the point where running shows is no longer profitable, where TV figures will have dissipated to the point of extinction and where a fight fan will only be tuning in to see either MMA or professional wrestling in the hopes of getting their kicks from a boxing substitute.
Those fans are misguided and often less fans of the sport and more interested in hypothetical matches rather than what fights we actually get. They are, in many ways, ignorant of the sport at large and sadly stuck within the confines of fights shown on HBO and Showtime. We know the biggest names in the sport fight on those networks, we know that those networks cover Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao, Gennady Golovkin, Saul Canelo Alvarez, Amir Khan and other big names. They cover the "big fights" and spend the lavish sums of money on advertising and purses so large that they sums dwarf what an average person can make in decade. We know they are the "big boys" of entertainment. But we also know that the big fights aren't often the best, we know that the fans complaining about the lack of great fights sadly aren't aware of them and most importantly they aren't being given a chance to see what they want to see because the networks are too busy pushing their agenda's for a quick buck rather than giving people what they want with a longer term pay-off.
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If you follow us on social media (@Asianboxing) you'll be aware that we have spent a lot of time trying to alert people to the fights fought in the way fans claim they want to see fights fought.
For the fans wanting to see all action brawls we've pushed fights like the recent Kongfah Nakornluang/Dan Baansuan Samlansaraburi contest. The fight was a low profile contest, of course it was, but it was also an all action war that resembled the bouts of yore. It may not have had an all action-legend of the sport like Ray Mancini or Arturo Gatti involved but it had the spirit of those two men in there. It may have only been a 4 rounder, strangely fought with 2 minute rounds, but it had the air of two men wanting to fight to become known. It was an opportunity for both men to be spoken about and watched and it was an opportunity that both men wanted to take.
We know that fans may view that bout as a one off, a freak occurrence if you will. We know there are tons of fights in Thailand every month and we don't always get one like that. However in the scope of boxing we do get fights like that on a regular basis.
With in 48 hours of the Kongfah/Samlansaraburi fight we had seen two other great bouts, as in genuinely great bouts. One of those was an all Mexican affair as Javier Mendoza took on Raul Hirales Garcia for the IBF Light Flyweight title. On paper this looked great and turned out to be genuinely sensational. It was however over-shadowed by another bout on the same card, the bout between Terdsak Kokietgym and Orlando Salido.
The Terdsak/Salido bout had knockdowns, it had violence, it had momentum shifts and it was as viewer friendly bout as you will see this year. For fans wanting to see fighters fight this was perfect. This saw fighters giving their own, coming back from adversity to fight, both had to show their warrior spirit and both had to bite down on the gum shield to just survive bout. It was thrilling.
Like the Kongfah/Samlansaraburi many fans missed out on the live action as the bout wasn't broadcast on the big 2 channels. Those fans may have seen it since but they missed out on the heat of the action feel that live fights generate. The buzz after the fight was great but just imagine if that fight had the live viewers it deserved, we'd have been talking about that for a very long time.
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As for fighters not fighting the best and not fighting for glory, that certainly appears to be the case if you follow only the American and British coverage of the sport. We've all seen some of the horror shows such Danny Garcia Vs Rod Salka, a bout not fit for sparring never mind a live premium network slot. However outside of the US there are fighters fighting for honour, glove and the fans.
This was shown wonderfully well in the recent WBC Flyweight title bout between Akira Yaegashi and Roman Gonzalez. Gonzalez, in some ways, is similar to Gennady Golovkin and Keith Thurman in that he is high risk and relatively low reward. He is seen as the ultimate lower weight fighter and everyone who follows the lower weights knows how good he is. Before the fight Yaegashi knew how good Gonzalez was and instead of vacating his belt, hello Peter Quillin, to avoid his mandatory Yaegashi took on Gonzalez in the centre of the ring and waged war with the Nicaraguan destroyer.
As a result we ended up with a bout that combined bravery, skill, power and action. The perfect ingredients for a great fight, albeit one that was slightly one sided to be a true FOTY contender.
Whilst it's easy enough to look at the Yaegashi/Gonzalez bout and say "well that was a mandatory, don't bring Quillin into it" it's also been at the lower level that we've seen fighters taking risks in the hope of getting some attention at a young age. This has been obvious in Japan with the likes of Naoya Inoue, who fought Adrian Hernandez in his 6th professional bout, Takuma Inoue, who fought then then world ranked Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr in his second bout, Kenshiro Teraji, who fought Heri Amol on debut and Japanese prospect Shohei Omori, who fought former world title contender Christian Esquivel in his break out win.
For us however the fight that saw a man stepping up to the plate the most was actually in Thailand where the 17 year old novice Stamp Kiatniwat took on veteran Kwanthai Sithmorseng. Sithmorseng entered the bout as a former world champion with an incredible 46-2-1 record, Stamp was 8-0. Unlike the Japanese prospects, who we have continually heaped with praise, this one came out of the blue and genuinely shocked us given that Stamp's team seem to know they have an ultra-talented young fighter on their hands. On paper this was a huge step up and the way Stamp fought was really great and very impressive putting us an alert as to how good he really could be. We don't suspect he'll be rushed to a world title but the potential really is there.
Also, before we finish, we would like to give a massive thank you to the channels showing some of these bouts, channels like Canal 4 Nicaragua, Channel 11 Thailand, Fuji TV, Channel 7 Thailand and BeIN Sports Espanol. We would also like to thank those fans who have recorded bouts from ringside and Channel Gushiken. These are all the people who are helping to show off the great fights that many seem to think have become an endangered species. HBO and Showtime may boast the biggest pockets buyt they certainly don't boast the best fights.