In the coming months we are set to see boxing resume under a full fledged "new normal". We have seen shows taking place recently, but they have all been rather small, low key affairs, with few of them having on any sort of world level action. We'll admit we have really enjoyed some of the bouts, and credit to Top Rank for giving some little known fighters some TV exposure, but they haven't yet been "big bouts" or "big names" in action. Shakur Stevenson is probably the most notable fighter to fight so far, and that was in a knock over job against someone who shouldn't have been in the ring with him.
It's when we come to the big names and the big bouts that we really are going to see, or rather not going to see, some interesting things happen over the rest of 2021.
We have already seen some fighters, for example Ryan Garcia, turn down a fight due to the purse he's been offered. We have seen other fighters stating they want to be paid more to fight in a non-fan environment.
We know that some fans will say a fighter should get as much money as they can. The sport is a dangerous one and they are taking potentially life changing damage every time they step in the ring. And to some extent I agree, though there are some real issues here which I'll get on to shortly. But lets all begin with the idea that a fighter has the right to ask for the most money they can possibly get.
Lets also agree that a promoter is a business man, and that in the business of boxing a promoter is to think about their own bottom line as well. They are, for all intents, doing the same thing a boxer is. They are putting their own financial well being first. We agree a boxer should, so a promoter, albeit a less physically risky job, should do the same. With that in mind, I suspect we can all agree a promoter has the right to offer whatever purse they deem fit.
We can then agree that the two sides can then negotiate to find terms they either can agree on, likely with the fighter lowering their demands and the promoter upping their offer, or both sides walking away, potentially even before getting near the negotiating table.
Typically that's fine. In this current age however a fighter maybe needs to think about more than their purse for the rest of 2020. They may have to look at the bigger picture. A fighter who can't agree terms to fight in the next few months may end up not fighting at all in 2020. They may end up sitting on the shelf for the year, losing momentum, getting rusty, and in some cases even being stripped of their titles, at the top level. The bodies do have the ability to strip a fighter for inactivity, and whilst they will almost certainly show some leniency that might not exist across the board, especially if a fighter wasn't active in 2019.
For example Felix Alvarado hasn't defended the IBF Light Flyweight title since May 2019 and Yuniel Dorticos hasn't defended the IBF Cruiserweight title he won in June 2019. Manuel Charr and Biebut Shumenov take these even further. Shumenov still holds the WBA "regular" Cruiserweight title that he won in July 2018, without defending it, and Charr has held the WBA "regular" Heavyweight title since November 2017, without defending it.
We understand situations for each fighter are different, such as Alvarado being pencilled in to fight last December before falling ill, but momentum has been lost and titles could also be lost.
A fighter who decides to sit out 2020 may end up finding themselves waiting a long time to fight again. Yes they should be paid, but the purses in the "new normal" aren't likely to be what they were before hand. Fighters will need to reasses their value, as will promoters, streaming services and televisions companies. Without ticket sales a promoter isn't going to get money at the gate, site fees are going to be none existent, we would expect TV revenue to be down, as advertisers cut back as well.
Of course a fighter should take all the money they can. But a fighter without a title typically gets less than they do with it. A fighter not fighting gets less than they do by fighting. A fighting sitting on the side loses fans, loses momentum, and loses out on a pay day.
Whilst it sounds like we're taking the side of the promoters we're not. They will also need to look at themselves. The Top Rank shows so far have been poor. Even fans starved of live sport haven't tuned in. The promoters need to realise the value of a star now more than ever, they also need to realise that this is a great opportunity to give fans 50-50 style bouts and to show them TV friendly fighters.
Fighters like Eric Mondragon and Mike Danny Sanchez provided something brilliant for fans whilst Adam Lopez and Luis Coria put on a show. Mike Plania saw his chance to shine and took it. Matching fighters with nothing to lose and everything to gain to bulk up the cards on offer is the best idea, let these kids shine, give them the platform.
Promoters are in a bind. They have spots to fill but know that they can't put on garbage bouts. Fans aren't that hungry. They also know they need their stars, they need to budge on the purses, just as much as the fighters. Both sides however need to be realistic. Purses aren't going to be what they once were, at least not for some time, but is it worth getting older, moving further past your prime and wasting your career away in the hope of getting the money you once got?
Fighters aren't getting younger. Moruti Mthalane and Gennady Golovkin have turned 38 since their last bouts, Nonito Donaire is 38 in November, Wanheng Menayothin and Jamel Herring are 35 in October, Nordine Oubaali is 34 in August and Terence Crawford turns 33 in September. The earning time is running down. I'm not saying these guys are turning down fights, but they are examples of fighters who are on the wrong side of 30 and losing a year of their career right now could be the end.
The "new normal" is going to be hard. For fighters, for promoters and for us all. Please do what you can to make your life a little bit better following the dark months we've had and the dark yet to come. Boxing, for some of us, is a little bit of a light in a dark world right now. We all want to enjoy it, so lets make the most of what we have, and look back into the huge archives of the sport for when nothing takes our fancy and we want to enjoy this fantastic sport.
As we head towards a new year we've decided to look into our glass balls, our tea leaves and our palms to come up with 20 predictions which will be posted over the coming weeks for what we think will happen in 2020. So far our predictions haven't been the best though they've not all been wrong.
In 2013 we predicted that Naoya Inoue, his brother Takuma and Kosei Tanaka would all win world titles. Between them they've won a few world titles, though Takuma has yet to win a proper world title. That same year we also predicted a growth in Chinese boxing, and this arguably happened despite the fact the Macau side of things has died off. We also predicted a growth in Asian fighters making a name for themselves in the US, this was before Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Naoya Inoue or Kazuto Ioka had fought on US soil, and before the wave of Uzbek's had began to attract US attention.
Unlike the past, where we have made all of our predictions in 1 article, we'll be spreading these ones out with 1 prediction per article, and going more in depth than we have in the past
PREDICTION number 19 - More Fighters Head West
Over the last few years we have seen the profile of some Eastern fighters getting to the point where fans in the West have began to follow more and more Asian fighters. The obvious example is, of course, Naoya Inoue but others like Kenshiro Teraji and Kosei Tanaka have also managed to organically create a buzz from their fights.
This has also seen more and more Western promoters signing up fighters from the East. Of course there's always been one off cases, such as Top Rank signing Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire, Nobuhiro Ishida signing with Saul Alvarez's promotional company and Yoshihiro Kamegai signing with Golden Boy Promotions, but the last couple of years we have seen a real boom in it.
At the moment Top Rank promote 5 Japanese fighters, including Inoue, Ryota Murata and Masayuki Ito. More are likely to follow, with Top Rank wanting to build their global audience, and we suspect another big Japanese signature will be inked to Top Rank fairly soon. A number of Uzbek and Kazakh fighters are promoted, or more often co-promoted, by Western promoters like Eddie Hearn, Golden Boy Promotions and Bob Arum. Golden Boy also have also landed on their feet with Chinese sensation Can Xu, whilst Top Rank co-promote Srisaket Sor Rungvisai.
We have also seen MTK Kazakhstan emerge and signing up a lot of central Asian talent, that has potential but is yet to really make it's mark on the global scene, unfortunately.
With out it ever becoming a big thing we have slowly seen promotional outfits signing up a lot of top Asian fighters, prospects and amateur stars. This is likely to continue, especially in the wake of the 2020 Olympics where fighters will be looking to sign the best deal they can after the Tokyo games.
For some fighters fighting in Las Vegas, or being promoted by one of the big guys of the promotional world is absolutely key. It's recognition of their ability, their marketing potential and their earning capacity. For others however it can be seen as a mistake.
For every Asian fighter who has signed with an Western promoter and built their profile there is a case of someone being under-promoted and under-recognised. For every big success there is a Ivan Dychko, who has really failed to make any sort of mark on the professional ranks, or a Bakhodir Jalolov, who has fought more often as an amateur than a professional.
There are also those more recent signings that have questions lingering over them. For example Wanheng Menayothin signing with Golden Boy Promotions, in what looks like a very odd choice all around.
It's clear that, under the right promotional vehicle, a fighters profile can become huge around the globe. The sad thing however is that a promoter who can help make 1 fighter a global star, might not be able to replicate it with another.
What Top Rank did with Manny Pacquiao, turning him into one of the biggest names in the sport, depended on more than just Top Rank and their promotional stance and match making. It depended on Pacquiao too and his freakish ability. Jerwin Ancajas, another Filipino that has signed with Top Rank, is world class but will never be the next Pacquiao, and had Top Rank really pushed that narrative it would have bitten the promoter and the fighter in the backside.
Our prediction is that western promoters continue a bit of a talent stripping of Asian boxing. Whilst not a bad thing per se, it certainly can do more harm than good if the promoters fail to use the talent correctly.
In just a year Srisaket Sor Rungvisai has gone from star to missing man under Matchroom US, since making his debut Daniyar Yeleussinov has failed to get a proper promotional push, with his promoter focusing more on UK talent in similar weight classes, and Jerwin Ancajas' time with Top Rank has yet to deliver him a truly big fight.
Not only are promoters often limiting the ability, profile, drawing power and competition of their Asian investments but the knock on is that they are also damaging the domestic scenes for some of these fighters. Srisaket for example would have been a real focal point, even in stay busy bouts, had he been allowed to stay active in Thailand.
It's a narrow line going forward as to which fighters will and won't benefit the most from signing with Western promoters, but we do expect to see a growing number in 2020, from right across Asia. If 2020 fails to see the fighters who do "Go West" making their mark we may well end up seeing more and more Asian fighters turning down US deals in the years that follow. Alternatively if these fighters go on to do big things with American promoters then we could end up seeing Asian fighters filling up more and more Western shows, as the battle between DAZN, ESPN and PBC continues to grow from US domination to potential a global war between the trio.
(Image courtesy of MPP Boxing)
This is just an opinion, maaaan! It's easy to share our opinions, and that's what you'll find here, some random opinion pieces