Back in January, my god that seems a long time ago now, I spoke about drugs in boxing as part of this series. Back then failed test results for Yves Ngabu and Alejandra Jimenez were the news, along with a story that really disappointed us. Top Rank had signed Jarrell Miller.
Whilst January feels like a long time ago that was it was only 6 months ago.
That wasn't my first rant on drugs. Just a month earlier I had spoke about the "Clash on the Dunes" which featured 4 fighters who had tested positive for banned substances, with those being Alexander Povetkin, Dillian Whyte, Mariusz Wach and Eric Molina.
In the last week or saw we saw Jarrell Miller fail another drug test. Giving him another strike, and giving the sport of boxing one more black eye. Rather than holding his hands up, owning the situation, taking responsibility and acting like someone who has now been caught cheating on 3 totally separate occasions Miller has claimed innocence. He has stated he has never "willingly" taken banned substances... as if someone was making him take it I guess!
For those curious Miller was first caught in 2014, using a banned stimulant for a bout in a GLORY Kick boxing show. That was something he was given a 9 month ban for, effective from August 1st 2014 by the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC)*. The argument we've seen some have is that it's a different sport and shouldn't be held again, and we'll come back to that in a moment first we need to point something out.
In the 9 months that followed August 1st 2014 Miller fought, as a boxer, fought 3 times, with the first of those coming in November 2014. Not only that but one of the bouts took place in California, in the state where he was supposedly fucking banned! Unless California's ban ONLY means he can't fight in kick boxing, which will be stupid as we're about to explain, then how was this actually allowed? Surely someone at the CSAC knew he was suspended and turned a blind eye, or their ban was so limited to only cover Kick boxing, making him free to go on his way with any other professional sporting endeavour.
What should be noted is that Miller made his professional boxing debut in 2009, he was an active boxer in 2014. His positive test at the GLORY event was in June 2014. That was just a month after he beat Joshua Harris in a boxing event. He wasn't a one code athlete dabbling in another sport, or about to change sports, but was a dual sport competitor and had been for years. So whilst he did fail a test at a GLORY event, are we to assume that he was being tested at small level boxing events? Are we, especially knowing what we now know, to assume he was completely clean in boxing until 2019, when he just so happened to be given a strict drug testing regime and failed a test?
Surely, in any workable system of a state athletic body issuing a suspension, that would be for all sport in their State? Especially given that it's the commission handing out the ban, not the sporting authority. For example it was CSAC not or organisation like the PDC in darts or FIFA in soccer.
It's also worth noting that some countries actually have real liability on a test. In the UK one fighter tested positive for what was seen as a trace amount of cocaine and has been given a 4 year ban. The positive test for cocaine, which is said to have been on money handled by the fighter and was presumable a case of dermal absorption, has ended that fighters career. Yet Miller has failed in 2014 and 2019 and now again in 2020.
Back in December I didn't call for bans or suspensions, or ineligibility rules on drug testing in boxing. We've seen they are pointless. Ryan Martin is banned for 4 years in the UK but fought just a few days ago in the US, less than half way into that suspension. I stand by that. Suspensions in boxing are totally unworkable due to the wild west nature of the sport. If a fighter tested positive and was banned by, say, UKAD, they could go off to Mexico or Thailand or the US and rack up their record for the duration of that ban, and work their way into big fights.
They are totally toothless.
We also don't see the point of the ranking bodies having any power in this area either. We've seen them turn a blind eye as and when they want, to their own rules. Heck the WBO essentially had to strip Billy Joe Saunders of their Middleweight title due to a drug test but then let him fight for a world title a weight class higher, just 2 fights later. The WBC essentially helped David Benavidez through his cocaine problem, and we know what UKAD would have done there!
Instead, as we did in December, we call on promoters to freeze out fighters. Without the chance to get a fight fighters will think twice, they will realise the actions of the cheats isn't worth it. No more big paydays, no more big opportunities, no more letting them headline PPV's or feature on big cards.
Originally we suggested that promoters should sign an agreement to note work with drug cheats. This time however we're going one step further and not only suggesting a code of conduct for promoters on using proven drug cheats, but also having their licenses stripped by the regional and national bodies for using them after they have tested positive.
We know some fighters will cheat if they have a reason to, which is getting ahead and the potential of bigger pay days. We know that because it's happened. Repeatedly. So to stamp that out promoters need to agree to not work with them, and know that if they do they are out of the sport. We don't let establishments that break regulations, such as pubs staying open beyond their allowed hours, keep licenses, so we shouldn't let promoters who are irresponsible keep theirs either.
For sake of clarity this rule would only apply to fighters who have previously tested. Testing on a show, with no previous black mark against a fighter, will not see a promoter stripped.
Of course we know promoters lack scruples, and it can be in their interests to protect fighters. So if we share the onus between the fighters, the promoters and the commissions to chase drug cheats out of our sport we might, finally, get rid of the cheats.
We also know, at the end of the day, no one in the sport really cares as long as they can make money off the fighter in question. Once again, boxing shows it's self shoot it's own foot. Complaining about an issue it enables. Maybe we, as fans, are the only ones who care, and even then we'll be paying for PPV's featuring fighters who have failed tests soon enough.
*Note - We have reached out to clarify with CSAC on how ineligibility works and whether it is for one sport or multiple codes within their state and will update this article if they reply.
Over the last couple of weeks we have seen Top Rank become the first US promoter to step up to the plate and offer some boxing. Sadly the shows have failed, massively, to connect with the general populace and the ratings are, if we're being honest, pathetic. Especially given the fact there is no other live sport on to compete with boxing.
Whilst we can all understand their being no big bouts on at the moment, with reduced money in the sport, lower TV, no fans, and lower advertising revenue, we do need to question whether there are things promoters can do to make people care more about the fights than they currently are.
One of the problems with boxing is the story telling aspect of the sport.
We often get given a story about the rising hopeful and their hard life. It's something to make us feel a connection to one of the fighters and sell them to us. Sadly however that paints a story that attempts to make us feel sympathetic to the massive favourite rather than telling us a story to paint the fight. Boxing is, for all intents, the only sport where the story of the favourite is the only story given to a neutral fan. The fan is meant to buy in to the event, not just one participant fighter, before the fight. Instead the marketing for boxing is very much about buying into the house fighter, the big favourite.
Just imagine, if you can, a sports channel trying to sell you a match up between Liverpool and San Jose Earthquakes, or the Kansas City Chiefs and the Toronto Argonauts...and then tried to make you feel sympathy for the bigger team.
If ESPN is going to run stories about one of the fighters, during their live broadcast, they should look to run stories on both fighters. Get the casual and neutrals to buy in to both men, rather than continue the narrative that is currently being pushed. Afte all who wants to see a bout between "this future superstar you're telling me is amazing and this other fella who you've told me nothing about". That however can be tricky and really quite awkward, taking up more of the broadcast than it needs to.
Another option, an option we see working well in Asia, is tournament boxing. Give the fans a reason to buy in and to follow a story they can see being weaved in front of their faces, over a number of months. This not only leads to short term story telling that the fans can see being told but, when the sport can resumes normal service, their will be a fighter at the end of it with a lot of extra added value.
Recently we saw Clay Collard pick up his latest upset win, beating David Kaminsky. If their 6 rounder, along with 7 other bouts spread over the next few weeks, was part of a 16 man tournament over the next 6 to 12 months fans would begin buying in early and want to follow their man through out. The eventual winner would then have fans for the sports return.
With the bouts on these shows, for the most part, being 4 and 6 rounders a fighter could, in theory, fight 3 or 4 times between now and the end of the year. Heck Collard's fight was his 4th since November, and if fans keep seeing the same names winning they will begin to care.
For us tournaments are also an easy sell to fans and something boxing, in the west, doesn't have enough of. In the East they are done regularly, with things like Rookie of the Year, the B Class tournaments and the recent KO Dynamite, God's Left Bantamweight and Hajime No Ippo 20th anniversary tournaments in Japan.
It's not just Japan however and Korea has it's own Rookie of the Year tournaments, Thailand had a brilliant little tournament last year dubbed "The Fighter", which has helped launch 16 year old Phoobadin Yoohanngoh into a regional title fight, and China hosts Major League Boxing and the Silk Road tournaments.
Of course the WBSS and the World Boxing Super Series have both helped launch careers internationally, proving their is interest in tournaments at the highest level in the west. Our guess is that interest will also work lower down the sports levels.
It's clear that the current format doesn't work, the only people really tuning in are hardcore fans, so why not take the opportunity to try something different, give the lesser fighters a reason to fight and give fans a reason to care.
By all means keep the "co-feature, under-card bouts, feature" running order, which is something I'll admit I'm a fan of, but make those under-card bouts matter. Put those bouts as preliminary bouts to a tournament, market the tournament, rather than the fighters, and make people care about getting into the story at the beginning rather than in middle, or the end.
It's clearer now, more than ever, that Top Rank doesn't have the star power among their prospects to carry the number of shows they are planning. and it feels like they missed a trick here.
Whilst it seems unlikely Top Rank will run with a longer form tournament, especially with all the issues that boxing has, a short format, either an 8 man 1-night tournament such as "Prizefighter" in the UK, or a 4 man knockout tournament, could still work and could have helped the sport capture the attention of fans when they needed them tuning in.
Whilst I'm on a bit of a rant I also can't help but feel the whole ESPN broadcast needs a shake up. Timothy Bradley and Andre Ward have been awful, so bad they've been making Joe Tessitore look fantastic. It would be nice to hear only one of the two former fighters, working as part of a 2-person booth. What Chris Algieri and Crystina Poncher are doing for the international broadcasts is fantastic, they sound like a coherent unit, not always agreeing but coherent. The current ESPN set up is a mess of in fight narratives and too many voices. It needs streamlining, and people need to just calm it will make the whole thing a lot, lot easier to watch.
We also need to see the judging pick up. We can understand a bit of rustiness but some of the scoring has been truly atrocious. Patricia Morse Jarman having Kaminsky beating Collard, Dave Moretti having Joshua Greer Jr level with Mike Plania and Eric Cheek splitting Cameron Krael and Bobirzhan Mominov by a single point. Come on folks sort that out, there isn't enough fights for you folk to ruin the results!
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.
This past week we've not seen much action at all, with only a few small shows scattered around the globe. Of course there's a huge event tonight, and we did see a rather large show in Korea being planned but then cancelled. Sadly though boxing missed a big trick this week, a trick that would have allowed it to use the focus that is being given the sport and spreading it.
With so much focus on the Deontay Wilder Vs Tyson Fury fight, it would have been a great week ton have had several other mid week shows. Fight fans are in Las Vegas anyway, the audience for some small, yet noteworthy bouts, are there. A card on a Thursday or Friday night appealing to British fans, in the US for Fury, would have been ingenious, or a TV card featuring two lower level Heavyweights, both of whom could have been sold as viable future challengers for the winner of tonight's fight.
Given all the outlets boxing currently has, especially in the US, it feels like it's one of, if not the, worst marketed sport out there. When other sports have a major event they pack the calendar around it, in boxing no ones seems to think about the bigger picture. In fact no one seems to look outside of their own little bubble.
I know some of our readers are wrestling fans, and they'll know all about Wrestlemania week. Not only do we see the WWE put on their biggest show, but they also put on an NXT event, a Hall of Fame event, and other fan events, along with smaller promotions hosting shows around the same week. The "sport" of professional wrestling embraces the fans by giving them a lot of options before the main show on a Sunday evening.
Boxing could have done something similar.
We could, and maybe should, have had some kind of small show on Thursday night in, or around, Las Vegas, and something on Friday night.
The silly thing here is that it could have been the same promotional teams behind Wilder and Fury, trying to hype tonight 's show to any undecided viewers further, or it could have been a rival promoter jumping on the coattails of the event. Both could have made use of the focus boxing is getting, both could have used the event to help put some wind in the sails of a show.
Instead all we got was a small card in Florida, featuring a pair of fringe world class little guys, with Jonathan "Bomba" Goonzalez beating Sual Juarez.
Now sure, the argument is that the event wouldn't have gotten much press attention, going up against such a big show. That argument however falls on it's face given the lack of press attention boxing gets in general. It would have been a chance for the promoter to literally have fans coming to them, being in the area on a Friday, or Thursday, and getting the chance to see a few fights before the big one on Saturday.
We've seen Golden Boy Promotions doing it in the past before a Canelo fight and we used to see it before a Mayweather fight. This was an event where it would have worked, but was very much a missed opportunity.
Boxing in 2020 is set for an interesting year, with the Olympics and fighters turning professional before the games, as well as the whole ESPN Vs DAZN Vs PBC wars, but if the sport keeps missing opportunities like this we do need to really wonder what promoters are thinking...then again maybe no youtube stars were free this week...
Boxing fans as well known curmudgeons, who want to complain about all sorts. We often hear about how the sport was better in bygone eras, how today's fighters wouldn't have managed to hold a candle to those from yesteryear and the such. Some of the complaints are very valid, others not so. Some are ones that have persisted for decades, other are totally new issues.
Today we look at a relatively new issue... the state of the GAB streams.
GAB, or the Games and Amusements Board, is the body that oversees professional sport in the Philippines. They also put on free streams of certain Filipino boxing events, such as today's "Deadly Combination".
It can be hard to complain about getting something for free, but the reality is that the free streams for events like this are an advert for the promoter, the GAB and the fighters. Yes fans aren't paying to watch the streams, though the people doing the show could easily fit in commercials if financials behind the streams needed to be looked. Or rather they could fit in commercials if they had a stream that fucking worked!
Today's event was streamed on Facebook, it's self a weird decision when Youtube seems the more straight forward and popular option, and through out the show it stopped, it started, it paused the image and kept the sound rolling, it froze complete, needed resetting and simply didn't work. At least not until near the end, with the final 2 bouts working perfectly.
So, given how the last 2 bouts were streamed, we know it's possible for them to run a consistent, smooth stream. So what the fuck were they doing through the rest of the show? The only logical answer is that they were testing things, but given the sheer number of bouts ruined for viewers by whatever it was, it would have been some of the slowest, clumsiest testing ever.
We may be spoiled in some ways with the professional level free streams that CBC, YTV and RCC put on for their events, but GAB look like they are so far behind every one in terms of production value, and overall streaming quality.
At their most basic a stream of an event needs a single camera and to run from start to end without stopping, freezing or anything else. It's consistency of the stream that is absolute vital.
After having a consistent stream they can then look to add things, such as multiple camera angles, replays, and commentary. But these are a bonus on what should be the foundation of a free, consistent stream.
The GAB have a brilliant position in the world of boxing, and their streams have the potential to open up a new audience to fighters on their shows. This could have been a great chance for fight fans to get a chance to see some of the emerging talent on the show, but instead it was little more than a frustration, a genuine nightmare of a stream. In fact it was so bad that it would have been better to have not had any sort of feed at all for the under-card. At least that way those viewing wouldn't have been angry at trying to watch the event, and wouldn't have sworn off going back.
If the GAB have any common sense, they will continue to do these free streams, but they should begin to look at running them through YouTube, with a single camera feed. Getting that down, then building on the basic. There are things that could prove to be an issue, such as music licensing, but even that can be solved by simply muting the microphone and not picking up ring walk music.
It can be hard, and sometimes unfair, to complain about things that are free, but the reality is that free shouldn't mean shit. The GAB need to sort these out, ASAP, before people get to the point of skipping them all together, and doing something else with their time, before waiting for the fights to be uploaded as stand alone videos.
There is a demand for Filipino boxing, and it's an international appeal in some cases, so please GAB, understand these could be something that could attract a decent, consistent, viewing number. But they need to work as streams, and they need to be well advertised in advance, get people talking and get people watching, sticking around and watch next time, rather than the few watching being being pissed off and turning off.
On Friday, after weeks of chatter and rumour, we finally saw the announcement of the all-English Heavyweight clash between Daniel Dubois (14-0, 13) and Joe Joyce (10-0, 9). An excellent match up, I'm sure we can all agree. But the bout came with a nasty caveat for those in the UK wanting to watch it. It would be on PPV.
For fans in the US, UK, Australia and Poland PPV is part and parcel of watching boxing. At least watching the big bouts. The problem that in the UK, at least, PPV is no longer used for big bouts. It's no longer used for events that are to be viewed as special occasions, super fights, monster fights. Instead they are being used for what are essentially British level, or European level fights. Even competitive and good fights at British level.
The more annoying issue isn't necessarily that PPV is being used, it's how it's being used.
Dubois Vs Joyce should be used as a platform. The bout should be shown to as many people as possible, not just the dedicated hardcore fan based, and allow the winner to vault themselves into the public view. Unfortunately neither man has any personality, neither man is going to talk themselves into a payday, or get fans behind them on the back of their charisma, or rather lack of. They need their in ring performances to speak for them and a big win against a fellow unbeaten Brit in could be the leaping off pad that could capture the attention of the public. At least it could if it wasn't hidden behind a paywall, like it will be.
Of course this isn't the first time an all-British fight has been the selling point of a PPV. We've had things like Anthony Joshua vs Dillian Whyte on PPV in 2015, and whilst both have had successful careers, we can't but feel it was a case of both men fighting on PPV too early. This might seem stupid, given how both men have been since, but it's seems to have made Whyte feel entitled to be paid PPV money, causing issues in making bouts, and would almost certainly have been high profile to have been on Sky Sports.
So what the fuck has all this got to do with Asian boxing?
We mentioned a number of countries have PPV, whilst the Philippines has used it at times that seems to have vanished in recent years. Japan essentially doesn't have it, only a single show in the last 2 years has been on PPV, Thailand doesn't have it, China doesn't have it, Russia doesn't have it. The top domestic fighters, who face off, do so without the need for PPV. The recently ordered showdown between Kazuto Ioka and Kosei Tanaka, when it takes place, will be a world title fight and even that won't be on PPV, instead being on free to air TV.
Yes the cultures between the countries are massively different, but one of those countries is able to draw multi-million viewing figures. BT Sport, in the UK has fewer subscribers than tune in to a typical Japanese world title fight. Only a fraction of those BT numbers will watch on Box Office.
Rather than growing the profile of the two men, putting the bout on BT Sport and letting the fans tune in to a high anticipated all English clash, the decision has been to put the fight in front of the smallest possible viewing audience. This will put the loser of the bout in an awful position, losing in front of a small audience, with a "1" in the L column of their record, and given their lack of personality, could essentially destroy their longer term potential and ability to bounce back. The winner will also expect PPV type money going forward, and unfortunately that means will end up struggling to see them again on BT Sport...at least until they lose.
Both Joyce and Dubois have the potential to mix it at world level. And credit to them for facing off here. It's a shame the profile of the bout will be so small, as the ugly face of PPV is showing it's self again here.
PPV should be used sparingly, it should be used for super events, and not just when the promoter and broadcaster feel the need to fleece the fans. It's been this behaviour that has damaged the fanbase of the sport and continues to cause resentment between factions of fans.
On the subject of fans, can we just end this by asking you all to get on the same page on one thing and hold all promoters accountable for their bullshit? Stop the inconsistency and favouritsm to your preferred promoter and hold them all to the same levels please! Be it Frank Warren, Eddie Hearn, Bob Arum, Golden Boy or anyone else hold them responsible for their shows, their match ups, their promotional strategies. It would help the sport improve if we could all get on the same page there!
On Thursday we saw Luke Keeler come up very short against Demetrius Andrade in a WBO world title fight. The reality, which was obvious to everyone, is that Keeler shouldn't have been in a world title fight. The 32 year old Irishman is a likeable, solid domestic level fighter who got his chance, and unsurprisingly said yes, but the odds and common sense told us everything we needed to know. He didn't stand a chance.
The problem with a challenger like Keeler is that it devalues the champion and the title. The reality is that the WBO shouldn't have allowed such a big mismatch, and Demetrius Andrade himself, a man who has repeatedly said he's being ducked, shouldn't have allowed his team to match him with Keeler. It was a no win situation for Andrade, who could look win and look bad, and be criticised for his performance, or win and look good, and be criticised for his level of competition.
If it seems like we're having a go at Keeler, we're not. We fully understand him jumping at an opportunity like this. We have no idea how the WBO could have ranked him at #3 and that's the real issue. The world title bodies are harming in themselves with their bizarre antics.
In the coming weeks and months we have some real farces dressed up with a world title and pretending to be a title fight of some kind.
We'll avoiding talking about "interim" title fights too much, but if someone can explain why Luis Concepcion, who is 1-2 in his last 3 and has just a single win in the last 2 years, is getting a shot it would be appreciated.
For major titles we have Artem Dalakian taking the absolute piss with his reign.
The WBA Flyweight champion is a real talent, don't get me wrong, but since taking the title in February 2018 he's faced two very poor Thai challengers, both mandatories, as well as Gregorio Lebron and next up is Josber Perez. The 24 year old Perez has absolutely no wins of note, his only bout of any note was last July's loss to Rober Barrera. But the WBA have allowed him to fight for the title, and allowed Dalakian to defend against him.
With the bout the WBA Flyweight title loses value, Dalakian again comes under criticism, and we have yet another world title mismatch.
The WBO also have an issue with a poor challenger coming up when Wilfredo Mendez defends his Minimumweight title against 40 year old challenger Gabriel Mendoza in a weeks time. Mendoza has lost 2 of his last 4, being stopped in 1 and almost shut out in the other. He's got 2 wins in 3 years, yet is getting a shot in just a week's time.
Of course weak challengers aren't a new thing. They are something that have always been out there. Sadly however when a fighter only fights 2, or if we're lucky 3, times a year these soft defenses do more than good.
If Mendez, or Dalakian or Andrade were going to defend their belt 4 or 5 times in the year, like Muhammad Ali in 1976 when he beat Richard Dunn before clashing with Ken Norton, then these easy defenses would be more palatable. But as it is champions seem willing to take the route of least resistance far too much.
If Andrade wanted to prove he deserved a big fight, as he seems to claim, defending against someone like Sergiy Derevyanchenko, Liam Williams or Rob Brant would be a great starting point. For Mendez the Minimumweight division is one where picking and choosing is easier, but there are men circling the waters, whilst Dalakian's reign at Flyweight is totally indefensible, given the depth in the division.
The relatively common phrase we hear is "it's the champion that makes the belt" and that's so true. Unfortunately for the sport too many champions are going around as if believing a belt is what makes them. In reality the belt can become absolutely worthless with too many easy defenses. A champion sometimes needs to prove themselves, take a risk and actually fight someone deemed a challenge. If it doesn't work out, like it didn't for Tevin Farmer this week, then so be it.
In relation to Farmer, his reign as the IBF Super Featherweight champion is great proof of how devalued a title can be. Farmer's reign form August 2018 to January 2020 featured 5 successful defenses, but in reality none of those came against a world class fighter. The first world class challenger he faced dominated him, regardless of what the scorecards said. Sure farmer was a busy champion, but he seemed unable to, or unwilling to, face a genuine world level contender until he faced, and beat up by, Jo Jo Diaz
If you ask someone, who isn't good enough, if they want to fight for a world title of course they will say yes. It's not their fault if someone is offering them the fight. That fault lies a long from them. They are someone being given the opportunity of a life time. We can't fault them for accepting. But we can be angry at the promoters, champions and world title bodies allowing the horrific mismatch we keep seeing, and the mismatches we could see a mile off.
Fans aren't stupid, fans can see when a fighter and their team are trying to pull the wool over our eyes. They can tell when someone is pretending to be one of the best, and sadly fighters are too happy to pretend to be a champion, rather than taking the risk and proving they a champion.
So my message to the champions out their, prove your among the best, and to the title bodies, stop sanctioning so many mismatches. Your titles are regarded as valueless by fans and the media because you're shitting over them. Treat them for what they are supposed to be, a sign that whoever holds them and fights for them is world class. Not just the best available for a given date.
This past week has been a frustrating one for those who want us to move towards a clean sport. In fact it's been a week where the idea of boxing ever being clean has been left on life support, with 2 fighters tests and a serial cheat being given a notable extra chance, in a career that really should have ended last year.
One of those failed tests was an out of competition test for Belgian Cruiserweight Yves Ngabu (20-1, 14). The fighter is fighting out of the Ingle Gym in the UK, which has had accusation thrown it's way in regards drugs in the past and two British fighters essentially called the gym out this week, after the failed test was made public. One of those was former Ngabu foe Lawrence Okolie who seemed to suggest the gym issue with a comment about "Ingle pringles", another was Tony Bellew, who has been inconsistent in his approach to failed drugs tests, and a third was Sunny Edwards.
Whether there is, or isn't, an issue with the Ingle gym the fact Ngabu has been busted following the allegations and rumours about the gym is certainly not a good look and the sort of thing those in the gym should maybe be calling out themselves. Instead one fighter at the gym has essentially gone on the defensive. Maybe this is just me, but if I was in that particularly gym I'd look elsewhere if they don't look to kick Ngabu, and anyone else that fails a test, out. After all it's the failed tests that are causing question marks on the clean fighters fighters there.
Rather than clean fighters lashing out at each other, they should all bee getting together, weeding out the cheats and turning on them.
The second test fail to be made public this week was that of female fighter Alejandra Jimenez (13-0-1, 9). This was from a VADA test on January 10th, the day before Jimenez beat Franchon Crews Dezurn in a WBO and WBC female Super Middleweight title bout. Since the win Jimenez has been been accused of being a man, which is bullshit from fans, but this tests is a legitimate issue and something that will become an interesting story to follow. At the moment the substance hasn't been announced, though the WBC have stated their will be an "in-depth investigation of the circumstanced that led to adverse finding", take that as you will.
Whilst drug test failures prove fighters are being tested the other story from the week proved that testing was essentially pointless. That story is the one regarding American Heavyweight Jarrell Miller (23-0-1, 20) who has just signed with Top Rank.
Miller is best known for being a human cocktail last year, and being forced out of a fight with Anthony Joshua last year due to a variety of drugs being found in his system. This wasn't the first time Miller has been found to have banned substances in his system and it should have seen boxing treat him as persona non grata. Instead Top Rank have essentially offered Miller a chance to move into some huge fights down the line, such as bouts with Kubrat Pulev and Tyson Fury.
Whilst Miller's return isn't yet scheduled his last fight was in November 2018 and it's likely he'll fight before summer. So for a repeat offender, who got a 9 month ban in 2014 for failing a drugs test when he was a kick boxer, Miller has seemingly been rewarded.
For people wondering why fighters take drugs, Miller is the perfect answer. They know that if they can get the results in the ring and make a name for themselves, there will be a promoter willing to work with them afterwards, and give them another chance, and another chance, and another chance.
Sadly this isn't actually a boding issue. It's a sporting issue, and as we recently saw from UKAD in regards to Mo Farah, who have been reluctant to release details regarding Farah's old tests, those in position to sort things out really don't care. They might talk the talk but in reality it's easier to just go with the flow.
Sorry sport, but you need to clean up your fucking act before people realise that drug cheats are an accepted part of the sport, just like training and taking part.
There is a view that everyone is on something, something that is repeated over and over. If that was true we suspect we'd see a lot more drug test fails, but the reality is that they might as well be on anything and everything if promoters are willing to get behind them and give them opportunities, if bans and suspensions are little more than an inconvenience and if fellow fighters are standing up for them. The sport is bending over backwards to allow cheats to not just compete, but thrive.
On February 22nd at the MGM Grand we get the long awaited rematch between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury, the first legitimate super fight of the decade. As we write this on January 17th the card has had 1 bout, just the main event, confirmed for it. With just 5 weeks to go to the show it seems unlikely the card is going to have a stacked under-card, and even bouts that have been linked to the show now look like they will end up being pushed back to more suitable dates.
In fact from various reports not one of the 3 world title bouts that have been linked to the card have been signed as of yet. With two of them reportedly being pushed back to other dates and one fighter's team reportedly not being contacted at all for the fight they have reportedly accepted fight. The two that have been linked, and seemingly pushed back did so due to a lack of time to prepare. Something that was easily avoidable given the show was essentially known about late last year, and the promoted could have given fighters 8 weeks, if not longer, to prepare.
We all know boxing isn't simple, we understand cards falling apart at the last minute, injuries and pull outs ruining shows, but to not have even put together the card 5 weeks out is totally different. This is just bizarre.
Of course the defense many will give is "the under card doesn't matter" or "do you remember who was on such a such under-card? No...Exactly" but that totally ignores the actual issue here. The contempt of fans and the inability to actually give fans value.
I often criticise Eddie Hearn in this weekly piece. After all his willingness to have cards with drug cheats, headlined by YouTubers, and chasing the almighty dollar from a regime that kills journalists is worthy of a rant or two. He does however manage to put on some good solid shows, not as many as he and his fans...yes promoters have fans as stupid as that is, want to believe but he does still do some good shows. The February 29th one that was recently announced for example is a genuine treat for fight fans, and even the January 30th show is a solid card, despite the YouTuber's seemingly being the focus of the marketing.
Hearn, for the most part, puts his big cards together. There is coherency there. There is some match ups to back up the main event. Andy Ruiz Vs Anthony Joshua II had Alexander Povetkin Vs Michael Hunter whilst Joshua Vs Ruiz I had Katie Taylor Vs Delfine Persoon for support and the Srisaket Sor Rungvisai Vs Juan Francisco Estrada II card had Danny Roman Vs TJ Doheny.
Yes, Hearn puts on a lot of shit, but when he goes big he tends to have at least 1 solid back up bout on the card to warm people up for the main event.
Wilder Vs Fury II is as big as it's getting in terms of scheduled bouts so far. This is where the promoters should be delivering quality, especially at the $80 PPV price tag. This is where we, as fans, should be demanding quality, especially given the value DAZN are offering just a week after the Fury Vs Wilder card.
Now before I go any further. It doesn't mean that we need top level bouts through the whole show with big names to make a great under-card. We really don't. We do however need good fights. Fights that will interest fans and make it feel like it was money well spent. Under-cards should do a lot more than just "be there", especially when there are millions of eyes on the show, from around the world. What better opportunity to have a prospect step up a level, a couple of contenders battle for a chance at a title shot, or a bout between two fan friendly fringe contenders, or even match a contender on the show along with someone you want them to fight.
We don't need super cards with 6 world title fights as long as the show has some clear, well matched bouts.
Given the window of opportunity this show was to highlight the best of Top Rank and the best of PBC, with a Top Rank Vs PBC under-card being the logical option, the promoters have dropped a wet fart on Christmas.
In the media field one thing mentioned a lot is "exposure", and how doing something cheap can help in the long term. This was a card where anyone on it was going to get massive exposure. Instead of the promoters thinking long term, stacking a long under-card with prospects and hopefuls it appears that they have totally missed an open goal.
For those who want to pull the "you don't remember who was on X under-card" that actually doesn't matter. You don't need to remember they were on the under-card to make a mental note of their name for the future. Mayweather Vs McGregor for example gave a chance for fans to see Badou Jack, Gervonta Davis, Yoerdenis Uga, and the debut of Savannah Marshall. Mayweather Vs Pacquiao had Vasyl Lomechenko making his second world title defense, Adrian Grandos proving his value in a close loss to Brad Solomon and Jesse Hart moving a step towards world title fight.
If the under-cards aren't going to be stacked with big fights, which again they don't need to be, they should be stacked with talent. Give the up and comers the rub, let the spotlight shine on them for a moment, and let fans have a glimpse of the future.
Undercards do matter. They are the first chance many casual fans have to see emerging fighters. They are boxing's version of movie trailers, they allow fans to get a name in their head. Whether they link that name and the main event, ever again, is irrelevant they just know that they saw the fighter, and that the remember that fighter in isolation.
Undercards are important, and the fact Top Rank and PBC seem to think otherwise is not a good sign.
We've not had many fights so far this year. Lets be honest the year has been a very slow one to get going, though that was expected given how hot 2019 ended and how many big names were in action during the final few months of the year. Despite a lack of fights there was some huge news for British boxing fans, as Premier Sports announced they would be teaming up with Boxnation to keep the "Channel of Champions" alive. It was a rather unexpected turn of events with Boxnation looking like it was already in the casket and about to have the soil tossed over it's corpse. It was unexpected, but great news.
Part of the press release to announce the new "strategic partnership" saw them announce "Premier Sports will be actively looking to increase live content on BoxNation with discussions underway to secure long term output agreements with PBC, Top Rank and Golden Boy along with a number of small hall UK promoters." Essentially trying to do what the channel once did, and again missing out on a lot of potential content to fill their schedule, whilst targeting only 2 potential time windows.
The problem with chasing just US content, for international content, is that the channel is relying on fight fans staying up late, week after week, often for mismatches. A lot of the US shows start well after midnight and finish in the early morning. Whilst they are often entertaining, even if the real standout shows are few and far between, they do depend on people watching things well after many are asleep. And that's coming from us, and we have insomnia!
Mexican shows have the same issue of simply being too late in the day for many fans, who will watch on delay, rather than live. Despite how good Mexican cards often are.
The small hall UK cards are at a better time, but rarely do they have top level fighters on. They are often the fighters without a big name promoter, and whilst those promoters often put on solid shows, especially the likes of VIP Promotions Steve Wood, there is still a lot of the day, or rather the week, where the channel will have free time. These shows also tend to clash with the more polished productions from bigger UK promoters, such as Matchroom Boxing.
What the channel should be doing is looking to spread it's wings, and look at working with promotions outside of the US and UK. The channel had previously shown bouts from Russia, South Africa and the Philippines and this was certainly more a positive than a negative. The Russian shows mixed good names, with solid production values and some great fights, the South African shows gave fans something they rarely got, and the Filipino cards were a wonderful, and cheap, touch through MP Promotions when the channel appeared to be stumbling towards it's death.
Whilst the Filipino cards were on early in the day, they filled a void in the morning, whilst the Russian and South African cards gave fans some great action in the afternoon. Those partnerships were ideal for fans, and helped establish new names with fans. The channel, which was obviously targeted at hardcore boxing fans, seemed to often fail to embrace those fans who wanted to see those fighters.
With Japanese promoters like Teiken, Hatanaka, Ohashi and Watanabe having some sort of output deal in Japan those promotional companies would also be excellent to be working with. The fans getting up early on a Saturday morning could do a lot worse than getting a Dynamic Glove show, or getting the chance to see Kazuto Ioka and Kosei Tanaka around mid-day UK time.
The Japanese bouts obviously won't attract casual fight fans, but will keep subscribers of the channel onside, keep them with regular content, and help expose fans to a new market, a market that is full of young fighters that will be around for years to come. A working relationship that gets the Shigeoka brothers or Shokichi Iwata and Mikito Nakano onside now, will reap big rewards down the line when those fighters are mixing at world level.
Needless to add the Japanese schedule in the last couple of weeks of the year would also keep fans well and truly tuned in, for things like the Rookie of the Year and, of course, the New Year's Eve show, which has grown into a big annual event for fight fans.
It's also worth considering that as there's no bidding war for these shows in the west they will come at a relatively low price, keeping costs down and delivering exciting content to boot!
If Boxnation is going to survive, grow and have success, it needs to appeal to the hardcore fans, it needs to fill it's schedule, and it needs to look off the beaten track whilst planning for the future. Getting together with promoters that have a stock of young prospects, as well as those with established names, and being able to target different parts of the day will be invaluable long term.
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