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.
Over the last few weeks we've seen a lot of discussion from numerous fans talking about how they aren't interested in the lower weights due to the lack of depth in the divisions. It make a change from the "they are smaller than my 9 year old niece" argument, but it's not particularly any better than that argument. Many even throw out number of active fighters from boxrec to back up their arguments. "There's only 451 Light Flyweights" and "there's only 250 Minimumweights" as if the total number of fighters in a division represents it's quality of fighters. True it represents the overall talent pool, but is a division is small, but more finely matched, surely that's better than a bloated talented pool, of unevenly matched fighters.
The Minimumweight, at least in 2019, did under-whelm. Massively. The two most recognisable champions in the division, Wanehng Menayothin and Knockout CP Freshmart, fought am combined 3 times. This wasn't a banner year for those two, but that didn't mean the division lacked overall. It was a year that saw a trio of fantastic hopefuls make their mark, with Ginjiro and Yudai Shigeoka along with Hasanboy Dusmatov, make their intentions clear.
The division also gave us some sensational fights, with Kai Ishizawa's war against Masataka Taniguchi and Samuel Salva Vs Pedro Taduran being among them, it gave us the feel good story of Norihito Tanaka finally winning a title at the age of 33 and we got a huge upset with Lito Dante shocking Tsubasa Koura.
Sure great fights, upsets, an emerging trio of prospects doesn't mean the division is deep, it means it's interesting. The depth comes in numbers of good fighters. With Wanhengm, Knockout CP Freshmart, Pedro Taduran, Wilfredo Mendez, Byron Rojas, Melvin Jerusalem, Jose Argumedo, the Shigeoka brothers and Vic Saludar the division has a healthy mix of prospects, contenders and champions.
The Light Flyweight division is another accused of having a lack of depth but yet it has Kenshiro Teraji, Hiroto Kyoguchi, Elwin Soto, Carlos Canizales, Felix Alvarado all holding some form of a world title. A chasing group of contenders that combine veterans like Milan Meldino and Tetsuya Hisada, along with untested veterans like Daniel Matellon and other more tested guys like Sho Kimura and Edward Heno.
Unlike many divisions we're not seeing the Light Flyweight division really recycling fighters either. Soto became a champion in his first world title bout and in 2019 we also saw Hisada, Heno and Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart get their first world title bouts. There is good fresh talent in the division and we've been getting great fights from that talent. Elwin Soto Vs Angel Acosta was a low key instant classic, just like Hiroto Kyoguchi Vs Tetsuya Hisada. The only real disappointment in the division was the illness that forced Felix Alvarado out of a unification bout with Kenshhiro Teraji.
Now lets take a look at some bigger divisions.
Lets take a look at the Welterweight division, a division with over 2000 fighters in it, apparently. Thee top guys there are tremendous, Terence Crawford, Errol Spence, Manny Pacquiao, Shawn Porter. Danny Garcia, Keith Thurman and Yodenis Ugas are a great pack of fighters. It is, almost certainly the best division in the sport right now. The division gave us great fights, Errol Spence Vs Shawn Porter being the pick of the bunch from the division in 2019.
Sad thing however is that the Welterweight division is an anomaly. It's a division that really has almost everything going for it, just a shame that Terence Crawford has failed to secure a bout against another top fighter in the division.
Welterweight aside no other division is particularly stacked, and delivering. The Super Middleweight division has obvious match ups to make, with Callum Smith vs Billy Joe Saunders being the most obvious, but the bout isn't being done. Instead we have Smith, Saunders, David Benevidez and Caleb Plant taking on a mix of mandatories and weak voluntary defenses.
In a supposed "deep division", with over 1300 fighters, Smith Smith fought chinny former Middleweight Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam, Saunders won his title with a win over the unknown Shefat Isufi, and then defended it against the equally as obscure Marcelo Esteban Coceres and Caleb Plant stayed busy by stopping the woefully over-matched Mike Lee.
The number of fighters in the Super Middleweight division is significantly more than either the Minimumweight division or Light Flyweight division, yet it failed to produce a fraction of the excitement of the lower two weight classes.
Another similar example is at Middleweight, where Saul Canelo sometimes fights, along with Gennady Golovkin, Chris Eubank Jr, Ryota Murata, Demetrius Andrade, Sergiy Derevyanchenko and Jermall Charlo. A great list of names, but from those 7 we only saw one bout pitting any 2 of them together in 2019, with Gennady Golovkin and Sergiy Derevyanchenko delivering a legitimate fight of the year contender.
Instead of the best Middleweights facing off we had things like Gennady Golovkin Vs Steve Rolls, Demetrius Andrade Vs Artur Akavov, and Adrade Vs Luke Keeler to kick off 2020 doesn't bode well for the year ahead. The division is actually damaged by the sheet number of options a fighter had here, with so many less fighters than someone can face.
And this brings us to the key point. Having a lot of fighters in a division doesn't make it stronger, or weaker, by default. A division's "depth" isn't based on some raw numbers. It's based on more than that, much more.
The key to a division's depth is how well matched fighters are on paper, and in the ring. The best divisions match up well on paper, and then deliver in the ring, when the best actually fight each other. If a division had 40 sensational fighters, but they never faced off, then what would be the point? In the lower weights the depth is usually magnified somewhat by the fact the top fighters need to face top competition to get attention. This isn't the case in some divisions, where a guy like Dominic Breazeale recent got a world title fight on the back of 3 relatively fan friendly but low level wins.
More important than depth to a division however is the knowledge of the fighters in the division. For years the Cruiserweight division was one of the most interesting divisions in the sport. It was delivering FOTY contenders on a regular basis, as two big lumps, often from Europe, smashed the ever loving snot out of each other. Sadly for a number of American fans those fighters were downplayed as nobodies. The ignorance of some fans towards the fighters saw them over-look a stacked division. It was a massive oversight and a serious mistake by certain fans who missed out on things like the Marco Huck Vs Ola Afolabi wars, Steve Cunningham's insane first bout with Tomasz Adamek, which took place in the US and was still over-looked by American fans.
If you think a division is lacking in depth sometimes you need to realise it isn't based on who YOU recognise, it's about the talent there. Sometimes it's worth learning a little bit about the fighters there, and enjoying the fights. Rather than downplaying a division due to their size, or the number of fighters competing at a weight class.
What do you mean annual awards? ...it's only mid-December!
Over the last week or so we've seen the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) announce their shortlists for their annual awards. At the time there was more than 2 weeks of 2019 left and it again left us asking why? Why can they not wait until the end of the year? Why can they not wait until all the fights have been and gone? Why can they not allow everyone a fair chance?
As we all know by now Japan hosts action on New Year's Eve, and whilst none of those bouts look likely to deliver us a Fight of the Year contender, but it's not just Japan that has fights between now and the end of 2019. In fact there are other countries playing host to some fights that do look like they could be legitimate contenders. For example on December 20th, a day before this article goes live, we had Julio Cesar Martinez Aguilar face off with Cristofer Rosales, in a bout with real potential to be something very special. Likewise on December 28th Jean Pascal clashes with Badou Jack, in a bout that promises fireworks.
Of course some awards are essentially over. There is nothing between now and the end of the year which could possibly effect the Fighter of the Decade, the Fighter of the Year, the The Good Guy or even Trainer of the Year awards. But where we do have things that could fit into the short list, we really need to hold on, be patient. There is no need to rush things, and it can be ridiculously stupid.
A great example of how stupid short listing things is before the end of the year was seen in 2014, when Naoya Inoue missed out on the short list, despite the year being one where he claimed world titles at Light Flyweight and Super Flyweight. He wasn't on the ballot that year, because his final win of the year, a KO2 win over Omar Andres Narvaez, came way after the short list had been compiled. The year however still had time left in it!
Jonathan Morris's famous quote "Patience is a virtue, Possess it if you can; Seldom found in woman, Never found in man." Can certainly be brought into boxing, and changed somewhat. We don't like seeing things "marinate", but there is also no need to rush something that recognises what boxing has given us over the previous year.
Of course it's not just the BWAA who are to blame here, and we suspect many other lists will be released between now and January with various websites, journalists and the ilk announcing their Fighter, Fight, Knockout, Round, Prospect, etc... of the Year. Come on folks, just a touch of patience, it will go a long way...and give you extra time to watch what's happening in the sport.
If you're about to do a list, put your damn pen down, wait until the year is over, you know what is around the corner! By all means do a short list, but your full on list can wait a few extra day!
For those who have already decided on their lists, we suggest giving Keon Woo Kim's brutal KO1 against Moon Han Ji and Mammoth Nakayama's sensational 5th round KO of Lerdchai Chaiyawed a watch for any KO list, and Yuki Beppu's sensational win over Ryota Yada deserves a watch for any Fight of the Year list. We probably won't change your mind, but you should give them a watch regardless!
Who goes up against Rookie of the Year?
In a change of note we have a second point of contention this week...who on earth goes up against Rookie of the Year? This year there are two shows in Osaka on the same day as the All Japan Rookie of the Year, in a decision that seems foolish! We understand that time is limited, and trying to squeeze everything into the year can be tricky, but to us the Rookie of the Year is one of the biggest annual events in boxing. To go up against it is sacrilege!
We're not complaining about the quality of the cards, which will be promoted by Muto and Nakazato, but it does seem like the shows are shooting themselves in the foot sharing a day with such a tremendous part of the Japanese boxing calendar!
Now with that out the way, I shall see you all with the next one of these in the new year, so have a great Christmas folks, and a happy new year! And watch as many fights as you can between now and 2020! I will be!
So last weekend we finally got the "Clash on the Dunes", or as I've chosen to dub it "The diarrhoea in Diriyah". The show will be long remembered for the feel good moment of Anthony Joshua having his hand raised as the winner, but in reality the card was a turgid mess of unprofessionalism, terrible work from DAZN and Sky, and we suspect few will remember much from the show, other than 1 standout support bout, and Joshua regaining his titles.
After previous articles about the cost, £25 for a PPV with only 2 competitive bouts is frankly a joke, and the amount of fighters with failed drugs tests on the show, 1 is too many and 4 is taking the piss, we went into the show with a bad taste in our mouths. It's a shame several of the fighters on the card couldn't keep food out of theirs, had they done so the card may have been interesting. At least some what interesting.
Before getting on to some of the over weight and out of shape fighters in the Heavyweight bouts lets take a moment to focus on the smaller men.
On paper Zuhayr Al Qahtani vs Omar Dusary was a good looking bout, and whilst it wasn't an amazing bout it was a bout that ticked all the boxes. It was well matched, it was interesting enough and did it's job. Absolutely no complaints with this bout.
The 4 rounder between Majid Al Naqbi and Ilia Beruashvili is one we don't have many complaints about, though Ian John Lewis really doesn't strike us as being a capable referee at all. The refereeing of Lewis was question more for 2 other bouts he was involved in, Ivan Hopey Price's win over Swedi Mohamed, where John jumped in way too early, and a Heavyweight bout we'll talk about in a few moments.
We couldn't really see any reason to have Diego Pacheco vs Selemani Saidi as a swing bout between the two most interesting fights on the card. It slowed down the show, which was at a high point for a neutral fan, to see a top prospect blow out someone who shouldn't have been in the ring with him. Had Pacheco been on earlier in the night we wouldn't have minded too much, but the placement on the card was all odd, and a poor choice.
So, on to the Heavyweight action.
Mahammadrasul Majidov genuinely impressed us with his win over Tom Little. Certain Sky pundits may not agree but the reality is that Majidov took a round to figure his man out, then moved through the gears and did what he was supposed to. At 33 Majidov does need to be moved quickly, but given that David Price was 35 when he stopped Little this isn't a bad bout for this stage in Majidov's career. As long as he steps up next time out.
Sadly Ian John Lewis completely lost the plot and lost control when he refereed the Heavyweight clash between Filip Hrgovic and Eric Molina. Hrgovic, a fantastic prospect, deserves better tests than a 37 year old "Drummer Boy" who has has 2 wins in 3 fucking years! Molina, coming in almost 10lbs heavier than he was in his 2015 clash with Doentay Wilder and 16lbs heavier than he was in a career best win over Tomasz Adamek didn't look like he wanted to be there. It almost seemed like he was owed a favour by someone and was on the show as a favour. Terrible effort from Molina, awful refereeing and a terrible way to "progress" Hrgovic's career.
I don't want to hear excuses from fans telling me that Dillian Whyte and Mariusz Wach were matched at short notice as that is not an excuse for the farce we got. Whyte, who had only been cleared of a doping charge a day earlier, came in 12lbs heavier than he was just 5 months ago. He wasn't just a career heaviest but was almost 25lbs heavier than he had been for his second bout with Dereck Chisora a year earlier. To his credit Wach had come to the ring like a fighter. He wasn't in the shape of his career, but he at least resembled an athlete. Wach's will a saving factor in a bout that had Sergio Mora almost orgasaming on DAZN with some of the worst commentary I've ever heard.
Whilst on the subject of Mora, I'm really not sure if he's paid as a commentator or a cheerleader, but on the evidence of this show he really was a cheerleader. If he's going to continue this role, we really should have him dressed in a tutu and with pom poms. It would be a stark improvement from the absolute garbage he was spewing out during this show. Garbage that included the suggestion that Dillian Whyte Vs Joseph Parker would be a good fight, as if they hadn't already fought.
Whilst Whyte took the win over Wach he did little to suggest he was a professional athlete. In fact we're not sure what was on offer in Diriyah but Whyte's shape wasn't the only that could be described as "round", something we'll get on to in a few moments.
Alexander Povetkin and Michael Hunter...MAN WHAT A FIGHT! This was something worthy of attention, and delivered. It was hotly contested, with regular momentum shifts, both fighters adjusting through out the bout and putting on a fantastic, even fight. At 40 Povetkin showed stamina limitations in the later stages, and looked like he struggled massively in the final few rounds. He was also out-sped in the early stages as Hunter started in a fashion that suggested he wanted to blow out the Russian. Povetkin steadied the ship and fought back in the middle rounds before fading. With this ending in a draw, as controversial as that might have been, if left the door open to a rematch in 2020. If we see this one again next year we'll be happy!
Now on to the main event. If we can call it that. Whilst Whyte came in at a career heaviest, and had breasts bigger than some pornstars, he looked svelte compared to world champion Andy Ruiz, who was attempting to score his second win over Anthony Joshua. Ruiz had managed to put on 15lbs since shocking the world in June, when he stopped Joshua in their first fight. He has never been a fighter who looked in shape, so to add extra weight to his already chubby frame was a worry. That extra weight gave him absolutely no advantages and made it even harder to cut the distance between himself and Jsohua.
As for Joshua he really did seem to be inspired by Wladimir Klitschko, using his size and reach well, maintaining the distance with excellent foot work and put on a really controlled display over 12 rounds to take a clear win. Unlike Klitschko fights however there never seemed to be the moment where Joshua went for the finish. Whilst Klitschko fights were often dull, you always knew he could finish a fight when he let that thunderbolt right hand go. There was nothing similar here, with Joshua fighting in a style that really made the bout dramaless. Yes there was good reason for it, but it doesn't change the fact that the bout was...tedious to watch.
Given the pre-show issues, and the the forgettable action on the show, this is not one that will live on long in the memory. Hopefully Whyte and Ruiz will begin to take the sport seriously, Hrgovic and Majidov will step up, Ian John Lewis will stop getting big opportunities, Sergio Mora will learn to do a backflip, a cartwheel and scream a little louder, and this was just a 1-off game plan from Joshua.
Sadly however we suspect Ruiz will continue to eat his way out of contention, Whyte will be as unpredictable as ever, maybe even making former rival Dereck Chisora seem consistent, Joshua will work on this winning plan, and Sergio Mora will remain a nightmare to listen too, in fact neither DAZN or Sky commentary covered themselves in any positive light.
One other take away was that the commentary on WOWOW was excellent, and if you get a chance to watch the Japanese broadcast, I would seriously suggest you give it a go. The commentary there was sublime, with pauses, well placed silences and excitement that met the action. Commentary is an art form and the men behind the mics at WOWOW were masters.
One other thing to question is why exactly did they play "Sweet Caroline" here? As a genuine Neil Diamond fan, I wish I was joking there, it seemed like a stupid inclusion here. It's a song that can only be full appreciated with copious amounts of alcohol in the system, and with Saudi Arabia being a dry country the song went down like a wet fart on Christmas day.
Thankfully I'll never need to mention this show again!
In Diriyah later today we'll see the latest Matchroom card, headlined by a Heavyweight title rematch between Andy Ruiz and Anthony Joshua. The bout is one of the biggest of the year. It's on a bumper Sky Box Office PPV, it's on DAZN in the US WOWOW in Japan and various other broadcasters around the globe. It is one of boxing's biggest spectaculars of the year and likely to be the most profitable fight of the year, with a massive site fee to go with all the broadcasting rights.
Whilst the show has multiple issues with it, some of which have been gone over by better writers than I including the human rights issues with Saudi Arabia, and we have previously stated our case on the increase in pricing in the UK, the one that is perhaps the most irritating right now, and follows on from what I wrote in last weeks Hot Take, is the number of fighters on the show with failed drugs tests to their names.
We're not going to go in depth on the various complications of drug testing or the ineffectiveness of the Clean Boxing Program and he VADA tests, both of which are better than nothing but neither is close to good enough for the sport, and both should only be seen as the bare minimum expected of fighters. My guess is that the future of drug testing will be 365 day a year round testing, not a random test here and there, but daily tests, measuring not just for the chemicals we know can be taken, but also for elevated levels and changes. This will be the gold standard in the future, and although still not impossible to beat, will really make it significantly tougher.
Instead of blaming the testing agencies, which are not yet fully fit for purpose, and are in some cases quite toothless when it comes to the suspensions they can hand out, we are going to focus on promoters, and how the buck really does stop with them. Contrary to what some might think. At the end of the day the promoters, essentially, decide who gets to be on their shows, who fights, what they get paid and where the fights take place. If the promoters refuse to play ball with those who get caught with illicit substances in their system then the fighters will have to either self fund shows, or get out of the sport.
Hearn himself seems to actually agree with the point I've made above, with their not being enough testing. He himself has pointed out that "The testing is too sporadic in the US. There is simply not enough of it carried out." The truth is that it's not the US that that's a problem in, but a global problem. The entire sport needs to see a massive increase in testing for world class fighters.
Hearrn himself has stated also stated "Anthony (Joshua) insists on VADA testing for himself and his opponents from 14 weeks out from a fight and the cost comes out of the promotional budget." For a fighter fighting twice a year, as Joshua has this year, it means he and his opponent, in this case Andy Ruiz for both fights, spend just over half of the year in some form of testing program. Given we still don't really understand how good long term effects of drugs are, this simply isn't good enough. It's better than nothing, sure, but still isn't good enough. It's been suggested in research that benefit from testosterone can give benefits an athlete's entire career, and taking that outside of the 14 week window could give significant long term benefits. There's then the slippery slope with Testostrone Replacement Therapy (TRT) and the Therapuetic Ues Exceptions (TUE's).
Staying with Hearn's own words in regards to the WBC, and their Clean Boxing Program, “I’ve got guys who have signed with me and signed up to WBC testing, they’ve never been tested". There appears to be no point to the WBC's CBP until they actually give you a regular series of random test when you move into their rankings. In our eyes the program simply isn't good enough, or fit for purpose. As we've seen in the past, they sometimes allow people to just fight anyway, or give them such insignificant punishments that they are meaningless. Luis Nery failed a test but was allowed to keep the title he won, so what was the point in the CBP there?
So with WBC not testing enough and the drug testing bodies not yet catching up to the level of testing needed, we need someone to stand up for the sport. Why not have it be the man who said “Something is going to happen, someone is going to die, someone is going to get hurt for life, someone is going to get paralysed by a drugs cheat, what happens then? Is that murder?"
At the end of the day a promoter putting 4 fighters, that's 40% of the fighters on the poster above, on a show who have failed a drugs test suggests that he's okay with drugs cheats in boxing. In fact it suggests he's happy to pay them, potentially rewarding them, for taking substances that are banned. With the card having Alexander Povetkin, Dillian Whyte, Mariusz Wach and Eric Molina it seems very much like someone getting "hurt for life" is a price Mr Hearn is happy with.
Of course it's boxing, this is one show among many that Mr Hearn will put on this year, and these are but a handful of his fighters. But lets not overlook that he has other fighters who have failed drug tests, with a variety of excuses, among his stable. Including Billy Joe Saunders, Hughie Fury, Kid Galahad. He has also signed for Joshua to fight Jarrell Miller, who had failed a drugs test. It seems that whilst drugs cheats are bad, they aren't that bad...
I am, for the sake of this article, putting all fighters that fail drug tests under the same banner. The reality is that they aren't the same. What Miller did, by essentially being a human cocktail of drugs, is much worse than testing positive for a chemical in a nasal spray or on a skin cream. One is deliberately cheating the other, perhaps ignorantly breaking the rules, but at the end of the day the athlete needs to take responsibility for their body, what's in it and what they take. Going back to the long term benefits for something like testosterone, whilst not everything will give such stark long term improvements things that help prolong the amount of training, speeding up recovery time are also helping an athlete get an unfair advantage. The advantage of something in a cold medicine being able to aid training, is still giving an advantage to an athlete.
Whilst the argument is that promoters aren't the police of boxing might be true, they are the ones with the power to truly punish fighters who fail tests. They are they ones who can blackball fighters, refuse to work with them, and make it clear the sport is going to a zero tolerance model. The problem is no promoter wants to take the risk of letting one of the fighters make money for someone else, so maybe a collective promotional code of conduct needs to be brought in, and signed up to by promoters, to alleviate the fear that is Hearn doesn't use Dillian Whyte, neither will Bob Arum, Lou DiBella, Oscar De La Hoya or Frank Warren. Rather than freezing a fighter out independently, you freeze them out as a collective, you finally all get on the same page on something and move forward with a clear vision of a drug free sport. If a fighter breaches the agreement it would allow the others to freeze them out of any joint promotional work.
Looking back over the murder quote above, it does leave the question, if a known drugs cheat does kill someone in the ring will the promoter be an accomplice to murder?
At the end of the day being a professional sports person is not a right, it's an honour. As sports fans we have become accustomed to people doing bad, then, eventually, being welcomed back to the sport. The reality however is that boxing, and MMA and other combat sports, aren't the same as cycling. This is a sport where advantages you have can have untold medical affects on other competitors. In cycling and tennis cheating is punished because you are cheating the sport. In combat sports it needs to be punished more severely as fighter is risking someone else's health.
Note - For those suggesting day by day testing is unworkable for costs, it's worth noting that in 2018 the University of Waterloo sent out a press releases stating they were close to developing a test that would cost a fraction of current tests, work incredibly quickly, and work as a flagging system before a more in depth confirmatory test was done. This would allow day by day testing, and where a test is flag a full test would then be needed. This is certainly a workable model in boxing, and whilst it might still be some time away from hitting the market, so to speak, it seems the future is almost here.
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