Boxing fans, unite!
Over the past few days we've seen some interesting things in boxing. Some of them were good, some of them were bad and some of them were confusing. One thing however that we must all accept is that there are problems in boxing, problems hat effect us as fans on a weekly basis.
For this "Taka's Title Shot" I want to focus on just 1 of those issues. Televised fights.
On Friday night in the USA there were 2 competing cards. One of them was shown on Fox Sports 1 and one of them was shown on ESPN. On paper the ESPN card ran away with things. It had the big debut of Chinese Olympian Zhang Zhilei, an interesting 8 rounder between the previously unbeaten Norbert Nemesapati and the triumphant under-dog Jason Escalera and a bout between the much touted Willie Nelson and the under-rated Luis Grajeda. On paper it looked intriguing though in the end it was hugely under-whelming. Zhilei's opponent, Curtis Lee Tate, looked like an out of shape bum who came straight from McDonalds and went down like a hooker. Escalera ended up totally dominating his Hungarian opponent in the highlight bout of the card, and Nelson got very lucky with the judges.
Judging is a problem and it's a big one, but it's not my focus here. So I'm sorry but I won't be talking about that.
The Fox Sports card on paper looked very different but was much more entertaining. It too started with an opening round blow out as former amateur standout Ievgen Khytrov blitzed the experienced Willie Fortune. The bout was similar in many ways to Zhilei's debut but also very different. Fortune came to win and found out he couldn't, he didn't just turn up for a pay day. The second bout was a bout many would have over-looked as Monty Meza Clay took on Alan Herrera. Between them Clay and Herrera had 8 losses and 67 wins and 42 KO's, it was a bout that the match makers put together and it gelled from he opening round with the two being well matched in terms of skills, heart and power and proved to be one of the best bouts of the year. The show then ended with the exciting Samuel Vazquez taking on James Stevenson. This bout saw the men entering with a combined record of 36-0 (25) and neither man came to lose, both again had styles that gelled and we, as fans were treat to some amazing action.
Fox Sports haven't been showing fights for as long as ESPN yet some how their team delivered a card that really blow their opposition out of the water. For most of Saturday fans on forums were talking about the Fox Sports card and trying to encourage other fans to watch the bouts online. It was genuinely one of the best cards this year.
Whilst the fox card delivered the action the ESPN card delivered the talk, the dreaded Teddy Atlas talk. Teddy for once made a lot of sense as he ranted and raved about mismatches, including the ones that were to follow the following even on Showtime, which I'll get to in a few moments. The words from Atlas seemed to suggest that we, as fans, should boycott mismatches. In principle I agree though do so with some careful consideration. The executives at the big networks will cut boxing if the numbers drop too low, we need to be careful to prevent that from happening, however we do need to make our views felt. To do this I would suggest social media to target the likes of HBO and Showtime into using some sort of quality control for match ups. We should also make a determined effort to tune in to good fights, especially ones that that look good from the moment they are signed.
As well as the two competing cards on Friday there was numerous cards on Saturday. The one Atlas ranted about was the Showtime one headlined by Danny Garcia Vs Rod Salka and supported by Lamont Peterson Vs Edgar Santana. These bouts were mismatches in the eyes of everyone, the bookies, the fans, the fighters and even my blind neighbour. The card's 3 main televised bouts, the two we've mentioned and a contest between Daniel Jacobs and Jarrod Fletcher, all went the way they were expected to with the house fighters winning all 3 bouts by stoppage in a combined 16 rounds. Sadly that card was the highest profile card of the weekend, by a mile, despite it being a series of mismatches.
Soon after Showtimes stinker we had the beginning of a televised card from Mexico. The opening bout wasn't great as former world champion Tomas Rojas did as he wished with Irving Berry. The headline bout however was a thing of beauty as Japan's very own Katsunari Takayama battled tooth and nail with Francisco Rodriguez Jr in an IBF/WBO unification bout. The contest looked amazing when it was announced and proved to be even better when the two men were in the ring. Sadly the bout was ignored by large swathes of fans.
I can't tell you what to watch or when to watch it. What I can ask however is that you don't boycott boxing, but instead you tune in to fights like Takayama/Rodriguez, and that you contact your TV networks to encourage them to bring in some sort of quality control. To refuse fights like Garcia/Salka and beg them to pick up fights like Takayama/Rodriguez and the upcoming Akira Yaegashi/Roman Gonzalez fight. I really don't want to labour the point, but many boxing fans are missing out on amazing fights and if we unite and demand better fights, stick together in telling the networks what fights we want, and what we don't then the odds are they will eventually listen.
Amazingly fights like Gonzalez/Yaegashi and Takayama/Rodriguez would cost a mere fraction of what Showtime paid the main fighters on their show. Not only would they be providing better fights by listening to fans and ensuing some level of quality control but they could also find themselves saving a substantial part of their budget by picking up these fights. If they put a small bit of their budget into helping these fighters make a name for themselves over the space of 2 or 3 the returns will be incredible with cheaper fights and more action. Maybe, just maybe we, as fans, can help the people in power provide much more for much less.
I was recently asked what is killing American boxing. My answer is greed, the greed of fighters, managers and promoters. Hopefully the networks realise the same thing before too many fans boycott the sport.
(Image courtesy of http://espnmediazone.com)
Takahiro Onaga is a regular contributor to Asian Boxing and will now be a featured writer in his own column where his takes his shot at various things in the boxing world.