UP to a certain point, it’s fair to allow contenders to avoid certain opponents on their way to world titles. A fact of the game is that certain styles are too risky to face when a world title shot in the balance. Boxing is a business and sometimes smart business has to take precedence, so I do agree with that. I’m not saying a manager and boxer should not agree to test deep waters but you have a matchmaker for a reason, and that is to make fights for you that will see you with a better than average chance of winning. Taking tough fights is not necessarily the problem, because when there is high-risk and no reward, fighters should not be blamed for not taking that risk.
Back in the 1980’s, for example, England had Herol “Bomber” Graham who was avoided by most guys at the top due to his tricky style and deceptive power. A smart business manager back then realised that the same money could be made for his boxer against someone other than Herol, particularly with no world title on the line. Until you navigate your way to a title shot, there’s nothing wrong with strategically avoiding certain guys like that. But once you win a world title then that should be the end of manoeuvring and dodging.
All that said, unbeaten records are now held in too high esteem. As much as I loved boxing on network TV, I also believe the glossy records that the networks flaunted week after week slowly disintegrated the overall toughest competition. Back in previous times, top fighters could lose a match against a top ranked guy and he would still be back on TV soon after against another tough opponent. Top guys from earlier eras lost more fights but that’s because they repeatedly faced tougher opposition and bounced back from losses without worrying as much about not being granted new chances. At some point, though, fighters seem to have become convinced that being unbeaten is the only way to come up and make real noise in the game.
Then you had Floyd Mayweather Jnr over the course of his reign constantly putting so much emphasis on the unbeaten record over the last 15 years or so and it has influenced a whole generation of boxers into trying to protect that unbeaten log at all costs.
Quantity has slowly replaced quality as a result. Fighters are rewarded for being unbeaten, even if they’ve beaten no one of note.
Point blank, the sanctioning bodies need to take control. In recent years they have allowed the upper echelon of stars seize too much control. We actually have sanctioning bodies allowing champions to hold their belts hostage and dictate catchweights. We see champions bypassing rules and regulations in order to get the fights they want as opposed to the fights that should be mandated, according to sanctioning body rules and protocols that have been in place for 50 years or more. I mean, take for example when you have someone in the business claim that “there is no one left for my fighter to fight in his weight class.” They say this when in fact the sanctioning body whose belt he holds has 10 guys in their world rankings waiting for their shot at him.
Why not go down the line of contenders and go in with whoever is next in line and willing to fight?
Because when push comes to shove, promoters, TV networks and the business of boxing in general take precedence over the rules of the sanctioning bodies almost every time.