If you uttered a groan at last week’s news that Conor McGregor intends to box again, then I’d advise you to avoid ESPN this week. Dan Rafael spoke to veteran promoter Bob Arum, who floated the idea of a two-fight deal between McGregor and welterweight star Terence Crawford; one fight in boxing, one in MMA.
“Fighting Crawford would be great for McGregor because he has no chance in a boxing match except to pick up a check,” Arum said.
“In an MMA match, he would be the favorite, but Crawford would have a chance because he’s one tough dude and because he has a wrestling background. I think that Crawford is the one boxer that can compete with an elite MMA guy under MMA rules. We’d do two fights so we can level the playing field by fighting in both disciplines. [Floyd] Mayweather and [Manny] Pacquiao would never fight under MMA rules. Crawford would.”
This seems to speak to two realities; firstly, McGregor is the most famous fighter (boxing and MMA) on the planet. Elite boxers are falling over themselves to challenge him because of the extraordinary numbers he produces. Secondly, it highlights Arum’s difficulties in landing big fights for Crawford, one of the best fighters around. Most of the other top welters are aligned with PBC and Al Haymon, leaving Terence with few opportunities to enhance his legacy and build his brand. Thrashing McGregor would do wonders for his profile – and you wouldn’t begrudge Crawford the payday – but I’d much rather see standout boxers focus on meaningful fights against legitimate opponents.
ESPN also confirmed the news that drugs cheat Jarrell Miller has signed a co-promotional deal with Arum’s Top Rank, who have a broadcast deal with the sports giant. Just as a reminder, last year Miller failed four Voluntary Anti-Doping Association-administered random drug tests for three different banned substances over the span of a few days.
Now, it’s no surprise that boxing is welcoming back a loud-mouth, bankable heavyweight despite his vile transgressions, but it’s still a bitter pill to swallow. ESPN took things further when they ran a piece analysing where Miller will fit into the division and teeing him up for future fights with the likes of Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury. Not cool.
Sticking with the heavyweights, ESPN also broke the news that former champion Andy Ruiz has split with trainer Manny Robles after his lopsided defeat to Joshua in their December rematch.
“I’ve seen it coming, I’ll be honest with you,” Robles said.
“I’ve seen it coming during camp. I saw it coming, Andy was just doing whatever the hell he wanted to do. The dad, obviously with him being the manager, he just had no control over his son. None of us had control of him, for that matter.”
It’s another sad twist in Ruiz’ tale, particularly as Robles revealed it was Ruiz Snr who broke the news to him, rather than Andy himself.
Speaking to Sky Sports, Eddie Hearn revealed that he and Joshua have received a “huge site offer” for the unified heavyweight champion to fight the Wilder-Fury 2 winner in Saudi Arabia later this year. It’s a tough one – I don’t like the idea of more big fights in that region, given its abhorrent human rights record, but this sort of offer might be what could actually get this fight over the line. Plus, Hearn cemented previous comments he’s made that such a fight would warrant a 50-50 purse split, provided Joshua agrees.
Luckily, IFL caught up with ‘AJ’ afterward, and got his reaction to Hearn’s comments. Understandably, Joshua didn’t verbally agree to anything, but did posit the idea that his revenge win over Ruiz last year was one of the biggest comebacks ever, by virtue of the fact that Ruiz’ win was one of the sport’s biggest ever upsets. That logic doesn’t really hold up, but Joshua’s argument is that he could potentially demand an even larger split of the purse – 70 per cent. Should it come to it, let’s hope his stance softens. On an unrelated note, the video interview also revealed that his ringtone is the theme song from Netflix show ‘Narcos’. So there’s that.
Wilder and Fury faced off in another hastily arranged press conference for their rematch in a month’s time, this one hosted by FOX, and made available on BT Sport’s YouTube channel for us in the UK. I’m struggling to remember a more awkward start to a press conference than this one – I won’t spoil it here – but things don’t really improve from there. The hostess’ questions mainly consisted of her repeating comments each fighter has made in the past about the other and asking, “do you still stand by that?”
The venom from the build up to the first fight has dissolved and it now seems like a good idea to just leave these two to it until fight week when emotions will be higher and the narrative can be hammered home properly.
All this talk of purse splits and rematch clauses gets dull pretty quickly, which is why this week’s edition of Tris Dixon’s Boxing Life Stories is such a potent tonic. Dixon spoke to former three-weight world champion Duke McKenzie, one of British boxing’s most undervalued exponents. McKenzie’s exploits in the ring were brilliant, but it’s the strength he’s shown in the battles he’s faced outside of it that make him a remarkable person. He discusses the violent abuse he and his brothers suffered from their father, before detailing the unique bond he had with his brother Dudley, who ended up taking his own life. Duke himself has had his own mental health struggles, and speaks on these with courage, honesty and compassion. It’s a touching interview that goes way beyond the realms of boxing.
I can’t go without mentioning this week’s edition of Macklin’s Take, which features a very familiar voice discussing the role of print media in today’s world of boxing and how it’s changed over the years. That guy knows his stuff.