AS Carl Frampton sought to make history and become the island of Ireland’s first ever three-weight world champion against Jamel Herring, boxing displayed just how cruel it can be. Not only were Frampton’s hopes dashed by a devastatingly sharp performance from Herring, but the stage it took place on was not befitting of either fighter.
It was relatively exciting to learn earlier in the week that Channel 5 had picked up broadcast rights to the fight, though in hindsight the hurried acquisition was always likely to disappoint. Though it’s encouraging for boxing to be aired on terrestrial television, that increased exposure can make any production mishaps all the more glaring.
The whole thing, broadcast from inside a marquee in Dubai where the fight took place, seemed held together by tape. Even the quality of the footage was sub-par; we’re accustomed to fights being shown in HD – a service Channel 5 offers – but that was not the case on this night.
Most of this is not the fault of Channel 5. It highlighted how difficult it can be to be at the mercy of a world feed, as opposed to being directly involved in the production from the outset, like Sky Sports and BT Sport usually are. However, what C5 did put together, like the punditry from Steve Bunce and Josh Taylor and the commentary, in particular from Richie Woodhall, was for the most part very good. The social media onslaught was both predictable and frustrating – one wonders if fans from other sports take such curious pleasure from ganging up on broadcasters like boxing fans do – but the whole thing did make for uncomfortable viewing at times.
The ringwalks lasted all of five seconds, literally just a few steps from backstage into the ring, and the sound system made the screaming MC sound like an over-zealous DJ from a local boozer.
Only so much blame can be laid at the feet of Covid-19. Obviously, these are difficult times to stage a boxing show, but outfits like Matchroom, Top Rank and Queensbury have all shown that high-end productions are more than possible in the current climate. This event, topped by two MTK Global fighters, being switched from London to Dubai, and removed from BT Sport’s scheduling without any real explanation, did it few favours.
Frampton’s glittering career coming to a close like this seemed out of place but boxing is not a sport built on sentiment. Further still, an arguable career-best performance from the perennially underrated Herring surely deserved better.
It was difficult to see a tearful Frampton speak of his retirement after the fight but, even after suffering the first stoppage loss of his career, he still maintained the humility that has made him so wildly popular: “You should really be speaking to the champion,” he told the interviewer. The loss will sting for a while, but Frampton can be proud of the legacy he secured long before he stepped foot in Dubai.
Retirement in boxing is becoming a more fluid concept by the day, though. Marco Antonio Barerra, Miguel Cotto and Juan Manuel Marquez are the latest modern day greats to be linked to comebacks of sorts. Barerra is set to face Jesus Soto Karass in an exhibition in June while Cotto and Marquez are rumoured to be facing each other in an exhibition of their own.
This was touched on in last week’s column, how fighters like these are now being offered huge sums of money to do something cherished they once thought they no longer could. It’s tough to blame the fighters themselves. In fact, these living legends facing each other in exhibition bouts – provided they’re carried out safely – isn’t necessarily an objectively bad thing. It doesn’t have to impact the sport too negatively, so long as no one gets hurt and they are sufficiently marketed as exhibitions, rather than competitive bouts.
What differs from this are ‘bouts’ like the recently announced clash between Julio Cesar Chavez Jnr and UFC legend Anderson Silva in June. ESPN revealed the news after speaking to the event’s promoters, who also confirmed that Chavez’ father – the inimitable Julio Cesar Chavez Snr – will be fighting Hector Camacho Jnr on the undercard. You couldn’t make this up.
None of these fights are billed as exhibitions. Silva – considered one of the greatest mixed martial artists of all time – has boxed professionally three times before (2-1) against unheralded opponents. Now 45 and having lost four of his last five UFC fights, prompting the organisation to release him, the Brazilian star is apparently seeking income from the wild west of boxing. He is, unsurprisingly, being welcomed with open arms.
Announcements of retired boxing stars making some form of return to the ring are coming thick and fast now, as predicted in the wake of Mike Tyson’s exhibition with Roy Jones Jnr. We’ll soon be at a stage where the sport does have to explicitly acknowledge them so as to separate them from legitimate fights involving active boxers.
Gaffe of the week – by some distance – goes to Teofimo Lopez Snr, who compared his son’s recent clashes with promoters over fight purses to Muhammad Ali’s conscientious objection to the Vietnam War. He said to Fight Hype: “We’re showing boxers they’re worth more than promoters think. We took a stand. This is like when Muhammad Ali stood for his rights, he didn’t want to fight in the war. It’s the same s**t we’re doing with my son.”
Now, Lopez Jnr’s faith in his own financial worth is admirable, but to equate it with Ali sacrificing years of his prime in defiance of a global conflict he morally and religiously opposed is nonsensical.
Lopez Jnr’s comments can be polarising at the best of times, and his father isn’t doing him any favours with statements like this one.