THREE million dollars may not go as far as it used to but it’s still an awful lot of money. For some, property would be a smart place to invest that kind of sum. A nice four-bedroom house on Brighton seafront. Or one of those swish balcony flats in the heart of London. Perhaps a sprawling apartment in Manhattan or a state of the art Brooklyn townhouse. But if you’re Don King, 90 years old and still clinging to the glory days, there is no better place to splash the cash than on a bogus title.
It’s a sign, perhaps, that reports of his impending demise are not that wide of the mark after all. Because bidding three-million dollars to host a fight between Trevor Bryan and Daniel Dubois for the most-maligned sanctioning body belt in heavyweight history – the WBA ‘regular’ strap – would appear the work of a desperate man. Frank Warren, who has underlined he remains a significant force in world boxing to secure Tyson Fury-Dillian Whyte for April 23 at Wembley stadium and Demetrius Andrade-Zach Parker for May 21 at Pride Park stadium in Derby, could not justify going much higher than $2m for Bryan-Dubois. But Warren has never believed the WBA regular title is a real title. For King, it’s more than that. It’s a lifeline.
Of course, even the most gullible boxing fan is not falling for it. A top 25 heavyweight at best, Bryan defeated a decrepit Bermane Stiverne to win the vacant trinket then edged a game but unknown Jonathan Guidry in his first defence. King (bought and) sold both as viable challengers. The WBA then shamelessly crowbarred each into their rankings to make their fights with Bryan appear authentic. It’s shame, in a way, that Dubois is getting involved with such a filthy trophy. One only has to look at what it has done for Bryan. Not so much a negotiating tool but a fancy dress accessory, Bryan is no closer to securing a fight with a Fury or a Joshua or a Usyk than I am.
Dubois may have better luck. A young prospect with lots of talent. He can bang with the best of them, too. And though we criticise, the fighters – if King’s pockets turn out to be as deep as this bid suggests – will earn good money that would surely not have been on offer if this title did not exist. Dubois, at 24, has all the time in the world to progress.
King does not. He’s not interested in property or smart investments. All that matters is feeling relevant. It’s been a long time since the old propagandist was the controller of the banner weight class but you can bet he still remembers what it feels like. That power in the palm of his hands.
Today, he chases one last hurrah in a similar way that the great fighters he used to promote once did. The bug that makes nearly all boxers fight too long is perhaps the only thing keeping Don King alive. That, and this wretched belt.
- JUST when you thought that certain boxers couldn’t get any more admirable, Vasiliy Lomachenko turns down a shot at George Kambosos Jnr for the world lightweight title to instead fight for Ukraine in the war with Russia. Alongside the Klitschko brothers and Oleksandr Usyk, Lomachenko continues to sacrifice an awful lot for his country. Kambosos deserves serious praise, too. Not only for his kind address to Lomachenko on social media but for chasing the best available challengers. It looks like Devin Haney will now fill Lomachenko’s shoes in a terrific fight. Kudos to both for wanting to prove they’re the best inside the ring rather than moaning that nobody wants to face them. It makes a welcome change.
- THE problem surrounding boxers being reluctant to tackle real challenges is not exclusive to the top of the sport. The job of sorting out the small hall reports on these pages is a mind-numbing task that fills me with dread. Granted, there is the occasional shock worth reading about but for the most part every card is full of prospect/ticket-seller versus journeyman/obscure international opponent and almost every bout ends in a 60-54 or 40-36 decision. It should beg the question: How is this selling the sport? Increasingly, those who are buying tickets are doing so just to see a friend in action. But the product is not good enough to keep them there nor build audiences who will keep coming back for more. Time for a rethink.