WITHOUT wishing to labour the point we’ve been making in recent weeks, but instead to make it abundantly clear, matching the best against the best all but guarantees a terrific contest. More importantly, if we’re looking at the long-term retention of fans and the creation of new ones, best versus best exhibits the sport exactly as it should be exhibited. It’s also important to point out, after perhaps appearing overly negative in recent weeks in regard to the state of the sport, that we’ve had three male world championship fights in 2021 between two of the three top fighters in certain weight classes. All three bouts are leading the way in the Fight of the Year stakes. That the very simple best versus best formula works deserves to be championed. Those fights were Juan Francisco Estrada vs Roman Gonzalez (world champion vs No. 2 contender at super-fly), Josh Taylor vs Jose Carlos Ramirez (No. 1 vs No. 2 at super-light) and, last weekend, Jermell Charlo vs Brian Castano (No. 1 vs No. 2 at super-welter).
Matching the best fighters with the best fighters should of course be the natural order of things. It’s not rocket science, after all. But the business of boxing has already scuppered Tyson Fury vs Anthony Joshua (world champion vs No. 1 contender at heavyweight) and, at the time of writing, was messing with the proposed clash between Canelo Alvarez and Caleb Plant (No. 1 vs No. 2 at super-middleweight).
We all know about the Fury-Joshua saga and the multiple moving parts that made it impossible for everyone to stand still for long enough to shake hands and agree to fight. Alvarez, meanwhile, is considering other options after Plant’s team supposedly stalled on negotiations because they – PBC and Al Haymon – are reluctant to do business unless they get a share of the Canelo business. Haymon’s work at 154lbs has been exemplary, it must be said, but we’re going to need some give and take among the superpowers to get anywhere near utopia.
Canelo is one of the few elite fighters actively chasing his closest rivals; should Plant’s team fail to get their man in the biggest fight of his life, it’s been said that Alvarez will aim for world 175lbs champion, Artur Beterbiev, or No. 1 contender, Dmitry Bivol. Both excellent fights but it would be a shame if politics prevented him from ruling at 168 beforehand.
I’ve heard more experienced voices than mine recently suggest that boxing is boxing and will always be ‘boxing’ so we should just accept the flaws and get on with it. But that kind of attitude allowed the sport to spiral out of control and will surely get us nowhere.
Too many accepted it in 1978 when the WBC stripped Leon Spinks for agreeing to take on Muhammad Ali in a rematch. Prior to that bout, the world heavyweight championship had changed hands on 25 occasions. Since then, and not including any interim or regular type hogwash, we have seen 65 holders of one or more of the WBO, WBA, IBF and WBO belts (so that’s 25 in 87 years and then 65 in the next 43). If anyone tries to tell me that the sport hasn’t been harmed as a consequence, that we keep quiet and just embrace the mess, I’d urge them to think again.
However, I do agree that we need to focus on the positives. Because this is a mess we can get out of; Estrada vs Gonzalez, Taylor vs Ramirez and Charlo vs Castano are proof of that. Best versus best really is as simple and effective as it gets.
- ONE thing that a simple rankings system can’t solve is the matter of scoring, however. Judge Nelson Vazquez’s score of 117-111 in Charlo’s favour was exceptionally hard to fathom. One can argue that this kind of madness on the cards is why we have three judges (in the hope that at least two get it right) and few can dispute that a draw wasn’t a fair result. Also worth noting that bad scorecards are not quite as common as many would have you believe. They are, however, too common.
- IT is time for the Olympics. As amateur editor John Dennen highlighted so eloquently in a recent Guest Column, this is where the best do fight the best. There’s no jostling for position, no delays to the settlement of rivalries: You win a bout, you progress to the next round. It promises to be a fascinating few weeks; we advise that you watch closely because this is the tournament where future superstars are born. We wish all involved the very best of luck.