Boxing is back, and it’s just as strange as ever. After months without any live action, Top Rank vaulted the trench and led the charge amid the current coronavirus pandemic by holding two shows in Las Vegas.
The cards took place behind closed doors and were aired on ESPN. Obviously, there was no crowd inside the MGM Grand Conference Center, though there was also only one on-screen member of the announcing team actually there; roving reporter Bernard Osuna.
Joe Tessitore provided commentary from an ESPN studio in Connecticut. Andre Ward, Timothy Bradley and Mark Kriegel provided input from their respective homes. For now, this is the new normal.
By and large, the actual production of the shows were successful. Mikaela Mayer was pulled from the first show after testing positive for COVID-19 (she later claimed this was a false positive), and apart from that there seemed to be no major issues.
This bodes well for future promotions, and not just from Top Rank. Bob Arum made it clear that he and his promotional outfit would be happy to share their health and safety contingencies to anyone who wanted to see them – even rival promoters. He also stressed that they are by no means experts on this; like everyone else, this is completely new to them and there will be lessons to learn. Shared knowledge on how to navigate the pandemic could really help boxing and is a refreshing attitude in a sport often plagued by selfishness and ignorance.
The shows weren’t a complete win though. Most of the boxing on show was poor overall (excluding the Adam Lopez-Luis Coria and Eric Mondragon-Mike Sanchez fights) – too many mismatches, with nothing much to take away from any of it. Shakur Stevenson walloped Felix Caraballo in six rounds. Jessie Magdaleno won by disqualification against Yenifel Vicente.
The fact remains that while some shows can go ahead, it’s unlikely we’re going to get legitimately big fights anytime soon. The financial infrastructure just isn’t there. That isn’t a slight on Top Rank, either – they’re making the best of an awful situation.
It was widely reported that Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua have agreed terms on a two-fight deal. I am very, very excited by that – but there are still a lot of hurdles that need clearing before we get those fights.
The 21-year-old is publicly dragging subscription service DAZN – who have aired his last four fights – through the mud because he was offered a measly $200,000 for his next fight.
“They promote me as one of the biggest names that they have got,” he said of DAZN. “I’m not feeling the extra love that they claim I’m getting shown. I’m one of their most viewed fighters. Guaranteed, top-three. I’m getting the views. I’m getting the clicks. More than anyone but Canelo [Alvarez] and [Anthony] Joshua. Where’s my love?”
We can’t verify that, but it seems like a stretch. Gennady Golovkin, for one, is a much bigger name who boxes on DAZN.
Garcia’s good-looking, has fast hands and millions of social media followers. His best win is a knockout of Francisco Fonseca. He’s clearly talented, but throwing his toys out of the pram over a six-figure purse is petulant at best.
Obviously fighters shouldn’t just lay down and accept whatever they’re offered, but nor should they turn their noses up at life-changing money, especially not in the early stages of their careers.
Later in the interview, Garcia referred to himself as “one of the biggest fighters in the world,” and in the incestuous feedback loop of Instagram that might seem true to him, but the reality is that he’s way off the mark.
This also speaks to the inflated purses DAZN have thrown at fighters, even when taking on lesser-known names. Now that everyone is wise to that, they want in on the action.
In contrast to this, former light-heavyweight champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk called time on his career at the age of 33 to pursue business opportunities in his native Ukraine. In his last fight, Gvozdyk suffered a stoppage loss to Artur Beterbiev in a unification clash, though his manager, Egis Klimas, insisted to ESPN that this had no bearing on his decision to retire.
It’s rare for a fighter to walk away from the sport when they appear to still have plenty to give, but Gvozdyk is an intelligent man who understands he can’t commit to his business needs while still boxing.
Carl Froch and Andre Ward – despite both now being retired – are still very much at odds with one another. On Sky Sports’ Toe 2 Toe podcast, Ward, who usually refrains from trash talk, said: “I might give him some ammunition. I’mma give him something to talk about over the next couple of weeks. I think he was an overachiever. I think he got hit too much. A lot of his big fights could have easily have gone the other way.”
On the same show, Froch said Ward was “absolutely spot on,” though didn’t shy away from digging Ward on his own Froch on Fighting podcast. He was joined by his old foe Mikkel Kessler, both of whom lost to Ward, and in a humorous tag-team performance slighted Ward – who Froch only referred to as “Son of God”, Ward’s in-ring moniker – at every opportunity.
Besides that, the pair also looked back on their two hellacious encounters. The bromance between them is real and allowed for a rich conversation.
Speaking to the Pep Talk podcast, Arum hinted that should Dillian Whyte try to force his mandated shot at Fury’s WBC title before Tyson fights Deontay Wilder or Joshua, the WBC may just make Fury ‘Franchise’ champion and let Whyte fight somebody else for the vacant title. That’s rough.