Sunday, March 26, 2023  |



Why is it so difficult to get big fights made?


Waiting for the bigger fights to get made these days is a lot like finding someone to bum a cigarette off: It takes a lot longer than it used to and when it finally happens, so much time has passed the anticipation has worn off.

Mayweather-Pacquiao didn’t happen and might not ever happen. It took forever to get Amir Khan-Marcos Maidana done. Paul Williams-Sergio Martinez reportedly is done, finally, though we’ll believe it when we see it.

Tim Bradley-Devon Alexander was on, then off, now maybe on again, and who the hell knows what’s going on with Andre Dirrell-Andre Ward.

Boxing is clearly in one of its down cycles and it sure would help if we could get a bunch of big fights made and done quickly to put the zing back in the game. Call it a boxing bail-out.

But the bail-out isn’t coming. Not quickly enough, anyway. It’s a fight just to put a decent fight together. What the heck is going on?

Industry insiders point to many things, none of them surprising: disharmony and an unwillingness among the game’s power brokers to work together for the good of the sport; an acute disloyalty bred by a shrinking economy; fighters who think they’re worth more than they are, and, as much as anything, business as usual in the fight game.

“There are promoters working against promoters; there are managers working against some promoters, managers working only with some promoters. And you have to blame the networks, too,” promoter Lou DiBella told

DiBella never has been shy about expressing his frustration with the fight game’s byzantine and unregulated business model. He sees a business being held back by favoritism, disloyalty and lack of vision.

“The industry is a completely unfair playing field but what nobody wants to pay attention to is we’re heading straight downhill,” DiBella said. “The majority of managers and fighters are not adjusting to the new marketplace. And it’s resulting in a tremendous amount of disloyalty.

“Also, right now, more than at any other time I’ve seen, promoters are trying to pilfer other promoters’ fighters and getting involved before a contract is up. That’s because desperation makes for bad behavior.”

DiBella specifically cited what he feels is special treatment afforded some promoters by the networks, and also the practice of certain promoters to keep all of their bigger fights in-house; that is, making matches between fighters under contract to the same promoter.

Many have made the case that both Top Rank and Golden Boy Promotions hurt the sport with this practice. Cameron Dunkin, who manages or co-manages Tim Bradley, Kelly Pavlik, Nonito Donaire, Sergio Mora and James Kirkland, among others, says he doesn’t blame any promoter for going in-house with big fights.

“If I’ve got Kelly Pavlik and he’s a draw, and he’s doing a $2.3 million gate in Atlantic City (N.J.), why should I be forced to fight Paul Williams, who doesn’t draw a $230 gate, and split the money?” Dunkin said. “So now you take a kid like that, and you do someone in-house that is willing to fight him, that doesn’t want everything, and just loves the opportunity but makes a nice payday and gets a shot at him but it’s in-house and it’s easy to do. I don’t blame Top Rank. I don’t blame Golden Boy. They’re easy fights to make.

“And you’ve got someone who comes in from the outside and has not built an attraction — Lou DiBella, Dan Goossen — who don’t have an A-side guy. They want to knock off your A-side guy but their guy can’t sell 20 tickets and they want half the money. Why would you want to waste your time? I know the fans want to see great fights and everything, but there’s another side to this.”

Dunkin said there’s nothing unusual about what we’re seeing now; it’s boxing as usual. The only difference between the game now and when he started in it 24 years ago is then you had three big promoters — Main Events, Top Rank and Don King. Today there are many more players in the game and that complicates things.

Mike Criscio, who manages Alfredo Angulo and prospect Chris Avalos, among others, says he has seen some changes in the six or seven years he’s been in the business and they involve fighters’ expectations.

“A lot of these kids don’t realize HBO and Showtime aren’t paying money they used to pay these guys,” Criscio said. “The fighters think there’s endless money out there and there’s not. They’ve cut back.”

This makes sense. Everything contracts in a struggling economy, including the fight game. Everyone holds onto as much as they can. These aren’t the days of unlimited spending. But Criscio said there’s something else at work too.

“Some of these guys say they’re going to fight but don’t really want to fight these guys, they want to fight another one or two fights before they fight that guy to see what happens,” Criscio said. “Some of these guys don’t really have the balls. I’ve seen a big change in the last six or seven years. Seven years ago there were guys coming out fighting everybody. It was easy to get the fights made I wanted. Now people are shying away.

“It’s not like it was few years ago when guys would say, ‘I’ll fight anyone put in front of me.'”

Some would cite as proof of this the fact Khan-Maidana didn’t get signed until after Maidana struggled with shopworn but tricky DeMarcus Corley in Argentina.

Dunkin said fighters are never the problem.

“I’ve managed well over 150 guys, and I’ve never had one fighter that was afraid of anything,” Dunkin said. “There might be a guy who’s more nervous than another guy, a little more edgy, but he still gets in there and fights his ass off. To me that’s not a coward or someone who’s afraid, or he wouldn’t be doing this s—.”

He cited the Bradley-Alexander fight as a case study of a situation in which fans might think one fighter is afraid of another when in reality business decisions rule the day.

“Do I want to see the fight? Yeah I want to see it happen!” Dunkin said. “But does Bradley want to sign a long-term deal with [promoter Gary Shaw] when he’s a few months away from being out of his contract? He’s willing to fight, he’s even willing to do a rematch with [Alexander] within such a time period, so there will be two fights. But he’s not going to re-sign a long-term agreement in order to fight him. He won’t, so (Shaw) pulls the fight from us. The fight doesn’t happen. That’s not Tim Bradley’s fault.”

Perhaps because his promotional company is not at the top of the food chain, DiBella sees the need for a top-down change for the entire industry.

“All of the entities together have to assess the marketplace and there has to be business rationality,” DiBella said. “And there has to be an even playing field. And there has to be a concept that there must be strategic moves that have to be made for the sport to have its big events that people care about. And that fights have to lead to fights. And that companies have to work together — if only for the sport to survive.”

But this is the way boxing works. Always has, more or less, always will. Be patient. Sooner or later, the big fights will come.

Some random observations from last week:

From all indications, fight writers are absolutely giddy at the prospect of Floyd Mayweather Jr. getting jail time for allegedly punching around his baby momma and making off with her iPhone. It’s become a favorite angle to calculate the number of years he might get if convicted on all 4,369 counts. The latest estimate is something like 148 consecutive life terms, though with good behavior he could get out a little sooner. That will teach him for not fighting Manny Pacquiao. ÔǪ

Saul Alvarez has to be wondering how much longer his red hair and freckles will be the crutch on which lazy media types lean their tired leads. Based on how long we talked about Kassim Ouma’s upbringing and David Reid’s droopy eyelid, I’d say it’s not ending anytime soon. Get used to it, Opie. ÔǪ

I don’t know whether I underestimated Daniel Ponce de Leon or over-estimated Antonio Escalante, but I’m pretty sure one of Escalante’s molars landed in my backyard Saturday night. ÔǪ

Vivian Harris never did have the greatest jaw in the world, but he’s apparently made a career decision that mandates that he flop to the canvas whenever he is touched on or around the chin. I’m no expert, but I’m thinking that might be an impediment to achieving his long-range goals in this business. …

Jim Lampley, Larry Merchant and Harold Lederman must have decided in the opening moments of Saturday night’s main event, or maybe even before, that they detest Sergio Mora at least as much as they adore Shane Mosley, and went from there.

There’s no other way to explain their entirely one-sided call of the fight on the PPV broadcast. For what it’s worth, I scored the fight 115-114 for Mosley, but a draw or a one or two-point win for Mora is perfectly reasonable and not the atrocity our friends at HBO saw.

Lampley and Merchant have been the best in the business for a good long while. It is an understatement to say this was not their best night.

Bill Dettloff, THE RING magazine’s Senior Writer, is working on a biography of Ezzard Charles. Bill can be contacted at [email protected]