The Boxing Esq. Podcast, Ep. 26: Boxing writer and editor Cliff Rold
The Ring is proud to present “The Boxing Esq. Podcast with Kurt Emhoff”. Emhoff, an attorney based in New York City, is a top boxing manager who has represented over 10 world titleholders in his 20-plus years in the sport.
His guest on this podcast is Cliff Rold, boxing writer and managing editor for BoxingScene.com. Cliff is also a founding member of the media-run independent ratings organization the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board (TBRB). They spoke about Cliff’s journey in the sport from watching fights with his grandparents to writing for RingTalk, CyberBoxingZone and Boxing Scene. They also talked about the art of rating fighters and the goals and impact of the TBRB.
Additionally, they got into the state of the game, the Heavyweights and what should be the importance of the World Boxing Super Series.
Below are a few excerpts from the interview:
On his goals in helping form the TBRB:
“I think everybody’s goals are different. Mine, I’ve always been kind of straight forward about. I wanted, as best as possible, to get a crew of people together so that we can take a look at the moments when there isn’t a clear world champion and you can sort of identify the new lineage that is emerging as best as possible. So that fans can look into it at any given time and look at a place where, and this is big for all of us, at the end of the day, if you’re going to rank fighters one through 10, then one and two should mean something, right? So we’re a one-two organization when the titles are vacant. And we don’t always come out with the same results everyone else does. So it doesn’t always mean that it’s universal or that we reflect any sort of universal restart of the lineage or anything. But as best as possible, if there’s a place where you can protect that lineage and you can just be sort of a standard that people can look to over a period time, that was good enough for me.
“I don’t care to make any money off of it. I’m not interested in sort of being a big promoter of it. I just wanted it to be sort of a rock thing that people could look at and say, hey, you know, week after week, they provide you their input into who they think the 10 best in each of boxing’s 17 weight divisions are. And they give an honest take on it – and that’s that.”
On the art of rating fighters and the criteria he uses:
“In a perfect world, you wouldn’t need the eye test, right? Like everybody would be fighting everybody so frequently that you’d have a pretty good pool size to look at. It’s not really like that. I mean, once you get past a certain level in the sport, even into the top ten. So it used to be like in the last 40 years we’ve seen champion slow down their schedule. But everybody else might find a little bit more often than that. It’s not like that anymore. So, you know, even regular fighters before they get to a title, they sort of slowed down to maybe three to four fights a year. Two to three sometimes, right as they’re hitting the title area. So really, I mean, once you’re talking about rating fighters, you really want to be looking at results as much as possible.
“And then activity level also matters. So if you haven’t fought in over a year, does that matter? Do you have a fight signed or are you just sitting out waiting for a big payday. But really who have you beaten? And who have you beaten in your last five or so fights, right? ‘Cause that can cover two and a half years of a fighter’s career. And it’s easy when you’re getting to guys like Floyd Mayweather, right? Like Floyd didn’t lose ever. So it was always easy to kind of have him around the number-one spot. But sometimes you have to make other calls.
“Think about welterweight right now. So how hard is it really to rate welterweight? You have two guys that everybody sort of thinks are the best guys in the division.
“So you’ve got Errol Spence and Terence Crawford. That’s sort of the fight everybody would like to see. And when I say everybody – that’s a soft everybody. I mean there’s plenty of other fights people would like to see, but that’s the big one in a lot of people’s head right now. How do you figure out who to rate there, right? Well you could take a look at the top 10 welterweights and who beat more of them. So Kell Brook has beaten a couple of guys who were rated. Terence Crawford really hasn’t been in the division yet. He’s beaten Jeff Horn who was rated after the Pacquiao fight, but that was kind of a soft top 10 spot for Jeff Horn. A lot of people didn’t think he won that fight. Errol Spence beat a guy in Kell Brook who had been rated in the upper echelon of the top 10 – number one in some places for a couple of years.
“I mean if you’re picking between the two of them, you go with the guy who’s got the better wins at welterweight right now. But then what do you do if you’ve got to weigh Keith Thurman against those two guys? Because Keith Thurman has wins against Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia. So he’s got maybe more quality wins in the division than a Crawford or a Spence. So where would you rate him? Especially considering he didn’t fight for like a year and a half. So does that cost him his spot? He’s like most of the ratings that are out there, whether it’s ours or The Ring’s or anybody, they all seem to have Keith Thurman slipping behind those guys. But ultimately it doesn’t matter because you know those are probably your top three and all three of those guys are in your top five at least. And ultimately you would hope most of them will fight, at least on the PBC side I think we’ll see most of the fights that are available to that crew of guys.
“And as far as the eye test goes in a divisional race, you really shouldn’t need too much eye test, right? Like you should have enough resume that you can do that. Do I think people eyeball sometimes? Yeah. Do I think they always have, even in quote unquote independent ratings? Of course they have. Right? Like, sometimes you’re trying to make a decision based on a smaller pool of evidence and you expect that evidence to grow and that happens. Sometimes that’s tough here. I mean, again, with lower activity fighters in a lower activity era it can be hard to get the resume going. But I think you should save your eye test more for stuff like pound for pound ratings, if you’re going to employ it at all. But I think resumes should always be the first thing that you’re looking at in rating a fighter in the division.”
On the traction and influence of the TBRB:
“I don’t know how much [influence] we have, it’s hard to gauge that sort of thing. Every once in a while, you’ll hear somebody gave us a good shout out. There’s lots of people that you’ll read and some of the press areas that will take a look at where we have fighters ranked. That’s good enough for me. I never felt like personally that it was super important that everybody glom on to us right away. I think what is important is after seven years, we’re still there. We’re still doing this every week. You’ve still got a bunch of people who love boxing and get together, um, you know get that meeting of the minds going to discuss where fighter x and y should go. And we provide that to the public. And I think we do a good job with it and we’re consistent. If people can use that to help them figure out what they think or give them a good idea of who the best fighters in each division are, then I think we’ve done more than enough. ”
On how important the World Boxing Super Series is:
“I think it’s great. And I mean, you look at bantamweight right now, they got all that talent there. I mean – the possibilities in the right division. You’re not going to probably be able to pull off a World Boxing Super Series at middleweight or welterweight or heavyweight, right. Those are glamour divisions and they process differently. And often you don’t need a World Boxing Super Series there. I mean, there aren’t very many generations where welterweight doesn’t shake out and provide the matchups that you’re looking for. I mean Pacquiao and Mayweather, I think the long wait for that got in a lot of people’s heads in terms of viewers and fans and pundits. But for the most part, that’s not how it works. Right? Like the generational fights tend to happen at middleweight and welterweight. The divisions where you haven’t seen that enough are divisions like bantamweight where we went a generation I think almost without a unification fight at bantamweight. Flyweight didn’t have a unification fight for almost 40 years until Brian Viloria fought Tyson Marquez back in 2012. Things like the World Boxing Super Series give an opportunity for those types of divisions to have some real action and to get some clarity to the generation and to give you an idea of who the best fighters in those times are.
“To think about how many fights we didn’t get to see at Bantamweight over the years. I mean we never saw Timmy Austin or Rafael Marquez fight Veeraphol Sahaprom or Hozumi Hasegawa or any of those kinds of fights. We got a small window of that when (Fernando) Montiel and (Nonito) Donaire and some of those guys fought each other. But that was like the first time in what, 20-30 years where you’ve seen a real clarity in that division and World Boxing Super Series allows for that to happen in some divisions that don’t always get it. So that’s great.”
On boxing so far in 2019:
“Off to a slow start. It’s getting better. But it got off to a slow start. How could it not? I mean, think about what we got in let’s say the last third of 2018. DAZN launched and so you’ve got a bunch of those World Boxing Super Series fights. You got Usyk against Tony Bellew, which felt like a big event. You got Joshua and Povetkin. You got Canelo’s debut even though it was against a guy you know who he was not going to lose to (Rocky Fielding). But it was still an event because it’s Canelo at the Garden, right? So you had all of that going on. You had Fury and Wilder on Showtime, which was really just compelling stuff and well built. And they had a pretty strong last third of the year. ESPN debuts. They get into the game (with) the Top Rank deal happening last year. You had the end of HBO Boxing. You have Canelo and Golovkin II. So there was all of that in the last four months of 2018. That’s a hard act to follow in the next four months after that.
“So we’ve had some really good fights. Jarrett Hurd and Julian Williams with just a gem. What a great show they put on. Last weekend you had the Jamel Harring fight. Great story. You’ve had some good action fights in multiple divisions. But I think April, May, we’ve really seen sort of the year get better. So if you’re a hardcore fan, you had “Gallo” Estrada in the rematch with Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. You’ve had the World Boxing Super Series stuff. If you’re just a general fan of boxing – you had Canelo and Jacobs, which a lot of people didn’t like that, but I thought it was pretty good. So I’m fine with that. You had Deontay Wilder with another highlight reel knockout. He just – punchers like him don’t come along every day. So you just enjoy it when he’s in the ring.
“I think things have gotten better. We’ve had a couple of busy weeks. Joshua is coming to the Garden in a couple of weeks. So it’s getting better. But I mean it’s hard.”
On the top heavyweights not fighting each other in 2019:
“I’m a pretty optimistic guy. But yeah, from just a viewing perspective, it sucks. Nobody wants to see these fights not happen. We’d like to see them happen more than once. That said, we did just see Wilder-Fury. I mean it was less than six months ago. So you know, it’s not like we haven’t seen any of these fights. So we saw Fury and Joshua fight Klitschko. We have seen Wilder just last year fight Luis Ortiz and Tyson Fury. I think what should be reasonable in the next few years. Right. This is in my head. Fans should expect to see one combination of these three guys per year until that rotation has worn itself out. At the very least, you should be able to see that. And I think that’s what could be ultimately very disappointing about 2019 is I don’t think we’re likely to see any combination of Fury, Joshua and Wilder. I hope I’m wrong. It just doesn’t look like we’re going that way. So that would be disappointing. But as far as do I think it’s terrible that they’re not fighting right now? Yes. But you know, at the very least we should hope to see one combination of the three this year and we’re not going to likely,”
What fans can take solace in – even without the big heavyweight fights this year:
“Here’s the other thing I think fans can keep in mind. So if you’re getting frustrated that you’re not seeing the fight that you want at heavyweight, fans should pay attention to where the clusters are in boxing right now. So boxing, the way it’s set up with the DAZN sort of lane and the PBC lane and the Top Rank/ESPN lane, pay attention to who has big real estate and in what divisions. You saw a couple of weeks ago, ESPN started talking about what could be possible for them to do at light heavyweight and they should. Because they have a huge chunk of that division and so that can be their quality control. They can put on some main events that people aren’t crazy about. But light heavyweight can be that source of quality for them. DAZN has these World Boxing Super Series tournaments. PBC has welterweight and junior middleweight. If fans are paying attention, they’ll know where they can find the best possible action available in 2019/2020/2021 based on who has what and how much in certain divisions. That’s where boxing will be at its best in the coming years. And then at a place like heavyweight, you’ll have a lot of finger crossing and teeth gnashing and you know, three very distinct tracks until one of those guys loses or some belts start moving around.”