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Dougie’s Friday Mailbag (boxing vs. UFC in the pandemic, the best active heavyweights by category)

17
Jul

BOXING IN THE COVID-19 AGE

Hello Dougie,

Longtime, haven’t written because I really had nothing to say, until today.

I’ve been thinking about the state of boxing and how Covid 19 (like everything else) is affecting not only today’s boxing but the history of the sport as a whole.  A lot of these boxers, specially all of the ones choosing not to fight at all are losing almost a year or two of their prime,  which is really reminiscent of WWII times when a lot of guys had to leave to represent their countries in war. My main problem with this is that most of these fighters could actually fight and are choosing not to because there’s not enough money.



I know the UFC is a totally different world and works totally different, but still, I can’t help but see a lot of its stars showing up on our TV’s fighting and keeping themselves active. This keeps fans engaged and interested. I’m a huge boxing fan and been a fan for years, but man, I really can’t sit through these Top Rank ESPN shows. I just can’t. I need to see better fights, or at least better fighters.  Yeah, I’ll watch a fight or two, but it’s just depressing to see all these guys complaining (yes you King Ryan) or talking bs (yes you Devon “email champ” Haney) without getting in the ring to prove it. Trust me, these guys will regret it later, there’s a huge opportunity waiting for them right now that no other sports is on TV. UFC is taking advantage of this and these dumb dudes are not. I’m just sick of it.

Man, if I listen to another boxing podcast talking about classic fights, mythical fights, what ifs, rumors, gossip, I might die right there. I need to talk about actual real fights featuring real champs, come on guys, wake up!

Thanks Doug, sorry for the rant, but I’m just so fed up with these dudes talking all sort of crap on Twitter and their flashy Instagram posts instead of doing it in the ring where they’re supposed to belong. – Juan Valverde

The Bubble

I hear ya, Juan, but we’ve all got to be patient. Boxing just returned last month, and it did so with a limited budget and limited pool of fighters to pull from because of the lack of proper training and travel restrictions facing many fighters due to the pandemic. On top of those challenges, Top Rank has had to learn to promote shows in a quarantine “bubble” while dealing with the COVID-19 testing protocols, which worked but also caused fights to be postponed (sometimes more than once in the case of poor Jamel Herring’s WBO 130-pound title defense). And there’s been some bad luck with injuries scuttling good, world-class matchups (Ivan Baranchyk vs. Jose Zepeda and Eleider Alvarez vs. Joe Smith Jr.), hopefully these bouts can be rescheduled (I think Alvarez-Smith will be, not so sure about Baranchyk-Zepeda).  

Many major commissions did not allow boxing to be scheduled until this month and August, so the quality fights are going to eventually trickle in, but we’ve got a few on the schedule now. I like Oscar Valdez vs. Jayson Velez, Julio Cesar Martinez vs. McWilliams Arroyo, Jorge Linares vs. Javier Fortuna and Dillian Whyte vs. Alexander Povetkin.

A lot of these boxers, specially all of the ones choosing not to fight at all are losing almost a year or two of their prime, which is really reminiscent of WWII times when a lot of guys had to leave to represent their countries in war. Well, we’re not dealing with a world war, but we are living through a worldwide pandemic, which has resulted in at least half a million lives lost and millions of jobs lost. If there are some boxers who would rather sit out until the COVID-19 risk is at a minimum (or there’s a vaccine for it) or wish to wait until fans can go back to supporting live shows en mass, that’s their prerogative. It’s their careers. If they’re in a financial place to be able to chill at home for several months or even a full year or more, God Bless them and their families. I’m sure there more pro fighters who aren’t in that comfortable position, who will be chomping at the bit to return to the ring if and when the fall schedule fills out.

My main problem with this is that most of these fighters could actually fight and are choosing not to because there’s not enough money. I don’t think that’s true, Juan. I think a lot of fighters who want to get back in the ring are on hold because there aren’t enough cards back on the schedule yet. The only major U.S. promoter putting on shows right now is Top Rank. Golden Boy gets back into it next Friday with Vergil Ortiz Jr-Samuel Vargas. Frank Warren got back in action last week with domestic-level fights in England and Eddie Hearn’s summer series will kick off on August 1, followed by Matchroom USA’s return on August 15 (with the Martinez-Arroyo/Braekhus-McCaskill doubleheaders in Oklahoma). The PBC returns to FOX on August 8. On the smaller scale, Thompson Boxing Promotions returns with a PPV stream on July 26 and Tuto Zabala’s All Star Boxing series on Telemundo returns August 14. Those are limited slots on just a handful of cards (and, of course, most platforms these days are exclusive to one or two promoters).

I know the UFC is a totally different world and works totally different, but still, I can’t help but see a lot of its stars showing up on our TV’s fighting and keeping themselves active. UFC is a league and it’s run by a strong-willed boss. Dana White was/is determined to deliver big cards during the pandemic and when he says “fight,” most of the MMA organization’s athletes say “when?”

Joshua Franco vs. Andrew Moloney was a darn good fight. Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank

This keeps fans engaged and interested. I’m a huge boxing fan and been a fan for years, but man, I really can’t sit through these Top Rank ESPN shows. I just can’t. I need to see better fights, or at least better fighters. I think there have been some good fights, but I hear ya, it’s generally not must-see TV. My main gripe is that the shows are too long, with too many promotional segments and too many commentators. It’s just too much production and promgramming for the level of fights they’re showcasing (and to be clear, I think all of ESPN’s broadcasters are top-notch, and I’m just fine with preliminary/developmental bouts – provided the matchups are solid – I just don’t think we need five or six broadcasters for these shows).

Yeah, I’ll watch a fight or two, but it’s just depressing to see all these guys complaining (yes you King Ryan) or talking bs (yes you Devon “email champ” Haney) without getting in the ring to prove it. OK, you’ve Garcia sitting out until his promoter or platform coughs up more money. You’ve got Canelo Alvarez’s prospective opponents expecting eight-figure paydays and either pricing themselves out of an opportunity of a lifetime or declaring that they need 10-12 weeks to be ready. You’ve got Demetrius Andrade, of all people, saying he won’t take a pay cut, but Canelo, Gennadiy Golovkin and Anthony Joshua should fight for reduced purses (which is hilarious). And Haney is talking mad s__t (which I can forgive because he’s young and on the shelf due to his shoulder surgery recovery and he’s probably going as bonkers as you’re going with all this non-boxing boredom). But you know what? I think most pros want to fight and can’t wait to get back into the ring.

Trust me, these guys will regret it later, there’s a huge opportunity waiting for them right now that no other sports is on TV. Time will tell if anyone will regret their choices during these strange times, but I think the sport as a whole will start to feel like it’s returning to some semblance of normal by the end of August.

UFC is taking advantage of this and these dumb dudes are not. I’m just sick of it. OK, clam down.

 

BOXING VS. MMA DURING THE PANDEMIC

I love my fellow boxing fan, really I do… but sometimes they ignore how the ills of boxing that they view with absolute contempt are actually directly related to their own behavior, bad and good. Many boxing fans have complained about “quality” of COVID boxing in comparison to the UFC, whose show from this past weekend was headlined by Jorge Masvidal (I’ll call him an MMA’s Shawn Porter) taking a short notice fight versus Welterweight champ Kamaru Usman (MMA’s Errol Spence). This is being cited as proof of boxing’s flaws and Dana White is better than Bob Arum and MMA fighters are “braver” than boxers.

The boxing consumer (fan) remains very unforgiving of losses. Networks, promoters, managers, and fighters are not blind to the consumer base. Which means Errol Spence is not going to rush back under less than ideal circumstances, where he might be less than 100% because he can’t have his full usual camp, and Shawn Porter isn’t going to step in on two weeks notice with no camp, cutting 20 lbs so he’s only live for 4 rounds, because the boxing audience will severely punish the loser.

Check out Keith Thurman’s social media mentions this week: The guy is just trying to keep his name out there, playing matchmaker and he’s getting absolutely hammered as a joke. The former champ who in a 2 year run beat Robert Guerrero, Luis Collazo, Danny Garcia, Shawn Porter…is now a source of mockery because he lost one fight. “Whataboutism” is always the response: “What about when Keith fans mocked Brook for losing”, “What about when Wilder fans mocked AJ for losing”, etc, etc…a circular firing squad that informs every network, promoter, manager, and fighter. Floyd did not value his “0” without cause….it was $$$$.

The boxing consumer was outraged over the practices of Don King: Publicly announcing a purse for $10 million, while bilking the fighters with “fees” and then when the $5 million leftover is slow to arrive, offering the fighter $100k in cash and a car to settle…and any fighter under contract who balked was left to whither on the vine, while King would say he was demanding too much and didn’t want to fight. The Muhammad Ali Act cleaned much of this up and the fighter became a promoter’s equal as financial transparency became the norm, a wall was erected between manager and promoter, etc

Dana White is Don King. MMA fighters are paid a pittance in relation to revenue. The PBC guys were on social media mocking the payouts for those who have been on ESPN…and those numbers are why they’ve stayed at home because they know the business of their sport. There is transparency and they know their cut of ticket-revenue and without it, the risk outweighs the reward. To go back to this past weekend, if Usman and Masvidal are paid the same (small) purse with or without fans because ticket money goes to the UFC, why wouldn’t they fight? MMA fighters are still not covered by the Ali Act and in so many ways are abused financially no different than how King treated Tim Witherspoon. Just look at those on the outs with Dana while under contract. He is merciless in bashing them.

Arum, Al, Oscar are “partners” with boxers…not their feudal lord like Dana…and we wanted that as fans. We wanted fighters protected and now that they’re empowered, we’re outraged that they don’t behave as the indentured servants they once were…that’s crazy, but it ties to the bigger picture and I’d love to read your thoughts: If we as the consumer vowed to stop punishing losing, then the financial fallout would cease being so severe, which would make fighters more apt to take risk, whether it’s a less-than-100% pandemic fight for less money or taking on tougher opponents during normal times. Are we not to blame for many (if not most) of the very ills we bemoan? – Mark

I’m not going to write too much in response to your question, Mark, because let’s face it, your 655-word dissertation took up a lot of Mailbag space and you were very detailed with your points, but you’re not wrong. A lot of fans, especially those introduced to boxing during the late 1990s/early 2000s, wanted fighters to have more agency within the sport, and now that world-class boxers (and even promising up-and-comers) are able to minimize their risks (through matchmaking control and fewer fights) and demand what they believe is their market value in payment, some of those same fans that cried for the Tim Witherspoons of the sport are frustrated and outraged by the lack of action and cavalier attitudes of some high-profile “prima-donnas” (see the previous email).

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I don’t follow MMA, it’s just not my cup of tea, but I humbly recognize one area where the younger combat sport (and its fans) are FAR superior to boxing (and its fans) – its tolerance for losses. If the matchup is quality and the fight is competitive and entertaining, there should be no shame in somebody losing the bout. That’s how it used to be in boxing, and the sport was more mainstream in those days. However, apart from a few exceptions, the standout boxers of those past eras weren’t paid what they were worth and did not have a fraction of the control that today’s top fighters wield.

I’d also like to add that I totally ignore MMA/UFC fans that rip on boxing and I have no time for boxing hardcores who have raging hard-ons for MMA/UFC. That s__t was stupid and pointless 15 years ago. It’s just pitiful now.

 

MYTHICAL MATCHUPS

Dougie,

Hope you are doing fine. I have a couple of match-ups that need your opinion. Hagler vs Michael Spinks at 168. Also Spinks vs Holyfield. I think

Spinks scores against Dwight Muhammad Qawi (who was about as tall — or short — as Marvin Hagler and every bit as tenacious. Spinks won a UD and unified 175-pound titles in 1983.

Spinks wins at LH and cruiser weight, but loses to a prime Evander at HW.

Take care. – Bill from Canada, love the mailbag

Thank you, Bill. If Spinks could make 168 pounds without draining himself (and I think he could do it with a previous-day weigh-in – his first six pro bouts were under 170 pounds), I believe he could outpoint Hagler over 12 or 15 rounds by UD in a competitive but not terribly exciting fight.  I think Spinks outpoints Holyfield by close but unanimous decision at 175 pounds, but The Real Deal soundly defeats The Jinx at 190 pounds and at heavyweight in entertaining distance bouts.

 

BEST-OF CATEGORIES: ACTIVE HEAVYWEIGHTS

Hi Dougie,

Hope you and your family are staying healthy and spending an interesting time during this unique lockdown days.

As now have become popular Best I Faced Series I accepted the challenge to do it on active heavyweights the way you prompted the readers to do – to fill out that categories themselves and asking your choices in more specific/creative categories.

So my picks:

Best jab – Anthony Joshua

Best handspeed – Joseph Parker or Tyson Fury (Sorry, but I can’t consider Usyk a true heavyweight unless he steps in ring with some real heavyweight)

Best footwork – Tyson Fury

Smartest – Tyson Fury

Strongest – Anthony Joshua

Best chin – Joseph Parker or Alexander Povetkin

Best puncher – Deontay Wilder

Best boxing skills – Tyson Fury (Honorable mentions – Alex Povetkin, Luis Ortiz)

Best overall – Tyson Fury

And asking you to fill out the rest categories you mentioned and of course to correct and edit my picks if you find it necessary.

Best technician

Best ring generalship

Most natural talent

Best timing

Best combination puncher

Best body puncher

Craftiest/Most Cagey

Dirtiest

Most awkward/unorthodox

Regards. – Roberto from Mexico

I can’t really argue too much with your choices for the general categories, Roberto, but I can see Andy Ruiz Jr. challenging Parker for “Fastest hands” and “Best chin.” And since I DO consider Usyk to be a real heavyweight, he’s got my nod for “Best footwork.”

Best technician – Joshua

Best ring generalship – Fury

Most natural talent – Ruiz

Best timing – Fury

Best combination puncher – Luis Ortiz

Best body puncher – Michael Hunter (none of the top heavyweights go to the body as much as they should, maybe Hunter and Usyk will help bring the cruiserweight workrate and body punching to the glamor division)

Ring Magazine/WBC champ Tyson Fury. Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank

Craftiest/Most Cagey – Fury

Dirtiest – Deontay Wilder (I don’t think he’s dirty on purpose, he’s just so wound up and emotional, and so wild with his technique, that he can’t help whacking guys on top of or in the back of their heads once he’s stunned them with legit power punchers)

Most awkward/unorthodox – Once again, it’s The Gypsy King. (Wilder is also successfully awkward and unorthodox, but Fury’s got more wrinkles to his game… that’s why he’s The Ring champ!)

 

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