Mailbag: Boxing’s real problem
There is more boxing on television than ever before.
Yeah, your father or grandfather may have told you about the time when Friday Night Fights was the hottest show on television and how he watched Muhammad Ali in prime time just about every outing.
Regardless of what you have heard, though, don’t be deceived. If you are a boxing fan, you’ve reached the promised land. There is significantly more televised boxing content today than there ever has been in the sport’s history.
The issue confronting fans now is finding it and knowing why the fight is worth watching.
Boxing’s problem, if it has one, isn’t a television problem. There are plenty of fights – good fights – on television.
It’s a promoting problem. There is a far greater lack of quality promoters than there is quality fights on television.
The sport simply isn’t promoted properly. It’s not marketed. With very few exceptions, there are no long-range plans. And so, if you are a promoting a televised fight, or even a series of televised fights, they’re being consumed largely by the fans you’ve already won.
That is no more than preaching to the converted.
The word has to be spread to those who don’t know how exciting boxing can be, who haven’t been boxing fans, who aren’t desperate to know whether Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao will ever fight.
Major League Baseball drew an average of more than 30,000 fans a game in more than 2,400 home dates in 2011. The MLB teams have multimillion dollar local, regional and national television contacts. They get widespread free media coverage.
And yet, they relentlessly market and promote their product. They have season ticket sales people who are pushing packages. They have group ticket sales departments. They have individual ticket sales departments. They have a significant web presence which is updated daily, including during the offseason, and sometimes multiple times a day.
The teams work with the commissioner’s office to promote its players. They hold conference calls with stars, take great pains to spotlight up-and-coming players and have strict rules regarding cooperation with the media.
None of that exists in boxing. Top Rank and Golden Boy stand heads and shoulders above all other promoters in the U.S., and, likely, the world, and they do by far the best job in that regard.
What most boxing promoters do, though, pales in comparison to what is done in other professional sports. And that’s who they’re competing against.
On Jan. 21 on the NBC Sports Network (known as Versus until Jan. 2), promoter Main Events will promote a quarterly series of boxing shows that it promises will feature competitive bouts against evenly matched fighters.
It may turn out to be the greatest series in the history of boxing, but if it is not marketed, promoted and pushed relentlessly, it will be just like all the hundreds of hours of other televised boxing that is available, viewed only by a small but incredibly passionate base.
There is not a lack of good boxers around today. There isn’t a lack of good fights being made. There isn’t a lack of intriguing stories to be told.
But there is a nearly deadly lack of quality promoters.
That, more than anything, is boxing’s problem.
Fix that and you fix boxing.
• Hopefully, someone thought to give judges John Stewart and Craig Metcalfe postfight drug tests after the ridiculous scorecards they turned in following the Andre Ward-Carl Froch fight Saturday in the Super Six finale in Atlantic City, N.J. Their judgment was clearly affected by something. At least they had Ward winning the fight, but 115-113? That made it sound like a nail biter, which it most definitely was not. Judge John Keane’s 118-110 score was much closer to reality.
• Ward should fight Lucian Bute in his first post-Super Six bout and stop the nonsense of critiquing Bute’s opponent. It would be a huge fight in Montreal, where it would probably draw a sellout at the Bell Centre, and it would be a fight that would get a lot of eyeballs in the U.S. Memo to Andre: Don’t tarnish the great work you did in winning the tournament by trying to dictate opponents once it’s over.
• After Bute, Ward doesn’t have a lot of great opponents unless you’re a big fan of rematches. There is no one other than Bute who is remotely interesting in the super middleweight division for Ward now. Promoter Dan Goossen has his work cut out making this guy a drawing card. Ward is a terrific fighter who can’t sell tickets. Less than 5,000 paid to see the finale Saturday in Atlantic City.
• Can someone explain why every time Gary Russell Jr. gets added to a television card, it’s always announced as a TBA? These TV executives will apparently never learn. Nobody wants to see highly talented guys beating up on hobos, which is what Russell has been doing. You’re a wonderfully gifted boxer, Gary, but call me when you fight someone with a pulse.
• I’m really excited to see the rematch on Feb. 11 between Victor Ortiz and Andre Berto. I just don’t think the fight will do well in Las Vegas, however. Neither Berto nor Ortiz has a natural fan base in Las Vegas and ticket sales in Las Vegas have been dreadful for shows that don’t include either Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather Jr.
What do you think of Manny Pacquiao asking to fight Juan Manuel Marquez again instead of opting to meet Floyd Mayweather? I think fans have had enough of seeing Pacquiao and Marquez fight and get the same results. Pacquiao always say in his interviews, “I will do it for the fans.” If he really wants to please boxing fans, he should be fighting Mayweather and not fighters pinpointed by Arum for him to fight. What is there to prove if he fights Marquez again? Nothing will be proven and boxing fans will not be satisfied unless he fights Mayweather.
I agree with you wholeheartedly, though I don’t put much stock in what fighters may be saying now. He told the Manila Bulletin on Saturday he’d give Mayweather the larger share of the revenue as a way of trying to make the fight happen. It’s long past time for them to fight. We’re all sick of the issues and the bickering between the sides. It’s time for everyone on all sides to sit down, shut up and hammer out a deal. But you just know that’s not going to happen.
Your proposal that a tournament like the Super Six should in the future be an eight-man, single-elimination tournament is stupid to say the least for many reasons. Remember the triangle effect: In boxing, just because A beats B and B beats C, that doesn’t mean A beats C. How is it decided which boxer fights which? Hypothetically, the second-best fighter could be knocked out in the first-round of the tournament. It would be implied that the fighter who reached the final was the second-best in the division, when this may not be the case.
Burns, never did I say that just because A beats B and B beats C means that A beats C. I get that. That said, the Super Six dragged on for 30 months and lost most of its fan base because of it. No one could follow what was up or knew what round the fighters were in. In a single-elimination field, you seed the fighters from one to eight and the way it comes out is the way it comes out. But it will be much more compelling because the fans can easily follow the format and anticipate the matchups. The round robin that only eliminates two people after three fights in a six-man field is confusing and doesn’t work, as demonstrated by the Super Six. There was next-to-nobody in Boardwalk Hall on Saturday and I’m willing to bet the vast majority of those were comped.
Sergio Martinez has been whining about being unable to find a big fight, so I think he should move up to challenge Andre Ward. I think it would be a fascinating bout between two excellent fighters. I’m sure I’m not the first one who has thought of making this fight. Why haven’t I heard more about it?
I’d be in favor of seeing the fight as well, but I’m afraid it will get caught up in the quibbling over little issues. Martinez isn’t a big middleweight and said the highest he could probably fight would be 164. That would be fine, but he’d almost certainly demand that Ward come in less than the super middleweight limit of 168. It would be a terrific match, but I wouldn’t count on seeing it.
“I had a supernatural run through the Olympics and me coming out on top in (the Super Six tournament) was supernatural as well. I came in here as a young puppy and got the job done. I felt good. It was a tough fight, a strong fight, but we were able to beat him to the punch and that’s what won us the fight.” – Andre Ward, after defeating Carl Froch on Saturday to win the Super Six World Boxing Classic.
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