Me and Craig Smith spoke about all this weeks big boxing news including Fury/Wilder off, BJS World title farce and review last weeks action .
iTunes podcast listen here (please leave a review on ITunes)
Hope is a dangerous thing. We hear all the time from a political class who promise us the world and time after time they fail to deliver but we still choose to continuously self harm with hope because there is no alternative. Boxing is now a place where hope is not a desirable trait.
Back in December the world was treated to one of the best Heavyweight fights in years when Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder locked horns in the ring for the WBC Heavyweight Crown. The fight ended in a draw but it far exceeded the expectations of most fight fans beforehand. Since then boxing fans have been left wanting to see it all over again, living in hope that this would be one of the few times common sense would prevail in boxing. News broke this week that dashed all of our hopes not only of seeing this rematch but there is now a very strong chance that the top three fighters in the division will not meet in the ring for the foreseeable future.
The Heavyweight landscape is already a minefield of party allegiances but with the latest news that Tyson Fury has now nailed his colours to the ESPN/Top Rank mast in a big money multi fight deal, it has made an already complicated situation ……Well all the more complicated. This is not due to the fighters themselves but the money men and powerhouse platforms behind them.As i sit here writing this I still live in hope. I hope ESPN and Showtime pull together for the good of the sport. I hope Bob Arum and Al Haymon can now finally bury their hatchet and work together to bring fans another great night of Heavyweightboxing. I hope that Eddie Hearn, Al Haymon and Bob Arum do what’s right and leave the path open for their respective fighters to finally get in the ring and fight it out and see who is No1 in the division, after all that what all boxing fans want. The sad reality is that what boxing fans want and what boxing fans get is two very different things, we are now further away from any of these big fights happening than we ever have been.
Like most of you reading this I am from working class stock. I was brought up in a rough housing scheme (council estate) in the poverty stricken town of Paisley. Like most working class families I had it installed in me at an early age that you need to work hard to get anywhere in life, to avoid the temptations that are everywhere which can so easily derail persons journey through. In every town, in every City, in every country around the world their are people just trying to get ahead in life. Now as we all know chasing the dream is an endless, thankless task, which usually see’s our dreams diminish. As we get older we move the goal posts closer, we let the world beat a sense of realism into us and as the Richard Ashcroft say’s “Your a slave to the money then you die”. To escape the mundane regimented routine of life we turn to sports. As children this is where so many of our outlandish dreams begin and stay with us throughout our lives. We become emotionally invested in sport, we feel like our team/player is an extension of ourselves, we literally get our enjoyment seeing other people live out their dreams, or tales that is what i thought a fans job was.
Boxing is a very unique sport in the way that fights are made. Unlike most other sports boxing doesn’t have a seasonal structure, the sport does not live by anyones schedule. There is no one figure head of the sport, there is no god. We put our faith in promoters and managers to put on the best fights, the fights the fans want to see but all too often we are being let down badly, and better still their are some who applaud it.
The past week has felt a little bit like Groundhog Day as we found out Team Fury had knocked back a derisory offer from Eddie Hearn to make the biggest fight in boxing Fury vs Joshua, a story that is becoming all too familiar when talking bout Hearn. Fury and his team have demanded a 50/50 split which once again has split fans down the middle but I for one am not falling into these murky waters again. I don’t think it is outrageous to suggest that Fury/Joshua will be the highest grossing fight in British boxing history. The fan fair and media frenzy in the build up to this fight would be like nothing we have ever seen before, it would break all UK PPV records, it would pack out 90,000 inside Wembley and with both having such big followings the atmosphere in the arena would be unique. Every major brand in the world would want its logo attached somewhere to this fight. Just thinking of how much money this fight will generate really does make the mind boggle. With all this in mind am I the only one that finds absurd that this fight is not happening due to a dispute over money.
All too often I see on social media boxing fans argue over who deserves what. I see tweets daily by fans who are all too happy that fights have not been made because they think a fighter is over valuing himself. I see tweets by fans who would rather see fights not happen because they believe so firmly that the A-side boxer should call all the shots. Greed is the most detrimental thing to boxing. There are times when greed robs fans of the best fights at the right time, there are times when greed robs fighters of the biggest night of their lives and most importantly greed is slowly killing the sport. In todays world boxing is nowhere near as powerful as it once was as people can get their blood lust elsewhere like the UFC. Whilst boxing has spent decades shooting itself in the foot time and time again. UFC has given it’s fight fans the best fights possible time after time which has its popularity soar.
Boxing is littered with stories of broke former pro’s that didn’t get their fair share of the pot and are now potless. Boxers put their lives at risk every time they step in the right for a fight, these guys are literally risking it all and should be rewarded for it, no one is disputing that. Where the full thing leaves a sour taste in my mouth is I cannot support multi millionaires arguing over a couple of million pounds when their is tens of millions on the table. What I cannot do is support the biggest and best fights not being made. Once again boxing fans are being taken for granted that’s why this should never be applauded, just like in every professional sport the fans are the life blood that keeps the sport going, We are King.
There is a saying “In life nobody and nothing will help you until you start to help yourself.” On Saturday night boxing again refused to help itself. We all watched on as Deontay Wilder defended his WBC Heavyweight Title against Tyson Fury in LA’s Staples Centre. This was the biggest fight in the heavyweight division for years and as far as both fighters are concerned they delivered a great fight but, once again a big fight night ended with a sour taste in most spectators mouths but This time it was something we were willing to swallow. This got me thinking, are we now immune to the shock of poor judging ?
There really is no feeling like the build up to a big fight night for boxing fans. Your hardcores will lose sleep going over every possible outcome of a fight whilst your more casual fan will get caught up in all the media hype and pre fight banter which sets us all up for nicely to come together and enjoy the show. These big fights become social events, an excuse to meet up with friends and gather round a TV casting aside our football rivalries and other divisions for one night and have everyone talking about boxing. We will have drinks and food, we will fire our superior boxing knowledge about the upcoming fight and pass it as fact in discussions and if the fight is in the US we will sit up to 5AM (In the UK) waiting on the main event to start, drinking all the while i might add. What makes big fight nights special is that it’s something for everyone to enjoy. There really is no other sport like it.
During the Fury vs Wilder fight I found myself second guessing the judges all the way through the fight. I was saying things like “Judges in the US usually give the guy on the front foot the nod in close rounds” and “Its hard to get a decision boxing off the back foot in the US” but when you step back and think about it that is all rubbish. Yes the points I made were valid but it isn’t as simple as that. All judges around the world use the same criteria for scoring a bout which are Ring Generalship, Effective Aggression, Clean Punching and Defence. Now i do understand that due to human nature these judges will have preferences to to certain styles but if they stay true to this criteria they should never be too far away from the correct result, so can anyone tell me how one judge could have seen 115-111 for Wilder on Saturday ?. We are now seeing incompetent judging creeping in at more and more big PPV Fights. It is now becoming clear that some of these score cards are a deliberate attempt to sabotage fights. In recent years we have seen very questionable score cards at Ward vs Kovalev I, GGG vs Canelo I as well as Fury vs Wilder, and that’s only the cards that we have needed there have been plenty more blushes saved by a fighter taking it out of the judges hands and win by KO.
On big fight nights gone bye the house would have been in uproar, the rage of seeing a judge rob someone of a clear victory would stay with you. The sense of betrayal would go with you to work in the days that followed, even leading to a rage driven declaration of “I will never buy another PPV again.” Things seem a little different now. When the score card of 115-111 Wilder was read out, it was met with smirks and the odd lighthearted “No Way”. When the decision was announced as a draw it wasn’t met with shouts of rage but more a little laugh which suggests most never even doubted this would happen.
Both Wilder and Fury deserve massive credit for the show that they put on as it was a great fight. I have been a long time critic of the Heavyweight Division but now I have found optimism has replaced scepticism. Now we have some top Heavyweights who could all trouble each other and all are young enough to carry the division for some time yet, but this kind of judging will take away from these potential super fights when they are finally made. Nobody likes to see fights being scored wrong but what is more worrying to me is that without an outcry from fans there is very little chance that this will ever change.
The weekend just past had the boxing world engrossed as Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury came face to face in Belfast . The planned showdown could not have came across anymore choreographed but my god it made for good TV which finished with it being announced that the fight between the two was all but done for later this year . If this fight get’s made it is a fantastic statement of intent from Tyson Fury , but with only two fights against weak opposition since his two year absence from the ring it has to be asked , is this bravery or folly from the Gypsy King ? .
What did we learn on Saturday night about where Fury is on his comeback . We seen a Tyson Fury who has got himself into fantastic shape weighing in only 10lbs heavier than he was when he beat Wladimir Klitschko to become unified world champion three years ago . When you see the change in Fury over the past year it is impressive , but it also tell’s it own story as Fury is putting his soul into bringing his weight down and neglecting the finer points , and his boxing skills are suffering . Tyson Fury has never been a big puncher but in the past weekend he looked very feather fisted , he couldn’t hurt the tough durable Pianeta . Time after time he bent that left hook round Pianeta’s guard which really was a beautiful shot but it had zero effect .
Tyson Fury of old probably had the best defence in the division due to his long reach , quick reactions and even quicker feet . On Saturday night it was obvious the reactions have slowed as well as the feet . On the very few times Pianeta did show a bit of ambition offensively , Fury looked slow and vulnerable . It wasn’t all bad for Fury though as he managed ten rounds relatively easy and there was moments where the Fury of old was shinning through . There is always the argument that Fury was also fighting down to his opponents level which could be partly to blame for a mediocre performance .
There has been comparisons between Tyson Fury’s comeback and that of the “Greatest” Muhammad Ali who also came back after a long lay off to regain his World Title . For me that is NOT the comparison that should be made with Ali but there is one comparison i can see . When Ali came back into the ring he found out to his horror that his famous feet had slowed , he wasn’t the same fighter that he had been , some have even claimed that we missed the best years of Ali , I am not one of these people . I think it showed how “Great” he was that he was able to take the tools he had left and mould himself into a new fighter , that is where Fury should be drawing inspiration . We are all waiting on the Fury that beat Klitschko to comeback but the truth is i don’t think that Fury exists anymore . Fury should take the skills he does have left and reinvent himself , he does still have the hand speed , very quick feet for a heavyweight and a fantastic boxing brain .
I will never criticise a fighter for daring to be great . I think Fury taking on Wilder in his third fight is a breath of fresh air to the sport and could see him become a modern day great . I also fear that Fury will not admit to himself he is not the same the fighter and if he makes the same mistakes he did on Saturday night when he’s in with Wilder he will be punished .
Just when you thought that boxing was becoming predictable the news broke that Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder are in advanced talks to make a fight for later this year , in a move that would leave the big money man and unified champion Anthony Joshua in the unusual position of being locked out of one of the biggest heavyweight fights in this era . Now right from the start I will say this story has broke from two of the most unreliable sources in boxing , Tyson Fury and Frank Warren but the reports coming out of the US is that this is more than just hot air.
It is no secret that Deontay Wilder was infuriated by how negotiations went when trying to secure a fight with Anthony Joshua for all the titles . I have listened to guys like Lance Pugmire of the LA Times say they would not be surprised if AJ/Wilder never happened and that’s what came to my mind when this news broke , Is this an attempt to cut AJ out altogether ? . There is no doubt that the biggest fight financially in the division is against AJ but the next biggest fight financially is Fury/Wilder, A fight that would provide career high payday’s for both .
This could also be a case of Team Wilder showing AJ they have other options , which might bring Hearn back to the table with the instructions from Joshua to get the fight made , which i have to admit is a real possibility .
But what if this all comes off for Fury/Wilder , where does that leave AJ ? . Well the AJ extremists will have you believe that AJ doesn’t need either , and in a way they are right as he could sell out a stadium if he was fighting me ,but these people don’t understand the sport of boxing . AJ needs competition to create a legacy and this fight would leave him rummaging through the bones of the division looking for a top fight . Chances are that Wilder would insist on a rematch clause so potentially he and Fury could be occupied for the next year .
I will go back to what i said at the start and admit this could be all hot air or a ploy to get Hearn and AJ back to the table . In a way i want this fight to come off , I want boxers to see that if a massive fight is there to be made you don’t mess around with it , you don’t play with your food ,you don’t treat fans with utter contempt and put the fight off until your advisers give you the okay .
Steven Donnell (DJayBoxing)