How many 50/50 fight have you seen recently? The chances are it isn’t so many.
Sadly, it appears that’s the way boxing has gone of late. Watered down world champions (four at each weight) forgo fights with each other, instead preferring to face weak voluntary opposition and concluding with one-sided beat downs. Yet still, they have the audacity to claim they are the true champion of their respective weight class.
Worse still, fighters can often be seen trash talking opponents and calling them out immediately after a bout has finished. Do these fights ever come to fruition? Very rarely.
The most recent example came only a matter of weeks ago. USA television company HBO had two fearsome light heavyweight bangers on their books, namely Adonis Stevenson and Sergey Kovalev, who were on course for a huge unification bout in the autumn. The pair even fought on the same show in January, with the Russian wiping out Ismael Sillakh inside two rounds before Stevenson easily defended his WBC crown against Tony Bellew.
Kovalev had his eyes firmly set on Stevenson, while the Canadian was somewhat less keen to talk about his Russian foe. Lo and behold, Stevenson signed with boxing adviser Al Haymon, who promptly shifted his charge onto the Showtime channel in America despite Stevenson verbally agreeing a defence against Andrzej Fonfara on HBO.
Haymon had persuaded Showtime to part with an extra $100,000 to stage the clash and hence give ‘Superman’ the chance to duck Kovalev. ‘Krusher’ is now in search of someone brave enough to give him a fight, which looks unlikely given he broke Cedric Agnew’s rib with a jab last time out.
As everyone almost certainly knows by now, the ‘Cold War’ between HBO-Top Rank and Showtime-Golden Boy ensures that clash will almost certainly not take place. Many have fallen by the wayside as a result of them being at loggerheads, with Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao remaining the most high-profile example.
However, boxing may finally be moving back towards 50/50 clashes with the announcement Matthew Macklin will face Australian Daniel Geale. With Amir Khan-Luis Collazo being penned for May 3 while Canelo Alvarez agrees a tough clash with Erislandy Lara, it proves we may be back on the road towards closely contested fights.
With Macklin agreeing to face Geale, it proves some top boxers are prepared to face the best. With no world title at stake – the Aussie lost the IBF version to Darren Barker last August – why else would two such dangerous and quality fights agree to get it on?
Quite often, it takes a good matchmaker. As the saying goes 'styles make fights' and NBC/Main Events' Friday night show last weekend lay down the marker for other promoters. In two outstanding contests, Curtis Stevens defeated Tuerano Johnson via last round KO when heavily down on the judges scorecards, while Steve Cunningham and Amir Mansour battled it out in a fantastic heavyweight contest. They produced arguably the best card of 2014 so far with a lowly budget in comparison to their American rivals.
Amir Khan is a flag bearer for tackling tough opponents. Despite a world title often being on the line, he has fought an impressive stream of operators at light welterweight including Danny Garcia, Lamont Petersen and Zab Judah.
Carl Froch is also a good example, facing the notoriously awkward Andre Ward and taking a bout with Lucian Bute when his career was in jeopardy. At that time Bute was unbeaten and touted as the world’s leading super middleweight, but Froch ran through him with ease. My admission that the Nottingham-born fighter only engages the best will do his ego no harm; his constant stream of clichés and referring to himself as a ‘warrior’ do become irritating over time.
For the future of boxing, I hope these quality 50/50 bouts get the attention they deserve. Fans should show their support and avoid one-sided shows showcased by HBO and Matchroom Sports recently. By doing this, maybe fans can persuade boxers and promoters alike that future money lies when big names engage in big fights, just like the way it used to be.
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