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Incentive Money Would Send a Message to Fans

Posted on 11/02/2011

by Charles Jay

I think most people understand when they are watching a guy who is just going through the motions, trying to get to the end of the fight. It’s one thing, I suppose, when you’re trying to fulfill some improbable dream, like Chuck Wepner was against Muhammad Ali (and I bring that up because the recent documentary “The Real Rocky” on ESPN is fresh on my mind). It’s quite another when there is complete avoidance of engagement, in a fight a guy has supposedly been waiting for his whole life. And frankly, I’m willing to hear from anyone, regardless of who they are and where they come from, who’s got some refreshing ideas on how to combat that problem.

Quite often I get emails from the publisher of this website, with comments about my stories, which sometimes border on the mean-spirited and come with a 50-50 chance of being from someone under an assumed identity, partially because there might be some sadistic enjoyment in taking me away from the time I have to write a press release, or something about the Pacquiao-Marquez fight, and partially because he enjoys playing “gotcha.”

I love the guy.

Well, I am not someone easily “gotten,” but I like to write out a careful, measured response that moves the dialogue forward. If it exceeds the standard of the room, so be it. Either way, done with all the care it deserves, it’s very time-consuming, which is why I try to keep it to a minimum.

Last week I wrote about the “winner-take-all” bonuses that were being proposed by Todd duBoef of Top Rank, in the wake of the terrible effort from Omar Narvaez in his fight with Nonito Donaire. The piece can be viewed here:

So that brought this comment, from someone writing, in all likelihood, behind a Facebook alias who was not a fan of Donaire:

All this “Winner take all Bonus” thing is just a ploy by Toprank Promotions and Bob Arum to DEFLECT criticism away from the despicable 30:1 Featherweight vs. Flyweight (Donaire vs. Narvaez match). It is just a smokescreen to protect the Pinoy Farce , not “Flash” Nonito Donaire from all the negativity resulting from him, Donaire, fighting EXCLUSIVELY small, dwarfish opponents. I am amused at how NAIVE people are believing this Bonus CRAP. [Maybe it is good if you have opponents of comparable talent and size] IMAGINE IF THE BONUS was applied to DONAIRE Vs.NARVAEZ – You will be giving BONUS to the BIGGER and more TALENTED fighter, giving him incentive to DEMOLISH a small opponent – It is just unfortunate that a lot of people PARROT what other writer are opining about instead of subjecting it to careful analysis.

Nice use of the caps. I know a writer from another boxing website who writes like that, although I wouldn’t want to jump to any conclusions.

So then I started to craft a response, and realized that because it had some new stuff in there, it was too rich not to go full-length with it. So here it is:

You seem to be going out of your way to be the devil’s advocate here. Generally I wouldn’t respond to Facebook identities of dubious origin, but in this case I will; maybe your point should be dealt with, regardless of where it came from. That’s because that is in support of the greater point I would make, in the form of a question – if someone has a good idea, one that pushes the ball forward, what difference does it make where it came from. or what the motivation was?

You accuse Top Rank of deflecting attention. Well, I don’t think they are going to make the Donaire-Narvaez fight disappear from memory, do you? if you look hard enough, you’ll find my own vehement criticism of it. Oh, I’ll save you the trouble:

Was Todd duBoef trying to spin a positive situation out of it? Maybe. If he was, and is successful in doing something that constitutes a step forward, good for him. That’s his role. That is what he is supposed to do. You have an obvious bias against Top Rank. If your true identity were known, maybe that is something that could be discussed and addressed further. As it stands, to re-apportion the purse structure to include more within a bonus and less in terms of guaranteed appearance fees, as a way of reward or incentive, is new, fresh and attractive, and I could care less which specific promoter wants to try it.

Maybe the thrust of your argument is to limit it to fights involving Donaire, and maybe that is what duBoef intends at first. However, if you read my story with any degree of diligence, you know that is not the direction I was taking. Rather, you would have noticed that (a) while I am perfectly willing to embrace a fresh idea, I concede that the jury is out on the degree of sincerity involved, and (b) I didn’t constrain my treatment of the issue to Donaire’s fights, but rather suggested that they be a common practice for many main events that are held out to be highly-competitive.

So tell me, through your own “careful analysis,” how the practice of taking some money from that part of the purse package that is “guaranteed” and putting it toward a winner’s bonus – in fights for which it is appropriate to do so – would not have any positive effect on the quality of fights themselves, perhaps even the responsiveness of the matchmaking to public demand, and would not send a positive message to fans in that respect? I can certainly assure you the product would not SUFFER as a result, although you are welcome to spin some kind of gratuitous disagreement.

My friend, in almost every fight, of championship-caliber or otherwise, there is going to be a favorite and an underdog. The favorite would be most likely to win the bonus. That shouldn’t preclude any kind of incentive system from being implemented. I could care less whether it’s just a win bonus for the title challenger, in addition to the inherent win bonus involved with winning a title. And we all 8understand perfectly well that nothing is going to be perfect. But for those fights that fit a certain criteria, there is nothing wrong, as mentioned, with sending a message to the fans – and to the fighters themselves – that they are not going to be paid the same, win or lose.

The question isn’t whether it would add something to the game; the question is whether any promoters will have the guts to undertake it.

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