By Sean Crose
A few months ago, a reader commented under one of my pieces that he was disappointed that Adrien Broner fought Marcos Maidana without first maximizing his earning potential. In other words, the reader felt Broner should have taken a few easy fights before really challenging himself. That way Broner could have been that much more popular and earned that much more money when he squared off against the man who eventually beat him. For the record, this reader considered himself a true fan because he loved the business aspect of the sport and was “learning to appreciate” the fights themselves.
Meet the new breed of boxing fan, folks: someone whose passion is for fighter paydays rather than for the fights themselves. There’s lots of people like this out there, too. And they have far, far more influence over the sport at the moment than you or I do. Things, however, may be about to change. We’ll focus on that bit of good news later, though. For now, let’s keep the spotlight on this new breed of fan.
In the world of modern boxing, this new breed can often be spotted in the comment’s section of online articles pertaining to the sport. They’re the ones praising Floyd Mayweather for taking huge but seemingly easy paycheck fights (“It’s all about the money”). They’re also the one’s admiring Adonis Stevenson for going over to Showtime instead of facing Sergey Kovalev (“Hey, the guy wants to earn as much as he can.”).
The newest hero of the new breed, however, is Julio Caesar Chavez Jr. Why? Because Chavez is not going to fight bruiser Gennady Golovkin unless he gets what he thinks is a better offer than the ones he’s received from Top Rank. Truth be told, I have no idea whether Chavez is wrong or right in all this. All I know is the new breed is thrilled with his actions. They’re not upset that a major fight is falling apart. They’re happy that a fighter is putting business before competition.
Don’t the rest of us realize, the new breed asks, that Chavez is a huge, huge draw and is therefore worthy of so much more cash than he’s being offered? The fact that Chavez has a shaky reputation and might not even be all that great a fighter, they argue, is a non issue. Boxing is all about money, to the new breed, after all. There may be some athletic competition involved, but that’s not what they find primarily interesting about the sport.
That reader who left a comment under one of my articles months ago mentioned that he loved the “drama” boxing’s business side has to offer. Apparently the other members of this new breed love the drama as well, so much so that they’re ruining the sport for the rest of us. Networks, promoters, and managers know there’s numerous fans out there who aren’t much interested in quality matchups. Therefore, the boxing world is getting an endless array of Stevenson–Fonfara fights.
If this sounds like a nightmare scenario to you, you’re right. The problem is we’re living out this scenario – right here and now.
As I mentioned earlier, however, there seems to be a glimmer of hope on the horizon. For his rematch with Brian Vera, for instance, Chavez was unable to generate the excitement he had amongst his considerable fan base in previous matches. What’s more, word is out on Twitter that the Mayweather-Maidana matchup was a pay per view failure. Sure, the fight was pretty terrific, but people believe that Floyd never expected the bout to end up being as competitive as it was. In short, it looked like another matchup that pleased the new breed and few else – until, of course, things actually got good.
The point here is that real boxing fans – yes, I’m calling us real boxing fans – might still outnumber the new breed. And if that’s the case we can speak with our wallets when less than desirable pay-per-view events rear their ugly heads. That will give the new breed – as well as their enablers in the boxing business – a cut and dried choice: either stay focused on less and less lucrative fighters or start pushing fights that people will both see and pay for. The second option sounds like a win-win scenario, but you never know.
Look, boxing is a tough and brutal business, and fighters deserve to make as much as they can. When paydays starts diminishing the sport itself, however, something is rotten in Denmark. A middle road has to be reached if boxing – which I believe could actually work its way back into the mainstream – is to survive. The new breed might not care about such matters (there’s other business-related entertainment they can turn to, after all), but the rest of us need to take note.