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Game Changer? TURKI ALALSHIKH is reportedly planning to create a professional boxing league

By: Sean Crose

Boxing as we used to know it may well return…at least in a very real sense. Indeed, the best may be the facing best on a regular basis once again. When was the last time boxing fans witnessed that sort of thing happening? Back in the 90s? The 80s? Indeed it’s been a while. Yet Saudi sports honcho Turki Alalshikh has put up a lot of work, as well as a lot of money, to host major cards over the past few years – the most recent being Oleksandr Usyk’s undisputed heavyweight title win over Tyson Fury last month. “The health of the sport right now has been at an all time high,” former titlist Chris Algieri said on the Deep Waters podcast. “We’re healthy from top to bottom.”

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Now Alakaskikh is reportedly planning to move on from just making big fights to forming his own boxing league, one which may well change the entire boxing business, one in which – gasp – fans will actually be able discern who the best fighters are. Alakaskikh isn’t just a keen businessman, he’s a fan of the sport as well. Throw in the fact the guy has untold amounts of money to play with and it’s worth wondering if the dream will indeed become a reality.

Not that the plan doesn’t bring with it obvious and serious questions. “Who does the ranking?” asked Algieri rhetorically. “I don’t know what the best way to do the rankings are, but I think that’s really important for this to actually work out.” Fellow analyst Paulie Malignaggi added that “you still need an outer layer of the sport.” In other words the focus can’t simply be on on the big names. “I don’t want to see the same eight guys fight each other,” he said. Still, Malignaggi indicated that a league can work very well for the boxing business.

“If you guide it correctly,” he said, “the potential is phenomenal.” Indeed it is. Boxing has been weighed down for far too long by politics, network and promotional issues, inactive fighters and a general sense of lethargy. A well organized and lucrative league that works well for the fighters will motivate those fighters to fight with more frequency. It also could fix the problem with organizational bickering.

Perhaps most importantly the league – should it come to fruition – needs to please the fans while being fair to the fighters. No one pleases fans the way the mixed martial arts entity UFC does. If a boxing league views the fans as the main focus in such a way, the future can be promising for the sweet science…provided, of course, that the fighters are treated fairly.

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