By Hans Olson
by Hans Olson
Boxing is a business.
Fighters, managers, and promoters make business decisions.
I get that.
The problem is, many people don’t get that.
With all of the criticism Floyd Mayweather, Vitali Klitchcko, and Wladimir Klitchcko get for the supposed “lack of competition” they face, it’s a curiosity when certain fighters are given a pass for ducking fights the public wants to see.
I can think of two names right now.
Mikkel Kessler, and Kelly Pavlik.
Both Kessler and Pavlik straight up ducked Lucian Bute.
I can’t tell you how tired I am when I hear about Lucian Bute not facing the best competition out there. All Lucian Bute has done is fight the best available opponents who were willing to fight him. He’s also kept up on his mandatory defenses, something the Klitchcko’s always do as well. Maybe if more fighters stayed up on their mandatories we’d see more clarity as to who the real champions are, which would lead to more legitimate title unifications.
But that’s another topic, for another time.
Mikkel Kessler had every opportunity to get this weekend’s date with Lucian Bute. Kessler was even ringside for Bute’s bout against Brian Magee in Montreal this past March, presumably to scout and spark interest for a potential fight down the road with Bute. Not long after witnessing the brilliance of Bute up close, Kessler’s team took a different career path—one that avoids Lucian Bute at all cost.
With much of the talent in the division still locked into Showtime’s Super Six Tournament, Kelly Pavlik was viewed as the next best available opponent. Top Rank set out a plan for Pavlik, one that included a tune-up fight with Darryl Cunningham, a southpaw like Bute. Just four days before the fight, Pavlik pulled out citing his unhappiness with his purse for the fight, along with his unhappiness with the proposed package for a Bute clash. Curiously, since Pavlik announced his desire to come back into action, he doesn’t seem too eager to renegotiate a deal to fight Lucian. In an interview with The Ring’s Lem Satterfield, Pavlik was asked what fights, or fighter’s, he’d like to pursue. His response? “Carl Froch. I would really like to fight Froch, because of his mouth. But whoever is going to give me the opportunity after I take two more tuneup fights, I’ll be ready.”
I’m not saying Kessler or Pavlik are afraid of Lucian Bute. They’re professional fighters, and have both shown all the guts and heart you could ask of them over the years.
But both Kessler and Pavlik know how tough of a challenge Lucian Bute would be, and neither Kessler or Pavlik should be given a pass on this. The bottom line? Neither is willing to chance another L on their record, and the percentage of that happening is much higher if either of them took Bute’s challenge.
Fortunately for boxing fans, there is a man who cares not of another loss on his record. He cares not about getting the same purse proposed to Kessler or Pavlik. He cares not if the fight is in Canada.
He is Glen Johnson.
At last week’s conference call to the media, Johnson was beaming with excitement at prospect of upsetting his friend, former sparring parter, and soon to be foe, Lucian Bute.
“It’s going to be a tremendous fight – I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be very exciting,” said Johnson. “He’s a great fighter. He has a lot of talents, a lot of skills. He shows a lot of guts in his fights. He has fast hands, he’s strong. He ranks amongst the best guys, but this is not sparring, this is fighting. It’s a whole different level of fighting.”
For Glen Johnson, it’s just another challenge in a career that has been defined by his uncompromising nature. He’ll fight anyone, anywhere, anytime. One of Johnson’s more famous quotes occurred during his post fight interview, moments after knocking out Roy Jones. “I’ll fight anyone, anyone in the world,” said Johnson. “I’m not the best, I’m just the guy who’s willing to fight the best.”
Glen may not have been giving himself enough credit, but what he did was endear himself to fans who couldn’t care less about the business end of boxing. They just want to see the best fighters in the best fights.
Mikkel Kessler and Kelly Pavlik denied this to boxing fans with their refusal to fight Lucian Bute, regardless of their reason for doing so.
Glen Johnson is taking the challenge they weren’t willing to take.
Boxing Insider’s Hans Olson can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @hansolson