A Brood Of Boxing Promoters

The always reliable Steve Kim sheds new light today on the mysterious, vague news that boxing promoters were going to form a trade association, about which my initial reaction was to feel creeped out like when things suddenly got quiet in the movie The Birds.

As it turns out, maybe it’s not so foreboding a development, if what Kim’s sources told him is true. It sounds, actually, like it could be a downright good thing.

The goodness starts with something that’s almost a priori, although I didn’t immediately recognize as such: Boxing is better off when promoters cooperate with one another instead of nursing grudges like the one that for years kept the two biggest in the biz, Golden Boy and Top Rank, from doing business together. That the boxing promoters convened counts as progress.
But get a load of the agenda, according to a promoter or two who attended the first meeting:

“An example, the Muhammad Ali Act, where no promoters ever got a chance to really speak about it. The other example is the UFC not being regulated on an equal footing with boxing. There are boxers being their own promoter.”

Another major promoter said, “It was a laundry list of issues, but really it was a realization we have problems we all share, for example: not having young fans and not breaking into that demographic where MMA is so strong in it. And also areas where we put our head together and try to save each other and do things in a more efficient manner. And also the entertainment value of the boxing shows up and down. The fact you do a main event that is top-notch but the rest of the show sucks. It effects [sic] the whole industry and it effects [sic] all of us. We have to take certain stands together.”…

“One thing that came out of it was the realization that if we’re going to make anything better, occassionaly [sic] we’re going to have to work together and we better have a trade association so that there’s certain things we should all be able to agree on for the betterment of the business. So I thought it was very positive.”

My day job prohibits me (yes, I just gloated via hyperlink) from commenting on federal regulatory issues, so that part must go without comment. And there’s no problem in theory with boxers serving as their own promoters. It’s a steep learning curve and more experienced promoters do the job far, far better, but skeptics of Golden Boy — started by Oscar De La Hoya — are beginning to acknowledge that maybe they’re finally getting the hang of it.
But boxing absolutely MUST address an audience for the sport that is skewing older. I’ve said many a time that boxing isn’t dead and, presumably, will never die. But if it doesn’t create new young fans, what kind of future does it have? Not that this means all that much, but I was watching Nickelodeon the other day — screw you, it was a Spongebob Squarepants marathon and that show is awesome — and they kept running advertisements for some show where two tweens agreed to have a fight. Instead of a boxing ring, though, the youngsters were going to battle in an octagon. I’d never seen anything like that before. You reckon Nickelodeon was expecting its audience would relate more to the octagon than the ring? It’s a problem in so many ways, and this was just one more thing that made me shake my head.
I don’t know what’s meant by “doing things in a more efficient manner,” but it sounds good.
Promoters always pay lip service to wanting better undercards, but again, recognizing the problem and trying to address it in a formal setting is the right thing to do. Right now, the undercard of the Sept. 19 Floyd Mayweather-Juan Manuel Marquez pay-per-view could be the best undercard of the year, if Chris John-Rocky Juarez II and Michael Katsidis-Vicente Escobedo comes off as Golden Boy says it will try to do. And in another section of the same Maxboxing article, Top Rank’s Bob Arum promised that the undercard for the Nov. 14 Manny Pacquiao-Miguel Cotto pay-per-view would be “Spectacular, spectacular. I’m going out on a limb. So I’m going to say everybody is going to be licking their chops on this undercard. It’s going to be that good.” How far would it go toward making new boxing fans and keeping them if the two biggest fights of the year — which Mayweather-Marquez and Pacquiao-Cotto are — gave people value for their dollar and made the night into more than just one meaningful fight and a bunch of sucky blowouts? Would that this lip service turn into reality, both for those two cards and within the new association.
I’m still a little skeptical of what a league of boxing promoters would do to the sport. Would they boycott HBO if the network tried to match its hot properties too tough? And boxing has plenty more to fix than the limited agenda they discussed at their first meeting. But, at first blush, this isn’t, by any measure, all bad.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (http://www.tbrb.org). He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.