In the very best of times, we here at TQBR come together to discuss the biggest fights and argue about the current state of the sport. This year, unfortunately, has been a protracted rectal bleed of Old Testament severity. With that in mind, we stocked up on Neosporin, strapped on our Depends flex fits, and changed into our action sweats to recap the good, bad, obnoxious, and tedious since boxing has returned.
- How many cards have you actually watched since live cards started back?
Brent Hedtke: I’ve had the majority of them playing on my television set but I can’t, by sheer definition of the word, say that I’ve watched many of them. Granted, this could simply be due to my ever-waning attention span but, more likely, it’s owed to the quality, or lack thereof, these cards have had to offer. When doing crossword puzzles and shopping for self-help books on my phone is more attention-grabbing than two guys fistfighting, that feels like a “your problem” kind of thing to me.
Matthew Swain: Almost all of them. I even intended to write several up, but the bulk were bad enough that I just couldn’t be bothered.
Jason Langendorf: The Republic is strong. We live in a free country, and I know my rights: No one can force me to watch atrocious or even uninteresting boxing. And thank Christ, Vishnu and L. Ron Hubbard for that, because there is paint drying in my garage that’s just waiting to be watched. I have witnessed, if not fully engaged with, maybe a half-dozen shows since the Before Times. A few weren’t even half-bad, like when Alexander Povetkin starched Dillian Whyte on Saturday. But while I wish all fighters the best — yes, even you, Danny Garcia — neither do I feel an overwhelming urge to tune in out of some vague obligation to “the sport.” Liberty, not unlike myself, is a fickle bitch.
Tim Starks: The ones I wrote about, certainly. Others, I may have caught up with on DVR or YouTube highlights if I heard something cool happened. I’m finding I increasingly hate the length of live shows, with so much filler and fluff. Ring introductions feel like they take my whole life. And commercials, egad the commercials. Not that any of that has anything to do with Covid-19.
- Has the quality of boxing since its return been worthwhile enough for you, or is it a drag such that you wonder if it’s a waste?
Hedtke: Short answer, no. It’s getting better but the first few months were a real chore. I truly don’t understand what the rush was to get boxing back on the air but my guess is something about helping millionaires stay that way. It’s like, hey, you know that thing that you love and have dedicated countless hours of your life to consuming? Well here’s a really shitty, diluted version of that thing, and also we’re making the guys doing that thing risk their health during the middle of a god damn pandemic. It’s a big “no thanks” for me.
Swain: I agree with Brent that the last month has been a marked improvement. Boxing is one of those sports that you really can’t grade on a curve. There’s a reason that most of us don’t go see little league baseball games or watch major league teams practice. That said, we got to see a few fun fights, and somebody had to go first. The ratings for the early cards weren’t great, but honestly who gives a fuck? We’re all looking for that one piece of normalcy in this absolute goat fuck of a year, and boxing was never the place to find that. It gave us something different to bitch about and find disappointing, and goddamn did we need it.
Langendorf: On the one hand, holy shit, no — the quality has been mostly abysmal. On the other, haven’t we seen plenty of dumpster-fire cards over the years that couldn’t be blamed on a global virus? It’s boxing. Watch. Don’t watch. Someone is bound to stumble into putting a decent card together soon enough. How important is it for you to be there for it?
Starks: So far, no. This past weekend was the first, I think, to feature true top-10 guys against each other. There are a couple of nice ones coming up, so perhaps it’s an upswing. And I do suspect the rush in some cases was to get boxers and their affiliates paid. The ratings being so low is still a little odd to me. I was eager to see ANY boxing at first when it came back, and I thought others would be, too. Maybe that figured into the calculations of putting on so many trash cards to begin with, or maybe it’s, like, the unrelated historical trend that happens with networks signing exclusive deals with promoters: Over time, the promoter knows it doesn’t have to give the network anything good, so it doesn’t. On the other hand, NBA ratings are down as well. Perhaps people are lethargic and disinterested in everything? Perhaps the lack of live crowds really is a huge issue?
- Fake crowd noise: dumbest hateful thing ever or hateful dumbest thing ever?
Hedtke: It goes without saying that piping in manufactured crowd noise is stupid beyond belief but it’s actually even dumber than that. This is an opportunity for fans to actually be able to hear what fighters and their corners say mid-fight. Yes, it’s likely just “Use yer fackin’ jab, Joey!” or some shit but it would be a great look inside at a part of fights that most fans will never get to hear or experience. I suppose it’s out of respect for the mute button operator’s finger, but it feels like a missed opportunity to me.
Swain: First thing’s first, if you let Disney have a mic in your home, then you owe an apology to the NSA. Secondly, not seeing or hearing other people is my favorite thing about quarantine so it’s an unwelcome intrusion, at the very least. It’s so obviously a manufactured addition that it takes away from the broadcast. With a live audience, it’s organic. We are aware there’s no one there. Don’t blow smoke up my ass and tell me I’m brisket.
Langendorf: Truth? I don’t care. Half of fans will say it’s ridiculous and transparent and patronizing. (It is.) But without it, half of fans would whine that the atmosphere just isn’t the same. (And it isn’t.) Welcome to boxing.
Starks: It’s funny how this was a major scandal back in ’97, and now everybody’s doing it. On one hand, the ability to make the noise tied to actual cheering makes it somewhat tolerable; on the other hand, Swain’s remark about letting a Disney mic in one’s home gave me laugh-out-louds. Overall it maybe doesn’t bother me that much, yet I also kinda liked hearing what was being said so well. What’s most disconcerting to me is listening to the raw amount of breathing. Breath quieter, everyone. (I realize that’s asking too much of people in literal combat.)
- Is doing a pay-per-view during a global economic crisis a violation of the Geneva convention? Will you buy one?
Hedtke: This presupposes that I would buy a PPV even during non-pandemic times and that shit is for casuals. Most knowledgeable fans can figure out how to stream fights for free on a fucking Playstation 2 but to answer the question, this is a massive overreach for a sport with a rap sheet for greed longer than a Walgreen’s receipt. Everyone is hurting, including the vulnerable members of the boxing industry, but asking people to pay a premium right now for something as inconsequential as a sporting event, just so rich people can make their bottom line, is disgusting.
Swain: If it were 10 bouts deep of high-level pick’em fights, I would. I like 4k, sue me. The odds of that are infinitesimal, so my wallet is likely safe. The crowd is part of the PPV, though. If I’m paying extra, you better have a product good enough to pack tens of thousands of [Insert Nationality] fans shit faced drunk and singing.
Langendorf: To ask for a pound of flesh now may feel like an insult, but fans can’t have it both ways. Want it cheap? Hey, you get what you pay for. Value quality? Then open up your wallet, brother. Vasiliy Lomachenko and Teofimo Lopez proved you can make a world-class pick’em fight without gouging fans, but it’s fair to assume those two savages are the exception to the rule. The irony is, I would’ve been willing to pay for that. Leo Santa Cruz-Gervonta Davis? Errol Spence-Danny Garcia? Not so much.
Starks: It’s not the coolest thing in the world. Given the economics, I “get” it. I’d just prefer it be on more worthy offerings than we’ve got coming up. I can dig the Charlo brothers sometimes, which doesn’t exactly put me in the majority. Who’s gonna buy THAT one? Maybe me, since I get reimbursed?
- You can make 3 fights by the end of the year, name them.
Hedtke: One of them is already made and that’s Lomachenko vs Lopez. That is a perfect fight at the perfect time for both guys. Artur Beterbiev and Dmitry Bivol is very enticing to me, and one Swain and I discussed a while back that I can’t stop thinking about is Miguel Berchelt and Shakur Stevenson, should the gas station champ himself decide to go up to 130.
Swain: Speaking of Berchelt, I’m looking forward to his fight with Oscar Valdez something wacky. Mairis Briedis vs Yunier Dorticos should theoretically happen this year as well, so that’s some decent big man carnage, and Lopez vs Lomachenko is on. If Jose Carlos Ramirez can get past Viktor Postol, BIG if, a fight with Josh Taylor would give me a tingle in my giggle bits. Emanuel Navarrete against Guillermo Rignondeaux or Rey Vargas is appointment viewing. Juan Francisco Estrada, Roman Gonzalez and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, in any combination.
Langendorf: Give me Chocolatito-Rat King. (I just need to know.) Give me Wanheng Menayothin-Knockout CP Freshmart on the grounds of Bangkok’s Wat Pho Temple. (I’m weird like that.) And give me a convincing Spence win over Garcia to set up a showdown with Terence Crawford. Win or lose, Bud deserves a signature fight.
Starks: Spence vs Crawford, for sure, although given the timing of the Spence vs Garcia fight that feels like next year at the earliest. Beterbiev vs Bivol, definitely. Taylor vs Ramirez is the one I might like the most, given the potential to crown a divisional king and the salivating style match-up, but it’s another that seems like it might be more like next year.
- Sergio Martinez won by KO on Aug. 21, and Oscar De La Hoya is talking about ending his retirement. Are any of the seniors’ tour exhibitions or comeback fights of interest to you? If so which one(s) and why?
Hedtke: Exhibition fights, in general, are kinda dumb but whatever. Mike Tyson vs Roy Jones is cool but if you think it’s going to be anything other than two old men playing pattycake for a half-hour, you deserve to be separated from your money. But if Sergio Martinez and Oscar are actually serious about coming back and competing in meaningful fights, I’d be all for them fighting each other. Both guys’ legacies are secure so a loss wouldn’t hurt them and it could actually be a bit of fun. Oscar’s coke-addled brain against Maravilla’s Bambi legs? Hell yeah, let’s fucking go.
Swain: If I’m honest, I was ambivalent about Jones vs Tyson. Martinez looked old and shot, despite winning by KO, and we KNOW De La Hoya is old and shot. That’s that good shit. Loser publicly declares the winner is the really really really ridiculously good lookingest.
Langendorf: No. This shit ain’t golf. There are a thousand ways to showcase these fighters that would stuff some dough in their pockets and help benefit the sport. Fighting isn’t one of them.
Starks: I’ll keep this short: No.