July 26, 2021

Boxing Has To Make it Count

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With Errol Spence-Danny Garcia being announced we’ve reached a sort of watershed moment.

At some point the big fights must come back.

At some point big money is going to have to be spent for big money to be made.

Spence and Garcia have signed to fight on Fox PPV on November 21. Garcia is set to be involved in his 10th world title fight while Spence returns for the first time since he diced with death and rolled his sports car in Dallas last October.

Spence took on only minor injuries but was charged for drink driving.

But as coronavirus has played havoc with the sporting schedule, boxing has taken one of the hardest hits.

Promoters don’t want to put on big fights without big crowds. Understandably they don’t want to make the most out of their investments but we are all still wondering when things will be back to normal.

Frank Warren has slated Daniel Dubois-Joe Joyce for October at the O2, sight of the original date for the clash back in April before the global pandemic tore up best laid plans.

But we can’t predict where the world will be later this year. In the UK, major cities are facing fresh lockdown measures and initially eased restrictions are being tightened once more. The number of casualties in the US is astronomical. Meanwhile, in South Africa the gyms haven’t even reopened. The chaos is varying in degrees but will promoters be prepared to put these fights on in front of crowds at 25 or even 50 per cent capacity? Will they be allowed to be 75 percent full? Would that even be enough?

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It’s a real shame but for the sport to move forward it could be time for fighters to cut their asking prices.

I spoke with fight manager Steve Wood this week and there’s no way he would put on a small hall show in the current climate. He reckoned it would cost around £20,000 to stage, with Covid testing, quarantining fighters and, of course, purses. But he’d lose 100 per cent of that and he knows it. With no TV and no audience, his hands are tied.

He thought about putting on a show for a nominal PPV fee and streaming it, but with reports of low audience numbers for boxing’s return, on both sides of the Atlantic – thus far – he understandably saw no point. Fans want to see familiar names boxing. They also want to see them in good fights. Boxing, as Eddie Hearn predicted, is competing for network space with other sports and for eyeballs against viewers who have been starved of live sport but who clearly haven’t been tuning in for the sake of it.

They want the fights to mean something, like Spence-Garcia. And the PBC schedule is littered with intriguing fights, too. But the corner does need to turn and sharply.

Hearn’s much ballyhooed Fight Camp kicks off this weekend and promises plenty but this isn’t the time for promise. It’s the time to deliver and he’s gambled big, putting his – or Sky Sports’ – money where his mouth is with four back-to-back weekends of boxing culminating in a pay-per-view show topped by Dillian Whyte’s fight with Alexander Povetkin – another that fell foul of the coronavirus cancellations.

Don’t get me wrong. Fighters haven’t worked all their lives to take a paycut now. And their dreams were never to box in cordoned off TV studios or ‘bubbles’ no matter how grandiose the backdrop.

But these are strange, truly unique times.

Everyone has to adapt and that doesn’t mean doing what was done before because it isn’t happening now, it might not happen this year and there’s no guarantee it will happen next year, either.

So it was refreshing to hear that Garcia and Spence are ready to rock and roll later in 2020.

Garcia, 36-2 (21), has seen it all. He’s taken on big fight after big fight through his underdog career. Spence, despite some high-profile wins in amassing his 26-0 (21) record, is yet to burst through the glass ceiling and fulfil the potential he showed as a young pro when he was doing the rounds in the gym with the likes of Adrien Broner and Floyd Mayweather.

It’s a calculated gamble, as is Whyte-Povetkin, as are the bigger fights on the PBC schedule. Boxing fans haven’t been yearning just for the return of boxing – it’s important to understand that – but they’ve craved meaningful fights that can and will move the needle in the sporting world and that will generate the excitement that you only get in the moments before the bell sounds to start the contest.