Guest contributor Jack Beeston explains one of the key issues in modern-day boxing:
Last weekend, in Las Vegas, two of the world’s most feared and revered boxers: Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev fought one another for the right to call themselves the pound-for-pound best fighter on the planet. Next weekend, and also in America, Vasyl Lomachenko, the highly- rated Ukrainian, hilariously described as a “glitch in the matrix’, will face the Jamaican knockout- artist Nicholas Walters in another very exciting clash.
The formula for these fights is simple: take two good boxers and get them into the ring with one another. It is tried and tested and the fights should (in theory at least) sell themselves. Kovalev and Ward, when they agreed to their bout, did so with a minimum of fuss, and you would like to think that this was because they were driven by what all boxers ultimately crave: respect from their peers, adoration from fans and above all, a legacy ranking among the other greats of a much- mythologised sport.
However all to0 often in boxing, and particularly it seems in British boxing, the best simply do not fight the best. On December 10th Anthony Joshua will fight Eric Molina in Manchester and this will be AJ’s third consecutive pay-per-view fight in 2016. For the British public it means that by the year’s end we will have had to pay roughly 50 quid to see Joshua dispatch three fellas who look like they have spent their life fighting your mate Big Reg round the back of a pub, and who offer absolutely no resistance to Joshua’s speed and power.
Molina, whose face shows the hallmarks of a man who has been ring battered over many years, will not beat Anthony Joshua. If he does, while making me look very stupid, it will be even more of a disgrace that we have had to pay the amount we have to watch him fight. Now don’t get me wrong, watching AJ knock a man unconscious is always fun, just in the same way that watching your mate Big Reg get into a scrap in the car-pack of the Fox and Hounds is always going to be entertaining too. However, what I object to, and what is becoming increasingly frustrating is the price we must pay for this “privilege” when there are so many potentially great fights out there.
I was inside the 02 when Joshua beat Charles Martin, I was there, arm in arm with lads, singing along to Sweet Caroline (who doesn’t love the bit where it goes “Whoh-Ohh-Ohh”)? I enjoyed myself immensely, from the 4 minutes it took for Joshua to knock Martin down twice and win, to the shouty tube journey home. But now, nearly 8 months on, Joshua, a world champion, has still not fought anyone of any pedigree, and enough is enough.
After a decade in heavyweight division in which the Klitschko brothers would hand pick their opponents and then jab them to death with no trouble at all, Tyson Fury’s victory at the end of last year blew open the scene, before Tyson blew open himself (a story for another time). However, even with the huge array of potential heavyweight clashes for the casual fan to enjoy, the most anticipated heavyweight fight of the year in this country will be Dillian Whyte v Dereck Chisora, and as fun as it will be to see those two fight before, during and after their clash, this is not what anyone hoped for when Klitschko’s crown was so skilfully removed.
The problem, as always, is the men who control boxing, men like Matchroom Promotions owner Eddie Hearn. Don’t get me wrong, I actually like Eddie Hearn, despite the fact that he looks like he would lie to you about the mileage of a used car, he is probably a good thing for English boxing. I much prefer him to his business adversary and legendary scumbag Frank Warren, who looks like he smells of old Rothman Superkings. However, Hearn, and to a slightly lesser extent Warren, will protect their various cash- cows at all costs, of which Joshua is biggest, and the milkiest, and as long as idiots like me pay to watch his cows beat up inferior cows there is no incentive to put him in with the bulls.
I do not know how good Anthony Joshua is at boxing. I suspect, and wholeheartedly hope that he may turn into one of the greats, but at the moment he is not being allowed to because the public is not demanding more of him, or any of our best boxers for that matter. After being sold the idea of Joshua fighting Klitschko by Hearn for weeks, to get Molina is about as exciting as finding a turd in your Christmas stocking.
In the amateur ranks, where losing is considered far less disastrous, boxers fight one another continuously, moving up to better opposition when they are ready. In the professional side of the sport, big fights are left to develop for far too long (see Mayweather-Pacquiao) when what should be happening is that good fighters fight good fighters all the time (see the CV of Andre Ward for inspiration).
Boxing is a sport in which you are, above all else, who you fight. Great fighters need each other and it is that which makes the sport so fundamentally exciting. Arturo Gatti is remembered not for being a world champion, but will instead be loved forever for his trilogy of fights with Mickey Ward. Chris Eubank and Nigel Benn have memorialised themselves in this country because they took on one another in the attempt to prove themselves simply as better than the other, and the fact that they look like they would still love to fight one another today merely helps to prove my point.
We would refuse to consider Lionel Messi the greatest footballer of all time if he was playing for Newell’s Old Boys scoring hat-tricks against Argentinian shopkeepers, and therefore, we must demand more of our boxers in this country. The recent trend of British fighters, with the notable exception of Carl Frampton, getting defeated when they step up to the highest level: Paul Smith, Liam Smith, Stephen Smith (it must suck to be Mrs Smith), Kell Brook and Scott Quigg to name a few will I fear continue if we do not demand that our fighters are tested more regularly, and it would be an enormous shame if the same thing happened to Joshua if and when he is told to fight someone good.