State of the Union PT 1

2016 was to many a really shit year. A lot of great things happened but i think it’s safe to say that last year will not be remembered as a vintage year. We lost a lot of great people, in many different industries. Prince, David Bowie, Gene Wilder, George Michael, Carrie Fisher and the list goes on…

In the fight game we saw the passing of two all time greats, Muhammad Ali passed away forever and Floyd Mayweather Jr retired (until further notice). Two very different people, two contrasting losses, but combined, both occasions give us an opportunity to reflect on this beautiful sport we love.

Muhammad Ali was The Greatest. If you disagree with that then you don’t know boxing. Simple. An elegant fighter who’s legacy will live on long after the man himself, and whose influence will be seen in the sport of boxing for generations to come. Muhammad Ali represents a golden age of boxing, not just for the quality of fighters; Foreman, Frazier, Norton, etc. but the fact that all of those hall of fame calibre fighters fought each other…at their peak. In a time when there was one champion in each weight, to be the best you had to beat the best. A situation which is not too different to the UFC today. Multiple weights, many contenders jostling for position and the opportunity to fight for the throne but crucially, only one champion. This produced a different breed of fighter, one who wasn’t so transfixed by remaining unbeaten. Put simply fighters in the Ali era were not afraid to put their record on the line because it simply didn’t matter as much as testing your skills against the best people in your division.

23959_01_lg
A true heavyweight superfight. Ali vs. Frazier I

Why? Because in those days that was the only way you were going to succeed.

Somewhere along the line things changed, the fight business evolved, priorities shifted and we’re knee deep in an era where preserving your “0” is more important than being part of career and era defining fights that live long in the memory.

Nobody represents this era better than Floyd Mayweather Jr. Money Mayweather “retired” (for the right check he’ll be back) with a perfect 49-0 resume. Tying Rocky Marciano for the best record in the history of boxing. Talent wise Floyd Mayweather should go down as one of if not the greatest fighter of all time. The problem is his resume just doesn’t stack up. When you look closer, and put all his fights within the context of when they happened, you start to look at Floyd in a different light. He IS the undisputed TBE of the boxing game, a man who had a style, persona, and brand which economically exploited the boxing community better than anyone in the history of the sport. He and Al Haymon together have played the fight game like a world class orchestra and in the process laid down a blueprint for the success of generations of fighters, but ironically, they’ve probably also opened the door to the demise of boxing as a sport.

img-mayweather-3_15430416136_display_image
Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr

I get it, boxing is a brutal brutal sport. A mental and physical battle between two men who are each trying to impose their will on the other for two reasons…1) money and 2) to see who is better. That’s IT no other reasons and In that order. It is not for me to denigrate a boxer for putting money ahead of a sporting spectacle.  There is no boxing fighters union, it is a lonely and solitary sport, once a fighter is done and is no longer useful, the media, fans, promoters, and managers will disappear so it is up to the fighter to look out for no.1

If I had a son and he wanted to get into boxing, I would be in his corner and would make sure he modelled his career on Floyd Mayweather Jr and that’s both fighting style and career business model-maximum revenue for minimum risk and punishment. However in life there are consequences and trade offs to every decision you make; and going down this route means you disqualify yourself from genuinely being TBE or The GOAT. And here’s why…we remember Muhammad Ali as the greatest not purely because of WHAT he achieved but also and more importantly HOW he did it. Ali vs. Frazier (1,2 or 3), Ali vs. Foreman, Ali vs. Liston; era and career defining fights against bigger and tougher opponents who you’re not supposed to beat. Not because they represent the easiest payday but because they were the best fights out there and they paid enough money to make them viable and worthwhile.

6ccaa43aaf289475f382f2156595a06e
Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Roberto Duran. The best of their day fighting in their peak…a novel idea! 

The UFC has figured this out brilliantly. one champion at each weight, One organisation who choses when fights happen and who fights who. Can this work in boxing? I believe the answer is an unequivocal YES. Is it easy to implement, absolutely not, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth pursuing. With PBC, Al Haymon has effectively created the foundation for this to happen, and I believe firmly believe that Haymon’s end game is to create just that. Check out this previous article on Al Haymon –> Al Haymon – Puppet Master

The Ring magazine has an unofficial “champion” at each weight, however this status is very political and isn’t necessarily directly earned in the ring. Having an official organisation and making the status a prize to be earned in the ring is better for fans, better for the fighters, and better for the sport of boxing.

We go deeper into this subject in our “Story to Tell” podcast. Make sure you check it out and get involved in the discussion.

That being said…here are the Top “unconfirmed” fights we’d like to see in 2017.

Canelo vs. GGG

ggg-is-too-much-for-canelo

When you give up a belt and give the excuse that your body isn’t ready for the weight…and then proceed to accept another fight at the weight above, it’s obvious to the world that you’re ducking. For the record I don’t believe that it is Canelo who is ducking, I think Oscar De la Hoya is protecting his cash cow and milking it for as long as he can. This needs to end in 2017.

Andre Ward vs. Kovalev II

andre-vs-sergey

Possibly the most important match up in boxing since Mayweather vs. Pacquiao. Billed as a decider of the No.1 P4P  winner the first fight was a damp squib for the casual crossover boxing fan. It turned out to be an ugly dogfight with two high level fighters in their prime playing chess with boxing gloves. Not the action packed spectacle needed to be a cross over hit. Andre Ward is the best fighter on the planet and it’s a damn shame he isn’t appreciated as highly as his talent deserves. The rematch will be heavily anticipated and hopefully it’s a bigger commercial success than the first one.

Vasyl Lomachenko vs. any top fighter

hi-res-4084fd1df1290e833a08d7d30799b40a_crop_exact

Vasyl “Hi Tech” Lomachenko is flat out gifted. There are some people in life who look like they were touched by god to specifically do what they do. Their movement is different, everything seems so effortless, so smooth, they anticipate things 3 steps ahead of everyone else. Cristiano Ronaldo is an all time great but his success is engineered to the point that it is abundantly clear his achievements are down to work ethic and sheer force of will. Lionel Messi is a man who produces the same (if not better) results, in such a way that he makes it easy to overlook the hours of work he puts in day in day out, simply because he make it look so easy. Vasyl Lomachenko is the Lionel Messi of boxing. Rigondeaux, Carl Frampton, Leo Santa Cruz, there are many big fights out there for him. Lets hope he gets the platform to prove it but we could be looking at the greatest fighter of all time!

Kell Brook vs. winner of Danny Garcia vs. Keith Thurman

hi-res-5a58ae5e80403525290a92f9f24376af_crop_north

Danny Garcia takes on Keith Thurman in March and some people will view the winner of that fight as the No.1 Welterweight in the world. Those people will be wrong. Kell Brook is the best fighter in the division, he needs an elite level fighter to have the balls to sign on the dotted line and fight him. Eddie Hearn needs to put the money up and get the deals done, Kell Brook’s talent deserves it and so do boxing fans.

Kell Brook vs. Amir Khan

brook-khan-british-boxing_3193298

Too many years, too much talking and not enough punching. These two guys genuinely do not like each other and finally it looks like they can settle it once and for all. It would be a massive fight in the UK and with the right card would sell out Wembley Stadium. Amir Khan is an average fighter but he always comes to fight and always brings excitement. Kell Brook is an elite level fighter who needs big fights to get the recognition his talent deserves. Eddie Hearn…MAKE IT HAPPEN!

Anthony Joshua vs. Deontay Wilder

joshua-wilder-boxing_3313949

The undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. There isn’t a more prestigious title in the world of sport. This potential fight would be for all the marbles. Stylistically this would be an amazing match up; two knockout artists, evenly matched in height, weight, and most physical attributes. The results would be explosive must see TV. I can’t wait.

And Still…Champion of World, Anthony”AJ” Joshua

6’6, 18st, Olympic Champion, undefeated as a professional with 17 fights, 17 victories and 100% knockout ratio. Anthony Joshua is a beast! A fearsome individual and ruthless competitor who happens to have the tools to deliver on what he believes.

Here are the 5 reasons why I think AJ is the real deal:

Speed

Speed Kills. A rare commodity amongst heavyweights so whenever somebody comes along and possesses it in abundance, you need to sit up and take notice. Below is AJ’s last full fight against Dominic Breazeale…you be the judge!

Power

17 fights, 17 Victories, 17 KO’s

“He is like a big Mike Tyson because if he catches you, he is straight on top of you. I took a shot and bang, he was there and battering me to the ground. He broke my eye socket and for three months I had nerve damage in my face, total numbness down one side. That was a daily reminder of what it was like fighting this guy. A great talent.” – Matt Legg (previously beaten opponent of Anthony Joshua)

Confidence

“I want to be the kingpin of the division. Trust me, I’m going to get better and I’m going to mess them all up. Now I want to start adding the big names to my record, so I can silence these boys. Beat all these guys, they can’t say anything no more and then I’ll move on” – Anthony Joshua

Ambition

“I want to go until I’m 35 — I want to maintain this for a decade, I think unifying the titles is possible by the end of 2017. I’m not getting carried away, but I’m slowly building towards it.”Anthony Joshua

Work Ethic

During the boring dominant years of the Kilitschko brother’s, all other heavyweights seemed to give up. Countless opponents would turn up on fight night, overweight, out of shape, and looking like sumo wrestlers instead of prize fighters. Guys who were visibly not putting the work in and were merely happy to cash the paycheque. AJ is not one of those guys and has the results to prove it…

Screen Shot 2016-06-26 at 15.10.27

So What’s next?

The danger would be to overlook immediate opponents and dream of the big names, fights and paydays that could happen in the future. For a second let’s escape immediate reality and look to harder tests in the future. Below is the Boxrec ranking of the worlds best heavyweights; despite AJ being ranked at number 5, I genuinely do not see anybody on that list who I would purposely keep him away from.

Screen Shot 2016-06-26 at 13.47.41

Joseph Parker is the mandatory challenger for the IBF belt, is ranked at No.8 and should be a tough test next time out. If you doubt that, here’s some evidence…

A big, strong, tough heavyweight with one punch knockout power…remind you of anyone? This fight should be competitive, but one AJ should win, my initial prediction is AJ by late stoppage. (I reserve the right to update this  prediction if necessary as we get closer to the fight.)

IF he gets past Parker, he’ll be in the upper echelons of the layer cake that is professional sports, and the fighters I’d love him to face are these guys…

  • Deontay Wilder
  • Tyson Fury
  • David Haye

In that order, because even though David Haye isn’t ranked in the top 10 of heavyweights (he isn’t even in the top 20) I think that he is the biggest, clearest and most present danger to AJ’s title. All of the other top heavyweights in the world are built in a similar way. Tall, strong, big, slow power punchers. David Haye is built from a different mould-a blown up cruiserweight, who’s MO revolves around speed. Everytime he steps into a ring he gives up height, reach and weight advantages to conventional heavyweights so he’s perfected a style that builds on his strengths. A two weight winner who was World Champion before AJ even begun to box.

David Haye also believes it too…David Haye says Anthony Joshua will not be able to cope with him.

As yet, we haven’t seen a strong and quick heavyweight with fast hands test AJ. We haven’t even seen him fight on the back foot. He hasn’t had to because nobody has been good enough to make him do it…David Haye can and will.

A year from now…because that’s how long I think it will take…this showdown will be huge and I for one cannot wait.

Either way we should enjoy the ride, Anthony Joshua is a genuine talent who is bringing credibility back to the heavyweight division. That’s something we should all get behind!