Friday, August 22, 2014

SNB Mailbag

It's time for another edition of the Saturday Night Boxing Mailbag. All questions were submitted to the Saturday Night Boxing Facebook Forum. There’s lots of great stuff here, so let's get to it. 

Al Haymon

Is Al Haymon's position in the sport a danger to boxing?
Kram Sanoraa

There have always been kingmakers in boxing who have tried to control the sport (and not just King, Don). As much as they attempt to obtain a stranglehold over certain divisions and television networks, the sport marches on. Haymon is just "that guy" right now. Although I disagree with a number of Haymon's tactics, he has done a very good job of getting his best guys on TV. 

Frankly, there are too many talented fighters in the sport for boxing to be in serious danger. Remember, Haymon only has a foothold in the North American market. Boxing thrives throughout the world. I would argue that the sport is currently healthiest outside America, far removed from Haymon's machinations. Even with that said, there is still adequate competition in the U.S. market. I don't see Al Haymon's current status as a long-term threat to boxing in America. Boxing has had a number of self-inflicted wounds in the U.S. and I don't see Haymon as chief among them. 

In a perfect world, I'd like to see Haymon challenge his boxers more and make better fights. In addition, he could certainly surround himself with higher caliber boxing people who could help enhance the development of his fighters. 

On another note, Haymon doesn't become the force that he is without docile TV networks executives bending to his will. With a less permissive atmosphere at Showtime, suddenly Haymon's fighters would be matched tougher. HBO had a similar problem with Haymon before the network jettisoned him from its airwaves in 2013. 

Do you think fighters are being developed right today?
Kirk Brown
Montego Bay, Jamaica

That's a tough question to answer because there are certainly good and bad examples in contemporary boxing. I'll just say this: with four title belts per division these days, it's a much easier path to become a "champion" than it was generations ago. Thus, the top 15-guys in a division are really only a fight or two away from a belt. This reality produces a lot of incentives (for boxers, promoters and managers) to protect a fighter's ranking and can certainly hinder a boxer's development.

Some promoters, such as Top Rank, do an excellent job of developing fighters. But there are other companies and management teams who like to take shortcuts to the top. I believe that a number of fighters who are managed/advised by Al Haymon have fallen into this category. Talents such as Jermain Taylor, Andre Berto, Danny Jacobs, Adrien Broner, Gary Russell Jr. and others have fallen short of their ultimate potential because they weren't put in very tough during their development. However, there are Haymon fighters, such as Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia, who I believe have been developed well, but I think that they are more of the exception than the rule. 

Belts, weight classes and sanctioning bodies

Are all of the weight classes necessary, for example, 112, 115, 118, 122, 126 and 130?
Armando Torres Ruiz
San Juan

I don't have a real problem with it. I think that the four belts per division water down the sport more than the various weight classes do. And frankly, there are excellent fighters at each of the weights that you have mentioned. The main problem is that not enough of them face each other. 

Why aren't people attracted to lighter weights (minimum weight, light flyweight, etc.) considering there is often more action in those fights?
Anto Connolly

In certain countries, such as Japan and Mexico, boxers from smaller weight classes have become huge stars. In other parts of the world – for example, America – fighters from the lighter weights have struggled to catch on with boxing fans, let alone casual sports fans at-large. There are notable exceptions both ways but historically it's been a cultural difference. 

However, your essential point is right; there's no reason why smaller-weight fighters can't attract more attention. A lot of television networks are risk-averse. Their programmers believe that boxing fans don't want to see smaller fighters so then these boxers are never put on-air. It becomes a self-perpetuating cycle. Luckily, the internet makes it easier for boxing fans around the world to watch smaller fighters. 

Two very attractive lower-weight fights take place in September: Akira Yaegashi-Roman Gonzalez and Juan Estrada-Giovani Segura. Sadly, the major U.S. networks won't be televising either fight, but boxing fans can now see these matches live on their computers; at least we have that option now. I keep waiting for the U.S. networks to come around to the flyweight division, which may be the best weight class in boxing, but it hasn't happened yet.  

Which sanctioning body has the most credibility?
Brandon Pierce
Council, North Carolina

I'm assuming that you want something other than "none" as your answer. Currently, I believe that the IBF does the best job of following its rules and being transparent in its administration. Historically, the IBF has been plagued by corruption but it has recovered well under President Daryl Peoples. I don't agree with everything that the IBF does; for instance, I still can't understand how the organization let Lamont Peterson keep his belt after testing positive for enhanced levels of testosterone, but the IBF has distinguished itself over the other bodies in the past five years. Granted, that's faint praise at best. 

In your opinion, which is THE main championship belt today? Is it the IBF, WBC, WBA, WBO or The Ring title?
Deepak Ramesh
Chennai, India

Of the ones you listed, I believe that fighters who attain The Ring belt have the most legitimacy. As far as the other sanctioning organizations, the boxer makes the belt and not the other way around. I don't care if Klitschko has an "official" title or not – he’s number-one in the division.  

In terms of the best rankings in boxing, permit me to make a shameless plug for the Transnational Boxing Rankings (I am a member of its board). The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board is a collection of boxing writers from around the world who rank the top-10 fighters in each division. And trust me; we take this task seriously – probably way too seriously! All joking aside, I think that our rankings are as fair and just as you will find in the sport. Check it out at

Do you think there should be one champion per division or are you fine with the four that there are now?
Sean Charleston

Obviously, I would prefer one champion in each division over the current scenario. It would create more meaning within boxing, which would provide clarification for fans and make the sport easier to understand for those who are less familiar with it. One champion would be a great way to help grow the sport. 

However, there are some important historical reasons why multiple sanctioning bodies exist. First of all, with only one champion, it becomes easy to avoid a particular challenger or freeze him out of the division. Second, with just one belt, the incentives for corruption would be astronomical. If you think that sanctioning body politics are crazy now, just wait until there is one champion per division – lots of cash in manila envelopes.

Honestly, I don't think that either scenario is ideal.  For a number of decades, Japan only recognized the WBC and the WBA (they have since recognized a third organization) and I believe that two champions is probably the best model for the current state of boxing. With two belts, fighters could still get a crack at the top but the divisions wouldn't get so watered down. Let's go with two organizations. 

What is the reason/meaning of a WBC silver belt (besides a sanctioning fee)?
Ricardo Guevara
Mountain View, California

There is only one instance where it makes sense. In many jurisdictions, in order to have a 12-round fight, one of the major sanctioning bodies has to support it. Thus, if Andre Ward wanted to fight a 12-round tune-up bout, he would need the approval of one of the sanctioning organizations for that to occur. Essentially, without a title or a title eliminator on the line, boxing has migrated to 10-round fights. The silver belt, in theory, permits boxers to take a 12-round fight against a lesser opponent. But you're right; in practice, the silver belt functions merely as a cash grab for the WBC. 


Will Wladimir Klitschko man up and fight Deontay Wilder before he retires?
Todd Metcalfe
Mount Dora, Florida

I have two answers to that: 1. With the exception of his brother, Wlad has fought practically every big name out there during his title reign. 2. What exactly has Wilder accomplished to this point that Wlad needs to "man-up" about? 

Will the heavyweight division ever be the money division again?
Louis Phillips
Leigh-on-Sea, England

In terms of money, the top heavyweights still make a very good living and Wladimir Klitschko is probably the third highest-paid fighter in the sport after Mayweather and Pacquiao. But you probably mean "money" like glamour. I'll respond by saying that the sport is cyclical. Some divisions go through ruts but frankly, the heavyweight division is a lot more interesting now than it was five years ago. There are a number of heavyweights who could make excellent fights, including Stiverne, Fury, Wilder, Haye, Chisora, Jennings, Povetkin and Pulev. British prospect Anthony Joshua could be right there in another two years. I don't know how many of these guys beat Klitschko, but they could make some great fights in the meantime. 

But will the heavyweight division every capture the imagination of the sports fan the way that it did in previous generations? In parts of the world where Klitschko is popular, I'm sure that it's happening right now. Klitschko's TV ratings are astronomical in Germany and he sells out huge arenas wherever he fights. 

For those not in Central and Eastern Europe, we're still waiting for that perfect mix of talent, power and charisma to emerge. I'm not sure when that fighter will arrive or if that person is currently boxing, but I wouldn't bet against it happening soon. As I said earlier, the sport is cyclical. Keep hope alive!


Do you think a Mayweather loss will hurt his PPV numbers in the future?
Manny Dominguez
Lake Grove, New York

Well, a loss doesn't help. Pacquiao is a great example. His numbers have yet to recovery from his drubbing against Marquez. It also would depend on what kind of loss. If Mayweather gets robbed or loses in a controversial fashion, I wouldn't think that his numbers would necessarily plummet. 

Who would win in a trash talk between Mayorga and Mayweather?
Victor Hernandez
Lebanon, Pennsylvania

Mayorga. Easily. He would win in dos rounds. 


With the Golden Boy vs. Top Rank war, do you think we will ever see the best from one company face the best of the other?
Robert Salinas
Laredo, Texas

Both Bob Arum (Top Rank) and Oscar de la Hoya (Golden Boy) have spoken about doing business together in the near future. However, with the exception of a purse bid (where one company essentially wins the services of another boxer for one fight), a joint Golden Boy-Top Rank promotion has yet to materialize. But with the shifting landscape in boxing and HBO's new-found willingness to bring back Golden Boy fighters on its airwaves, I do think it will happen – maybe not often, but if the opportunity is right, every once in a while.

How good is GGG?
Cam Beaton
Calgary, Canada

Very good. He clearly is one of the most gifted offensive fighters in the sport. He has tremendous knockout power, excellent footwork, a large arsenal of punches, good training habits and a desire to become the best. 

The top test for him right now is Andre Ward at 168 lbs. Ward's athleticism, punch variety and inside fighting skills would be a significant challenge for Golovkin. But let's be honest; neither fighter has really tried to make that fight happen. Until it does, Golovkin will continue to wow audiences and win fans with his knockouts of B-level opponents. 

Hopefully by 2015, we will have a more complete understanding of just how good Golovkin is in the ring. Is he a top-10 pound-for-pound guy? A top-5 guy? Right now, we just don't know. But I really want to find out!

What could Nathan Cleverly do to revive his career?
Jason Davies

1. Cleverly needs to better understand his strengths and weaknesses. He has excellent hand speed and movement yet he likes to stand and trade in the middle of the ring, giving bangers who lack his athletic skills a chance to beat him. He has already brought in a new head trainer, which is a good thing, but I don't think that we'll really see him progress until he realizes that his future is as a boxer. His stubbornness has held him back in my opinion. 

2. Beat Tony Bellew in their rematch. 

Who would you say is the best ever British boxer?
Craig Hart
Tayport, Scotland

I'd have to go with Bob Fitzsimmons (1863-1917). He won titles at middleweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight back when there was only one true champion per division. Although Fitzsimmons accomplished his greatest professional triumphs in Australia and America, he was born in the U.K. and did spend his formative years there before moving to New Zealand.  

Where would Roy Jones Jr. rank if he quit after the John Ruiz fight?
Joseph Gwilt, 
Bangkok, Thailand

In my mind, not much differently. I don't hold losses against a fighter after his peak. I'm sure that the "aura" of Jones would be greater if he had retired undefeated, but in ranking him among the greats, he doesn't necessarily suffer because of his losses. Along the same lines, I wouldn't have given him extra credit for retiring undefeated. It's always a question of "who you beat and when did you beat them." Rocky Marciano retired as an undefeated fighter but his final record was comparatively weaker than those of other great heavyweights. Very few would consider an unbeaten Marciano as the best heavyweight of all time. Jones probably ranks in the Top 30-50 fighters historically, but I haven't produced an all-time pound-for-pound list and I won't be doing so any time soon. 

Why do you think it's becoming a lot more common for people who started boxing late to have successful careers in the sport?
Nathan Metivier
Saskatoon, Canada

I'm not sure that I buy your premise. Although there are examples of fighters who started late becoming elite (Sergio Martinez is a recent one), late bloomers are still very much the exception to the rule. If you look at the top-10 fighters in the sport (Floyd, Ward, Pacquiao, Marquez, Bradley, Wlad, Froch, Roman Gonzalez, Rigondeaux, Hopkins), only Hopkins came late to boxing. Levels down, yes, there are some fighters who have gotten a late start in boxing who go on to have successful careers. But I don't necessarily see a trend where that is becoming more frequent. The best fighters almost always have an extensive amateur career or turn pro at a very young age. 

Roberto Duran vs. Pernell Whitaker at 135, who wins?
Richie Urnaitis
Poughkeepsie, New York

Ah!!!! A spectacular mythical fight! The consummate brawler vs. the master boxer. You know what; I'd actually take Duran in the fight. His activity level and aggression would naturally appeal to judges. I think that some of Whitaker's subtle work, ring generalship and defense might get missed. In a 12-round fight, I think that Duran is more of a favorite. In a 15-rounder, maybe Whitaker figures Duran out and has a big second half. Either way, I think that Duran might get the victory on the scorecards and not actually win the fight. 

What do you think is the attraction to boxing and why don't you think the UFC will ever surpass it?
David Redpath
Fife, Scotland

That's actually two questions so let may break them down individually. Boxing's attractions are manifold. It's sport, or competition, at its most primal. These athletes are modern-day warriors and they put their lives at risk every time they go into the ring. We marvel at their bravery, courage and resiliency. For most of us, we couldn't conceive of subjecting ourselves to that kind of brutality and yet we stare at amazement at those who do. There's certainly a vicarious element to it. 

But it's not just about blood and guts. The Queensberry Rules helped to regulate the sport. There's a structure to boxing that lends itself to variety. It's not a fight-to-the-death but rather a contest. There are various limitations on acceptable methods of attack. Thus, the sport has become an art form. There are many styles that can lead to a championship: knockout artists, brawlers, boxers, runners, jab-and-grabbers, pressure fighters and boxer-punchers. There is a beauty to the sport at its highest level and there's also a purity to it. Sure, you have to be tough to become a boxing champion but you better be smart too. 

As far as the MMA/UFC, I certainly have a bias in that I'm not a fan of that sport. In some ways, MMA has done very well for itself, growing significantly and gaining a substantial international following. In just a few decades, the sport has captivated millions of fans and in many parts of the U.S. and other countries, amateur MMA fighters clearly outnumber novice boxers. In another generation or two, it will be interesting to see if boxing can maintain its talent pool. MMA has certainly produced a number of wonderful athletes, many of whom might have gone into boxing.

However, boxing has numerous structural advantages over MMA that will enable its success in future decades and generations. Most importantly, boxing is an Olympic sport and nations will continue to spend money to foster and cultivate its amateur program. A second factor is boxing's sense of history, which has created wonderful regional, geographic and ethnic rivalries over the years. A young Puerto Rican or Mexican fighter would be far more drawn to the cultural push of boxing than he would be to the MMA. 

A third reason for boxing's continued success over MMA, and specifically the UFC, is money. Boxers get paid much more than those in the UFC do. Although Dana White has done a great job of growing the UFC, the best fighters in that sport make a pittance of what world-level boxers do. He essentially runs a monopoly in the U.S. and can control costs accordingly. Boxing, the sparsely-regulated mess that it is, still has its capitalist appeal. If you're among the best in the sport, you'll make millions. If you're a top UFC fighter, the financial benefits pale in comparison to boxing. Until the dollars start to even out, boxing will have a significant advantage.   

Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
Contact Adam at 
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1 comment:

  1. “Drummers and boxers, to acquire excellence, must begin young,” the great Egan wrore in 1820.