Boxing promoters wear many hats. They sign and develop fighters; negotiate with networks, venues and sponsors; generate publicity for their
boxers and events; and sell tickets. All of these functions are vital for boxing promoters but let's not forget their most important one; they run businesses.
Like all industrialists, boxing promoters attempt
to maximize revenues. Their paramount task is to create the largest pool of
money for their events. The bigger the fight, the more revenue there is, and not
just for the promoters themselves but for the boxing industry as a whole: fighters, managers,
trainers and networks. For promoters in particular, huge boxing events are
essential in sustaining and growing their businesses. The profits from mega-fights become working capital to spend on young prospects and boxers who
aren't yet financially self-sustaining. Promoters will often take losses on
emerging fighters in the hopes that they'll become revenue generators later in
their career. Big events provide opportunities for promoters to cover these
losses (or, to put it another way, investments). In short, mega-fights are the oxygen for boxing promoters, the lifeblood of a company. Without them, it's
extremely difficult to nourish a healthy stable of fighters.
(For the purposes of this article, I'm referring to traditional
boxing promoters. Let's ignore the PBC promotional model for the time
In this context – the necessity of big fights – the
announced September bout in London between Gennady Golovkin and Kell
Brook is a major triumph for Matchroom Sport and K2 Promotions, the
promoters involved in the matchup. Instead of a Golovkin defense against
Chris Eubank, Jr. and a Brook unification fight with Jessie Vargas, the two
promoters have created a mega-event in boxing-mad England that is guaranteed to
be a box office and pay per view success in that market.
Golovkin-Brook represents the essence of prizefighting. Golovkin,
the number-one middleweight in the world, will receive a huge payday to face a
top welterweight. Brook will easily make the biggest purse of his career and
has the opportunity to chase greatness.
For K2, which primarily promotes in Germany and America, this
event provides Golovkin with additional international visibility in one of the
best boxing markets in the world. For Matchroom Sport and the Hearn
family, the fight is a huge coup. Having difficulty getting Brook opportunities
against the premier welterweight attractions in the sport, they now will give him the chance to become a bona fide star. In addition, they'll be bringing over one of the biggest
names in boxing to England, assuring significant media coverage and fan
Of course, there's more to this matchup than revenues and the size
of the event. Hardcore boxing fans have wanted to see Golovkin against the best
in the sport for many years. Through no fault of his own, Golovkin hasn't been able to land a top middleweight opponent. The best potential opponents in his division have avoided him (Martinez,
Cotto, Alvarez, Quillin, Jacobs, Sturm, etc.).
Golovkin has become one of the
true superstars in the sport but his resume is still lacking big names. His 160-lb. title defenses have been mostly one-sided
affairs against B- and C- level fighters. In addition,
Golovkin, to this point in his career, has refused to move up in weight to test himself
against talented super middleweights. Interesting matchups against
the likes of Andre Ward (who until recently was the top guy at 168 lbs.) or
James DeGale have failed to materialize.
For many boxing fans, Golovkin's predicament has created a
level of frustration. Yes, Golovkin has been one of the true killers in the
sport but it's certainly easier to look dominant against lesser fighters.
Boxing enthusiasts want him to face the best possible challengers. They
are eager to see just how good he really is. In short, they want to know if he possesses greatness.
Brook most likely won't be the one to challenge Golovkin. Yes, he's among the top fighters at
welterweight. However, it's not just that he has unfinished business at 147; in
fact, he's hardly conducted any meaningful business at the weight whatsoever.
Throughout his career, he has amassed just one meaningful win, against Shawn Porter,
and that fight was very competitive. He hasn't faced other top welterweights
like Tim Bradley, Keith Thurman, Manny Pacquiao or anyone besides Porter who
could potentially lay a claim to the top guy in the division.
In 2012, Brook was lucky to survive the 12th round against
unheralded Carson Jones. Hurt badly by a series of right hands, Brook somehow stayed on his feet to earn a majority decision victory. Since that
time, Brook has looked much better in the ring. He stopped Jones in their rematch (the fight was far above the welterweight limit) and was sharp and
poised in the face of Porter's aggression. His title defenses against Jo
Jo Dan, Frankie Gavin and Kevin Bizier were dominant but those performances
were certainly against lesser foes.
It's possible that the first Jones bout was just a blip on the
radar. And looking for silver linings, that night did demonstrate Brook's ability
to navigate a boxing ring while hurt and under duress – important lessons for
all fighters to learn. However, Golovkin is one of the hardest hitters and best finishers in the sport. It's unlikely that if
Golovkin hurts Brook, that he'll let Brook off the hook like Jones did.
Brook is a very talented fighter. Featuring an impressive arsenal
of punches and, particularly, an excellent left hand, Brook's accuracy and
creative offensive output should at least make the opening rounds interesting
against Golovkin. But does he have the power to hurt Golovkin, who has never
been knocked down as an amateur or a pro? Can he take Golovkin's best shot? And
doesn't his style, which consists of remaining in the pocket at mid-range, play
right into Golovkin's hands? Brook isn't known for being particularly evasive
in the ring and his foot speed is just functional; Golovkin will be able to
deserves no blame for offering Golovkin to Brook. The fighter, trainer and/or
manager (if that person is different than the promoter – in some jurisdictions, a promoter can also double as a manager) are chiefly responsible for making prudent decisions
regarding safety and the risk-reward calculus. Brook (and his team) has accepted
the fight knowing that significant injury could occur.
Golovkin-Brook could be interpreted as a cynical calculation on Hearn's part. It's certainly possible that Brook might be unavailable for a period after the fight. Hearn is banking that the revenue from this bout will be greater than Brook's next few title defenses if he hadn't fought Golovkin. (Boxing promoters make these types of calculations all the time.) But before preparing the tar-and-feather for Mr. Heartless Hearn, remember, he is providing Brook with the opportunity to
sink-or-swim against one of the top fighters in the world, and significant remuneration for that privilege. Golovkin is Brook's best available risk/reward proposition in the sport.
On paper, Golovkin-Brook doesn't appear to be a competitive matchup.
However, professional prizefighting is often about so much
more than fair fights. Although hardcore boxing fans want the best to be challenged,
there are other factors to be considered. In the U.K.,
Golovkin-Brook will draw legions of casual sports fans to boxing. The media will provide heightened attention to the sport. Buckets of money will be made for
Those who like competition would've certainly preferred fights
like Brook-Bradley or Golovkin-Andrade instead of this matchup, but big fights
make the sport go round. It's hard to argue against the financial case for
Golovkin-Brook. When two fighters can make career-high paydays, the
powers-that-be behind them have done their jobs. This is the essence of
prizefighting. In terms of wanting a great fight, we might not like this
matchup whatsoever. However, it's always important to reacquaint ourselves with the
realities of the sport.
Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of saturdaynightboxing.com.
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.