Sunday, July 10, 2016

It Is Called "Prizefighting"

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 being). 

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 interest. 

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 find him. 

Eddie Hearn 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 all parties. 

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
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
@snboxing on twitter, SN Boxing on Facebook
Contact Adam at 

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