The Politics of Boxing - Analyzing The Red Tape That Prevents Mega Fights From Happening

Over the last handful of decades, the once world-renowned sport of boxing has suffered a noticeable decline in popularity amongst the mainstream.

The days of Ali, Tyson, and Sugar Ray Leonard representing boxing on a global scale as pop culture icons seem like a distant memory.

Without a doubt, boxing has taken a back seat in the eyes of the general public due to politics inhibiting the biggest and best fights from being made.

There is an old saying that perfectly encapsulates this medium we all know and love - “Boxing….you can’t kill it but you can’t save it”.

As it always has, the sport does seem to be on a rebound from its prolonged slump. Mega fights such as;

  • David Benavidez VS Caleb Plant
  • Naoya Inoue VS Stephen Fulton
  • Gervonta Davis VS Ryan Garcia

Fans will finally be treated to these box office blockbusters in the near future but there is still work to be done before boxing can return to its former glory.

We aim to decompartmentalize the formalities that keep pound-for-pound kings from clashing in the ring and diagnose the main hurdle boxing needs to overcome in order to regain the luster it once had.

Network Wars

In most other professional sports the vast majority of the elite talent is concentrated under one banner, such as the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and UFC.

Boxing is unique to these other sports because talent is dispersed amongst many different promotional banners, all of which have contractual obligations to different broadcasting networks.

For the sake of brevity, we will only focus on the big three:

  • Bob Arum’s Top Rank Boxing - ESPN
  • Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing - DAZN
  • Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions - ShowtimeTV

The fact that these promotional banners control their own talent means that two fighters who are contracted to separate promotions make the negotiation process infinitely more complicated.

Promoters will try to short-change and jockey in negotiations to ensure they have the upper hand on their competitors.

Both parties' goal is to secure a higher purse for their respective fighters as well as broadcasting rights to the fight on the platform they are obligated to rather than crossing the street over to an opposing platform.

This will often deliver long drawn-out deliberation that usually ends in an impasse resulting in super fights never being made at all.

Spence Vs Crawford

This is the epitome of bureaucracy impeding mega fights from materializing. Two world champions who are deeply entrenched in any sane boxing pundit’s pound-for-pound list, both in their prime, and both campaigning in the same weight class.

Errol Spence vs Terrence Crawford is a fight that has had boxing fans gushing at the mouth since Crawford moved up to the welterweight division in 2017.

Six years have since passed and these two giants have yet to cross paths, the reason for that is simple.

Crawford for the bulk of his career has fought under the Top Rank banner whereas Spence has fought under the PBC banner.

This required Bob Arum and Al Haymon to step to the negotiation table in good faith and come to a mutual agreement where all parties (fighters, networks, and promoters) are satisfied, this task has evidently proven to be too much to ask.

Even as Crawford decided to step away from Top Rank in late 2021 and become a promotional free agent due to Arum’s inability to deliver him this fight, he has still been unable to secure a bout with Spence as a result of the politics of boxing.

Boxing’s Future

As mentioned earlier, the future does look brighter for the sport as its loyal fans continue to voice their gripes with fighters and promoters shielding the elite from fighting worthy competition.

Super fights are starting to come to fruition which can only propel the sport back to the pinnacle of sports entertainment, a crown it once held but has since relinquished.

We hope this encouraging pattern continues as we usher in a new golden age of professional boxing.


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