Say Nothing At All

Modern boxing is less a stones throw away and more a Grand Theft Auto RPG fire from the days of old.  When Muhammad Ali recently passed, fans recalled memories of the best fighting the best.  Ali-Liston, Ali-Frazier, Ali-Foreman, Foreman-Frazier.  The list could go on as long as the memories they created.  No person sound of mind would be surprised that there were behind the scenes negotiations, back-and-forth terms and conditions that had to be ironed out before the greats made their rings walks (after all, Don King was involved in numerous top bouts of the era).  I can’t profess to be around during the years of these bouts, or any other golden generation for that matter however I can still be 99% certain that any prolonged negotiations were taking place not in the public light, but behind closed doors.

The modern age of internet, social media, YouTube etc grants us access to unprecedented levels of access that were not available in bygone years.  IFL TV, the popular YouTube channel fronted by Kugan Cassius and James Helder, has done wonders for lifting the veil on the boxing industry.  Relationships with the main powers of the UK Sport, Eddie Hearn and Frank Warren, allow us fans to see and know far more than fans have ever done.  Only a few months back we had an insight to how Hearn would launch the UK career of a faded Shannon Briggs if he wanted to work with Matchroom.  However, is more always better?

As I write this there are two cases of the UK boxing fan knowing perhaps more than they should do; in turn, the same fans become antagonised when the little they do know heightens expectations that are hard to meet.  I am talking of the two bouts that Hearn is presently working to sign off:  Chris Eubank Jr vs Gennady Golovkin and Kell Brook vs Jessie Vargas.  Two big fights.  Super fights?  Probably not.  But they are still fights that whet the appetite and will likely register in the top five to take place on these shores in 2016.  The timeline for each varies, but the narrative is the same.  Two fighters that seemingly want a fight over titles (in Brook’s case a unification, in Eubank’s case a challenge), Hearn is the promoter for each of the UK sides and feeds information to IFL TV that talks are not just ongoing but positive – nearly done in fact!  That was a couple of weeks back now, and yet we still await.

In the meantime, the fighters continue to bicker on the modern school playground that is Twitter.  Brook tells Vargas he’s going to ‘smoke his boots’, Vargas says he has done his contract and is awaiting the response from Brook and Co.  Golovkin says his contract is ready and done, the Eubank team (Sr in particular) are saying that their terms need agreeing with Hearn.

Let’s be clear here – there is no doubt that fighters deserve the best deal they can possibly get, nobody will begrudge that.  This counts double for Eubank Jr who is stepping in with one of the most avoided fighters on the planet in a fight where the reward for winning is as high as the risk of taking the fight at all.  We know they want to be well paid, we know there are terms to agree and we know there are intricacies to deal with.  Nobody is doubting this.  But also, as the paying fan who would be looking at paying £45 upwards to see the men in the ring, we just don’t care.

Often you see fans online supporting their man, saying that Fighter A shouldn’t take the fight for X amount of money.  It’s as if they are taking a cut of the purse, a percentage of the income.  They’re not, they’re paying like everyone else.  This issue all comes back to Eddie Hearn, of that there is no doubt. 
He has done wonders for the sport of boxing in the UK.  Arenas are being filled, more champions than ever (yes there are more belts, it’s a given), and the ‘casual’ fans are ploughing more and more cash in with each event.  The sport is starting to transcend again, boxing is making headlines (some good, some bad) and becoming relevant again, something that Hearn can take some credit for.  Lifting that veil on the sport is no doubt part to do with that too, he makes himself accessible in interviews and on social media.  It’s a wonder he perseveres sometimes with the amount of stupid questions/stupid abuse he receives in equal measure.  But as much as his work is to be admired, it is to be scorned.

Why come out and tell us that there are fights almost ready to announce for both Brook and Eubank Jr that are going to excite the fans.  I mean that genuinely, not a throwaway question.  Go back and read it; why come out and tell us that there are fights almost ready to announce for both Brook and Eubank Jr?  To me there is no upside to this.  Let’s turn this on its head, let’s say the announcements never happened.

Reece Macmillan
Say next week, out of the blue, Hearn announces Eubank Jr vs Golovkin and Brook vs Vargas in a unification with both to take place in the UK.  The world of boxing would be shook up.  From nowhere we find out that in the next 3 months we get two exciting fights.  It’s a boost, it’s a headline.  The most recent precedent for this was when Amir Khan and Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez announced from nowhere their fight to take place in May.  Not a hint beforehand, no rumour amongst fans.  Just a shock announcement and then the build up.

With the way Hearn is working right now, we are going the wrong way around.  There is a build up to a not so shock announcement.  Assume that each of these fight announcements were made with 10 weeks until fight night.  Does making a shock announcement hinder ticket sales?  I wouldn’t imagine so.  In fact, dragging the process out as it is at present is arguably dulling the interest. 

As a paying fan, I am bored of the Vargas vs Brook shenanigans already.  Neither is particularly a character and neither is a huge headline act (Brook could and should have been, but that is a different matter).  This has had a month of dry humping so far already, and Brook is a man that has precedent for pulling out of a fight even when it is signed (see Diego Chaves, Tim Bradley et al).  Only a certain amount of Twitter bickering is interesting.  As for Eubank Jr this is a different situation, the Eubank circus generates its own interest and hype and Golovkin is such a phenomenal talent that fans will persevere a little longer here.  That amount of credit won’t last forever though.

If Hearn had never opened his mouth there wouldn’t be this issue.  The fighters stay out of Twitter feuds for now, or perhaps not.  They can still have them, it can just be more personal than arguing about pen to paper (if they need to at all).  Yes he argues the point that as a Promoter what would he talk about if not prospective fights.  How about fights that are made?  How about hyping those in the bag and hinting at others?

These fights may just struggle over the line.  At that point, we get another eight weeks minimum of hyperbole and press conference.  It just feels a little like we have already had the same already, why would we want it repeated?  Fighter are fighters, that’s what they are good at.  Public engagements are part and parcel of the role, but it ultimately isn’t their speciality.  That is what Hearn is there for.

What will be interesting is if neither or either of these fights don’t come off. What then?  We are all used to the smoke, mirrors and spin that goes along with the sport.  You can be sure that no side is going to admit they were at fault, instead we as fans get to hear about the issues over PPV splits, A-side and B-side negotiations etc etc. 

Perhaps it would be better to hear nothing at all?