“Boxing Is A Game Of Double Standards” – Tokkers
In a quiet week for boxing, I respond to some of the criticism aimed at me from last week’s piece, as well as dig a little deeper into the issues surrounding the problem of Privilege and Selective Outrage in boxing.
One paragraph from last week’s article seemed to cause quite a stir on Twitter. “Wood’s next move will likely be headlining at Nottingham Forest’s City Ground, possibly against Josh Warrington. It’s perplexing why this fight is even being discussed, considering Warrington’s lacklustre record since 2019 and his recent loss, and the fact that Wood has a mandatory challenger in Otabek Kholmatov. Even in a sport full of cash grabs, this particular scenario seems outrageously unfair.” I’d like to clarify my position on this and go into depth on boxing privilege, and the culture of selective outrage we have in British boxing currently.
Firstly, as certain Twitter users alluded to last week, I do not think Josh Warrington is a bum. Simply believing that a fighter who has pushed his way up the WBA rankings, winning a WBA Final Eliminator, and ultimately being mandated for the title deserves a title shot next over Warrington shouldn’t be that outrageous.
Warrington is still in the division’s top 10 based on accomplishment. However, we have to be honest about his recent record. Since the start of 2020, he has had four fights, only one of which was a win. He also lost his last fight, in a competitive, but ultimately clear fashion to Luis Alberto Lopez.
Simply put, there is no boxing reason for Warrington to be getting a shot at a world title next. If we are in the business of handing out title shots to boxers who are competitive in losing efforts in their last outing, I would expect to see the same voices who are so ardently campaigning for Warrington, to be doing the same for the likes of Isaac Dogboe.
I think we all know this will not be the case. The only reason that Warrington is even in the conversation to face Wood is his large following. No doubt it is the biggest money fight out here for Leigh Wood. But the premise of large fan bases being the sole reason for making fights is what lead us to Fury vs Chisora 3 in December.
And no. This is not me comparing Josh Warrington standing at featherweight to 38-year-old Derek Chisora at heavyweight. But we need to hold boxing to some sort of standard. Simply chasing the big money fights over what is a quote on-quote “right” can easily lead the sport to an even darker place than it is already in.
The WBA also ordered Rolly Romero to defend his super lightweight title against Ohara Davies last week. Now as happy as I am for “OD.” I would like to raise one point. Why are the same voices saying Wood shouldn’t fight Kholmatov, not saying that Romero should not fight Davies when a potential PPV bout with superstar Ryan Garcia is being discussed? What is the difference between these two situations? Or are we only caring about Ohara because he’s a Brit?
This is a horrible precedent to set, and it brings me to the main point of this piece. As boxing fans, we need to keep consistency and stop affording certain boxers more privileges than others.
One example of this would be a fairly recent bout in the UK earlier this year. Hot prospect Diego Pacheco faced domestic-level Jack Cullen in Liverpool, in what was surprisingly (to me at least) deemed a really good, competitive matchup pre-fight. The only possible explanation for this is Cullen’s familiarity with UK fans, having been on TV broadcasts multiple times.
I ask the question, if an Eastern European or South American with the exact same career as Cullen, however away from the eye of the British boxing public, had been bought in to face Pacheco, would the reaction have been the same? Or would it have been the reality of the situation, which was a slight step up for a prospect in a fight he should win comfortably?
Again, this is in no way a dig a Jack Cullen personally, or a dig at some of the accomplishments he has had in his career. But in this situation, the fight was deemed ‘much anticipated’ because of Cullen is a Brit, despite being levels below Pacheco.
One of the things that have amused me somewhat over the last few months has been the difference in opinions over purse negotiation in the sport. Not that I believe it is something that we as fans should really be so invested in. At the end of the day it is not our money, and who gets 5% more of a split does not really mean anything.
The destruction of Tyson Fury by many in the media over the ill-fated Oleksandr Usyk bout this spring was a bit over the top. Yes, you could argue that he priced himself out of the fight, or you could argue that he was trying to find his value. But this isn’t the main point.
When Tyson Fury tries to maximize his earning potential in an undisputed fight, he is apparently scared to fight Usyk, wants it all his own way, and is a disgrace to the sport.
However when the manager of Dmitry Bivol, Vadim Kornilov, states that the money on the table for an undisputed bout with Artur Beterbiev “wasn’t serious enough.” Nothing seemed to get said.
You could easily argue that Bivol does not want to fight Beterbiev, you could even use the fact that he has never fought a reigning defending champion during his 6-year title reign to back this point of view up.
To be clear. I am not saying anyone is scared of anyone here. I am just saying the reaction to two very similar situations was completely different.
Another example of the selective outrage nature of boxing comes in the form of the Frazer Clarke vs Fabio Wardley fight falling through. Although I agree, to a certain extent, that it was a farce and was handled poorly, fighters pull out of purse bids all the time and face very little backlash for it.
Wardley vs Clarke suddenly went from a fight that not many people were expecting and/or want, to a fight that must happen or boxing is doomed in the space of 30 days.
Joshua Buatsi pulled out of a purse bid at a much later time for an IBF Final Eliminator against Jean Pascal last year and not much noise was made about it. Tyler Denny pulled out of an eliminator for the British Title against Kieron Conway, amongst many more examples.
The Wardley vs Clarke situation is selective outrage on a large scale, and it sort of brings me to my closing point. The narrative is everything in sport, those who are successful at controlling it will thrive, and those that can’t control it will fall pretty quickly.
You can fool the public into thinking certain fighters are better than they are in reality, or worse than they really are. You can keep fighters away from other fighters by saying they are not needed, or not deserving. Or you can force them into fights by questioning their enthusiasm for fighting.
An example of this connects to the opening of this piece and it surrounds Leigh Wood.
You could, on the one hand, say that Wood beat a long-reigning champion, had a fight-of-the-year contender with an elite amateur and came out on top, took a horrifically tough voluntary, got beat, and then came back and won his title in heroic fashion, dominating the man that just beat him.
Or on the other hand, you could say that Wood won a regular title against someone who couldn’t punch, was inactive and has no world-level wins, went life and death with and should have been stopped by a super bantamweight, got stopped in the first defense of his ‘email world championship’ after being elevated, and then won a vacant title.
Neither of these statements is the full truth of the story of Wood over the last couple of years. Like most things, the truth is somewhere in the middle.
However there is enough truth in either to be passable, and when you control a narrative the full truth does not matter. It is all that you can deem passable.
In closing, I would like to ask something of you. Please try and be consistent in the future. Look at things objectively. Try not to join outrage mobs when you haven’t been critical of other similar cases. And for God’s sake, please remember that promoters, managers, and fighters are usually peddling a narrative.
Also, Read; Open Scoring: UFC Should Be More Transparent