RingSide Report

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Has Boxing Become a Three Ring Circus?

By Donald “Braveheart” Stewart

An opinion piece from the only Donald worth listening to…

Full Stop – In British English grammar a full stop is a lengthy pause, in the US, you call it a period. In the UK that tends to suggest feminine products. Here it means a period of time where I look at something in boxing in a little more depth. I am typing from my perspective of a fan who watches the sport closely. It’s an opinion. It is my opinion. Don’t like it? There are other opinions out there but if you don’t like it then good, debate and democracy are a good thing. If you do like it, feel free to spread the word.

Circus isn’t always in a tent…

A few weeks ago, I wrote in defense, perhaps even in defiance of the facts, that heavyweight boxing was in fine shape. I still believe that. But what I am about to write about may be me sticking the knife into the very sport I decided to make a cogent defense around.

But the fact is that right now boxing is also guilty of leaving a vacuum, into which we have some strange events. I call them events, and this is a little derogatory because the people involved train, they exert themselves to a level I can dream of getting to, but the reality is my nightmare and they put their lives on the line when they step inside the ropes. I will never do that.

But it is for money.

It is not to showcase any sporting prowess.

Until you come to Chris Eubank Jr. v Connor Benn.

Money has corrupted the morals and the integrity of so many sports. I have highlighted before the pieces of silver that have seen soccer, Formula One and boxing take their stands in countries which make being LGBT illegal and have an indecent human rights record. It’s a corruption.

But the Misfits boxing and the YouTuber experiences of the Paul brothers, the various Only Fans models, the MMA crossovers and the like are entertaining. They do bring new eyes to the sport of boxing, although most of them have a glance and leave, some do stay.

But what do they see?

Is it what they want to or is it boxing in a good light? Then we get to the “legacy” of two families.

So, the Benn/Eubank fight is likely to attract those glancing eyes back because of name recognition. They might have a story to tell of how their father saw their fathers fight or how their mothers liked one more than the other back in the day – or they might even, speak of a male relative having a crush on either or both. But if this is what boxing has to offer it is poor fare.
Because if more people watch Eubank/Benn than Errol Spence Jr. against Terence Crawford, this is indicative of a malaise. Spence/Crawford is the GGG/Canelo, the Mayweather/Pacquiao, the Ali/Frazier of its age. It is one of the holy grails of the sport. But if it is beaten by this matching of two families rather than two fighters, at the same stage of their careers or who need the ranking points or who can make a world title fight thereafter, then the only reason to make the fight is about the event more than the testing of pugilistic skills.

And this is partly why I think it is a circus fight. It has sale value and Barnum like qualities. But it is also a fight with a number of very real problems.

Firstly, Benn is not clear to fight. He may claim the WBC have cleared him, but the British Boxing Board of Control has not. Along with UK Anti-Doping, (UKAD) they both need to clear him for the fight to take place in the UK. To have the fight in the US would be nonsense as the timing of it would not fit with the UK television audience needed to make it financially viable.
The Middle East is more likely, and I have made my views on that clear, but also, Eubank Jr., after he was taunted by previous opponent Liam Smith wore a Gay Pride armband due to Smith’s homophobic slurs. Whither the moral high ground there?

And so, it needs to be in the UK. The UK was and is the only sensible place for it to be held. But Benn needs to be cleared first. There are steps being taken to make that happen but a fight in the near future?

Secondly, Eubank, JR. is not clear to fight either. He was due to rematch Liam Smith after losing to him. Eubank Jr. and his team triggered the rematch clause, then Smith got injured so they are renegotiating their rematch. Smith’s career has been held up by this and even though he has contributed by getting injured, you cannot see him being all that happy about stepping aside for the fight between Benn and Eubank Jr. Unless it is made worth his while…

That would need some serious cash and that has to come out of a fight for which there are no belts on the line, no titles up for grabs, meaning that the fight is only being made to cash in: Eubank Jr. is at the tail end of what many feel is an underwhelming career and Benn is at the exciting, is he good enough phase of his.

It also makes a mockery of a lot of other fights. We have seen some decent fights on undercards lately – some of the headliners have been less than compelling, but we could do with something more than the equivalent of Back to the Future as the official British Boxing Board of Control promotional movie.

We know what we need. We need the fights that are suggested being made and headlining the real events that bring more than just eyes into the sport – it brings hard earned cash and staying power for an audience who get cultured to why it is that Spence/Crawford should be their World Cup Final for 2023 and not Jake Paul v Nate Diaz…

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