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NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: BOXING'S BAIT AND SWTICH

By Paul Magno | July 09, 2018
NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: BOXING'S BAIT AND SWTICH

I mentioned this in a previous article, but when calculating everything— streaming service subscriptions and premium cable prices, as well as regular cable fees—it costs about $1700 a year to be a boxing fan with legal, above board access to all boxing content. And this doesn’t even take into account that anything deemed REALLY good and desirable is probably going to be passed off to pay-per-view, where fans will then have to dish out anywhere from $60 to $100 for the event.

No other sport’s fans are expected to pay so much for access to the sport they love. And, sadly, no other sport’s fans get back so comparatively little for their loyalty. 

There seems to be a real disconnect these days between the fans’ desires as fans and what the business actually gives to them. I’m talking, specifically, about the “marinade.”

All boxing fans know that “let’s let it marinate” phrase and, oddly enough, fans are more and more accepting of the idea and think of it as a proper part of the sport. 

The reality, though, is that when a promoter or network talks about marinating, it means that they’re putting off a fight that fans want until the fans REALLY want it and want it to the point where they may pay some fat PPV fee for the privilege of seeing it. 

If the boxing business were a burger joint, they’d happily serve you shitty burgers with the proud promise that if you’re really, really loyal they may serve you a really good burger someday—at ten times the price, of course. 

What kind of customer would be ok with that kind of business model? Boxing fans have been conditioned to not only accept it, but to actually be happy about it. 

Yeah, “marinating” a big fight is part of the business—up to a point. At some point, though, it becomes abusive towards the most loyal fans. Literally, it often becomes a matter of delivering an intentionally shitty product while hyping the holy hell out of what maybe, possibly is to come. Fans are led to believe that THE fight is just around the corner, the publicity kicks in to make it seem like it is, and then, oh well, THE fight can’t happen for such and such reason…so, here’s both guys fighting no-hopers. And then the hype kicks in once again, leading fans to believe that THE fight is, this time for sure, just around the corner. The fans are always the suckers.

If the plan is to line pockets at the expense of loyal, but gullible fans, at least be decent about it. Don’t openly flaunt the bait and switch.

And now we’re getting the fighters using the ugly “marinate” word in public.

Terence Crawford, who is old school through and through and one of the true talents in the game, is openly talking the bait and switch business.

"In the future, it will happen," Crawford recently told TMZ Sports, in reference to an Errol Spence unification bout. "But right now, you know, we've got other fights until that one gets bigger."

Then there’s the ever-absent Keith Thurman:

“Honestly, people can say what they want to say,” Thurman told FightHub TV before going into the boxing witness protection program, “I’m not going to fight him (Spence) right now. I wouldn’t fight him right now. I’m not gonna fight Shawn Porter, I wouldn’t rematch Danny Garcia, I wouldn’t fight any of those guys right now. There’s no point…I know boxing. I know boxing. The fans can say whatever they want to say, but I just know how this sport works and how the business works. Plus, as much as I respect Errol Spence, he’s still a young, fresh champion. It’s not gonna hurt him by having a few title defenses [and] me getting back into the ring, doing what I want to do before we see each other.”

Even the always-earnest Errol Spence Jr. acknowledges the idea that what the fans want is not what the fans are going to get.

“I mean even Bob Arum’s saying it’s not gonna happen right away,” Spence said about a Terence Crawford fight. “He’s saying it might happen later in 2019 or some shit like that...”

So, in short, just using the welterweight division as a microcosm for all of boxing, here’s what’s what:

Crawford ain’t fighting Spence any time soon. Spence ain’t fighting Crawford any time soon. Thurman ain’t fighting ANYONE any time soon. They all gotta marinate everything. Push everything back, make fans want to empty out their wallets. And, in the meantime, none of them will be fighting anyone with a chance of beating them because, well, getting beat would ruin all that time spent building towards their payday. 

The odd thing is that all of this conning and hustling is counterproductive. The paydays these fighters (and promoters) desire will only come AFTER they’ve become next-level stars. And they will only become next-level stars by fighting each other. 

Once they become the stars they aspire to be, they will bring fan interest (and money) into any fight they take. If Floyd Mayweather, for example, had not fought other marquee names on his way to superstardom, he would not have been able to command $32 million (or more) for fighting opponents like Robert Guerrero and Marcos Maidana. 

Why is it, then, that so many fighters today think that they can fight second and third-tier opposition and build towards true stardom like that? Going back to the welterweight example—Thurman, Spence, and Crawford are all under $2 million earners. Even paired against one another—whether it happens now or in two years-- they’re take won’t be all that much greater than what they’re earning now, anyway. That relates directly to their drawing power. The only way to become a $4 million, $5 million earner (or more) is after the world clamors to see the man who went to war to kill off the other elite in the division. 

Maybe fighters and their managers/promoters don’t see things that way because they’re just happy with the modest risk vs. reward model. A million bucks, twice a year IS a pretty nice payoff. They also do it because they CAN. 

Fans are beginning to accept the bait and switch “marinade” as part of the game. A whole new generation of fight fans is emerging, one where they not only don’t mind being played for suckers, but they DEFEND it.

Until fans stop buying into the manipulation, the game will continue. Everything they want will continue to be intentionally dangled out of reach for as long as possible and then sold to them for as much as possible. 

Got something for Magno? Send it here: paulmagno@theboxinghtribune.com

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