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NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: BOXING NEEDS A CONOR-KHABIB

By Paul Magno | October 08, 2018
NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: BOXING NEEDS A CONOR-KHABIB

I am by no means a UFC or MMA guy. I find the sport mostly uninteresting and I am extremely put off by the hardselling of their product by the announcers and hype men. But I’ve said it many times that boxing could learn a thing or two from the UFC when it comes to how to build an event. 

Last Saturday’s Conor Mcgregor-Khabib Nurmagomedov contest was a perfect example of what the UFC has that boxing has lost.

For those who don’t know, After Nurmagomedov forced McGregor to tap out, rage continued to boil over. The victor, letting loose after a long and ugly build-up to the fight which featured some very personal taunting tossed his way by Team McGregor, refused to embrace victory graciously. After initially looking like he wanted to continue the attack on McGregor, Nurmagomedov turned his attention to members of Team McGregor outside the octagon. The undefeated Russian would leap outside the cage to attack the offending parties. A wild melee ensued with battles going on both outside and inside the octagon.

And while some stuffed shirt moralists lamented the lack of civility and sportsmanship, the fact of the matter was that nobody who purchased this pay-per-view event walked away unhappy. People got a spectacle—something to share on social media, talk about with friends, and add to their collection of memorable sporting moments. 

Boxing has forgotten that most people tuning in (and definitely everyone paying for the privilege of tuning in) are there for entertainment. Big boxing events these days tend to live or die on the entertainment level of the main event. Fans have been conditioned to completely disregard the undercard because rarely is there anything truly special in the supporting bouts, anyway. So, unless something really magical happens in the main event of a big boxing show, fans will walk away with a great, big “meh.” 

And, more and more, even main events tend to be devoid of real drama or spectacle. Canelo-GGG, the biggest PPV show of the year thus far, for instance, delivered a solid headline bout, but nobody outside of the hardcore boxing fan community was talking about the fight afterwards. It was not a “thriller” or a “classic” as some felt compelled to label it (If Canelo-GGG 2 even made your top 100 fights of all-time list, you either haven’t been a boxing fan for long or are willfully embellishing the entertainment value of the bout). The fight was good, but hardly the kind of “grudge match” that generates enthusiastic water cooler talk from mainstream sports fans.

Again, entertainment value matters—especially in combat sports where fans expect a “wow factor.”

Both boxing and MMA are, ultimately, sporting events and there needs to be sports law and order at the base of everything to keep it from becoming pure WWE nonsense (Boxing even messes that up by delivering shady decisions and nonsense matchmaking options). But there has to be more.

The UFC seems to understand that and inherently deliver on the type of testosterone-fueled chaos that creates mainstream buzz and builds to a next event. Boxing rarely delivers on that level.

Boxing promoters should be in the business of building big personalities and big rivalries. If it means sacrificing some “civility and sportsmanship” for buzzworthy spectacle and raw emotion, then I say let’s do it. 

Quick (S)hits:

-- DAZN had its first real televised US-based card on Saturday night and it was pretty good. The Artur Beterbiev-Callum Johnson light heavyweight title fight, which saw both fighters hit the canvas before Betterbiev stopped his challenger for good, stole the show. “Big Baby” Jarrell Miller put faded, 90 lbs.-lighter Tomasz Adamek away mercifully quick, stopping the 41-year-old Pole in the second round. Daniel Roman was efficient in taking out Gavin McDonnell in defense of his WBA super bantamweight title. Jessie Vargas and Thomas Dulorme fought competently in a solid twelve-round majority draw. 

-- As I mentioned, the DAZN card was pretty good. The question is whether “pretty good” with a smallish roster of mostly second-tier attractions is going to be enough to make a success of the 8-year, billion-dollar streaming project. Bossman Eddie Hearn is going to have to find a way to wrangle a real star for DAZN—and it’s not going to be a perpetually tape-delayed Anthony Joshua fighting across the ocean. There are some intriguing free agents out there at the moment that would be key acquisitions. Saul Alvarez, Gennady Golovkin, and Manny Pacquiao would instantly turn a relatively drab talent roster into something that actually draws new fans to the service.

-- Terence Crawford vs. Jose Benavidez Jr. is happening on Saturday and, best of all, it’s not being pushed off to the ESPN+ app. I don’t buy the manufactured feud Top Rank is peddling to sell this fight, but it should be an interesting clash. I don’t think Benavidez is on Crawford’s level, but he’s a young, solid fighter with world class potential. He’s about as good a fighter Crawford can fight at the moment until either Manny Pacquiao acknowledges his existence or Top Rank can work something out with PBC.

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

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