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NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: DUCK DYNASTY

By Paul Magno | August 14, 2023
NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: DUCK DYNASTY

In an appearance this week on “The Breakfast Club,” a popular New York-based radio show, undisputed, fully-unified welterweight champ Terence Crawford reminded us why we look like total dimwit assholes when we buy into any sort of “he’s scared” narrative in boxing.

“Listen, right now in my career, a lotta people like, ‘Boots this, Boots that, Boots this,’” Crawford told co-hosts DJ Envy and Charlamagne Tha God when asked about universally regarded no. 1 147 lb. contender, Jaron “Boots” Ennis. 

“You know, fightin’ Boots is a lose-lose situation...It’s not a mega-fight. It’s gonna sell a little bit because of [my] name, what [I] just accomplished, but..there’s nothing really at stake with fightin’ Boots. You know, I’m at the tail end of my career. I’m trying to make things make sense...Definitely, a hundred percent about the money...Not takin’ anything away from Boots, but you know, where I am at in my career right now, I done fought my ass off to get to where I am. And I deserve to do whatever the fuck I wanna do. And I don’t care what nobody say, how anybody feels or any of that. You know, fuck ‘em.”

Is that a “duck?” By new age boxing terms, yeah, it is. But so what? 

Fighters, who only have a limited time to make a lifetime’s worth of money, should always worry about their finances before the fancy of the fans. Ideally, of course, there’s a balance between both. A fighter making the biggest bag possible and delivering the best fights possible shouldn’t be mutually exclusive things. But, as we all know, the boxing world isn’t very often “ideal.”

So, when Crawford, a man who’s clearly not afraid of anyone or anything, essentially tells us that Ennis presents too much risk for too little reward, he’s speaking common sense. And this is a common sense that has always been a part of boxing matchmaking, no matter how much the so-called purists like to live in a world of macho fairy tales that says otherwise. 

But that common sense cuts both ways. 

The reason Crawford won’t fight “Boots” is the same reason Keith Thurman, when he was welterweight top dog, never entertained the thought of fighting Terence Crawford. It’s why Crawford only got a really big blockbuster of a fight with Errol Spence after years of building his name and jumping over to Spence’s “side of the fence.”

Those who have a memory beyond the last big fight will recall a time when Spence, himself, was an overlooked entity.

Back in early 2018, when Danny Garcia stopped Brandon Rios, three of the top four active welterweights in the world at the time engaged in a round robin of trash talk and calling each other out, with newly-crowned IBF champ Spence being conspicuously left out of the conversation. 

Shawn Porter stormed the ring and invaded Garcia’s Showtime post-fight interview in angry pursuit of next dibs. A few minutes later, Porter and Keith Thurman would get into a heated exchange behind the scenes (captured by Fight Hype) over when Thurman would be ready to honor his WBC-mandated return bout with Porter. 

In the span of just about thirty minutes, Garcia called out Thurman, Porter called out Garcia, Porter called out Thurman, and Thurman agreed that, after a tune-up, he’d be ready for either Porter or Garcia. 

But nobody said a word about Spence, despite Spence-- like Garcia, Porter, and Thurman-- fighting under the PBC banner. 

If it weren’t for a fan accosting Thurman in the lobby of the Mandalay Bay that evening with a “Stop ducking Errol” taunt (captured on video by Dontae’s Boxing Nation), Spence’s name would not have been brought up the entire evening. 

There was a reason for that. Risk vs. reward. Facing Errol Spence was not worth the risk at that time.

Canelo Alvarez has thus far passed on fighting David Benavidez for the same reason Benavidez seems to be passing on a David Morrell fight. Tyson Fury jumped at a Francis Ngannou bout after skillfully skipping past an Oleksandr Usyk unification. Demetrius Andrade, whose career has been defined by the “avoided” tag, has, himself, avoided fighters who presented too much risk for too little reward. 

Back a few years ago, Gennadiy Golovkin (and his fawning Golovkinites) had hissy fits over not getting stepping stone-to-stardom fights with Miguel Cotto and Sergio Martinez, only to similarly dismiss guys like Jermall Charlo and Demetrius Andrade when he became the “A-Side” and saw too little reward in taking on big risk. 

I could go on and on. 

Most recently, Shakur Stevenson has been hyped as an avoided fighter. And, well, he is. But, again, it’s all risk vs. reward boxing business as usual. Nothing new here, although his “Why didn’t Showtime feature me in their Terence Crawford-Errol Spence All Access Epilogue” social media tantrum was certainly a new twist on things.

At a recent press event, Victor Conte newsletter writer Steve Kim, in a cringe throwback to 2004 moment, snuggled up to Top Rank bossman Bob Arum to help push a “he’s scared” narrative in support of the Top Rank-promoted Stevenson.

Kim, who is the clown prince of asking questions in such a way that he gets the answers he wants to hear, squeaked his leading question query to the aged promoter.

“Do (squeak) you think Tank Davis will ever fight him [Shakur Stevenson]? Do you think he'll ever be allowed to fight him?”

Arum may be 143 years old, but he’s still sharp enough to hit a softball placed on a tee. His response was also a throwback to 2004 form. 

“I have no idea,” Arum croaked (literally, not figuratively). “I have no idea. Mayweather's plan is always to stretch everything out until the opponent has nothing left.”

And if anyone knows about picking the “right” opponent at the right time for his fighters, it’s definitely Arum. The man and his team have built every one of their stars with that same eye for favorable matchmaking. They are the Sugar Ray Robinsons of matching stars on the decline versus their stars on the rise for maximum reward and minimum risk. 

But, as I’ve already said, that’s all part of the boxing game. 

And that’s why it’s beyond phony to single out a particular boxer or one boxing entity for doing something, literally, everyone is trying to do. The whole gist of boxing matchmaking is to maximize reward and minimize risk for your fighter. The only fighters who take on the big risks with minimal regard to corresponding reward are journeymen looking to pay their rent and light bill with this month’s fight purse.

If a fighter, like Shakur, is being avoided and finding it tough to get the big fights he wants, he should be asking himself why the reward for facing him is so low. Why is there so little up side to fighting him?  That’s the real question. That’s a promotional issue. Point that finger at your own people, not at the people trying to build another fighter’s profile. 

But hyping a fighter as “feared” sure makes for a convenient way to sell mismatches to the public (nobody else will fight him!) and, also, a way to hold on to a disgruntled fighter who’s wondering why he’s not getting the fights he wants (It’s all the other team’s fault...They’re scared!). 

In Shakur’s case, he should look long and hard at his friend/mentor “Bud” Crawford and see how quickly he got that big legacy fight when he got full control of his own career. At the core of things, a fighter has to ask whether the risk vs. reward assessments governing his career are to his benefit or to the benefit of those people calling the shots in his career.

Boxing business is boxing business, and that’s a forever thing-- but only if the boxers play along. 

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

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