By Jeff Zimmerman - TITLE Board of Advisors
Amateur Boxers On The Rise
Boxing is not dead and it never will be. For all its cast of characters and there are many, boxing will survive even in spite of itself and its often self-inflicted wounds. And although it may never capture the public’s attention like it once did when the likes of The Greatest, Sugar Ray and Iron Mike were must-see TV, before the Internet and ADD somehow started ruling our lives, it will forever be around simply because it is such great theatre and made for storytelling.
It has the Summer Olympics to thank as well for this, to remind us of a country’s national pride that creates a sense of loyalty to its own and has the ability to launch stars with their heart-warming, gut-wrenching stories that are brought to life in front of millions of people across the globe for a few weeks every four years. Look no further than 2x US Olympic Gold Medalist Claressa Shields, co-managed by former HBO Boxing head honcho Mark Taffet, who just recently headlined on the prestigious ShoBox in only her 2nd pro fight.
And then there is Michael Conlan, who perhaps made the biggest headlines last summer when he flipped-off the judges in a controversial decision loss to a Russian fighter and then promptly called out Russian President, Vladimir Putin on Twitter. That certainly got Top Rank Promoter Bob Arum’s attention as he became one of the promotion’s top signees post Olympics. Conlan was recently walked into the ring by MMA and combat sports biggest superstar and fellow Irishman, Conor McGregor, as part of Top Rank’s card in New York during St Patrick’s Day weekend.
Those two fighters have become stars practically overnight and have 3 professional fights between them. They are however the exception, not the rule, in boxing and that’s not taking anything away from their immense talent as fighters. That’s just the way it is.
But professional boxing can do itself a favor and make more stars if it so chooses by taking a page out of the amateur ranks. This can be done by simply creating tournaments in various weight classes, just like most fighters are used to before they go from winning medals to earning paychecks.
The recently announced World Boxing Super Series, that includes former Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer as one of the key players, is a prime example of taking a major step in the right direction. It is an elimination tournament that will include two weight classes and initially 8 fighters in each class with lots of money to win and big time TV exposure. Although there are many obstacles that will take place in executing such an event, if done right and with lots of cooperation by sanctioning bodies, fighters, promoters, you name it, many more stars could be born in the sport. It could be the platform that launches these fighters to another level like Shields and Conlan.
Let’s not forget the Super Six tournament that took a relatively quiet weight class, super middleweight, and made European fighters like Froch, Kessler and Abraham household names in the U.S. It certainly took a little too long to complete due to injuries and fighters pulling out and it certainly had issues that hopefully the World Boxing Super Series will learn from. But 2004 US Olympian Andre Ward is likely not one of today’s pound for pound greats and a future hall of famer without out the Super Six. He was not a favorite going in and surprised most by winning it all. It gave him a platform against the best in the world to show off his amazing skills and essentially take his career to another level.
There’s no hotter division in boxing than the welterweight division and the recent fight with Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia on network TV showed if a fight is promoted right and with the right talent, the public will watch as the numbers proved. The next big fight is Errol Spence Jr, a 2012 US Olympian, who fights in May for his first world title shot against IBF Champion Kell Brook. Spence Jr has stated to me in the past, he would definitely be open for a tournament, if the right fighters were chosen. Now with Brook on the horizon and a potential mega fight with Thurman soon after, a tournament for him is unnecessary to fulfill his dreams of becoming a champion. But it doesn’t mean other fighters trying to climb their way to the top of the mountain wouldn’t benefit. It would also force the top fighters and world champions to fight the best talent in their division and eliminate the padding of records and the avoidance of big fights. We will never know, but Spence Jr may have become a champion 3 or 4 fights ago if a tournament was in place as he believes he was ready then to fight for a title.
Again boxing is not dead, not even close. When there are still boxing movies being made, just look at the number of Rocky movies and the spinoff Creed for the most glaring example. Boxing is here for the long haul. And when Hollywood royalty such as Ryan O’Neal and Barbara Streisand manage to fit a boxing movie into their illustrious careers when they starred in the 1979 flick, The Main Event, pretty much tells you the sport was made for storytelling.
Let’s hope the World Boxing Super Series is a huge success and other tournaments follow suit, because for every Claressa Shields and Michael Conlan where their stories have been told and have captured the public’s imagination, there are thousands of other stories ready to be told and shared if the opportunity arises.
Jeff has been in the fight game, both boxing and mixed martial arts, for well over a decade. He has learned the ropes from Hall-of-Fame Referee Richard Steele promoting shows in Nevada and Texas where he has covered all aspects of an event from PR, sponsorships, site coordination to negotiations with venues and appearances with stars such as UFC legend Chuck Liddell. Jeff has also been a writer for several years for one of boxing's most popular sites, Fightnews.com, where he continues to cover the Texas fight scene. Jeff has interviewed and covered fights for some of the biggest names in the sport including Manny Pacquiao, Canelo Alvarez and Terence Crawford. He also has covered and interviewed rising superstar Errol Spence Jr. on multiple occasions. Jeff gives many hours of his time to support two outstanding non-profits, Richard Steele Foundation & Boxing Club and Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame, serving as a special advisor and leading their social media efforts.
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A running series of blog posts collected by TITLE Boxing through our relationships with individuals inside the sport. Fighters, trainers, managers, dieticians, referees and more have offered their words, and we bring them to you here.
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