June 2, 2016

KO's Ringside Notes & Quotes XIV — Boxing vs MMA, Pros in Rio Olympics

Gold Medal Pugilists Loma and Rigo
By Jeffrey Freeman, KO Digest

The decision of the AIBA to allow professional fighters to compete against amateur boxers in the Olympics raised many eyebrows yesterday. The most common response I observed online was one of disapproval. Why the revulsion with increased competition?

A reactionary imagination immediately envisions undisputed world middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin pummeling some skinny Golden Glover into submission to win a Gold Medal in Rio. The reality of "pros versus ammys" should prove to be very different. Firstly, most top notch prizefighters don't wish to go backward, compete for free, or risk any number of the undesirable outcomes which might arise from such an unusual undertaking. They have everything to lose, and little to gain. Secondly, the line is already very blurred. 

As recently unpaid pugilists, Vasyl Lomachenko and Guillermo Rigondeaux could've easily handled themselves against an invasion of semi-skilled pros introduced into their ranks to compete under their rules. My educated guess is that there are other Lomas and Rigos out there waiting to turn this debate on its ear with surprising, medal-winning victories over unsuspecting, under-skilled pros.

Money May and Mister Trump
Don't Be EC In America, the 2016 Presidential Election is nearly all about "political correctness" and whether or not "PC" will be rejected or continued here in the land of the free. Boxing now faces a similar decision. Unless it's cast off in favor of maintaining what makes boxing so great to begin with, a strange new phenomenon I call "economic correctness" will continue to take hold of how bouts get negotiated and ultimately made. It already affects how fans relate to boxing and boxers. You can see "EC" influence today when they argue A vs B side dynamics, or against a particular match-up because it doesn't make "dollars & sense" to the more moneyed pugilist. If we're all not careful, "talkin' boxing" will soon be like studying undergrad economics at the local community college. 

2008 Olympic Bronze Bomber
Pugilism, Politics, Pressure & Presidents — On a lively May 11 international boxing media conference call with WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder, the 2008 American bronze medalist claimed that opponent Alexander Povetkin would be under "a lot of pressure" fighting in front of Russian President Putin when the pair collide May 21. Wilder talked about unifying the title and bringing clarity to the division. I asked him who he'd like to someday defend his championship in front of as new American President: Trump, Clinton, or Sanders? Wilder burst into laughter at the question. "I can't get into the politics man," he said good naturedly. "You're sneaky," he told me before continuing diplomatically, ever the uniter. "All of them are more than welcome to come to a Deontay Wilder fight," he chuckled. [Editor's Note: Wilder-Povetkin was cancelled when challenger Povetkin supposedly failed a PED drug test.

Wilder defends a valuable green belt
The Man Who Didn't Beat The Man Yet — The WBC heavyweight champion talks to KO Digest about his claim to THE world heavyweight championship — "I already feel like I am the man. I've got the most prestigious belt. I got the WBC belt that people want their name on. I want more though. I'm hungry. I'm greedy. All these heavyweights know who the real threat in this division is." 

Middleweight Champions The real reason Canelo Alvarez versus Gennady Golovkin is (was) such a high demand title bout is because the undefeated "challenger" GGG has been made to wait a VERY LONG time for a shot at the linear title. Triple G is the most deserving fighter of this kind in all of boxing, with the possible exception of Sergey Kovalev at light heavyweight where Adonis Stevenson still holds an iron clad claim to the linear championship. 

Canelo dropped his WBC to duck GGG
Ironic is Golden Boy Ring Magazine denial of this inconvenient fact. Golovkin's credentials as undisputed #1 middleweight contender for years now (think Clubber Lang) have led some to label Golovkin uncrowned champion. Catchweight manipulations have stoked the fires of Canelo-GGG because fans feel the recent linear champions are not playing fair while they duck Golovkin for bigger money fights. Golovkin could lure neither Sergio Martinez, Miguel Cotto, nor Canelo Alvarez into the ring with him for a shot at the championship. He shouldn't have to "lure" the champion. The system is broken. The lineage is compromised. Fans have grown apathetic but at least they still understand the value of a good fight. When that's gone, will there be anything left for boxing to hang its hat on?

All about the Money
Ultimate Fighting Crap What a shame boxing can't take itself seriously enough to summarily reject a staged Floyd Mayweather "comeback" against some 3X tapped out cage fighter. With today's internet fight fans more focused on business and economics than tactics and strategy, a "Boxing vs MMA" exhibition bout will be very easy for the lowest common denominator fan to understand. Mister Money May will get a 99-1 split of many million ignorantly spent PPV dollars while his "ultimate opponent" gets a slightly larger pile of peanuts than he's used to getting for kicking and choking other men. Floyd will use the example of such "easy work" as explanation for why he should never risk his undefeated record for a similar payday against a real risk like undisputed world middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin. In their lust to be EC (economically correct), fans will vote against their own interests by supporting and buying Floyd's trash.

The Good Old Days?
Mob Rule The constant complaining from uneducated boxing fans about Al Haymon, his PBC, and the Watson Brothers gets on my nerves. Ours is a sport governed by no one single person, open to almost anybody with enough economic endurance to grab the narrative and run with it. Not happy with Haymon? Now seeing Don King's rape of the 80s through the rose-colored 20/20 vision of nostalgic hindsight? Or maybe you'd like to go even further back to the "good old days" of boxing when it was run by violent mob crime families. Perhaps you'd prefer real gangsters like Blinky Palermo and Frankie "The Czar of Boxing" Carbo be back in charge of promoting bouts and "setting up" fights? Like most things with a long history, it's easy to bitch and moan without having to know any of it. 

Bellew is now WBC cruiserweight world champion
Bombs Away Congratulations to Tony "Bomber" Bellew on achieving his goal of becoming a world champion. Bellew won the vacant WBC cruiserweight championship last weekend at home in Liverpool with a smashing TKO of Ilunga Makabu. Back in June of 2013, KO Digest spotlighted a then 175 pound Bellew as an 'up and comer' to keep an eye on. "I just want to be a world champion," Bellew told KO. Since that time, Bellew fell to champion Adonis Stevenson in a shot at the world light heavyweight title, gained a revenge win over hated rival Nathan Cleverly, co-starred as Pretty Ricky Conlan in CREED, then moved to cruiser to win the WBC belt. Bellew's championship outlook? "You have got be able to adapt. That's one of my strong points. I can deal with any style put in front of me and that is what I plan on doing." 

Lara claims he wants to fight GGG
Dream Big — If Erislandy Lara (or any other top rated junior middleweight for that matter) wants to challenge Gennady Golovkin for the undisputed world middleweight championship, all he has to do is stop talking, move up to middleweight (160 pounds, 6 more than 154), win a fight, and get a title shot. Lara currently holds a WBA world title. I'm sure he'd have NO PROBLEM arranging a shot at another WBA champion at middleweight. Truth is, these junior middles today want nothing to do with GGG at 160. Better for their health to wait for Triple G to get old or move up in weight. You all heard Jermall Charlo's response when asked on SHO about moving up. Charlo suddenly changed his mind and has decided to stay in a safe division where he will never fight two of the other world titlists, his twin brother Jermell, or his stablemate Lara. 

Boxing writer Jeffrey Freeman grew up in the City of Champions, Brockton, Massachusetts during the marvelous career of middleweight champion Marvin Hagler. Freeman then lived in Lowell, Massachusetts during the best years of Micky Ward's illustrious career. A member of the RingTV expert writer prediction panel for 4 years, Freeman is also editor-in-chief of KO Digest, a social media outlet for the sweet science. Known affectionately as "KO" by friends and readers, Freeman covers boxing for The Sweet Science in New England.