The Sweet and The Sour of a Welterweight Week

By Paul Magno on September 10, 2018
The Sweet and The Sour of a Welterweight Week
“There's politics in boxing...that's the truth of it...it is what it is.” (Frank Franklin II/AP)

It would be awesome to say that all that matters in boxing happens inside the ring, but we all know that would be a lie…

It would be awesome to say that all that matters in boxing happens inside the ring, but we all know that would be a lie. Business matters, politics matter, and often both things conspire to cast a musty, moldy wet blanket over the actual fights.

For a while on Saturday night, though, fans could put the non-fighting stuff out of their minds.

Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia delivered a nice show at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, battling honestly and earnestly for the vacant WBC welterweight title. And while the bout didn’t play out exactly as most had anticipated—Porter opted to box more and mostly forego his usual raw mauling, bull-rushing style—it definitely did not disappoint those who felt this would be a “must watch” matchup.

Even after Porter emerged victorious via unanimous decision in a closer than close contest, there was nothing but sunshine and positivity all around. Porter praised Garcia before declaring his intention to make a bout with IBF champ Errol Spence, who had entered the ring, post-fight, to engage in a cordial showdown with the new WBC champ. Then, Garcia showed good sportsmanship by praising Porter’s efforts before vowing to come back better than ever.

Just as it should be when good, bold matchmaking is executed, nobody came away a loser. Both fighters will be just fine career-wise and the fans had been entertained.

It was a moment of isolated sunshine in what can often be a perpetual monsoon these days in the sport.

On the Thursday before Porter-Garcia, for instance, we learned that Terence Crawford had signed a multi-year contract extension with Top Rank. And, while that may have been good news for Crawford, Top Rank, and Crawford’s immediate family, it was a virtual sock in the gut to fight fans who knew what re-upping with Arum and company meant to the chances of ever seeing Crawford up against the division’s other elite players.

“All of the super fights that the world wants to see will happen,” Crawford said in the press release announcing his decision to stay with Top Rank. “Mark my words. Like I’ve said before, I want all of the champions in the welterweight division.”

But the WBO champ Crawford failed to mention how, exactly, these big fights would happen while he’s bound to Top Rank’s deal with ESPN and contractually isolated from the deep end of the 147 lb. talent pool.

With Errol Spence, Keith Thurman, Danny Garcia, and Shawn Porter tied to Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions and its deals with Showtime and Fox, it’s unlikely Crawford could face any of them anytime soon. Meanwhile, Manny Pacquiao, who holds the WBA belt and is at least somewhat still on decent terms with Top Rank, has repeatedly refused to face Crawford.

Crawford’s deal is essentially an abdication of a throne that should’ve been his. A lot of smart boxing people see “Bud” as the class of the division and, perhaps, the best boxer alive today. He won’t get much of a chance to prove that definitively, however, because just about everyone worth fighting in his weight range is going to be out of reach.

To drive home that point, Errol Spence took to the mic at the post-fight press conference Saturday night to declare Crawford a non-entity now.

“Terence Crawford is on the wrong side of the street,” Spence said. “It’s me, it’s Danny Garcia. We got Shawn Porter. We got Keith Thurman. We got Ugas. We got a lot of fighters over here. Who he has?

“Who’s he calling out? Al Haymon guys, right? How he gonna get that fight when he just signed with ESPN? I’m not going to ESPN. I’m A-side. Terence Crawford gotta come across the street. He gotta leave ESPN and come to Showtime or Fox. Or they gotta do something where they both work together and then we both fight. I like how Terence Crawford fights, I respect him a lot, but he’s on the wrong side of the street. There’s politics in boxing…that’s the truth of it…it is what it is.

Boxing fans are used to an ounce of sweet with a gallon of sour these days. Some fans have even come to embrace all the business talk that often dominates boxing chatter in the present tense scene. But for the sake of the sport’s health, it should always come down to the actual fighting.

Porter-Garcia showed us what a healthy boxing world is supposed to look like, even if it was for just one hour on a Saturday and even if fans had to tune out the rest of the world to get that one hour of sunlight through the gloom. Actually, there are many similar little moments of sunshine throughout the boxing world when the heavy weight of boxing politics doesn’t manage to muck things up.

But fans shouldn’t have to maneuver around seas of bullshit to find flecks of gems. Boxing really needs to get its shit together, stop embracing short-sighted and ultimately harmful business models, and make it so the sport can actually function like a sport.

Imagine a day when fight fans could just focus on fights and fight talk was 100% about the actual fighting.

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  1. Pete The Sneak 04:31am, 09/11/2018

    It’s not all doom and gloom folks. At the end of the day, it’s all about the Ducats. Separate promoters and TV Networks have worked together in the past (albeit not too many times) and if the eventual demand is too great and the money can be spread far and wide within each other, these fights can be made. Will it be easy, probably not. But you can shoot yourself in the foot only so many times. Even boxing knows that (at least you hope so anyway)...Peace.

  2. Lucas McCain 07:41am, 09/10/2018

    I didn’t hear Spence’s post-fight speech about the sides of the street,  but it’s interesting in several ways, not all bad.  This is a world of savvy athletes—savvy about the promotional end of things—as business rather than just as ballyhoo.  Ray Leonard wasn’t the first, but he impressed me the same way, and as obnoxious as Floyd Mayweather was, he was on it too.  Just compare to Ali and Frazier signing for 2.5 million apiece, which turned out to be a huge payday for promoter Jack Kent Cooke.  (I recall the one story that Frazier’s manager Yank Durham seemed to be figuring out the deal on a pad of legal paper, but was really trying to figure out how many zeros are in 2.5 million.  That may have been just be a cruel, condescending anecdote, but it highlights the way athletes and those who cared for them were outgunned and outlawyered throughout the past.)

  3. snowflake 06:27am, 09/10/2018

    What’s the implication here- Crawford is obligated to become a Haymon guy or it’s “abdication of the throne”? What a load of BS. Crawford didn’t create boxing’s execrable promoter/TV situation and he’s not obligated to take less than he’s worth to get around it. Not like the PBC guys haven’t spent years avoiding each other with soft touches anyway- Porter’s been the only one acting like he has something to prove. We’ll see if that changes now that he has a belt again. If Spence wants to prove he’s the best at 147 he’ll face Crawford. If not he can talk shit about a fighter he knows he’ll never have to fight and then vacate when he moves to 154.

    Fans have more leverage than the athletes and if there’s enough demand to make the fight worth it for them it’ll happen. I would love to see it too but I doubt Spence risks the loss before he moves up- Porter and Thurman are both easier outs, and in house. It sucks but if you hate it then start bothering Showtime/ESPN and agitating. Don’t expect a guy with a 10-year window to make a stupid life decision so you can see your dream fights, or blame him when he makes the choice anyone would make- to get paid.

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