By Andreas Hale
It is of no coincidence that the two biggest fights that can be made in boxing are stuffed full of animosity. Both Canelo-GGG and a potential — and seemingly inevitable — showdown between Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder feature fighters who aren’t particularly fond of one another. For as much that has been said about wanting fighters to be cordial with one another, there’s just something special about two fighters genuinely hating each other’s guts. Or, at the very least, acting like it.
After all, stepping into the squared circle with the main objective being to knock your opponent senseless certainly comes with at least a tiny bit of resentment. So it can’t hurt if the two combatants are fueled by hate.
There’s something about Canelo-GGG 2 that wasn’t there when these two were originally stepped into the ring nearly a year ago. Obviously, the fight was a box office success due to the popularity of Canelo among the Mexican fight fans and the growing legend of Gennady Golovkin. There was no doubt that there would be action as Golden Boy’s Oscar De La Hoya promised that the fight wouldn’t make it to the final bell. Well, it did. And it was pretty exciting with a heavily criticized decision that would lead to an inevitable second meeting. But as special as the fight was, it lacked the bad blood that has punctuated so many legendary rivalries.
Let’s be clear: not every great rivalry has been fueled by friction between the two fighters. It’s possible for a major rivalry to simply be about two heavily competitive combatants. However, nobody can lie and say that beef doesn’t make a fight just that much more enticing to not only the boxing fan, but also casual viewers of the sport.
Perhaps the best thing to happen to Canelo-GGG 2 is the fact that the originally scheduled rematch ended up being postponed due to Canelo failing a pair of drug tests. Obviously, the immediate reaction is that a cancelled fight is bad for boxing. But the fallout that saw Golovkin set aside his gentleman attitude and take aim at his redheaded counterpart with some vicious allegations has absolutely helped this rematch out. The rematch was tracking to do better than the first fight due to the circumstances surrounding the decision of their first encounter, but now that it’s personal, it is that much better.
Selling a fight is an art. Not everybody who tries to sell a fight happen to be good at it. But even the ones who aren’t are able to generate some interest with a little trash talk. Floyd Mayweather and Muhammad Ali are arguably the two best self promoters in the history of the sport who made you either adore or abhor their methods. Either way, fans would tune in to either see them win or pay their hard earned money to see them lose.
Neither Canelo nor GGG are as good at selling fights as Mayweather or Ali, but their disdain for one another isn’t a marketing ploy. And the fact that it feels real is the reason why we’re so excited for what’s to come on September 15th.
Deontay Wilder is slowly becoming excellent at self promotion. He’s figured out his place in the Joshua fight, buckled himself in and turned the volume up to 11. The Bronze Bomber was known as a boisterous personality but he’s cranked it up several degrees when it became clear that he and Joshua were destined to face one another. Knowing that Joshua is the relatively silent type who doesn’t possess the personality to try and sell a fight, Wilder took it upon himself to draw interest in, not only the fight, but his own growing profile. He knows that Joshua is the bigger name globally and that American audiences haven’t quite warmed back up to heavyweights in the states. So the heavy handed WBC champion took it upon himself to sell the hell out of this fight.
While we may be unhappy with the idea that the fight won’t happen until 2019 at the earliest, the reality is that this brewing beef is only gassing up the marketing vehicle that will make it the biggest fight of 2019, if it gets made by then. And since Joshua hasn’t said a word throughout this process, Wilder has found a verbal sparring partner in the Matchroom Boxing group managing director, who is never short on words, Eddie Hearn.
Watching their verbal jousting on Twitter has only unlocked a new segment of casual fans who probably weren’t all that interested in the fight a few months ago. But now? It’s the talk of the town. Why? Because there is animosity. It’s never just about the two best fighters facing each other to see who is the best. The added element of animosity is what really gets the attention of the audience. Would Ali-Frazier been as big as it was without the two polar opposites jawing at each other? Probably not. The same can be said for Canelo-GGG 2 and Joshua-Wilder.
Big fights are made even bigger when either (or both) sides are engage in a war of words that will get settled in the ring. Let’s hope that the action in the ring is just as good as the trash talking before it.