By Corey Erdman
PROVIDENCE, RI—In boxing, we tend to characterize fighters in the image of their place of origin. Mexican fighters are industrious and brave, Philadelphia fighters are brazen and tough, Russian fighters are cold and stoic, British fighters are studious and classy, and so on.
If we were to play this tired game with Demetrius Andrade, he too mirrors his hometown of Providence, Rhode Island. The state capital, filled with 18th century architecture, Ivy League intelligencia, rolling cobblestone hills, inner-city greenspace and the faint scent of the nearby water has a unique character, but on its surface is of a classic aesthetic of years past. For some, it’s an elegant reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the mainstream American Northeast. Those who don’t appreciate it though, might categorize it as simply boring.
Such is the battle Andrade continues to fight with the boxing public in the wake of his 120-107 unanimous decision wipeout of Maciej Sulecki in his hometown over the weekend. Depending on your tastes, it was either a masterful boxing display with delicious notes of showmanship, or a bitterly sour 36-minute slog.
As for the 7136 in attendance at the Dunkin Donuts Center, they seemed to savor every single minute of it. They were most certainly loudest when Andrade dropped Sulecki in the early moments of the opening round, but kept the decibels high enough that one had to yell to hear the person beside them at all times throughout the fight. Even prior to the main event, the New England crowd seemed oddly invested in the Kal Yafai-Norbelto Jimenez super flyweight title fight, a 115-pound battle between a British and Dominican fighter. They were even enthusiastic during Joseph Parker’s one-note drubbing of Alex Leapai, and booed relentlessly when the fight was stopped as if they couldn’t wait to see even more of a fight that had appeared pointless for several rounds by then.
Unfortunately for Andrade, the larger audience he was playing to is a little less welcoming than the fans in Providence. The argument made, by both the boxing public and Andrade himself is that he hasn’t been given a crack at boxing’s big money names, such as Canelo Alvarez and Gennadiy Golovkin, because he is a poor risk-reward gamble. Andrade and his supporters extend that theory to suggest that potential opponents are afraid of him or what his style could do to them. Others take it a step further and suggest that whether opponents are indeed skeptical of the matchup or not, Andrade’s boxing style doesn’t engender enough excitement from the mainstream public, and as a result, the marketplace simply doesn’t allow for those fights to happen.
“They're not gonna put me with Steve Rolls, they're not gonna put me with Rocky Fielding. You guys aren't going to allow that s--t with me. It is what it is. All of my fights are going to be with top notch live guys who come to win and better their situation all the time,” said Andrade.
There are pieces of truth in every one of those theories. It’s doubtful that Alvarez or Golovkin, two of the finest prizefighters of their era, are afraid of any man on the planet, but for two individuals with vast amounts of money and full negotiating leverage, it’s understandable why Andrade would appear less desirable than other potential opponents.
"You can't hand on heart sit there and say Canelo beats Demetrius Andrade. I don't think anybody in boxing can say 100% he would win. I think they would be more confident going into a GGG fight than an Andrade fight," said Eddie Hearn at the post-fight press conference.
The analysis of Andrade enters bad faith territory when the suggestion is made that one scintillating knockout would change everything and upgrade him from the first row of coach to a cozy pod in first class. An even more absurd argument is that he should intentionally look vulnerable, or fight in a manner that would seem simpler to Canelo or GGG in an attempt to lure them into a bout. As Andrade said prior to the bout, “people want me to fight that way, but they won’t be visiting me in the hospital.” And also, fighters aren’t rubes--one style-bending performance from Andrade wouldn’t make Canelo, GGG, or anyone with a clear mind think that he couldn’t revert back to a more complex style.
These are common refrains from boxing media and fans alike, a reductive, all-or-nothing form of boxing business analysis wherein a knockout victory is a snake oil that leads immediately to exposure, popularity and desirable opportunities.
For one, there is no shortage of fighters throughout history who have gone on to well-publicized, profitable careers while rattling off lopsided dominant decisions, and that list doesn’t even include an extreme outlier like Floyd Mayweather. And on the flipside, there are thrill-a-minute action warriors fighting in various spots on the globe every week who don’t get a mainstream push in the United States for one reason or another.
Also, what we’re discussing is Andrade’s pursuit of two of the sport’s biggest and richest active fighters. Andrade is not some fledgling, anonymous pug hoping to get some exposure—he is a world champion, cashing seven figure checks, fighting on one of the sport’s biggest platforms and drawing impressive live gates.
But to become a star the caliber of Canelo, particularly, requires a variety of factors at play that are out of the fighter’s control. It takes more than a knockout or two to become a transcendent celebrity.
“The reputation of Demetrius Andrade is amazing fighter, but ah, no one's interested, no one's buying tickets. The two biggest gates we've had on Matchroom USA shows since we started in October, outside of Joshua-Ruiz, have been Demetrius Andrade shows. One in Boston, one tonight. That tonight, that atmosphere, was like being back home (in the UK),” said Hearn.
Andrade may not be on the cover of GQ or starring in national commercials, but he is a major, prominent figure in the sport of boxing, and he’s done it by simply being an exceptional fighter with a delightful personality. It’s clear that he hears the criticism, and at various points in the Sulecki fight went over the top to prove he could fight “differently.” In the first round, he fought at a recklessly torrid pace that looked uncomfortable for him, like a brilliant musical act diverging from their comfort zone to perform what’s charting on Billboard at the time. At one point he spent three consecutive minutes hunched over, hands at his side, throwing nothing but left-handed haymakers.
It was as if it were a direct eff you to those who have suggested he needs to “go for it more,” and even more so to those hoping he would voluntarily make himself available to be hit.
“I put on 12 rounds of clean, professional boxing. The sweet science. My job is to keep winning,” said Andrade.
One thing that we can all agree upon is that fights with outcomes that are never in doubt can get dull regardless of the participants. In Andrade’s case, it’s very rare that the outcome is ever in doubt, because it would appear that no middleweights in the world aside from the two he is chasing have any hope of challenging him, much less defeating him.
But the biggest excitement boxing can provide is when its biggest stars are in serious danger of losing a fight, something Andrade would put Canelo and GGG in the moment he signed on the dotted line.
Andrade’s promoter perhaps summed his situation up best: “The problem he has is: He’s just too good.”