by David P. Greisman
If the status quo sticks, by the time 2014 ends Andre Ward will have gone 13 months without a fight. It will have been 11 months since Mikey Garcia last stepped in the ring. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.’s gap between bouts will be at 10 months and counting.
These are the three most prominent current cases of boxers battling with their promoters: Ward with Goossen Promotions, whose head, Dan Goossen, recently passed away after being diagnosed with cancer; and Garcia and Chavez Jr. with Top Rank. Ward and Garcia filed lawsuits attempting to extract themselves from their promoters, while Chavez himself was hit with litigation asserting that he still under contract.
All three could’ve fought had they swallowed their pride and accepted the money and terms being offered to them. They didn’t. That’s their choice and their prerogative. This isn’t like football, where a quarterback or wide receiver who holds out ends up missing important practice reps that get him ready for the season and in rhythm with his teammates. There is no other sport in which the athlete has a greater right to think of himself first. Boxers put their brains and bodies on the line. Doing so needs to be worth it to them fiscally if they are going to pay for it physically.
Yet it’s maddening to many of us fans and observers, who feel that boxers are wasting prime periods of their career and losing money in the process. You don’t get paid if you don’t perform. Boxers already have a limited shelf life before the wear and tear begins to show and age begins to slow them down.
That’s why we praise those who take short money or tough opponents for the potential of what winning those fights will do. Two of the more notable examples in recent years were Zab Judah, who accepted $100,000 for his rematch with Cory Spinks because it meant he had another opportunity to gain the welterweight championship. Judah scored the stoppage; the decision paid off. And last year Terence Crawford came in on short notice and moved up in weight to face Breidis Prescott, all so that he could debut on HBO. Crawford won, impressed and is now one of the network’s regularly featured talents and a budding star.
These are two schools of thought, what Judah and Crawford did contrasted with what Ward, Garcia and Chavez are doing. For either, it’s a gamble if it doesn’t work and an investment if it does.
Bernard Hopkins was barely four months removed from the most significant win of his career — a stoppage of Felix Trinidad that made him the undisputed middleweight champion — when he topped Carl Daniels on HBO in February 2002. On the same broadcast from another part of the country, Roy Jones beat Glen Kelly. After that bout, Hopkins and Roy Jones jawed at each other about a rematch of their 1993 fight, which Jones had won.
Hopkins wanted the purses split evenly. Jones offered Hopkins a 60-40 deal, a bigger pot than anything Hopkins had available. The bout didn’t happen and wouldn’t occur until 2010, when the market for such a match was a fraction of what it once would’ve been.
It was a bad business decision in the moment for Hopkins, who went on to defend against Morrade Hakkar and William Joppy. And yet it worked out once he signed in 2004 for a lucrative bout with the biggest pay-per-view attraction around, Oscar De La Hoya.
Nonito Donaire was just weeks off his star-making stoppage of Fernando Montiel in early 2011 when he tried to sign with Golden Boy Promotions, a move that upset Top Rank, which said it still had Donaire under contract. The case ultimately ended up in arbitration, with Donaire on the shelf, stalled out while waiting for a resolution. Top Rank emerged victorious and signed Donaire to another deal.
"Nonito is happy with it," Rachel Donaire, Nonito’s wife, told Dan Rafael of ESPN.com at the time. “He was not asking for crazy stuff. … There were a lot of little things he was getting irked about. He wanted more fights. He didn't want to fight B-level opponents. Nonito believed he had been shorted on [the number of] fights owed to him. Top Rank believed he wasn't. That was a big thing, but we worked it out. He just wants to be active and fight top fighters”
Eight months had passed between when Donaire beat Montiel and when he fought next. The layoff likely didn’t hurt him too much. In 2012 he appeared on HBO four times, winning all and putting together a streak good enough that the Boxing Writers Association of America named him Fighter of the Year.
Robert Guerrero tried to part with Golden Boy earlier in 2014, delaying his return from last year’s pay-per-view loss to Floyd Mayweather. His layoff ended up lasting more than 13 months, with Guerrero making it back into action after he had signed with powerful adviser Al Haymon, whose fighters have stocked most of Golden Boy’s shows and have been featured on numerous Showtime broadcasts.
It doesn’t always work, and there is no guarantee that the gamble will work. Hopkins could have taken the Jones rematch on Jones’ terms, won and gone on to even bigger things even quicker than he did. Or he could’ve lost and lost out on some of those opportunities to come. Or the De La Hoya bout might never have been offered to him.
Donaire, meanwhile, was fortunate that Top Rank knew it could earn money through him, and that it needed to do so by working with him.
Others self-sabotage and don’t subsequently recover. James Kirkland has cast off various members of his team at various times and has turned down fights he very well should’ve taken. He’s fought just twice since his big win over Alfredo Angulo in late 2011, beating Carlos Molina by disqualification in March 2012 and then spending more than 20 months out of the ring before beating up Glen Tapia last December. He hasn’t fought in all of 2014.
For many boxers, there’s still the possibility of a better deal around the corner.
Ward could end up reaching a deal with Goossen Promotions, or his case could come to a close with a verdict in his favor or against him. The fighter and promoter could move on together, or Ward could end up having his contract with Goossen bought out and then jump to another promoter.
Chavez is in demand for name opponents such as Gennady Golovkin and Carl Froch. A Chavez-Golovkin bout would’ve happened earlier this year if not for Chavez declining to sign the terms that Top Rank had offered regarding both pay for that bout as well as a contractual extension.
Garcia wants to move up from 130 to 140, which will be easier for him to make and where there are far more lucrative match-ups in a deeper division.
Some will say that money triumphs over principle, but in these cases the principle is often about the money. So while those three aren’t fighting right now, all it will take is one big fight or one major change in their situation for the layoffs to pay off.
The 10 Count
1. I’m not sure which night Martin Murray will end up having felt more pressure on:
- This past Saturday, when he stepped into the ring with Domenico Spada knowing that a win would in all likelihood land him this third world title shot, this one coming again Gennady Golovkin.
- Or this coming Feb. 21, when Murray — who topped Spada — will step in against the middleweight knockout artist.
Murray’s the best available opponent for Golovkin at 160. Miguel Cotto and Canelo Alvarez will likely meet sometime in the first half of 2015. Peter Quillin, Daniel Jacobs and Jermain Taylor are Al Haymon fighters for whom the mysterious boxing adviser likely has other plans. Some believe Golovkin should go up to 168 for names such as Andre Ward, Carl Froch or Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
Murray’s not a bad choice in the meantime, particularly as it would be one of presumably four bouts for Golovkin in 2015.
The 32-year-old Brit is 29-1-1 with 12 KOs. The draw came against then-titleholder Felix Sturm in late 2011. The loss came against the still-injured Sergio Martinez in April 2013, a decision loss for Murray that some watching felt should’ve been closer than the verdict the judges rendered.
The fight will take place in Monaco, where Golovkin has fought and won twice and where Murray has done the same.
I’d pay good money to hear Michael Buffer recite those stats and then announce a knock-off of one of his old slogans: “Somebody’s Monte Carl-oh has got to go.”
2. On the surface, the rating for Gennady Golovkin’s stoppage win over Marco Antonio Rubio the other month indicates that “GGG” is back to building up an audience.
In the grand scheme, we’re still getting far too excited about relatively small differences between ratings that are seen as more significant due to the limited size of our niche audience.
Golovkin-Rubio averaged 1.304 million viewers and peaked at 1.323 million. Per Nielsen ratings, that was the second highest number for a boxing match in 2014, with the top spot belonging to the 1.39 million who watched the rematch between Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Brian Vera back in March.
For the sake of reference, that’s still below the average audience for HBO’s “World Championship Boxing” branded broadcasts in 2013 (1.326 million) and 2012 (1.337 million).
Last year, four “World Championship Boxing” main events pulled in higher numbers: Adrien Broner vs. Gavin Rees (1.398 million), Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. vs. Brian Vera I (1.416 million), Miguel Cotto vs. Delvin Rodriguez (1.555 million), and Gennady Golovkin vs. Curtis Stevens (1.41 million). So did one “Boxing After Dark” main event between Adonis Stevenson vs. Tony Bellew (1.305 million).
Still, I’d rather have ratings like this than see lower numbers. Of course, I’d rather see even greater numbers overall, but that ship may have sailed long ago.
3. Last week, a cruiserweight named Wadi Camacho was disqualified for biting undefeated prospect Craig Kennedy in the second round of their fight.
Camacho’s nickname, per BoxRec, is “Machoman.”
Might be time to change it to “Munchoman.”
4. Either the publicist working for heavyweight Luis Ortiz was off-message last week following the news that he’d allegedly come up positive for the banned steroid nandrolone in testing done for his September win over Lateef Kayode, or Ortiz’s team realized the initial message was wrong and needed to be massaged a little.
A statement sent to this website included a copy of a drug test for anabolic steroids conducted on Oct. 7 by a LabCorp location in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Ortiz’s team had gone to the company for an additional test after getting word of the positive drug test out of Nevada.
An excerpt from that statement: “We send to BoxingScene a copy of the Luis Ortiz analysis performed by LabCorp, for the public to see that Luis Ortiz does not need to use stimulants to win his fights.”
Of course, this was silly. An Oct. 7 test doesn’t mean a thing for whether a banned substance was in Ortiz’s system around Sept. 11. I wrote an article about this, and then Ortiz’s team spoke with one of my colleagues.
My colleague Ryan Burton paraphrased Ortiz manager Jay Jimenez:
“Jimenez is fully aware that a test taken over 3 weeks after a fight won't prove his fighter's innocence but said that he and Ortiz want to show their willingness to do whatever it takes to prove he's not a cheater.
“Ryan, we didn't hear news of the positive test until October 5th or 6th,” Jimenez told Burton. “As soon as we found out, we scheduled an appointment at LabCorp for Luis to go in and test again at the earliest possible time. We want to clear his name.”
The letter sent to Ortiz’s team by the Nevada State Athletic Commission was dated Oct. 3. I can’t speak to when Ortiz et al actually received it. Commission Executive Director Bob Bennett did not respond to an email seeking comment.
Ortiz is scheduled to come before the commission today (Oct. 27), but his team has requested a continuance, seeking more time to prepare for the hearing.
Ortiz denies taking any banned substances. We’ll learn more when Ortiz does come before the commission. And then we’ll find out in short order what happens with the vacant World Boxing Association “interim” title Ortiz won against Kayode.
5. Geek Alert:
While nothing is official, I’m on the edge of my seat to find out whether it’s true that 108-pound beltholder Naoya Inoue will move up two divisions to 115 to challenge longtime titleholder Omar Narvaez.
Inoue turned pro in October 2012 and had been a pro for just a year and a half when he, at just 5-0, dethroned Adrian Hernandez, needing six rounds to take out a foe who was 7-1 just in world title bouts. Inoue was four days short of his 21st birthday at the time.
Inoue is now 7-0 with 6 KOs. Narvaez is 39 years old, is 43-1-2 with 23 KOs, has been a titleholder at flyweight and junior bantamweight since 2002 — back when Inoue was just 9 years old — and is 28-1-1 in world title fights.
One knock on Narvaez has been the quality of his opposition, or relative lack thereof. His lone loss came when he tried a jump to 118 in 2011 and lost to Nonito Donaire. This would be the rare Narvaez bout that us boxing geeks would get quite excited about.
My colleague Cliff Rold, who out-geeks me in nothing but positive ways, chimed in on the potential fight here: http://bit.ly/rold-inoue-omar
6. Naoya Inoue was born in April 1993.
Bernard Hopkins fought Roy Jones for the first time in May 1993.
7. Speaking of time warps, Andrew Golota stepped into the ring this past Saturday for a four-round exhibition bout in Poland with Danell Nicholson, according to Przemek Garczarczyk of Fightnews.
Nicholson was the last foe Golota met in 1996 before Golota’s pair of disqualifications against Riddick Bowe.
Somehow, I don’t know how an athletic supporter manufacturer could’ve missed out on the marketing opportunity for the ages back then: Wear one of the company’s cups and film a commercial with Golota punching low again and again, to no effect.
I also wonder why no enterprising headline writer came up this one: “Foul Pole fouls Bowe’s pole, crushes Big Daddy’s little boys”
8. As much potential good as can come with Top Rank and Golden Boy Promotions once again working together, I still question the idea of the two major shows on Dec. 13.
Golden Boy will have a card at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas airing on Showtime, and Golden Boy will also be partnering with Top Rank for a card elsewhere in town at the Cosmopolitan and airing on HBO.
Never mind the competing cards in Sin City. What about the network broadcasts? Even in the era of DVRs, isn’t this cannibalizing your own audience? It was one thing when cannibalization came via competition. This is voluntary.
It’ll be interesting to see the ratings breakdowns, fight by fight, for these cards.
9. Do you believe in reincarnation? Because it’s pretty clear that heavyweight prospect Andy Ruiz is the second coming of Chris Arreola.
(Yes, Arreola is still alive. Just play along…)
Nov. 24, 2013: Ruiz, an undefeated 24-year-old, makes his pay-per-view debut on the undercard of Manny Pacquiao’s win over Tor Hamer. Hamer quits after three. Ruiz comes in at 257.75 pounds, which while about 40 pounds lighter than he was for his pro debut in 2009, is still quite hefty for his 6-foot-2 frame.
Dec. 2, 2013: Boxing writer Steve Kim runs into Ruiz, sends out this tweet: “Andy Ruiz was at the Wild Card earlier today. He admitted he needs to be in better shape, around 240 pounds instead of near 260.”
Feb. 2, 2014: Ruiz speaks with Ryan Burton of BoxingScene.com: “Right now my body is under construction. We are just working on the body. There is a lot of criticism and we are going to prove them wrong. I am going to show them that I am serious. I am going to look the part and play the part. I want to be down to 235 to 240 pounds. When I come back I am going to shock the world. I am going to look different and fight different. … People don’t talk about the way I fight. They talk about how I look. I don't get any credit so I want to get down in weight so they can talk about my fighting and not my appearance.”
May 17, 2014: Ruiz fights Manuel Quezada. He weighs in at 250 pounds.
Oct. 25, 2014: Ruiz fights Kenny Lemos. He weighs in at 272.75 pounds.
10. I don’t think Andy Ruiz understands what making the pound-for-pound list actually means…
“Fighting Words” appears every Monday on BoxingScene.com. Pick up a copy of David’s book, “Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing,” at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsamazon or internationally at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsworldwide . Send questions/comments via email at [email protected]