By Tris Dixon
IT does not always have to be about the next fight or the one afterwards.
Sometimes it is just about the fight.
Recently, Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder made their way by the respective challenges of Joseph Parker and Luis Ortiz. They were significant contests in their own right, but those in the sport – and not in team Parker or Ortiz – felt they were hors d’oeuvres before the main course, Wilder-Joshua, later this year.
But the value to the paying punter on the night is on what they buy either on pay-per-view or at the gate.
Those sub-fights often need support from other bouts on the bill to justify the price tags and they are viewed in the hope and expectation that they lead to bigger events and occasions.
The ladder of boxing leads to a spectacular pot of gold that so few fighters can ever reach.
Yet the lure of it means that boxers often look up at what can get them there rather than at opponents whom they might share a special chemistry with.
That is understandable. A career is relatively short and earnings must be maximised. Rarely, a real scrapper might eye a fight that will make them less money but solidify their legacy.
Micky Ward springs to mind. The Lowell brawler with the vicious left hook to the liver opted to give Arturo Gatti a chance at redemption rather than go on to a more lucrative title showdown with Kostya Tszyu having bettered Gatti in their initial thriller. Ward knew what he and Gatti would bring out of one another.
We all did.
It seems to be less common, but it is always enjoyable when the focus is on the fight, not the next one, or the one after and over the next few weeks there are a few such contests.
While some might be looking down the line to see Carl Frampton face Leo Santa Cruz a third time, or whether David Haye can get another big fight after Tony Bellew, or if Jorge Linares can put a stop to Vasyl Lomachenko’s incredible run, the three bouts should be savoured and enjoyed for what they are, hard-to-call entertainment that typify what this sport is about.
Do the Irish feel Filipino Nonito Donaire, at 35, has significantly declined to make him ripe for the picking, or are they banking on Donaire’s power not being as brutal at featherweight?
Frampton-Donaire in Belfast next Saturday is a fine fight regardless of what happens for either of them afterwards. In his last bout, back in September, Frampton came through an unexpected war against Mexican Ruben Garcia Hernandez.
The same methodology applies behind Bellew-Haye on May 5. It does not have to matter what is next. Bellew is out to prove victory number one was not a fluke; Haye is out for redemption. It is not about what subsequently happens for either. Bellew will want to show he could have handled Haye’s late charge while the Londoner will be aiming to demonstrate that he can mount a more concerted and sophisticated attack using combinations and guile rather than crude swings.
Linares will be out to prove that lightweight is a bridge too far for ‘Loma’, who will be out to show he is unbeatable regardless of the numbers he hits when he steps on the scales.
The latter bout – which takes place in New York a week after Bellew-Haye, on May 12 – featuring Linares, unbeaten in 12 since 2012 and Lomachenko, who has not tasted defeat since his second pro fight in 2014 (a split decision loss to then 41-12-2 Orlando Salido) is the one of the three that fans may be guilty of planning a fight ahead, dreaming of the pound-for-pound clash between Lomachenko and Mikey Garcia.
Let’s see what happens on May 12, first.
But also let’s not be so quick to plot three, four or five fights down the line.
If Micky Ward had done it, we would not have had one of boxing’s most famous trilogies. Sometimes we should focus on the now rather than the future.
We all need a long-term strategy, but there are some bouts we should enjoy for what they are and what they mean without chasing the pot under the rainbow, which, too often, is so hard to find for both the fans and the fighters.