By Cliff Rold
Tony Thompson had two chances at the brass ring and came up short. Malik Scott never quite got that far. The former could be called an overachiever, the latter the opposite. In the twilight of both their careers, they will meet on an obscure network on a weekend when most people are either out with their kids or out acting like teenagers.
On Halloween weekend, will the Bounce TV (9 PM EST/6 PM PST) be trick or treat?
Does it really matter?
Believe it or not, it might.
Thompson (40-5, 27 KO) is now 44-years old, losing three of his last seven. Of course, all those losses came to good fighters. Wladimir Klitschko, in Thompson’s second crack at the Heavyweight king, stopped Thompson in six. Thompson lasted the route with legitimate contenders Kubrat Pulev and Carlos Takam. He didn’t win many rounds in those contests, but so far it still takes the better part of the Heavyweight class to defeat Thompson.
That Thompson, late in fistic life, got into as many fights as he did merits a tip of the cap. Rarely the most exciting fighter, Thompson fought in relative obscurity for years. In an era when networks were looking for a major American Heavyweight, he was widely overlooked.
He kept plugging away, getting better at his craft and traveling for opportunity. A pair of knockout wins of hot British prospect David Price will probably go down as his career highlight. Without his perseverance, Thompson might never have had even that after his first shot at Klitschko.
Scott was different. Sure, like Thompson, he never got a ton of attention. Early on in his career though, there was some buzz. Scott (37-2-1, 13 KO) looked like a comer. He had size, speed, and showed off solid skills. In the early 2000s, he could often be found on lists of serious prospects to watch.
He stayed a prospect for a long time.
…really long time.
Scott turned pro in 2000. He didn’t go ten rounds for the first time until 2007. He was still fighting six and eight round bouts as late as 2012.
Some guys are late bloomers. Some just might not care all that much about finding out how good they are. The way the now 35-year old Scott’s career played out, it might be fair to guess the latter. When he did step up, we saw what might have been. He schooled prospect Vyacheslav Glazkov only to leave with a draw in 2013 and was in the fight with Derek Chisora later that year when a controversial count saw him stopped at the tick of nine.
A first-round knockout loss to Deontay Wilder in 2014 appeared to end any chance of Scott being a contender. Fans debated whether the sort of shot that should have ended his night early had caught him. It made it easy to see Scott fade back to the obscurity he’d toiled in most of his career.
And yet here he is.
So how might this fight matter? Connect the dots.
Thompson is currently rated #9 by the WBC. The WBC Heavyweight titlist is Wilder. Thompson-Scott is a PBC main event. Wilder fights under the PBC umbrella.
Wilder-Scott II is unlikely. Wilder-Thompson is not all that improbable. Scott could derail that this weekend. If Wilder wants to keep the WBC title, he’ll have to deal with mandatory Alexander Povetkin sometime in the first half of next year. If Wilder does so, and wins, does he go straight from Povetkin to a unification showdown with Klitschko?
In a perfect world, absolutely.
In a world where Wilder is tied to the PBC and Klitschko to HBO, Wilder might need another opponent. Thompson, even nearing 45, would be more credible than Wilder’s first two challengers (Eric Molina and Johann Duhaupas). So this Friday’s fight has some stakes, even if some might not see it that way going in.
Will we get steak with those stakes? Is there going to be an exciting fight here?
It might. Scott can still box and he’s not a runner. Thompson is going to have to be aggressive to avoid letting Scott get into a rhythm. This could end up being a decent big man scrap.
Whether it is or isn’t, it’s going to be a chance to see a pair of guys who never quite made it with the possibility that one of them might get one more chance to at least snare a major title belt before he’s done.
They are Heavyweights near the end, but the end isn’t here just yet.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]