What if we lived in a world where Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal were signed to rival promotional companies, causing two of the greatest tennis players of this generation to never step on the court to face each other? It may sound preposterous but this hypothetical question is the reality for boxing.
Boxing is the only non team sport where two athletes in their prime run the risk of never facing each other in an actual competition. This is due to the fact boxing has no singular governing body like the ATP, NBA, PGA, or NFL. In boxing there are multiple promotional companies representing multiple fighters. The main promotional companies; Top Rank, Matchroom, Premiere Boxing Champions, Golden Boy, Main Events, and K2 represent the majority of the sports top fighters.
Then there are networks like HBO and Showtime that have exclusive contracts with certain fighters, and in some cases, certain promotional companies. Plus, we can’t forget about the myriad of managers who represent various fighters at the negotiation table. Not even Top Chef has this many cooks in their kitchen. In order for a fight to take place between fighters signed to separate promotional companies, or networks, a lot of moving parts need to fall into sync. Often times those moving parts just keep on moving.
It doesn’t take much for a fight to go from destined to doomed.
At any given moment one promotional company can decide they aren’t working with another promotional company, just because. For instance, Floyd Mayweather Jr. who is managed by Al Haymon, spent over five years negotiating a fight with Manny Pacquiao and his promotional company, Top Rank. Negotiations like that are extreme cases but in the boxing world it doesn’t take much for a fight to go from destined to doomed.
In 2014, Sergey Kovalev and Adonis Stevenson were on a collision course until Stevenson signed with Al Haymon. Since Kovalev fights exclusively on HBO and Haymon fighters are banned from HBO, the fight will now be harder to make than Baumkuchen. Lately, Stevenson has been using the pretext of fighting on Showtime as the reason why a fight between him an Kovalev hasn’t been made yet.
What does boxing need?
Instead of various promotional companies, boxing needs one governing body like all of the major sports in the United States. No more fighting at the negotiation table over the size of the ring, brand of the gloves, assignment of the corners, name of the referee, who’s first to ring walk, or the catch-weight number. To the casual fan this seems like quibbling over semantics but many fighters are looking to take away as many advantages from their opponent as they can.
Just imagine an NBA finals between Cleveland and Golden State being called off because Lebron wants to use a ball from Spalding but Steph prefers Wilson.
With one governing body forming a league for fighters, most of the negotiations delaying great fights from happening would be curtailed. Can you fathom a world where NBA teams can choose the type of ball they use for home playoff games? Just imagine an NBA finals between Cleveland and Golden State being called off because Lebron wants to use a ball from Spalding but Steph prefers Wilson. This type of nonsense is commonplace in boxing. Promoters, networks, managers, and fighters all fight with each other behind the scenes before the actual fight.
If Phil Mickelson had a contract with CBS and Tiger Woods had a contract with NBC, causing two of the greatest golfers of this era to never go head-to-head, it would be considered a crime. What goes on in the world of boxing is often criminal and there are plenty of legal disputes as proof. Numerous fighters are mismanaged and advised to sign bad contracts causing deleterious effects on their careers. Inherently there’s a lot of fighting in boxing but keep the fighting inside the ring for the sake of the sport and its fans.
That’s a reality we all dream of living in.