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Boxing’s Big Money Problem

By: Sean Crose

Manny Pacquiao: “We told Bob I get $ 40 million and Crawford gets $ 10 million.”

Teofimo Lopez: “If you can’t meet the terms, then like I said, I’m taking my talents somewhere else.”

These two quotes are maddeningly indicative of modern boxing. Talk of money has replaced the fights people want to see. No one denies this. What’s more, a good segment of boxing fandom, the “new breeds” prefer money talk to ring action. It’s a sad situation, to be sure. Terence Crawford- Errol Spence may not happen because of it. And how long does it take for Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua to get their names on a contract? Again, the situation is a sad one.

Before we all start condemning boxers, however, we should probably look at the big picture.

First off, there are two arguments, accepted as fact, that need to be taken into consideration when one is about to accuse a fighter of being greedy or lazy. The first is that fighters tend to come from impoverished or very humble backgrounds. The second is that fighters have been getting screwed by those in power for at least a hundred years. Whether it’s shady promoters, equally shady managers, gangsters, hangers on, or networks, fighters tend to end up with a modest piece of a financial pie they themselves baked.

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And, no matter which way you slice it, that sort of thing is wrong. Yes, we all know stories about famous boxers blowing their money in wild displays of financial irresponsibility. But the truth is, it’s their money to do what they want with. Furthermore, personal economic responsibility has nothing to do with the matter at hand. This is an issue about who benefits the most financially from in-ring earnings. Nothing more. Nothing less. And fighters went too long without getting a fair shake. Until, of course Floyd Mayweather came along.

For the fighter known as “Money” made it clear that the number one beneficiary of Floyd Mayweather’s phenomenal success would be Floyd Mayweather himself, not a promotional outlet, not a network, Floyd Mayweather himself. In short, Mayweather switched the power dynamic in boxing so that now it was the fighters themselves who could call the shots. Promoters and networks now had to please the fighters, not the other way around, as had traditionally been the case. This, of course, was a good thing, for it’s not the guy in the suit with the Harvard degree whose taking head trauma in order to earn his money.

Yet, the pendulum, as it often does, seems to have gone too far the other way. Good fights simply aren’t being made today because fighters can’t agree to purse splits or even the money being offered on the table. When things reach the point they’re at now, something clearly isn’t working. Yet whose to tell these fighters they can’t earn every last dime possible? It’s not as if many have the luxury to smoothly glide into things such as consulting gigs – like those from more comfortable backgrounds can. Sure, a few prove to be good broadcasters, but what of those whose talents don’t extend to talking to a camera?

Still, this is a sport we’re talking about here – and a sport requires a degree of high competitiveness. That competitiveness at least appears to be on the wane in some boxing circles. And that’s a grave issue. Furthermore, there’s no easy answer to the problem. Should a popular fighter show a willingness to take a pay cut, it’s hard to imagine boxing’s traditional power players not trying to take advantage of the situation. The only solution to the scenario seems to be everyone approaching the situation realistically and with a degree of good faith. A tall order indeed.

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