A Reminder of How Boxing Should Be
Saturday night’s World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) card in Glasgow, Scotland was exceptional. The semi-final action lived up to the standard expected of bouts at this advanced stage of the tournament.
Naoya Inoue demonstrated why many experts have him in their top three of current fighters by destroying previously unbeaten Emmanuel Rodriguez.
Then, home fighter Josh Taylor and his opponent, Ivan Baranchyk, served up a twelve round exhibition of fighting in the pocket and not giving an inch. Taylor's slightly sharper, cleaner work, aided by two sixth round knockdowns, saw him take a deserved unanimous decision against his hard-nosed and game foe.
World title straps changed hands at the conclusion of both fights as Inoue and Taylor advanced to the finals in their respective weight classes.
Awaiting Inoue in the bantamweight finale is Nonito Donaire. Regis Prograis is the man Taylor will do battle with to decide who wins the Muhammad Ali Trophy in the light-welterweight division. Donaire and Prograis were both present in Glasgow - giving fans a visual reminder of the politics free, simple format of the WBSS.
I think that is why I enjoyed the event so much. Going in everyone involved knew who they would be fighting next if they were successful in Glasgow. There was no need to consider any promotional rivalries, broadcasting obligations or any other boxing fuckery getting in the way of what is to come.
Unfortunately WBSS is very much on its own when it comes to this revolutionary approach to elite level professional boxing. All other promoters and sanctioning bodies are still bogged down in so much of their own bullshit that, in the main, prevents important fights from taking place when they should. Instead of trying to work their way around the road blocks in place, the top promoters who control boxing settle back and tell us that certain fights "need left to marinate."
Of course meaningful fights do still happen in the sport - just nowhere near as frequently as they should. It's a drip feed effect, they need to give fans something big every now and again to keep them tuning in and buying tickets for the sub-standard cards. In my mind the ratio of disappointment to delight for boxing fans is somewhere around 80:20.
I firmly believe that people who support boxing all year, every year deserve better than the regular mismatches and non-PPV worthy events that end up on PPV.
However a certain element of fans do seem to almost revel in the never ending jabs that promoters throw at one another. There is also a growing obsession with the details of fight negotiations. All of this encourages promoters to stall for time in making the truly big fights as they know there is a market out there for whatever they offer up.
An example of this fascination with the business side of boxing occurred while we were waiting on the train back from Saturday’s fights. The fans next to me were engaged in a conversation about Eddie Hearn's presence at ringside, speculating that it was a done deal that Taylor would be signing for Matchroom Boxing after the WBSS concludes.
That may or may not be the case but I was surprised that anyone would even care about this so soon after the quality boxing we had just witnessed.
Another way to frame just how much better the WBSS is compared to every other entity is to mention the current heavyweight scene.
A few hours after the boxing in Glasgow had concluded, WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder was in the ring in New York, fighting mandatory challenger Dominic Breazeale. Wilder KO'd his man in the opening round and can now sit back over the next few weeks and watch as fellow elite heavyweights Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury do work against their own over-matched opponents.
Joshua will glove up against Andy Ruiz on June 1st while Fury faces Tom Schwarz on June 15th. The most galling aspect of Wilder, Fury and Joshua not fighting each other this summer is that bouts between the three seem further away than ever. Highly frustrating.
I really do hope that the WBSS acts as some sort of catalyst for the entire sport of professional boxing to give itself a shake but I won't hold my breath.
It's a shame that this has to be said but professional boxing needs to do better if it ever wants to be anything more than a niche sport. Perhaps it doesn't.
For now I am happy to support all WBSS events while leaving most of the rest of boxing alone.
Satisfy yourselves with promotional bickering and infatuation with how many PPV sales certain fights do if you wish. It's not for me. I will remember with great fondness Saturday night in Glasgow while looking forward to Naoya Inoue v. Nonito Donaire and Regis Prograis v. Josh Taylor later in the year