Nothing will kill boxing and nothing can save it. — Larry Merchant
The doctors shake their heads as they look over the unconscious patient. No question, he is gravely ill, but precisely what should be done to remedy the various afflictions plaguing him, no one can agree on. Consensus is found on only one notion: the end is near.
Boxing has been written off more times than a bad tax deduction, but just after receiving yet another obituary in the L.A. Times comes news that the rest of 2016 is set to offer us a bumper crop of meaningful fistic action. Yes, boxing fans have plenty to be frustrated about when the most attractive, high-profile match-up the sport can offer, Gennady Golovkin vs Canelo Alvarez, looks like it may never take place, but the simple fact is there have always been great fights that, for one reason or another, didn’t happen. Pugilism tests one’s faith unlike any other sport so it’s important to remember that despair is not just a failing, but a mortal sin. After all, it’s always better to be grateful for what we get, than to ruminate over what the cruel boxing gods deny us.
Looking at the situation from that angle, the doctors are clearly wrong. Yes, various ailments torment the patient, but if all goes according to plan, the next few months should see him off life support and maybe even sitting up and taking solid food. At least for a while.
Three recent developments back up this hopeful perspective. First, while some were skeptical that the match would actually ever come to be (and count this writer among those who will not be shocked if something derails it), it now appears a certainty that Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev are going to throw down on November 19. This is, without question, a match between two of the best fighters in the world, pound-for-pound, and while that doesn’t by itself guarantee thrilling action, the build-up and anticipation is going to be huge and only get bigger during the weeks ahead.
“I don’t think it will be an easy fight,” says the Krusher. “It’s the hardest test of my career.”
“Kovalev is the real deal,” says Mr. S.O.G.
Second, Top Rank recently announced another showdown between two of the best in the sport, with a Nicholas Walters vs Vasyl Lomachenko showdown set to happen the following week on November 26. “Lomachenko is great,” says Walters, aka “The Axe Man,” “but I always look for a knockout against whomever I fight. If I can do it quick, I will. This is the best fight out there. It will be the Fight of the Year.” Needless to say, there’s some stiff competition.
Again, this match features two of the best fighters on the planet and should have intriguing implications for another division currently loaded with talent, the super-featherweights. Indeed, the 130 pound weight class might be the most competitive and intriguing in the sport, an assertion backed up by the third reason to have faith in boxing right now, a battle between warriors Orlando Salido and Takashi Miura now set for December 17.
Talk about a guaranteed barnburner! As we all know, both Salido and Miura come to do nothing but rumble and this match-up raises the prospect that not one but two of 2016’s Fight of the Year candidates will feature “Siri,” maybe the most exciting slugger in boxing since Arturo Gatti, as Salido’s epic battle with Francisco Vargas last June is most pundits’ current front runner. Salido vs Miura might well give it a run for its money.
That’s three big reasons to believe that boxing isn’t exactly at death’s door. Add the fact that Manny Pacquiao, Anthony Joshua and Artur Beterbiev will all be in action before the year is out, plus there’s even talk that Gennady Golovkin and Daniel Jacobs might clash in December, and really, 2016 is proving to be not too shabby at all given what we had to settle for last year.
Yes, boxing isn’t what it used to be in terms of mainstream popularity and fight fans still have plenty to complain about in terms of mismatches, bad decisions and so many elite-level boxers showing so little interest in taking on other elite-level fighters. We’re all pissed off that Canelo Alvarez continues to duck Gennady Golovkin, and that so many Al Haymon boxers are content to compete once a year. And now we learn that heavyweight champion Tyson Fury has tested positive for cocaine and will likely be stripped of his titles. But even that development may have an upside given all the chatter about a possible Anthony Joshua vs Wladimir Klitschko clash, which is easily one of the best fights the big men can offer.
So, no, boxing is not about to die any time soon. It’s suffering and concerned physicians will continue to shake their heads over its plight, but we’ll leave them to do the hand-wringing while we get set to watch the big fights going down over the next couple months. Kovalev vs Ward! Walters vs Lomachenko! Salido vs Miura! The doctors can make all the dire pronouncements they want, but right now, they would appear to be mistaken. Boxing is alive and kickin’. — Robert Portis