Some call them “fanagers.” Others just call them annoying. I’ve always referred to them as boxing’s “new breed of fan.” No matter, it all means the same thing. And, for a while, it almost seemed the people in question were the dominant voice of boxing fandom. That all changed in 2017, but now it appears the empire is about to strike back. I’m referring, of course, to those fans who care more about a boxer’s finances than their sporting achievements. These are the fans you see on message boards and social media who literally root for boxers to cash in and take the easy path, as opposed to be competitive and prove their mettle in the ring.
A while back I wrote at length about these characters for another publication. I asserted my belief that new breeds, as I like to call them, were apt to prefer seeing a big star blow away a no-hoper for seven figures than see two top fighters go at it, the logic being, I suppose, that lots of easy million dollar paydays can make up for one difficult multi-million dollar one.
After I wrote that article, a new breed fan essentially commented that, yes, he was primarily interested in the financial aspect of boxing, a sport he was new to. This particular new breed also added that he would have preferred to see Adrien Broner keep beating up inferior opposition and collecting big paydays for doing so, as opposed to stepping up and accepting the risk of facing Marcos Maidana.
There have been a number of boxers catering to the particular tastes of the new breed. Danny Garcia is one. As is Adonis Stevenson. My guess was that new breeds were people who, by nature, were interested in anything big money. How that big money was earned wasn’t really important, so long as big money was in play. Big fights were all well and good, so long as a new breed’s favorite earner (I mean, fighter) made sure risk was minimized, while reward was maximized. Avoiding a threat is laudable to this crowd. Did that mean taking on challenges for less than massive sums of money wasn’t laudable to these people? Probably. The baddest fighter on the planet, it seemed, was the one with the most easy money to his or her name, not the one taking the most risks.
And it seems that’s still how these new breed fans ultimately see it. Not that they’ve exactly had a banner year for themselves. For 2017 was the year boxing got back on its feet. Joshua fought Klitschko. Santa Cruz rematched Frampton. Gonzalez rematched Srisaket. GGG took on both Jacobs and Canelo. Ward faced Kovalev a second time. Crawford unified. Spence beat Brook. Even Billy Joe Saunders, who seemed a genuine new-breed fighter, went right into David Lemiuex’s backyard and easily won a bout many thought he might lose. Bye-bye new breeds; hello traditional competition and sportsmanship.
The irony, of course, is that all this played out during the same year which saw the ultimate new breed match, Mayweather vs McGregor, the so-called “Money Fight,” break the proverbial bank. But there was simply too many good things going on in the sport for die hard fans to be particularly troubled by that.
And guess what? Things are looking good for this year too. In fact, word is Showtime and Premier Boxing Champions are set to announce a whole slate of attractive match-ups. Then why do I fear the new breeds are striking back? Well, there have been rumblings.
For example, did I not read that full-fledged welterweight Danny Garcia, who is currently scheduled to face Brandon Rios of all people, wants Terence Crawford of all people to “prove himself” before Garcia would consider him a worthy opponent? And did I not see Keith Thurman, who has a grand total of two fights in the last 24 months, telling Errol Spence to take a number and wait his turn? Perhaps I misunderstood them; I certainly hope that’s the case. But in both instances, the new breeds liked what they heard.
In fact, it’s Thurman who seems to be the new hero of this crew. Check out some comment threads if you don’t believe me. Now that Errol Spence has shown his frustration at Thurman’s unwillingness to face to him, new breeds are cheering on the Florida native for, if you can get your head around this, not fighting Spence. Let it marinate, the argument goes. The numbers can only go up! It’s all about the money, after all! You see, Spence, who has blasted through Chris Algieri, Kell Brook and Lamont Peterson, is a sap to this crew. Why? Because Thurman holds the cards, man. Thurman can wait and then cash in! That’s just smart business!
If you’re confused as to why this approach entertains or excites any self-respecting fight fan, you’re not alone. My guess is that boxing is the only sport the new breeds can really get invested in. When you think about it, sports teams just can’t operate like Angel Garcia does. But MMA looks like it might also become enticing to this weird bunch, as the old-fashioned question of who is in fact the better fighter appears to interest the UFC brass less and less these days.
So what can the rest of us do to fend off these new breeds? Looks like it’s up to us to reward the fighters who actually challenge themselves and want to compete with our attention and support. The louder, and the more frequent, the better. So speak up for the warriors who genuinely want to test themselves, want to take on the best, want to compete. Let’s hear it for Golovkin, Lomachenko, Crawford, “Chocolatito” and their kind. Because true boxing fans helping turn big, legitimate fights into big, legitimate events will continue to entice promoters. And silence the new breeds at the same time. That is a no-lose proposition. — Sean Crose