Saturday, August 1, 2020

The Conclusion Of July 2020 In Boxing Part 2

In part one of this column, this observer discussed some of the notable bouts that took place in the latter stages of July in the sport of Boxing. While there is more in regard to what took place inside of the ring in both traditional and Bareknuckle Boxing that will be discussed here in part two, we begin the second half of this feature column by discussing a story that generated significant attention that frankly is comparable to when major fights between the sport’s biggest stars in terms of the buzz it has garnered. I am referring to the announced exhibition between hall of famers Mike Tyson and Roy Jones, which is scheduled for September 12th in Carson, CA.


Although some may think there is a little sarcasm in how I have described what will be a non-competitive exhibition, it is important to remember that we are talking about two fighters who in their respective primes were among the top fighters in the entire sport and in the case of Mike Tyson, a fighter who was front and center as Boxing’s top pay-per-view attraction for several years regardless of who his opposition was. Roy Jones meanwhile spent several years through the bulk of his prime regarded by many as the best pound for pound fighter in the sport.


While it should be kept in mind that this will be an exhibition between two men who are past their competitive peaks, we are still discussing two of the best fighters throughout the history of the sport. Despite the fact that Roy Jones spent the majority of his career fighting in the Middleweight, Super-Middleweight, and Light-Heavyweight divisions, the idea of a potential fight between himself and Mike Tyson was once not far fetched. Some may recall shortly after Jones moved up in weight from the Light-Heavyweight division to defeat John Ruiz for the WBA Heavyweight world championship in March 2003, there was talk amongst many within the sport of potential fights with both Tyson and Evander Holyfield if Jones opted to remain as a Heavyweight.


As most know, Jones eventually chose to move back down to the Light-Heavyweight division. Jones’ decision, which this observer has always held the opinion was a mistake, resulted in a decline of both his reflexes/skills and his standing in the sport as he would suffer some severe knockout losses during the latter years of his career. Even though we will never really know how things might have looked in a competitive scenario for Jones had he opted to stay at Heavyweight and squared off again either Tyson or Holyfield, the element of “What If” has remained a source of interest for many particularly those fans, experts, and historians who like to engage in fantasy fight debates.


The question of “What if” likely won’t be answered due to both fighters advanced age and the fact that this exhibition will take place under strict guidelines set forth by the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC), which has mandated that the scheduled eight round exhibition will be stopped if it becomes too violent or if either fighter suffers a cut. Nevertheless, the pairing of Tyson and Jones maintains interest. Some may ask the question of why that is the case.

Well, in taking some time to think about this exhibition, I thought of two scenarios that are somewhat similar including one that was Boxing-related that I covered many years ago, which I enjoyed. The first scenario comes from the world of baseball. Prior to the circumstances of COVID-19, one of the highlights on the New York Yankees season calendar is a game usually during the month of July, which is preceded by the annual Old Timer’s Day ceremony and exhibition game featuring Yankees alumni. Although no one who attends the day expects to see heated competition amongst those who participate in the exhibition game, it still provides a bit of nostalgia for baseball fans who get to see glimpses of some of the all-time greats who have worn the Yankee pinstripes in a friendly exhibition.


In Boxing terms, when scenarios like this come up, I always find myself thinking of a Boxing card I covered in June 1999, which was promoted as a pay-per-view attraction called “Legends of Boxing.” A Boxing card, which was an attempt to establish a division of sorts for advanced age fighters throughout the sport to compete against fighters of a similar age. The card, which took place in North Carolina, was headlined by two rematches of Heavyweight world championship fights from the 1980’s as co-main events.between Tim Witherspoon and Greg Page and Larry Holmes and James “Bonecrusher” Smith. The rematch between Holmes and Smith was labeled as being for the Legends of Boxing World Heavyweight Championship. Although the attempt to create what would be the equivalent of a seniors tour in the PGA for Boxing did not last, the concept, which was originally the idea of “Bonecrusher” Smith was ahead of its time and the card was competitive from top to bottom. 


In the years since that card took place, I have periodically brought up the idea of the concept being reintroduced. Whether or not the Tyson-Jones exhibition could be an unofficial restarting point for the seniors tour of Boxing remains to be seen. What is a source of skepticism however, is the rumor that the exhibition event will be televised on a pay-per-view basis for a price point of $50. It is important to keep in mind that the pay-per-view model has been in steady decline as the sport of Boxing has moved more in the direction of adapting a subscription-based streaming model thanks largely to the success of networks like DAZN, ESPN+, and UFC Fight Pass among others.


Despite the name recognition value that both Tyson and Jones bring to the table, if the price point is indeed $50 or above, it is debatable as to how successful the event will be especially given that it has been mandated as a non-competitive exhibition as well as taking place in the midst of the global COVID-19 epidemic. For reference, the “Legends of Boxing “ card in 1999, which consisted of bouts that were official professional fights was only priced at $19.99. While that price point is more economical, it would make more sense in this observer’s eyes for the promoters of this exhibition to seek a broadcast deal with either DAZN or ESPN+ two top networks in the sport that are each looking for additional content for their respective subscribers due to COVID-19 bringing sports to a halt. 


Although sports are slowly attempting to resume, a deal with either network for an exhibition like this will likely get more eyes on what the promoters are looking to present than going through an increasingly outdated and overpriced model of pay-per-view. Whether the suggestion of yours truly ends up being one the promoters choose to explore remains to be seen. 


Similar questions might surround two scheduled pay-per-view cards that will be produced by United States premium cable network Showtime in September and October. While I intend on sharing more thoughts on both of those scheduled cards as we get closer to those events, assuming there are no COVID-19 related compilations, a major issue for those promoters and networks who insist on doing cards via pay-per-view will be to deliver those cards at reasonable price points that the public will support even during an ongoing epidemic and subsequent economic recession. 


As for the networks that are central to the digital subscription streaming model, it was also announced late in July that the Bareknuckle Fighting Championship (BKFC), one of the prominent promoters of Boxing in bareknuckle-form has signed a broadcast deal with DAZN, which will begin later in August. This was accompanied by the launch of the promotion’s own digital subscription streaming network BKTV. The announcements appear to indicate that the BKFC, much as has been the case for many prominent Boxing and MMA promoters, are moving away from the traditional pay-per-view model and adapting the subscription-streaming approach. Although some may say there is a danger of the digital streaming market becoming inflated with so many options available for both sports content and entertainment, I believe the important factor will be for these networks to offer economically reasonable and flexible options that will allow consumers to pick and choose, which options are best suited for them. 


As more information about the BKFC’s deal with DAZN and their own BKFC digital network becomes available, I plan to share further thoughts in a  subsequent column here on The Boxing Truth®️. For the moment however, I believe this is another important step in the right direction both for the BKFC as well as DAZN, which will only benefit both going forward.


While the majority of the second part of this special feature column has focused on events that have taken place outside of the Boxing ring, there were two notable bouts that took place during the second half of the final weekend of July 2020. The first featured Undefeated Heavyweight prospect Joe Joyce facing veteran contender Michael Wallisch of Germany in the studios of sports television network BT Sport in London, England. In an atmosphere that was quite similar to what we have seen done by promoter Bob Arum’s Top Rank, Inc. cards that have taken place in Las Vegas, NV, Joyce dominated a “Game”, but overmatched Wallisch, scoring three knockdowns before ultimately getting a stoppage in round three of the scheduled ten round bout.


The tenth knockout in eleven career wins for Joyce will likely set up an encounter with fellow undefeated prospect Daniel Dubois providing that Dubois is successful in his scheduled August 29th bout against unbeaten prospect Erik Pfeifer in the same BT Sport studio.


Finally, to close out July, former IBF Jr. Middleweight world champion Carlos Molina returned to the ring and scored a convincing ten round unanimous decision over veteran Abraham Juarez in Michoacan de Ocampo, Mexico. Molina, one of the few fighters who has been active more than once during the COVID-19 epidemic, scored a fifth round stoppage in his previous outing in June over Michi Munoz. Although Molina has been successful in his last four fights and has been able to establish himself as a promoter promoting his fights under the banner of King Carlos Promotions, it will be interesting to see if the former world champion will attempt to climb his way back to contention after two workmanlike victories against relatively unknown opposition.


In reality, much like it has been for other fighters who have opted to try and compete during the COVID-19 epidemic, Molina has to go with whatever options are available to him and unfortunately, under the circumstances that does not necessarily mean being able to secure fights against top contenders and former world champions. Nevertheless, now two months into Boxing’s attempt to resume under COVID-19, one can say that those who have been able to operate have been able to make progress, despite some setbacks. As August 2020 now begins, with the circumstances of COVID-19 continuing to worsen in many areas of the United States as well as globally, the question is whether Boxing can maintain that progress. Unfortunately, promoters and networks that are prominent in the sport will likely not be able to answer that question as state and local officials will likely be the ones who will determine whether things need to be halted again not just for Boxing, but all of sports.


“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”


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