Thursday, September 1, 2022

Belated August 27, 2022 Boxing Thoughts

The month of August 2022 closed with both curiosity and intriguing in two events being staged on August 27th in two different countries. First, it was the debut of the MisFits Boxing series that pits celebrities and social media personalities in the Boxing ring to do battle. An event that was streamed on digital subscription sports streaming network DAZN as part of its subscription offering as well as a low cost pay-per-view offering depending on what country or region you were viewing the event from. The United Kingdom, Ireland, and those of us in North America (United States and Canada) were offered the event at a low cost of $9.99 for current subscribers.

Some readers will recall a column penned by this observer last week where I asked a simple yet complex question because it could be answered in a variety of ways. Does “Celebrity Boxing “ hurt or benefit the sport? I also concluded that column by saying that I would be tuning in, in part out of curiosity as well as a Boxing scribe in search for his next story, ending the column by offering an observation to any would be viewer of “No Expectations, No Disappointments. “ It was not surprising that the bouts on this card though contested without the participants wearing headgear, were not professional bouts as most of the participants had little, if any Boxing experience prior to the event.

Regardless of how one views “Celebrity” or “Influencer Boxing” it should not be overlooked or dismissed that the content creators on this card though out of their elements with a few exceptions, were able to draw a sell out crowd in the O2 Arena in London, England that was on par with any major Boxing event. Although some may view that as a negative to the sport, it is impressive and does show that those influencers do have the ability to use their respective followings to draw a crowd.

As far as the bouts were concerned, frankly, I do not believe that anyone who is knowledgeable about the sport of Boxing should have expected professional level bouts. The participants should be given credit for stepping into a ring that is outside of not only their comfort zones, but also their respective areas of expertise and taking a risk to their health in doing so.

While some may expect this observer to be overly critical of an event like this as someone who does have the sport’s best interest at heart, I did not have any expectations going into the event. There is one thing that is a negative that cannot be ignored however, and that is it was obvious to an experienced eye that some of the participants likely had little time to prepare as most of the fights did not last long, which can also be a reflection of the lack of experience many of the participants had.

The main draw of the event was KSI, (Real name Olajide Olatunji) who was 1-0 as a pro boxer with a victory over fellow YouTube star, now business partner Logan Paul in 2019 in an officer professional fight, choosing to compete in two bouts on this card after originally scheduled opponent Alex Wassabi needed to withdraw due to suffering a serious injury in training for the bout. While KSI’s decision to compete in two exhibition bouts on this card was clearly motivated by wanting to ensure the scheduled event could go on as planned, it is something that is a rarity in the sport. In his first bout that actually began the card, KSI scored a second round knockout over an overmatched London-based rapper Swarmz.

KSI would return to close out the event by facing pro boxer Luis Pineda in the main event. A criticism that many within Boxing have, including yours truly with regard to the influx of celebrities/influencers that have ventured into the sport in recent years has been a reluctance to face pro boxers in officially sanctioned professional fights rather than participating on the exhibition circuit and/or competing against fellow influencers. For what it is worth, Luis Pineda did have pro Boxing experience having competed in seven pro bouts, this fact did little to give him credibility as the fighter, who had a 2-5 record competing as a 154lb. Jr. Middleweight, spent more time complaining from the canvas during this exhibition than he did actually trying to compete with KSI. The three round bout, which had so many knockdowns that yours truly quit counting midway through the second round, was mercifully stopped before the end of the third round.

While this event did not fill me with thoughts that any of those who competed would find their way towards competing as professional boxers, it was nevertheless entertaining and giving credit where it is due, KSI’s bout with Luis Pineda was akin to what a new professional fighter is likely to see in their first couple of fights. An opponent that has a record that can be described as non-descript and someone who will be used by their opponent’s handlers as a way to get their fighter’s feet wet in the professional side of the sport as well as to gage where their fighter is in terms of their development.

The obvious question not only I, but those who also watched this event are probably asking is whether or not this type of concept of “Celebrity” or “Influencer Boxing” can work in the long-term. I obviously cannot answer that question, but what I will say is I feel those behind this series need to clearly establish and define this concept. What I mean by that is it needs to be made clear as to what this series is intended to be. A separate genre within the sport of Boxing that is strictly within the niche of “Celebrity/Influencer Boxing,” or a series that will showcase those who have serious intentions on pursuing a legitimate Boxing career. It goes without saying that as a combat sport, there are inherent dangers that come with the territory and no matter what, any person who steps into a Boxing ring needs to understand those dangers and not treat it with a cavalier mentality. Simply put, people do get hurt and risk their lives each time they step into a ring to compete. If one has no intention of treating the sport with the respect it deserves and commands, they should not get into a ring. Boxing needs to be taken seriously.

On that subject of the sport being taken seriously, two former world champions also did battle on August 27th in a bout that was strictly all business. This observer is speaking of course of the Jr. Welterweight bout between former Lightweight world champion Richard Commey and Jose Pedraza that brought with it Commey’s debut in the 140lb. Jr. Welterweight division.

If one has followed the sport for a long period of time, you can develop a sense for what type of fight you are going to see based on the style of the two fighters. This was a case where both Commey and Pedraza had similar styles and similar ways in which they approach their opposition. It was based on this as well as my having covered fights in both of their careers that I said in previewing the bout that this had the potential to be a close fight. I then went a step further in saying that outside of the possibility of a knockout, which can never be dismissed, that this fight could end in a close decision.

As it would turn out, this analysis was spot on. For ten rounds Commey and Pedraza engaged in a tactical Boxing match where virtually every round was fought the same way. Neither fighter had an issue being willing to fight in close and each seemed to match each other punch for punch. This resulted in an extremely close fight where neither fighter was able to stand out clearly from the other resulting in the bout ending in a ten round split decision draw.

While the fight likely will do little to move either fighter towards a title shot at 140lbs., it does underscore what I did say prior to the fight in that just as the talent pool in the 135lb. Lightweight division is and has been traditionally deep, so too is the Jr. Welterweight division and as the lastest line of notable Lightweights including Richard Commey move into the field at 140lbs., the competition level is going to remain high and the talent-depth is going to get deeper and deeper. Unfortunately for the time being, this likely means that both Commey and Pedraza will find themselves facing off against each other in a rematch because they’re fight on this occasion turned out to be dead even and it is hard to make an argument for either fighter based on how close this fight turned out to be inside the ring that there should not be a rematch even though both fighters will likely have other options moving forward.

With the month of August 2022 now in the rearview mirror, it will be interesting to see what the month of September now has to offer.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.*

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