Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing
WHEN a fight doesn’t deliver in the way we’d hoped it would then it seems that it has be someone’s fault, that somebody must be to blame and be held accountable for not delivering the level of entertainment that was promised.
So I’ve been trying to work out where that blame really lies and have narrowed the cluster of likely culprits down to the following.
Chief Suspect: ‘The promoters. A no brainer. They were the ones who made the match in the first place and told everyone how great it was going to be and how we should buy tickets for it or at the very least watch it on TV. And they were wrong. They misled us and all in the name of making a profit at our expense.’
Willing accomplices: ‘The broadcasters. Pretty much bang to rights to you’d have to say. They provided the platform responsible for invading our subconscious and brainwashing us into drinking the promoters’ Cool Aid.’
Accessories to the crime: ‘The fighters themselves. Hiding in plain sight. They were the ones in the ring and should have tried harder and been better.’
Case closed. Just a case of sentencing. Life bans all round I think.
You’ll have noticed, I’m sure, that the above is laced with an unhealthy dose of sarcasm. It’s not a style I’m a fan of and so not one I indulge in often but I’ve found myself resorting to it because of how totally exasperating I’ve found some of the reaction to Saturday’s fight between Lawrence Okolie and Isaac Chamberlain.
You’d probably already guessed that that was the fight that’s inspired this but I could be talking about any fight that didn’t turn out to be as good as we hoped it would be or indeed any sporting event at all that’s ever fallen into that category.
You don’t have to follow sport for long before you realise that it’s not an exact science, that it’s unpredictable and that it’s that very unpredictability which makes it both appealing and maddening in equal measure. The highs it can provide are like nothing else, as can be the lows, and that’s just for spectators. Boxing is unique in that it’s a sport that makes its own fixtures. It’s an intoxicating dynamic because in theory it makes anything possible, which is amazing, in theory; the problem is that it’s not actually true in practice. But it’s very tempting for people to think that it is true and to demand that the fixture-makers get it right every time.
But they can’t. All a promoter can do is make what their experience tells them will be a good match and then hope that they’re right. All TV or radio can do is provide the best coverage they can and hope that what they’re covering catches fire. All the fighters can be expected to do is train hard and try to win.
I’m not a promoter but it seems to me that the principles behind making a top of the bill match, the match that a show will be sold on, is like placing a bet. You carefully weigh everything up and then invest your money in what you believe will be a winner. And you really do have to believe it because the other thing you have to do is convince people that you’re right and to join you in your venture, making their own investment of time and money. The one thing it would be absolutely insane to do is make a selection that you don’t think will be a winner, that you don’t believe in. If you do that you’ll quickly lose all your money and go out of business.
My point is that there is nobody involved in a boxing promotion who doesn’t want it to work, who doesn’t want the top of the bill to be Gatti vs Ward and for the whole thing to be a smash hit. Nobody. That’s what everyone wants but it won’t always happen, there’ll be misses too. But there’s nothing sinister about a miss, no chicanery or deception, nobody’s been conned or robbed, it’s just what happens. And it wouldn’t be sport if it didn’t happen. You might not believe this but if every fight was Gatti vs Ward we’d get bored of it; it’s the misses that make us appreciate the hits more.
So next time a fight doesn’t deliver just ask yourself one question. Did you agree that it was a good match when it was made? If you did then there’s really nothing to complain about. If you thought it was a bad one from the start but still paid for a ticket or invested time watching it then you can’t complain either because that was your choice, nobody forced you. We’ve all been players in both of those movies countless times. There’s another option of course, which is to decide that something’s not worth your time and happily ignore it but that’s a movie I don’t want a part in. Yes, you’ll save yourself some disappointment and irritation but you’ll also miss out on some glorious surprises, and they’re the best of all.
And just one last thing. If you feel a fight has let you down, don’t blame the fighters. They’re just trying to win and in the process taking themselves to a place that most of us can’t even imagine.