One of the most frustrating aspects of boxing are good fights not being made. There are countless tales
of the supposed best not fighting the best. It remains criminal that Bowe and Lewis didn’t meet in the ring (as professionals before any amateur aficionados start smashing things), Mayweather-Pacquiao happened about 10 years too late and we still hear “NOW OR NEVER” from Amir Khan and Kell Brook.
The main source of anger with this sort of bout is the unwillingness from those involved to make it happen. We hear all too often of boxing as a business, purse splits, A-side B-side bluster and the work of the devil itself: letting a fight marinate. Ultimately, these are all negotiating tactics and, while understandable, contribute directly to delays in seeing the most fan friendly fights available.
Tactics like these are not exclusive to the top tier either. It is probably more maddening at the highest level, because these fighters have earned their way into a bottleneck. We are told that once you’ve reached world title tilts it isn’t possible to voluntarily drop back down in level. Again, this infuriates fans but is also formed by solid logic. Lawrence Okolie, as a current example, has successfully sailed through domestic and continental level to the cusp of a world title shot. He has been moved quickly and could feasibly have been world champ after just 15 pro bouts. Eddie Hearn was very vocal about not rushing his man and despite his fast-tracking, roughly a third of Okolie’s contests have been at British level. It would have been very easy for the team to get carried away and navigate him towards world honours without the risk of facing Luke Watkins or Matty Askin for example.
So with that in mind, there are many clashes, even between prospects, that get purposely postponed until it’s too late.
Photo by Mark Robinson
If these deliberate delays generate fury and frustration, then the case of David Avanesyan vs Josh Kelly surely sees boxing give a collective sigh. The fascinating fight was previously made for the undercard of Kell Brook vs Michael Zerafa way back in December 2018. Now, it is worth pointing out that Team Avanesyan don’t just put this down to back luck and the lottery of the boxing Gods. They lay the blame firmly with Kelly and his trainer Adam Booth.
The normally reserved Neil Marsh, Avanesyan’s manager, let rip at a press conference earlier this year. The official reasoning was that Kelly had fallen ill but there have been all sorts of alternative suggestions put back and forth. It remains however one example where we can’t blame promoters or networks for creating obstacles, with Covid restrictions throwing the latest spanner in the works.
Hopefully, for the good of boxing (and those involved) it finally gets made and we get to see it.