In the wake of Liam Smith’s predictably gallant losing stand against Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in Texas, last weekend, former top flight domestic trainer, Julian McGowan was feeling nostalgically outspoken.
“Another ‘world’ champion steps up and actually fights a genuine elite, world class fighter and is five levels below. Boxing, in terms of purity and the the notion that belt holders should be special has been badly damaged.
Don’t tell me Liam Smith is brave, all fighters are, tell me instead how we fix the problem…?”
Until Smith’s deposition last Saturday after a fight in which he gave his all and it never looked like being enough, the U.K. boasted 13 ‘world’ champions. Many have chosen to see this as a sure sign that the domestic fight game is flying to unprecedented levels of success and prosperity while other grizzled die hards insist that it’s all a cynically orchestrated illusion.
Let’s address the situation.
It is no coincidence that in the era of universal world champions and fewer divisions, or even the period in which the WBC and WBA enjoyed a dual monopoly, we simply didn’t get a conveyer belt of world champions from these shores and the notion that a fighter of Ricky Burns’ ilk could place himself in the same bracket as Henry Armstong as a triple champion would have seemed laughable.
The argument from fight insiders and those with a vested interest is that the multiple belt situation is a good thing as it allows more fighters to earn major paydays on big platforms.
If Terry Flanagan and Derry Matthews can fight each other in a unification ‘world’ title fight (Derry was WBA interim champion,, if memory serves) before a packed house at the Echo Arena then where’s the harm…?
So what if it was a glorified British title fight at best….? This is a business and it’s all bout marketing to the masses.
Such logic sounds fine, on the face of it, until you realise that the aforementioned masses stopped by paying close attention a couple of decades ago.
Try walking around any busy UK shopping centre armed with a a picture of each of Blighty’s dozen remaining world champs and canvassing the great British public for instant recognition thereof.
Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua would surely be named by a few (though certainly not all) and some might remember James Degale from the Olympics but it seems likely that the rest would draw a blank across the board unless you unwittingly bumped into a family member.
Contrast this with the media profiles and household name status of John Conteh, Alan Minter, Charlie Magri, Lloyd Honeyghan, Nigel Benn and Chris Eubank.
Admittedly, the world has changed and it might seem futile to apply old standards to a new culture but it has always been my contention that the increasing plethora of spurious belts at all levels of the game is ultimately a bad thing, yielding short term gains at best.
In the words of Author and boxing writer, Ian Probert, ” I think we can and will have this discussion ad nauseum for the rest of our lives. To me the pertinent questions are: 1/ Did Smith-Canelo generate money? Yes.