“I’m Embarrassed To Be a Boxing Fan”

Matt Bevan

Like many of you I sat down last Saturday to watch an expected demolition job by David Haye on Arnold Gjergjaj on Dave, as well as preparing myself for some Shannon Briggs antics. In the meantime, I set up a stream to watch some proper action from Russia, where Denis Lebedev and Victor Ramirez looked to unify the cruiserweight division.

I’d already braced myself for a pantomime and to be honest, I should have seen what actually unfolded a mile off, but when it finally came to fruition in front of my own eyes, I had to sit back and at that moment realise how embarrassed I was to be a boxing fan on Saturday.

A top drawer card in Russia, which always provide thrills, spills and bucket loads of action was dropped by BoxNation after Alexander Povetkin failed a drug test and pulled out of a clash with Deontay Wilder for the WBC heavyweight title, so instead I was left with “Dave on Dave”.

It’s not the action in the ring that bothers me, like I said it was expected, but it was how much of a joke Dave made boxing look. There would have been plenty of casual fans drawn in by Haye’s name, looking forward to seeing him walk through the overmatched Swiss flop with the padded, unbeaten record, who enjoyed it.

But, anyone who follows the sport week in, week out, and not just on a shop window basis when a big fight happens and claims to be an expert, will have watched the card through the hands and prayed for it to end.

Some will have seen through the joke, after all Dave is a comedy channel, and good for them, but some didn’t and boxing fans were left to try and justify to others why they actually care and love the sport as much as they do.

When Haye announced his comeback, we were all expecting to be taken for a ride. It’s David Haye, there is always a catch. But, he is now wasting our time and insulting us all by taking these exhibitions, before getting handed a massive pay day and shot at British boxing’s current darling, Anthony Joshua.

The January return against Mark De Mori was forgivable. Last Saturday wasn’t and the now “highly anticipated grudge match” between him and Shannon Briggs could be even worse. Questions should be asked if the British Boxing Board of Control even let this fight go ahead, because it is downright dangerous.

As fans all we want to see are well matched, 50/50 fights, but the best fight on the bill on Saturday between Lee Markham and Joe Mullender for the English middleweight title was relegated to three rounds of action getting shown, not even live, whilst a millionaire club owner, who had obviously paid for his TV time, winged his way to a win over an overweight bouncer.

If I was Markham or Mullender I would be insulted by this. If a 3-0 Olympic champion or world class amateur was shown ahead of them, then it is understandable due to name recognition. But this was one of Haye’s mates, who had probably sponsored the card and is only boxing because he fancies a go. Fair play to him for doing it, but he should never have been shown and I’m not even going to talk about his upcoming fight down the line with Tony Bellew!

Add the Haye farce to the constant chatter of a clash between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor, and as a boxing fan you do feel like handing your card in and saying “I can’t be bothered with this crap anymore”.

We’ve had sub standard cards on Sky and now Mayweather-McGregor has become the biggest topic of conversation in boxing. Give us a break. MMA fans will happily say that McGregor will destroy “Money” but we’ve all seen the sparring video that will tell us otherwise.

If Haye-Gjergjaj or even Haye-Briggs is considered a mismatch, then what on earth do we consider Mayweather-McGregor to be? It’s embarrassing that Floyd Mayweather is even genuinely considering giving Conor McGregor a fight in the first place.

Finally, my last rant is on the decision by Canelo Alvarez to vacate the WBC middleweight title, so he doesn’t get rushed in negotiations and have to work to a deadline for his fight with Gennady Golovkin, who was subsequently upgraded to full WBC champion.

I can see some of Canelo’s logic, but he knew the fight with Golovkin was going to be called for if he got past Amir Khan. I thought the idea of being a boxer was to unify the divisions and prove you are the best by beating the best, regardless of how much money is on the table.

Canelo is the biggest draw in the sport at the moment so he does hold plenty of cards in his hands, but to vacate a belt so as not to give away an advantage to Golovkin is ridiculous. Fight fans say bring back the days when fighters just fought each other in the ring and not on the negotiating table, but it won’t happen. Alvarez-Golovkin could be the next Mayweather-Pacquiao.

One division where the best do fight the best is the cruiserweights, as proven by Lebedev’s win over Ramirez last Saturday in a real fight. This week we’ve got another as Tony Bellew fights Ilunga Makabu at Goodison Park on Sunday for the vacant WBC belt.

Bellew is a polarising figure, but you have to respect the way he never shirks a challenge and always goes after the toughest fights available. Makabu is as dangerous as they come and more than capable of ruining Bellew’s day and for many he will be the favourite.

Makabu would be close to the bottom of most cruisers lists as to who they would want to fight, so credit where credit is due for Bellew for taking him on, as I could think of many others you’d rather face for a vacant world title in front of an adoring home crowd.

Also the night before, Ricky Burns is back in a world title fight and looking to become a three-weight champion by beating Michele Di Rocco. The Italian is a tidy European level fighter who is getting a crack at the big time, as a win over Burns still carries plenty of weight.

For Burns it is a chance to finally get over the demons he has had over the past couple of years since joining Matchroom and turn a new corner, whilst in the process getting back to the pinnacle of the sport. I hope he does it, as it couldn’t happen to a better bloke.

He has been forgotten about by Sky, who are focusing all their attention on the Bellew-Makabu fight, but I’m expecting to start getting back to his best and come away with the title. I can’t think of a more deserving champion in British boxing.

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