It's hard to escape the notion that, as people who love boxing, we're on the verge of something sensational, something big.
Boxing has been the easy sport to kick because, for so many years, it was rife with problems: Big fights didn't get made. There is still no widely instituted anti-doping plan after so many years. The sanctioning bodies frequently hand out championship belts like they're jelly beans. There is no respected, recognized ratings system used to develop legitimate contenders. The best fighters fight the least, and almost always behind a paywall. Officiating has often been horrendous; the best officials are aging and there's no training system to replace them.
We could go on and on for days, but you get the idea.
There are so many issues, the great things that are actually occurring often get obscured: Fights are being made. There's an influx of fantastic young talent being brought into the sport. The talent level overall is at the highest it's been in years. Women's boxing has been on the rise and proven to be popular because, well, the best fight the best, and attempt to unify belts.
Social media, of course, remains one of the sport's biggest issues, as it is in almost all other walks of life. The U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, one of the world's leading public health authorities, last week put out an advisory warning of the deleterious impact of social media on the mental health of our youth.
Tyson Fury, the lineal WBC heavyweight champion, has been a leader in the fight for better mental health care services and has spoken out passionately about it on social media. Fury's work advocating for those with mental health issues has been phenomenal and he deserves special commendation for his efforts.
But his use of social media in his own profession has caused issues. Intricate, high-dollar contracts are not best negotiated in a public forum, and when they are, it brings disinformation quickly into the process. It more often than not harms, rather than helps, a deal get done.
Fury, who holds the WBC and lineal titles, has made more than one video on Instagram speaking of his desire to fight unified heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk for the undisputed title or former unified champion, Anthony Joshua.
Neither of those fights are happening and it’s unlikely either will in the short term. Fury’s social media "updates" certainly haven’t helped the process along, particularly the ones where he’s talking about percentages and who deserves what, as he often does.
Boxing turned for the worse in the early portion of this century when so many elite fighters started to demand rematch clauses and comeback fights in negotiations. They also wanted an extraordinarily high percentage of the gross and thus made it all but impossible for anyone else to make money. If a promoter and a broadcaster can’t make money off the sport, what’s the point of continuing to do it?
Fights are at their best when there is much at stake: Two elite fighters competing for a respected title, with no bail-out position. One fighter wins, becoming the champion and, at least for a while, the top dog. The other fighter loses and has to regroup, figure a way back.
When that happens is when fights do the most business.
It’s thus insane to believe that it was terms for a rematch clause that has, to this point, prevented an undisputed heavyweight title bout between Fury and Usyk. Without a rematch clause, the stakes would have been greatest, but let’s be honest: If it was a good fight, fans would want to see it again anyway.
I’d love to see Fury fight Joshua, too. Both are elite fighters, though Fury has the edge in accomplishment and form at this point. They are long-time rivals in the boxing-mad United Kingdom and a fight between them would draw a massive audience.
Let’s make it happen.
But deals often come undone when things are said on social media and a small issue turns into something out-sized.
If Fury really wants to fight Usyk and/or Joshua — and I believe 100 percent that he does — then he should abandon the social media updates until a deal is agreed upon and the contracts are signed. Then, take to social media and have at it, promoting the fight as much as you can.
Social media is an easy way to reach a lot of people, but it’s a hard way to get a contract done. So, as hard as it might be, fighters ought to refrain from these updates until there is something actually to announce.