So another year has come and gone in boxing, and once again an alarming trend took place -- the games best boxers simply didn't perform all that much. While other sports make an effort to showcase their brightest stars, often. Boxing has a business model and system that does just the opposite.
Here's a look at the activity level of boxing's elite in 2022, using the Ring Magazine pound-for-pound list as a guide...
1- Oleksandr Usyk: 1 fight. Defeated Anthony Joshua via 12 round decision.
2- Naoya Inoue: 2 fights. Stopped Nonito Donaire (TKO2) and Paul Butler (KO11) in unification bouts.
3- Terence Crawford: 1 fight. Scored a sixth round knockout of David Avanesyan
4- Errol Spence: 1 fight. Stopped Yordenis Ugas in 10 rounds in a unification contest.
5- Saul Alvarez: 2 fights. Lost to Dmitry Bivol in a 12 round decision, and defeated Gennadiy Golovkin
6- Dmitry Bivol: 2 fights. Defeated Alvarez, and out-pointed Gilberto Ramirez.
7- Vasiliy Lomachenko: 1 fight. Won a decision over Jermaine Ortiz
8- Josh Taylor: 1 fight. Defeated Jack Catterall in a 12 rounder.
9- Jermall Charlo: 1 fight. Knocked out Brian Castano for the undisputed 154-pound championship.
10- Juan Francisco Estrada: 2 fights. Decision wins over Argi Cortes and Roman Gonzalez.
Yeah, this is something I harp on often.
Steve Kim on Twitter: "Inactivity Report for 2022. How often did the elite in #boxing perform this past year. Its a disturbing trend that I dont see stopping anytime soon..."
Inactivity Report for 2022. How often did the elite in #boxing perform this past year. Its a disturbing trend that I dont see stopping anytime soon...
So to sum it up, out of the top 10 listed above, over half of those boxers fought just once, while the others fought just twice this past calendar year. None of them fought three times. In fact, outside of Jesse 'Bam' Rodriguez, no current world champion was that active.
While other popular prizefighters such as Gervonta 'Tank' Davis had just one bout in '22. (But to be fair, if you go back to last December and look ahead to January 7, Davis will have had three bouts in that 13 month stretch. His last outing came in late May as he halted Rollie Romero.) Meanwhile, Ryan Garcia, actually had two bouts this year as he looks ahead to an April showdown with Davis.
Tyson Fury, the recognized heavyweight champion of the world, got out there twice as he dispatched his British compatriots, Dillian Whyte and Derek Chisora. It's the first time since 2019 that he has fought more than once in a year.
Also, it has to be mentioned that the Ukrainian duo of Usyk and Lomachenko, had to attend to patriot duties for their country which curtailed any possible fights that they may have lined up in the first half of the year. For Lomachenko, it cost him a chance to face the then-undisputed lightweight champion, George Kambosos, in Australia.
Anthony Joshua for the third consecutive year fought just once.
Shakur Stevenson and Devin Haney, who are on many other pound-for-pound lists, and will be fixtures in these discussions for the next decade, each boxed twice in '22. Unfortunately, the uber talented Jaron 'Boots' Ennis got in all of four minutes (not rounds) this year, as he blew out Custio Clayton in two rounds back in May, and then tweeted about his imminent return for months to close out the year. He returns on the 'Tank' Davis undercard in the first week of January.
Mikey Williams/Top Rank
It wasn't any better for his welterweight colleagues, Vergil Ortiz, and Eimantas Stanionis, also had just one fight. Keep this in mind, all three are in their 20's, and have been relegated to this level of activity.
The Charlo brothers, who are both champions, combined for one bout. Which is the same number as unified 122-pound titlist, Stephen Fulton.
OK, just want to make this clear, this isn't about one company. Although some are worse than others, the reality is that this goes across the board in the current landscape. Nowadays, if you are a world-class boxer, unless you have the leverage to headline pay-per-views and create extra dates for yourself (like Oscar De La Hoya in 1997), you will be relegated to having two bouts a year.
The campaigns of Nonito Donaire in 2012, and Gennadiy Golovkin in 2013 (who both had four bouts those years) look like something from a bygone era, which will never return, unless there is an enterprising young boxer, who has a management with some real vision.
This seems like an indictment on the boxers, but really, they are the victims to a large degree. Those who actually want to fight more often, are told that there simply are not enough dates left with their network, or the budget has dried up. Unless boxers can be convinced to take a bit of a haircut by their management, they will not get any more than their allotted bi-annual showcases.
Perhaps this really isn't a big deal, maybe it's just the natural evolution of the sport.
But I do have a question: is this really the best way to grow and expand boxing, and create the next generation of stars?
It was announced by Showtime over the weekend that the bout between Jermell Charlo, and Tim Tszyu, which was scheduled for late January, has been postponed, as the undisputed champion has suffered a damaged left hand during a sparring session.
"I threw this nice punch and as soon as it landed, I knew something was wrong. I felt my hand throbbing right away,’’ said Charlo. “I had two X-rays and an MRI to see what was wrong. It showed it was broken in two places. I hate this feeling. My hand will be in a cast for two months. I’m as disappointed as the fans, maybe more, because this was my first chance to defend the undisputed title."
“The way I am, I would have beaten Tim Tszyu with one hand,'' he continued. "But the doctors and the boxing commission won’t allow that. It’s even more dangerous when a lion faces adversity and has to come back to defend the pride. I’ve been training since July, and I’ve been hitting harder than ever, and these are the things that happen when you push yourself to the limits. After my hand heals, I’m coming back stronger than ever to defend my legacy.’’
It's not clear when this bout will be re-scheduled.
Tszyu, who last fought in March, defeating Terrell Gausha, stated: “I’m very disappointed. I felt like the stars aligned for undisputed…but we move on. I’m ready to take on the next mandatory challenger. I’ll be back for Charlo once he is ready and healed.”