It's a new year. But before we start looking at 2024, we look back at 2023. The annual activity report for the games elite the past 12 months. If you know anything about myself and this column, that boxers activity(or lack thereof) is something that I dwell on often.
Some would say I belabor the point. I won't necessarily argue that. But I wont change, regardless. I believe it's a critical element of the modern boxing business that should be exposed and examined.
Can the game thrive with it's best known, and most talented participants performing so infrequently? Or does it even matter?
Naoki Fukuda/Top Rank
Just like last year, I went to the most current Ring Magazine pound-for-pound list as a guide..
1- Terence Crawford: 1 fight. Knocked out Errol Spence in 10 rounds.
2- Naoya Inoue: 2 fights. Stopped Stephen Fulton in eight rounds, and then Marlon Tapales in 10.
3- Oleksandr Usyk: 1 fight. Scored a ninth round TKO of Daniel Dubois.
4- Saul Alvarez: 2 fights. 12 round decision against John Ryder, and Jermell Charlo.
5- Dimitry Bivol: 1 fight. 12 round decision versus Lyndon Arthur.
6- Devin Haney: 2 fights. 12 round decisions against Vasiliy Lomachenko, and Regis Prograis.
7- Errol Spence: 1 fight. Knocked out by Crawford.
8- Abdul Wahid (Gervonta Davis): 2 fights. Stopped Hector Luis Garcia in nine, and knocked out Ryan Garcia in seven.
9- Teofimo Lopez: 1 fight. Decisioned Josh Taylor
10- Jesse Rodriguez: 2 fights. 12 round decision over Cristian Gonzalez Hernandez, and TKO9 of Sunny Edwards.
So in total that's 15 fights for these 10. Which is about the same number as last years list had at the end of 2022. Here's a link to last year's article on SNAC.com:
So what you had was five boxers who fought just once in the past calendar year, and another five that did get out there twice. None of the above mentioned boxers fought three times last year(although the likes of Emanuel Navarette, Leigh Wood, Robeisy Ramirez, Anthony Joshua and Tim Tszyu boxed thrice in '23.) Joseph Parker really put in some work (by modern day standards, at least) with four bouts.
Mikey Williams/Top Rank
There was a time in the 90's when this total was far greater, as well-known champions such as Julio Cesar Chavez and James Toney, regularly took tune-up bouts and non-title fights in-between their major bouts on premium cable networks, or on pay-per-view.
Unfortunately, nowadays what you see is even young champions, such as Shakur Stevenson, winning their first world titles at an early age, and then they immediately settle into a twice-a-year pattern as their contracted minimums increase, and they are slotted into their budgeted slots on whatever network their promoter has an exclusive output deal with.
It wasn't always this way. When Miguel Cotto won his first major belt in 2004 by stopping Kelson Pinto in 2004 (for the vacant WBO 140-pound strap), he then proceeded to perform three times in 2005, 2006 and 2007 as he built his career, and developed a rabid fan-base. Cotto eventually became a bit of a pay-per-view franchise who then made major paydays as the dance partner for the likes of Manny Pacquiao and then Floyd Mayweather.
How many Cotto's can be made with the current model?
Mikey Williams/Top Rank
Young boxers reach their financial floor sooner, but might have a lower ceiling, overall. Guys like Ryan Garcia -- with his social media powers --are the anomaly.
One trend that was very difficult to ignore the past year was that boxers who were coming off protracted layoffs got absolutely thrashed in major fights. Josh Taylor, Stephen Fulton, Errol Spence, Jermell Charlo and Deontay Wilder all were handled with ease in significant showdowns.
Now, the likes of Teofimo, 'the Monster', 'Bud', 'Canelo' and Parker all had something to do with these guys losses. What was striking about these defeats weren't the losses themselves, but how lopsided in nature these particular matches were. You could argue that those five didn't win five total rounds between them in these showdowns. Yeah, they all faced blue-chip boxers but I'd surmise that coming off year-plus layoffs certainly didn't aid them any.
Mikey Williams/Top Rank
Being sidelined (for whatever reason) for that amount of time, put them at a competitive disadvantage.
So yeah.... activity matters.
I hear on Twitter that the reason why the games elite fight so infrequently is because they are making so much money. OK, but what about everyone else in the sport? What is their excuse?
Well, CaliXBoxing2.0 did a deep dive into this, and debunked much of this. He actually looked into the top 100 boxers on ESPN's top 100 pound-for-pound list. Here's that video, and that segment starts at minute 26. (And this was released in early November, before the 'Day of Reckoning' card in Saudi Arabia card was announced, so the numbers stated here will be slightly increased.)
Some sad news, it was announced on Tuesday that long-time manager, Cameron Dunkin, had passed away after a battle with cancer. He was 67 years old.
Dunkin had a sharp eye for talent, and he helped launch the careers of Kelly Pavlik, Terence Crawford, Mikey Garcia, Brandon Rios, Jaron Ennis, Diego Corrales, Stevie Johnston, Steven Luevano, Leo Santa Cruz, Nonito Donaire (among others) and also worked with the likes of Tim Bradley later in his career.
There was nobody who had a better eye for talent than he did. There's a reason he worked with nearly three dozen world champions, while never really signing that high-profile Olympic gold medalist coming out of the amateurs.
@MikeCericola5 Twitter ***)
On a personal note, I considered Cameron a friend. We had numerous long conversations the past twenty some odd years, and Cameron certainly taught me a lot about the business and sport of boxing. The last few times I spoke to him in recent months, he did not sound well.
I'm glad he's no longer suffering. My condolences to his family and loved ones.