In many respects 2023 has been a banner year for the sport of boxing. While in the past you could lament the ills of the game, and the fights not taking place, objectively, this has been one where fans shouldn't really have any complaints.
But it's too bad that heavyweight champion, Tyson Fury, has decided to not participate in it.
Well, technically he is, as it was announced a couple of days ago that 'the Gypsy King' would be facing Francis Ngannou on October 28 in Saudi Arabia.
A Top Rank press release stated: "The clash to find out who is the “Baddest Man on the Planet” will take place under the official rules of professional boxing, with 3 judges ringside adopting the 10-point must system. Both fighters however are promising to meet in the middle of the ring, go to war and win by knockout in devastating fashion."
So yeah, while the year began with talk of a showdown with unified heavyweight champion, Oleksandr Usyk (who holds the Ring, WBA, IBF and WBO belts), we instead sees Fury -- the WBC titlist -- facing the former UFC (and that's mixed-martial arts for those of you who don't know) heavyweight champion in the Middle East.
The announcement of this match-up, outside of Fury loyalists, has been received like passing gas in church.
Some will compare this to Muhammad Ali and his ill-fated venture versus Antonio Inoki. But it has to be pointed out that in 1976, the year after 'the Greatest' faced the hard-hitting Ron Lyle, and then Joe Frazier in the legendary 'Thrilla in Manila', Ali still had four 'real' title defenses. So yeah, it's not really the same thing.
With that said, perhaps Fury-Usyk happens at the end of 2023, or the first quarter of next year. Usyk has to take care of mandatory defense versus Daniel Dubois. But nothing can be certain with the mercurial Fury.
This isn't to disrespect Fury, who is still considered by many as the premiere heavyweight in the world. At 6'9, 260-plus pounds, he has rare athleticism for his size, and a high boxing IQ. The reality is that when he's on his game, there is nobody in the division that beats him. But he simply can not be crowned undisputed till he dispatches of Usyk.
You can speculate all you want, have your opinions, but hypothetical victories do not count. In recent times I've seen pundits and observers (many of whom I respect) list Fury among the top 10 heavyweights of all-time. There's no doubt in my mind that with his dimensions and ring savvy, that he would be a tough out for any big man in history.
But these are the facts, since defeating Wladimir Klitschko at the end of 2015, you take out his trilogy versus Deontay Wilder, his title defenses have come against: Sefer Seferi, Francesco Pianeta, Tom Schwarz, Otto Wallin, Dillian Whyte and Derek Chisora. It's not exactly murderers row.
Mikey Williams/Top Rank
Nobody knows if this Ngannou bout will count on that ledger.
But there's no question as to why it's happening
It's the money, you dossers.
I recently received this email from a fan who had an interesting comment about a growing trend in modern day boxing:
"Jermall Charlo, Joshua Franco, Teofimo Lopez, Ryan Garcia, Danny Garcia, Adrien Broner, Omar Figueroa, Tyson Fury, Keyshawn Davis, Callum Johnson...
Why so many boxers in this era claiming mental health preventing them from fighting? Are we supposed to accept this because it's politically correct? These guys are all just afraid to lose.
Is it social media? More pressure than ever? Are these guys having panic attacks and going to the hospital? I'm an attorney and I deal with real problems and stress, I don't understand how I am supposed to look up to these Jabronis. It's like they are running from reality. It is ok to lose in the ring! Do your job! I don't get to call in and not be there because I'm stressed out and not feeling it, I have a job to do and this is what I signed up for. I don't see very many UFC fighters claiming mental health is preventing them from fighting, Dana White not having any of that. Mental warfare and toughness is part of the game.
Do you think the Four Kings had pressure and were afraid to lose? I guess Michael Spinks wishes he took some time for his mental health before he was sent to Bolivian by Tyson. Zab Judah may have been a greater champion if he ever took time off for his mental health. Maybe Sonny Liston could have used some time off to get his head right.
Like Prince once told us, "Sign o' the Times".
GC, thank you for your missive, I think you hit on some very blunt points. I know some will be offended by your words, and by me printing them. And yes, many in the media are afraid to address, or even question this whole subject for fear of the blowback, or loss of access.
Lets be clear, mental health is a serious issue. There are those who really suffering from problems, and some that are probably using it as a crutch.
But if boxing and it's power brokers (promoters, networks, sanctioning bodies, etc) really care about this, then I have a question: when a boxer cites this as a reason to pull out of a fight, why are they not made to check into a clinic or rehabilitation facility, and then given a suspension away from the ring for their own good?
That's how many other sports treat drug abuse, right?
However, I don't really see any evidence of this taking place. Is it just enough to say you have mental health issues, and then come back a few months later as if nothing happened? That alone, should not count as getting treatment.
So again, do we truly care about mental health, or is this just the latest version of a back injury?
Where have you gone Marvin Hagler?
This Saturday on DAZN you have a card from Detroit that has Alycia Baumgarnder defending her undisputed junior lightweight title, and the pro debut of Andy Cruz....While Showtime has a card from Las Vegas that features Frank Martin- Artem Harutyunyan, and Nonito Donaire fighting for a vacan bantamweight title....Also on that card is a 140 pound bout between Elvis Rodriguez and Viktor Postol....I can't lie, I enjoyed the documentary on 'Wham' on Netflix....I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.....