Over the past year, televised boxing has expanded beyond traditional viewing methods. Digital streaming just happens to be the latest platform that the sport of boxing has conquered. Boxing fans on the go can now whip out their phone, tablet, or laptop and load up an app to watch boxing. Once you add up all the free, cable, and premium networks that broadcast boxing on top of the digital streaming services, boxing fans seem to be making out pretty good. Well, looks can be deceiving if you value quality over quantity.
With the untimely death of HBO boxing and the rise of digital streaming, the sport has split itself into several major factions. You have PBC which is backed by Showtime and Fox. They probably have the biggest number of star fighters in their roster. Next is Goldenboy and Matchroom who have boxing’s biggest superstars in Canelo Alvarez and Anthony Joshua in their stables. This provides huge potential staying power for DAZN (the new digital streaming platform that airs their fights) Last but not least, Top Rank holds a firm position with the ESPN network and its digital streaming accomplice ESPN Plus. Their stable is top heavy with pound for pound champions Vasyl Lomachenko and Terence Crawford. From the look of things, each major promotional entity involved has enough resources to make the fights that will elevate the sport. If this is the case, why are we getting all these showcase bouts.
Now for those who are new to the sport of boxing, a showcase bout is a fight where the perceived A side is favored to win and most likely win big, thus showcasing their talent and skill level on the big stage. Traditionally showcase bouts came in the form of tune ups designated for inactive fighters looking to work off some rust before taking a tougher challenge, but over recent years showcase bouts started becoming accepted as legit main event headliners for boxing cards. To make matters worse, most boxers are on a one or two fight a year schedule so more than likely they’ll be using one of those dates as a showcase bout. Now multiply that routine with the amount of A side boxing stars in each major promotional stable and fans are left with the dilemma of having to choose between competitively matched cards or star boxers shaking off some rust whenever multiple boxing cards get aired on the same night or overlap.
Boxing is elevated by its biggest stars participating in fights that the fans want to see. When that starts happening less, the attention is now diverted to just seeing an actual good fight regardless of the star power or lack thereof. Everyone likes a winner, but even that gets stale once we see that the actual winning is never in doubt. Boxing is supposed to be the theater of the unexpected, but its hard to stage drama an unpredictability around a concept that will most likely lead to only one result. When you factor in the bad judging and how certain superstars can’t lose a decision no matter what, the chances of an upset or something dramatic happening go down even more. Showcase fights aren’t necessarily a bad thing given the circumstance. A showcase bout for a boxer who is coming from a long stretch of inactivity due to an injury is easier to accept than a guy who routinely fights once a year against mid-tier opposition deciding to fight an even lesser threat for his annual fight. That type of behavior does nothing for the sport but disrespect the less fortunate boxers that work just as hard but get less exposure. Boxing can do without the oversaturation of showcase fights. Stars should be fighting each other or at least the next best available contender. You’ll have divisions loaded with talent having showcase fights instead of fighting each other. Whole televised cards are built around this concept and now that all the major promotional companies have regulated themselves to mostly in house cards, you can expect this trend to continue to grow.
Written by Shutterworth