by Paul Magno
On Vacation you have a lot of time to sit back and reflect on things and one of the things that I thought about was Boxing; Specifically, how to improve the sport and fix some of the evils that plague prize fighting. I came to the conclusion that the only way to turn things around was to name a strong commissioner who would take the risks necessary to do things properly.
Then, I began to think about what would happen if I were that strong, take no prisoners commissioner…
I know it’s a pipe dream, but here’s what I would do if I were Comish:
· Establish a strong National Commission– Everybody talks about the need for a commission, but what does that really mean? It means standardized rules and regulations, uniform training for officials, more enforceable penalties for violators of the rules, a workable and unbiased ranking system, stronger health and safety procedures for participants and a credible and independent liaison between the sport and the press.
· Prohibit promoters from signing exclusive contracts with specific fighters– First, we have to establish the difference between a manager and a promoter. A manager looks after his fighter, finding the highest paying fight for the least amount of risk while a promoter’s job is to make a fighter and all of his fights as bankable as possible. When promoters started doing the same job as the managers, fighters became doubly protected and that made certain fights even tougher to make. My solution is to make the promoters bid to make specific fights and to completely cut out the exclusive promoter/fighter concept. This would make the promoters concentrate on making quality fights that they will go all out to actually promote. Boxing promotion will no longer consist of slapping a fighter’s name onto a meaningless bout and expecting the fans to buy it. By representing the fights and not the fighters, the frustration of house fighters getting bogus decisions will be almost eliminated because it will be in the best interest of the promotion to have a fair and honest decision. Established fighters will have trouble getting fights with hand-picked tomato cans because it wouldn’t make monetary sense to any promotional company to represent any such mismatch. The end result of this change would be many more well matched-up, competitive bouts with more money and greater freedom for the fighters and more quality, easier accessible cards for the fans.
· Make steep penalties for fighters who pull out of fights– There is no bigger buzzkill than when a fighter pulls out of a big fight a week or two before fight night. It’s not fair to the fans, to the promoters and to the opponent who is left without a payday. I propose automatic suspensions and/or fines for fighters who pull out of fights for non-medical reasons after reaching a previous contractual agreement. Similar sanctions could be made against fighters who habitually fail to make weight.
· Begin a retirement pension plan for all ex-fighters– The worst possible ambassador for the sport is a middle-aged fighter still fighting for a paycheck or a destitute ex-champ making a fool out of himself for money. This problem can be eased by taking 10% of fighters’ purses for 10 and 12 round bouts, putting that money into an untouchable trust fund and giving it back to him 5 years after his last fight.
· Go back to same-day weigh-ins– The only real reason for having the weigh-in the day before the fight is for promotion. Schedule a press conference instead and make the fighters hit the scales on the morning of the fight. This would be a safety measure to ensure against fighters draining themselves to make an artificially low weight and then rehydrating themselves all in the matter of about 24 hours.
· Establish an independent ranking system – This goes along with the idea of the national commission, but the importance of a universal and fair ranking system can’t be overemphasized. Fans and press alike need to know who the fighters are and how they rank before they can be sold on a fight or fighter.
· Work closer and more seriously with Team USA– The Olympic system stinks, but there aren’t too many better promotional tools than a Team USA finishing the Olympics with a handful of gold medals. Encourage current and past pros and trainers to work with the kids to give them a better chance in the games and to help ease them into the pros.
· Abolish even rounds– Scoring even rounds is just lazy judging. There is always something that sways a round one way or another. Less even rounds means less scoring abnormalities.
· Significantly boost efforts to publicize the sport to the mainstream– Use every tool at our disposal to get the sport out of the marginal column and onto the TV screen. Every effort should be made to expose the public to the greatness of the sport and the fascinating lives of its participants. Aggressive marketing and smart, targeted, campaigns to the media and the general public could be used to get the sport more exposure.
The idea of being Comish may be a vacation-induced fantasy, but here’s hoping the higher-ups in the sport take at least a couple of these suggestions to heart.