I’m not an avid follower of Boxing, I find UFC more exciting/enticing, but like most sports fans I couldn’t help but fork out the £16.95 charge for Sky Box Office to see how the Haye-Bellew feud panned out. Love or Hate both [or either] of them, it was an enthralling build up that needed to be seen and enjoyed live and it didn’t disappoint!
Now, I want to preface this by saying that whilst the injury inspired me to write this blog, I have nothing but huge admiration and respect for the way David Haye battled on and lasted until the penultimate round against a World Champion with a ruptured achilles; you need only ask Kobe Bryant how serious and injury that is!
Up until the injury it was set to be a classic (maybe an all time great) British boxing encounter and whilst the result won me £60 off a free bet [Kerching!] I, like many fans, probably felt somewhat disappointed and short changed that we didn’t get to see both, fully fit, fighting to the death. As brave and utterly determined as Haye was, he portrayed a sad shadow of his former self heaving himself around on one leg and it turned a fast starting fight into a slow countdown to the inevitable; one way or another.
This was clearly not something he carried into the fight but something that unfortunately happens when an aged and worn body is continuously exposed to the rigors of professional fighting but it automatically drew the attention of many to the leaked rumors of a nagging shoulder injury for Haye leading up to the bout. Similarly, there were images of him in Germany with sports injury specialist Hans Wilhelm Muller-Wohlfahrt. Whilst there are no doubts it was the achilles that devastated any chance of a return to the upper echelon of the Heavyweight division for David Haye; it does beg the question as to whether he was carrying any potential niggles that may have evened the odds.
David Haye has history, part of me wonders whether the injury leaks prior to the fight were to set up a potential excuse in case of an upset because certainly he looked more mentally rattled than the Evertonian leading up to the fight. When Haye fought Vladamir Klitschko in 2011 it was a similar story; he put on huge bravado in the build up promotion without any obvious signs he’d got in Klitschko’s head and upon losing there was the sudden injury announcement; the infamous and fairly comical little toe.
I’m no expert in boxing so I have no idea as to how much of impact a broken little toe has on a fighter’s chances but after the loss, when the broken bone was unveiled, David Haye revealed it had been sustained three weeks before the World Title fight. Either it’s simply a terrible attempt to excuse his poor showing or he was put in a severe disadvantage considering he was dealing with arguably the best heavyweight of his generation. If it is indeed the latter, then I think the fight has to be postponed with Haye’s pride and reputation completely irrelevant. I feel the same way about any fight in Boxing/UFC etc. regardless of the importance or scale.
When Haye met Bellew last Saturday night, the cost to watch on just the TV was not far shy of £20. Tickets for the actual fight ranged from £60-£2500 which isn’t pocket change. All this in addition to TV rights generated a figure around the £10m mark excluding the amount spent at the bookies where Haye was an overwhelming favourite to win via knockout or points. Considering this was a non-title fight between two trying to make a name/comeback in the division it was actually a relatively small purse and so the Haye-Klitschko bout would have brought in even more money.
With this money banded about I think fans deserve to have a fully competitive display on the night. I understand with the rigors and physical nature of the sport and its preparation that it’s unlikely the fighters will ever be 100% but if there is any injury that could sway the odds even slightly then that fight should be evaluated and possibly postponed. This may seem drastic but it’s only fair for the punters and fans alike. I understand fighters wont want to reveal anything that could present a psychological or tactical advantage to their opponent but even if they are fit enough to go ahead with the contest, to not disclose a physical impairment is not – to my knowledge – all that dissimilar to insider trading.
This may seem extreme. You may well feel incredulous reading this to which I’d merely point you in the direction of former non league, lovable legend Wayne Shaw. Sutton v Arsenal was a fairy-tale tie which I’m sure had many a punter throwing a Hail Mary bet after the antics of Leicester but only a minority I’m sure actually put a bet on for the goalkeeper/groundsmen to eat a pie mid game. It didn’t matter, it was an available bet that he knew about and so he lost is job and is under investigation by gambling authorities.
Now lets increase the scale. Shaw probably made some money for a few of his mates putting silly bets on at 8-1 but due to the seriousness of insider trading and gambling within sport it came with firm consequences. Now consider it at a much larger level; the Manny Pacquiao v Floyd Mayweather fights generated a purse of $300 million for the fighters alone. Prior to the fight it was predicted to bring in the highest number of bets for a fight in history; estimated between $60-80million [not a surprise for a Money Mayweather fight in Las Vegas]. One of those bets reported, was a $500,000 bet placed with MGM Grand hoping for a win by Manny Pacquiao.
This fight, billed as the fight of the century in the build up, was the first of two fights I had ever been interested enough to shell out the box office charge for and so like the aforementioned fight from Saturday I paid to watch. For 12 rounds though, like the many watching around the world, I mourned the wasted money I had exerted.
Mayweather deployed the usual excellent defensive strategy that means he left the sport unblemished and for the most part untouched with Pacquiao barely landing a punch. It was impressive, though boring, until it was announced that Manny had apparently suffered a shoulder injury 4 weeks before in training. I may not know much about boxing but even I know any injury to the shoulder will make it hard to box, especially when trying to hit the greatest defensive fighter of all time.
Again I understand there’s reputation at stake and with the timeline and difficulties getting this fight arranged I’m sure that Pacquiao’s camp felt it was fight now or never but with the amount of money being paid it has to be disclosed. Even if you decide you have to fight rather than postpone, it gives people the opportunity to weigh up whether it’s really worth spending hard earned cash on such a poor showing.
More importantly, Pacquiao and his team probably knew he’d have a weakened chance landing many punches, especially any kind of knockout punch on an already difficult to hit opponent. So for them to go into this bout without any revelation will likely have caused many people to have lost collectively millions to the bookies because they were anticipating a fair, competitive fight with at least some chance; they may still have made the bet but at least the odds would have reflected the true chances of a win for the Filipino.
His own knowledge of his condition, that impacts the outcome of the competition and the very odds placed on it, is by its own definition insider trading.
In any professional fight, the fighters make relatively good money (even the journeymen are compensated for being human punch bags) and in the top bouts the income is huge and that is due to the money charged to the adoring fans of boxing who will pay whatever is necessary to overcome the obstacles in order to view the spectacle on hand. So they deserve to have the best show possible put on for them otherwise they should be warned or have prices dropped.
Likewise they need to seriously tighten the regulations on gambling in boxing because if fighters truly are going into fights with momentum shifting injuries then they are effectively hustling people out of money by suggesting they have a better chance of winning.
I appreciate it is difficult with boxing to truly enforce or alter any regulations due to the sports nature as it is technically run by countless boxing federations and ultimately governed by its promoters. More importantly, it is a sport that has been going on for centuries if not millenniums; they are for all intents and purposes our modern gladiators and so people will clamor to watch regardless. However, if it is truly to overcome or compete with the emerging giant of the UFC, it needs to pit the best fighters against each other in their prime; consistently put on fantastic displays of the ultimate competency and finally legitimize itself again.
Those three important steps can’t even begin to take place in shaping the future of boxing until fighters are forced to disclose injuries before a fight. I’d suggest it is done by submitting the injury to an independent panel of appointed doctors/physios who can decide whether it is significant enough to cause a difference; therefore it should be their decision alone as to whether the fight goes on and if it does, as a minimum, the injury should be disclosed if even remotely deemed a factor in the fight.
This takes away the element of conning the fans but more importantly it prevents fighters putting themselves in danger by fighting injured in order to protect their pride; with the decision out of their hands it can’t come into it because no blame can be placed upon them.
That being said, it’s just one suggestion, I’m sure the minds of the boxing world can come up with other alternatives more suitable for the sport but until they do; I’ll be watching and enjoying UFC far more frequently. With that in mind, I’m sure I’ll still be watching AJ on April 29th.