Match Them And They Will Come

By Tom Donelson
Updated: March 8, 2009

Boxing Gloves IOWA CITY — Match them and they will come — to paraphrase a popular saying. The recent Marquez-Diaz fight is an example of what happens when boxing promoters match up good fighters against each other in the right venue and the result being sellout crowds plus a buzz.

With two great match ups, boxing fans showed up in droves and they were not disappointed. Rocky Juarez challenging Chris John was a great set up fight before the main event.

John made his United States debut as the man who already defeated the Mexican legend Juan Manuel Marquez, who was due to make his appearance in the main event.

Juarez had always been a Houston favorite and one of those fighters capable of ending a fight with one shot; which makes for great drama whenever he fought.

Diaz’s style as a straight up aggressive style meshed up perfectly with the counterpunching boxing stylist Juan Manuel Marquez.

So the promoters, buoyed by the success of two local talents to draw crowds, put together a match that boxing fans in the audience would feel worth the money and those watching on HBO, felt worth the two hours plus of their time watching.

Boxing, so far, has seen a minor renaissance in 2009 as full crowds for the key bouts scheduled. The Mosley-Margarito bout produced a sellout crowd in Los Angeles and the reason was simple.

The promoters put two great draw in LA in the same ring and then charged reasonable ticket prices; a lesson that all sports might copy in these stressful economic times. Instead of putting this fight on PPV, the promoters made this fight more accessible to more fans.

While I criticized the promoters for Cotto and Pavlik for putting their fights on PPV, they did select venues that guarantee full arenas when they had Pavlik fight in his hometown of Youngstown, Ohio and Cotto fought in Madison Square Garden.

In addition, the promoters added Irish fighter John Duddy to the Cotto card, just to make sure they added the Irish boxing fans to the Puerto Rican fight fans.

And the promoters for the Diaz-Marquez fight repeated the same successful strategy that worked for Mosley-Margarito.

Not only did they pick local favorites and great fighters, they did not make this a PPV event but instead allowed more boxing fans to watch this fight by reducing the cost.

And there are some great match ups coming up.

HBO featured a tripleheader of great young fighters matching up against each other including young slugger James Kirkland against young slugger Joel Julio in a match that guaranteed firework from the opening bell.

(More on these fights in a later article.)

Every division is starting to see great matchups coming forward as old stars leave the scene and new stars fight for public recognition.

Antonio Tarver, the last of the old guard, fights a rematch against upcoming star Chad Dawson but despite the retirement of Joe Calzaghe; there are plenty of match ups among light heavyweights to whet the appetite of any boxing fans.

And not to be outdone, the recent Tomacz Adamek-Jonathon Banks fight showed that the Cruiserweights is not only a deep division but a division where every fight among contenders has the potential to be a classic.

From the lower weights through Cruiserweights, depth is forming among the many divisions and with a whole world to draw talent from; there are plenty of great matches to make and no excuses not to.

Jim Lampley observed during the Marquez fight, “Boxing is the most global of sports.” In a fight that featured an Indonesian fighter, a Mexican fighter and two American fighters with Mexican heritage, the global reach of boxing showed its color.

Chris John, the featherweight champion, actually took a pay cut to fight in America; which shows why he had been reluctant in the past to fight here.

Boxing, like golf and Tennis, is a global sport and this can be seen in the Cruiserweight division. The vast majority of the better Cruiserweights are Europeans and in the lower division; Manny Pacquiao and Chris John lead a group of Asian fighters.

The only division that has seen a decline in its fortune is the Heavyweights. Due to petty sanctioning bodies and poor promotions, the Heavyweights have lagged behind.

The failure of the better heavyweights to fight each other and the failure of the Heavyweights to unite the title has led to a low ratings and lack of interest in what was and is still suppose to be the most celebrated division.

Instead, it is the division that fans could the less about. The key to resurgent of boxing is to combine the strength of the sport and the talent that is coming from overseas.

Fighters are learning that they can fight in their home countries and make a good living. The biggest challenge facing boxing promoters is the same as other sports like Tennis where the bigger stars are from overseas.

How do promoters build up excitements and publicize the sport? Sports like Tennis and Golf have their own networks to reach the hardcore fans and both Boxing and Mixed Martial Arts might consider the same strategy.

With the internet and a fight network, overseas matches might become available to sport fans all around the world; the result being new audiences watching new fighters.

Consider the Middleweight division. For American fans, the Middleweight champion is Kelly Pavlik but the second best fighter in the division is the German Arthur Abraham.

This is the logical fight but the ability of promoters to build excitement and big gates is the challenge. Will Abraham be willing to fight Pavlik here in the states or can a promoter build a big gate and big TV audience for a fight overseas?

The reality is that Pavlik-Abraham have venue home and abroad that would sell out but the real question, can a promoter find the right TV venue?

Boxing has a gold opportunity to build around new stars and find new audience worldwide. In 2009, boxing promoters are following the right strategy so far to build up audiences and excitement in the sport.

Will boxing follow through to ensure even a bigger audience?