EVER since influencer boxing – YouTubers and internet personalities cosplaying as boxers to earn more money – lurched into the mainstream, we boxing fans have been eager to highlight how it is not the real thing. At every opportunity we explain how it is a sideshow, something that should not be considered legitimate boxing. But then we are presented with evidence like the past weekend, where there are so many parallels between the two that it becomes increasingly hard to differentiate them with a straight face.
Firstly, there were two main events on competing broadcasters which both ended in farcical fashion. On DAZN PPV, YouTube sensation KSI was boxing Joe Fournier, a self-proclaimed ‘billionaire’ who some might remember as being linked with David Haye a few years ago. He was also served an 18-month ban from boxing in 2018 after testing positive for a banned substance.
The contest ended in the second round when Fournier was counted out after being dropped by an elbow to the mush. The DAZN commentary, led by the increasingly insufferable Todd Grisham, went bonkers, praising KSI. Then the replays came. It became instantly clear that KSI had landed a beautiful Muay Thai shot, but one that is very much illegal in boxing. Still, that didn’t stop the party. When queried about the elbow, KSI – as graciously as ever – insisted it was a legal right hook that finished the job. Your adrenaline would have to be in the stratosphere for you to have not felt someone’s chin colliding with full force into your elbow. And then there are the aforementioned replays, which helpfully displayed the finish in slow motion. Those are truly astounding levels of denial from KSI (which, apparently, stands for ‘Knowledge, Strength and Integrity’).
In his defence, it doesn’t look as though the elbow was intentional. But that doesn’t make it any less illegal. And when it came, even the referee missed it, so the commentary team can’t be blamed too much for their gushing over KSI.
Then, over on Showtime, ‘Rolly’ Romero earned a ridiculous stoppage victory over Ismael Barroso in their super-lightweight main event. With both men having met the canvas earlier in the fight, the pair were trading blows in a neutral corner during the ninth, Barroso landing a clean right hand while Romero appeared to barely be catching the Venezuelan. Then, out of nowhere, referee Tony Weeks stepped in, took Barroso in his arms and waved the fight off.
The Showtime commentators were instantly baffled and rightfully called Weeks out on the decision. If anything, they were not outraged enough – this was one of the worst boxing referee decisions in recent memory.
Two similarly ridiculous finishes. And, if we’re being honest, the Romero-Barroso ending was worse. In the case of KSI, it appears to be a genuine mistake that is most likely the result of poor form, both on the part of KSI himself and Fournier. But Weeks’ decision to stop Barroso on his feet when he did reeks of incompetence or something far worse.
So how do we separate the two? Or can we? Should we? Is boxing, in its current form, worth differentiating from celebrity fights? We’d like to think it still is, but at this rate that will be a very hard line to tow.
One way there could be a clear difference is how these two fights are treated. The KSI-Fournier contest appears to have been an exhibition, so there may not be a formal process for having the result changed to a No Contest, which it would be if it were a sanctioned boxing fight. Of course, Romero-Barroso was an official fight and took place under the care of the Nevada State Athletic Commission. There should be a full investigation into Weeks’ decision and the possibility of the fight being changed to a No Contest should very much be on the table. The chances of that, sadly, are slim.
Top Rank and ESPN released the first part of their behind-the-scenes docuseries focusing on the upcoming clash between Devin Haney and Vasiliy Lomachenko. Named ‘Blood, Sweat and Tears’ the show is very much in the vein of HBO’s ‘24/7’ and Showtime’s ‘All Access’.
While it lacks the dramatic flair of its predecessors, the show still provides a decent look at the training camps and lives of the fight’s protagonists. The most interesting moments come from interviews with Lomachenko, who reflects on his turn to religion after losing to Teofimo Lopez a few years ago and how language barriers have affected the public’s opinion of him.
The fight is an excellent one and it deserves far more attention than it’s getting. Shows like ‘Blood, Sweat and Tears’ do well to build hype but they no longer have the same impact as the likes of ‘24/7’, which revolutionised the way superfights are promoted.
The LA Times published a rather worrying piece about a retired boxers’ pension scheme in California that is quite drastically failing. The California Professional Boxers’ Pension Plan – the only state-administered retirement plan of its kind in the United States – was set up 40 years ago to provide support for those in the sport who need it most.
The problem is that those who are eligible for this support aren’t being told about it. The LA Times revealed that, last year, 200 former boxers were eligible to receive a pension payout from the scheme but just 12 claimed it.
The Pension Plan is now reportedly not in a financial position to pay all of the unclaimed pensions.
Schemes like this one could provide a vital safety net to retired fighters, but only if they’re managed properly. This one, clearly, has not been.
Boxing on the Box
Katie Taylor-Chantelle Cameron
Coverage begins at 7pm
Devin Haney-Vasiliy Lomachenko
Sky Sports Action
Coverage begins at 1am