A few days ago I ran into a popular Thai promoter who promptly asked, “What can I do to make my shows better?”
It’s certainly a valid question and one I was happy to try and answer.
Now anyone who knows anything about boxing in Asia – more specifically boxing in Thailand – knows one of the biggest problems in the sport is the blatant mismatches. Call it one of my pet peeves, but I don’t particularly like to know the result of a fight before it takes place.
Excitement in boxing stems from the not knowing. When a fight is legally fixed, so to speak, forget about the edge-of-the-seat moments a good seesaw battle can provide and forget about a visiting fighter getting the W.
In Thailand, far too many Thai fighters are matched with fighters who don’t belong in a boxing ring, much less in a ring with a fighter who has 50 or 60 professional fights PLUS 100 or more professional Muay Thai fights.So my response was simple and to the point, “Make good fights….yada, yada, yada.”
Yada, yada, yada = Don’t throw hapless Filipino or Mexican taxi drivers doubling as fighters in with former or current champions to make the Thai fighter look good in the eyes of the viewers.
Twenty-odd years or so ago, I had an eighty-five-year-old boss who looked sixty and acted forty. He didn’t work because he needed to but instead worked to stay active. Two things he told me stuck with me all these years; don’t sweat the small stuff and always go with quality. If you’re buying or selling, go with quality over fluff.
The average boxing fan really only wants one thing – to be entertained. It generally makes no difference if a boxer is a world champion or making his pro debut, if a fight is compelling, the fans are happy. How compelling can a fight be if the result is already a forgone conclusion?
So when promoting fights, use solid fighters and in all likelihood you’ll get solid results. Don’t bring a taxi driver to fight against a champion boxer and don’t send a fighter to perform brain surgery.
The problem, I was told, is “the good fighters don’t want to come to Thailand for the money we are able to offer.”
So offer more money…yada, yada, yada!
Money seems to always be a core problem but again, if there’s a problem, find the solution – don’t just keep banging your head on the wall and expect different results.
If the money isn’t there, why not match Thai fighters against one another?
How often does this happen?
Not often enough – in fact fights between Thais in boxing are few and far between – especially fights between the countries’ top-ranked fighters.
The pool of boxers in Thailand is indeed deep so why not use the resources right in front of you? Why import third-rate fighters to put on lousy shows when there’s a plethora of good fighters right on your doorstep?
About a year ago, current WBA super bantamweight champion Somsak Sitchatchawal squared off in a tune-up bout against a fighter by the name of Almaz Assanov. At the time of the fight, Sithchatchawal was 42-1-1 and Assanov had one fight – a loss.
To make matters worse, Assanov was fighting for the WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight title.
Not that the WBO Asia Pacific Title is what I’d call a true title but whatever happened to earning a title shot?
I openly challenged the legitimacy of the fight, and the promoter, shocked to hear of my desire to see two evenly matched fighters in the ring, told me I didn’t know what I was talking about then gave me a piece of his mind before storming off.
Oh well, the truth is what it is. Fighters with forty-four fights shouldn’t be fighting fighters with one fight. Fighters with one fight have no business at all fighting for a title, even if the result is “pre-assured.”
Later I was shown an email from Assanov’s manager, Yersik Jailauov, claiming Assanov’s record was actually 8-1-1.
Maybe so, but where it counts, the so-called “record books,” his ledger showed 0-1. After being knocked out in six by Sithchatchawal, Assanov’s record was updated to 0-2, not 8-2-1.
99% of the boxing cards in Thailand are free to the spectators however Muay Thai fans pay between $5 and $40 for tickets. These fans come to Bangkok stadiums six days a week, every week of the year, to watch Muay Thai and, most importantly, to gamble. The majority of fights tend to be Thai vs. Thai and the stadiums are standing-room only, each and every day. So if Thai fans are willing to pay to watch Muay Thai, you’d think they’d be willing to pay to see world-class boxers. If you mix some boxing in with the Muay Thai, the fans are still going to attend the event and as always, pay for their ticket.
Muay Thai has a huge following in the country, second only to football (soccer). On any given day you can walk by a shophouse or restaurant and inevitably you’ll find a TV showing Muay Thai. A few years ago the Thai government instituted a broadcast regulation which prohibits stations from televising more than two hours of Muay Thai per broadcast. Thus the stations are hesitant to show boxing on a Muay Thai card, fearful they’ll lose viewers who don’t care for boxing. For now at least, Muay Thai is the cash cow.
Boxing manager’s are in the business of getting fighters the best purse for the least amount of risk, but there’s a fine line between finding an opponent who gives your fighter work and an opponent who is merely there to take a beating.
So there are some difficulties which need to be overcome….yada, yada, yada…what’s new?
Good fights and good fighters = happy fans and a healthier boxing scene.
It’s not rocket science – its boxing!