This idea may catch fire. Banish the belts. Or at least diminish their prevalence. What, you going to tell me if these guys didn't fight for that belt, you would not have watched? (Hogan)
On the heels of Monday’s gargantuan running diary here on TheSweetScience.com, I’m going the opposite of gargantuan with the weekly mini mailbag. The most interesting question I received all week came via Twitter, so here’s the quick question (which was spread across two tweets), followed by my response, then we’ll get to the Rants:
If HBO hates ABC belts, why not institute a policy that no one who holds belts can fight on HBO? Such a policy would kill the alphabet groups overnight. Fighters want HBO exposure and money.
Tehran (I’m not sure if that’s your first name, but I’ll pretend it is for mailbag purposes),
This is a fascinating idea you’ve proposed. It would be the perfect ironic twist ending for the alphabet groups’ grip on our sport: The very network programmers who aided their rise to power out of a blind desire to bill as many of their televised fights as possible as “championship” fights would end up being the ones who destroy the alphabets. And I think it would work—maybe not overnight, but if the alphabets couldn’t get any sanctioning fees from any HBO (or Showtime) caliber fighters, they’d eventually have to close up shop. And let’s face it, if HBO and Showtime instituted such a policy, every single fighter would pick the money over the belt. It’s impossible to envision any exceptions.
However, I don’t see it happening under the current regimes. You can sense clearly that the HBO broadcasters hate the alphabet groups and their belts and shenanigans, but it’s also clear that there are people behind the scenes forcing them to acknowledge who has a belt and who doesn’t. Max Kellerman reveals that, in not so many words, every time he has to explain the graphic showing the top fighters in a division. I can’t read the minds of the people in charge, but it seems the same short-sighted and misguided philosophy that governed boxing programming 30 years ago—that the public wants to see title fights, no matter the validity of the title—still exists.
We all know that getting rid of the alphabet boys won’t solve all of boxing’s problems. But it would be a heck of a start. I love your idea, and I hope somebody with the power to implement it reads this mailbag and considers being the revolutionary who is remembered fondly for eradicating the alphabet leeches.
• I understand PETA was protesting in front of Mike Tyson’s house after the first episode of Taking On Tyson aired two Sundays ago. If they were protesting the show on the grounds that it’s painfully boring, then that’s one protest I can get behind. Seriously, I lasted less than 10 minutes before I had to turn it off. Sorry, Mike.
• Random observation: Erik Morales is starting to look like Robert DeNiro: http://ih.constantcontact.com/fs052/1102226479292/img/329.jpg
• Another random observation based on an image I saw last week: There’s definitely still a market for Cosmo Kramer and Frank Costanza’s male undergarment invention: http://fightnews.com/Boxing/31210gh00t2.jpg
• With no ESPN2, no Telemundo, and no Telefutura, what was I supposed to do last Friday night and Saturday morning, spend time with my family? And don’t even try to tell me that Michael Grant vs. Tye Fields on pay-per-view was an option I should have considered.
• I have to admit, actually, the Grant-Fields knockout (thank you, YouTube) was worth two minutes of my time. It was actually kind of nice to hear Bobby Czyz’s voice, plus I got a huge kick out of hearing Jim Thomas yelling to Grant, “You’re back, baby!” after the win. Even in today’s atrocious heavyweight division, a win over Tye Fields does not earn one “back” status.
• I like the idea Main Events is floating of Zab Judah vs. Juan Manuel Marquez. Hey, I’d rather Marquez stay at 135 and defend the world championship against a worthy guy like Brandon Rios or Humberto Soto, but if the Top Rank-Golden Boy feud prevents those fights from happening and Marquez decides he wants to move to 140, a Judah fight is interesting. And both have enough name recognition that it would do okay on pay-per-view or draw a strong rating on HBO.
• Speaking of the thin line between what belongs on pay-per-view and what belongs on HBO, I’m not crazy about this talk of Saul Alvarez going to PPV for his next fight. This isn’t the right time to limit his audience, provided HBO has a date available in May or June.
• Did I miss something, or was there not a word of God talk from Roy Jones this past Saturday night? I wonder if one of the higher-ups at HBO had a talk with Roy, or if he just respects Sergio Martinez so much that he decided to actually give Martinez credit for his own hard work instead of insulting Martinez by shifting the credit to a higher power.
• Of all the ideas for a serious challenge for Martinez in the next year or so, my favorite is Jim Lampley’s suggestion that “Maravilla” take on Andre Ward after the Super Six is complete. That would be a fascinating fight, and Ward is a small super middle so I’m sure a catchweight could be arranged if necessary.
• Congratulations to Lou DiBella on an outstanding Saturday night at Foxwoods, featuring Martinez’s impressive victory and a dramatic kayo for Andy Lee. But let’s all bear in mind that when Lou calls Martinez the best fighter in the world, his is not exactly an unbiased perspective. It would take a VERY short memory to rank Martinez above Manny Pacquiao, pound-for-pound. Martinez isn’t getting to number one until Manny loses, plain and simple.
Eric Raskin can be contacted at RaskinBoxing@yahoo.com. You can follow him on Twitter @EricRaskin and listen to new episodes of his podcast, Ring Theory, at http://ringtheory.podbean.com.