Fight­ers clash for the soul of box­ing

Sunday News - - UFC/BOXING - RON LEWIS

IT says some­thing for the qual­ity of to­day’s world mid­dleweight ti­tle fight be­tween Gen­nady Golovkin and Saul ‘‘Canelo’’ Al­varez that no-one is talk­ing about how much money they will earn.

What is more, no-one is speak­ing with too much cer­tainty about who will win in Las Ve­gas.

‘‘This type of fight you don’t see every day,’’ Os­car De La Hoya, the box­ing great turned pro­moter, said. ‘‘You see a fight like this every 15-20 years.’’

De La Hoya knows a bit about great fights. He was the A-side of numer­ous big nights through the 1990s and into this cen­tury, be­fore be­com­ing one of the big­gest pro­mot­ers in the world.

‘‘These two guys are the best mid­dleweights in the di­vi­sion by far,’’ he said. ‘‘Box­ing needs this type of fight. We’re rid­ing this wave but box­ing needs this fight.’’

It’s easy to sneer at the events of three weeks ago, when Floyd May­weather made a for­tune in a slow-paced ex­hi­bi­tion of the no­ble art against box­ing novice Conor McGre­gor.

De La Hoya took to Twit­ter on the morn­ing of that fight to ac­cuse the pair of dis­re­spect­ing the sport. But that event was just the cul­mi­na­tion of the May­weather era, when an al­most ghoul­ish ob­ses­sion with high-priced de­signer goods was por­trayed as the re­ward for years of toil.

In that way, at least, Golovkin, 35, and the 27-year-old Al­varez are bat­tling to re­cover the soul of the sport. They are al­ready rich enough that they never have to work again and will earn more to­day than they could have imag­ined. But this is not about that, it is about earn­ing the right to call them­selves great.

To­day’s fight, which is for Golovkin’s WBC, WBAand IBF ti­tles as well as Al­varez’s claim to be the ‘‘lin­eal’’ cham­pion, is be­ing seen as a throw­back to an era where be­ing the best was the most im­por­tant thing.

This is the fight that May­weather ver­sus Manny Pac­quiao should have been, had the pair not wasted five years by ex­plor­ing any other avail­able op­tion other than to fight each other. Peo­ple hark back to days when there were only eight weight di­vi­sions and one world cham­pion in each, but there have been claims that box­ing is dy­ing since the day when James J Jef­fries walked away from the sport well over a cen­tury ago. In re­al­ity, the sport is in pretty good health at the mo­ment.

The sport has changed. There are more ti­tles, be­cause there is more money and cham­pi­ons box two or three times a year, rather than a dozen or more as they once did, surely a good thing for their long-term health. – The Times, Lon­don

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