Tuesday, February 21, 2012

In Boxing Money Doesn't Talk - It Swears

The recent spat between David Haye and Dereck Chisora has grabbed all the sporting headlines so far this week. After Vitali Klitschko had beaten Chisora in their WBC heavyweight title bout, the two British boxers came to blows, first trading insults and then punches during the post fight press conference.

The British Boxing Board of Control (BBBC) have made noises about life bans, and promoter Frank Warren, that paragon of virtue, said he was “absolutely disgusted” by the brawl. What a crock. Both men are now on everybody’s lips, even in the United States (when was the last time two British boxers could claim that?), and their public profiles are sky-high. Boxing likes nothing more than a back story of personal enmity between two fighters – it puts bums on seats and sells pay-per-view – and Haye and Chisora appear to have that in spades. Stage-managed or not, these guys are now box office.

However, despite the column inches devoted to Saturday night, it was far from being the most interesting story of the week. That accolade belonged to the revelations that Carl Froch had prolonged a fight so that family members could “benefit financially”. The one-time Super Middleweight world champion admitted that he could have beaten an opponent in the fourth round of a bout, but held out until the fifth because his brother had placed a bet on the outcome. With the BBBC again getting involved, and suggestions that Froch will have his licence revoked, the question is: did he in some way cheat?

The outcome of the contest was in no way altered. Froch’s statistics would still show a victory, by knockout, inside the distance if he had won in the fourth or fifth round. Indeed, Froch could have spent five rounds dodging punches and performing the Ricky Gervais dance from The Office before despatching his opponent and the outcome and career stats of both boxers would have remained the same.

This wasn’t the same as a fighter taking a dive, or a jockey giving a horse an easy ride. It was Froch’s superiority as a boxer that determined the outcome not the wishes of a seedy underground betting syndicate. It has more in common with the spot-fixing scandal that has engulfed cricket for the past couple of years. Yet a scheduled no-ball could have an impact on the outcome of a close game.

The only people who have a right to be miffed by the whole affair are those punters who put a few quid on Froch to win in four – but nobody is going to feel the pain of the bookies that were on the receiving end. And it's a damn sight more honest than many a fight. If there is a backlash against Froch from the boxing establishment then their moralising would sound distinctly less hollow were it not for the sport’s history of bribery and corruption, racism and exploitation. Or for that matter their own role of gullible stooge in the Haye/Froch pantomime. 

They can wish for a pure sporting contest devoid of commercial interest all they want but in truth money talks. Or, as Bob Dylan more aptly noted, “Money doesn’t talk, it swears”. The only real surprise is that this still surprises anybody.