Boxing deserves better than this pair of sucker punchers
The essence of professional sport is competition. Maybe also beer consumption. But no amount of beer washes down the bitter taste of paying to see part-time fighters beat up haplessly mismatched opponents. That’s if you can even afford a cold one after shelling out forty bucks on the pay-per-view (PPV).
With Wallaby Quade Cooper announcing this week that he will put his rugby career on ice to moonlight as a boxer, it seems the Australian public will be subjected to yet another painful, expensive mismatch. Cooper, who is set to make his professional debut (with no amateur background) on the undercard of Sonny Bill Williams’ February 8 fight in Brisbane, is only one of a parade of footballers who’ve soured the sweet science with their presence in recent years.
Williams, who shares manager Khoder Nasser with Cooper, is a case in point. Since his debut in 2009, he’s fought five times against opponents whose combined record was 18 wins, 19 losses and a draw. Three of those five wins have come within two rounds.
It seems that the pattern is set to continue. The idea has been floated that Cooper, whose 92 kilograms and 1.86 metres make him larger than late world heavyweight champ Joe Frazier, might face runner John Steffensen, who is as skinny as a scarecrow. Boxing has weight divisions for a reason, though it’s also supposed to have serious regulators who protect participants and the public from mismatches.
Footballers aren’t flocking to pugilism because they appreciate a ding-dong barney (though many of them no doubt do). The attraction is that they can trade off their names and cash in on boxing’s lucrative PPV business model. Viewers pay handsome fees up front, with the only costs being the promotion and production of the broadcast – which can be offset with sponsorship money anyway.
That leaves quite a large pie to be divided between about 28 less people than play in a game of rugby. PPV is why welterweight Floyd Mayweather Jr. is the highest paid athlete in the world, earning $85 million in the last financial year, around 212 times the reported $400,000 ARU offer that Cooper and Nasser found so insulting.
Nasser realised this and found a golden egg with Anthony Mundine fighting Latin American street sweepers on PPV. Now, with Cooper and Williams, he’s built a goose farm. But it’s not sustainable - there’s a limit to the number of times punters will part with $40 when what they’re getting in return is slop.
Cooper probably won’t be a great prizefighter. The number 10 is contact shy at the best of times. Boxing isn’t for part timers, or even latecomers; it’s one of the most skilled and physically demanding sports on earth. Ask American heavyweight hope and former gridiron player Seth Mitchell, who got brutally knocked out the weekend before last.
Boxing is a sport full of nuance, intelligence and courage. Football players bashing unfortunate souls on government benefits only gives ammunition to the Gardening Australia watching vegans who claim we’d all be better off if archery and squash were on TV instead.
Spar with Alex on Twitter: @axmcc
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