With the boxing year year coming to a close and only a few fights of note left on the calendar, many fans see this year as one of the most difficult years for the sport in its history. Not only have many of the big fights planned for this year been pushed back till next year, but also promoters have been struggling due to the lack of audience and interest in these scaled back boxing cards. But there have been a few bring spots in 2020 and the year is not over yet.
In part 2 of my “On The Ropes” boxing radio interview with Steve Farhood, I discuss with him the surprising return of Mike Tyson to PPV and what that success means for the sport. I also talk to Steve about Canelo Alvarez’s return and what he sees for boxing going into 2021. Additionally, Farhood talks about Manny Pacquiao and gives his thoughts on a possible Conor McGregor fight. Here is what Steve Farhood had to say.
Jenna J: Mike Tyson’s recent PPV exhibition fight against Roy Jones Jr. reportedly sold 1.6 million PPV buys. What does that say about the current state of boxing?
Steve Farhood: I don’t think it says that much about the current state of boxing, I think it says a lot about Mike Tyson and the fact that he was such a unique presence and his appeal was so unique that he still carries a mystique about him to this day.
Something that I think is important with Tyson specifically is, if you’re an A-list celebrity, the key to a long lasting public life is to reinvent yourself. There’s no doubt that Mike Tyson has reinvented himself, now he’s cuddly Mike.
The anger and the fury and fear that he projected in his prime isn’t there anymore. Now he’s an older guy who likes to get high and grows marijuana plants. He has reinvented himself and to a new audience of twenty year olds and it’s appealing because they have their own Mike Tyson. They don’t remember the Mike Tyson that was trying to drive fighters’ nose bones into their brains. I think that’s really important in understanding his appeal at this point.
Jenna J: One of the biggest fights remaining in 2020 is the match between Canelo Alvarez and Callum Smith for the super middleweight championship. I’m curious how you see that playing out?
Steve Farhood: First of all, I think it’s very important that Canelo gets back in the ring — for boxing, not just for Canelo — because he’s the biggest star in the sport. I’m glad he’s fighting a very dangerous and high level opponent. I don’t think we want to see Canelo just destroy anybody.
A lot was said about his contract with DAZN, making $30 million a fight and where the motivation would come to fight anybody tough, but I argue that. Canelo has a careers worth of proving that he likes taking on the toughest guys. He wants to get paid and he knows his value in the marketplace but going back to when he fought Austin Trout and Erislandy Lara, he always fought the guys that nobody else wanted to fight.
Now he’s fighting one of the best if not the best super middleweights in the world. I give him credit, Callum Smith is not going to be an easy fight and Canelo is going to have to go get him. I’d make Canelo the favorite because he’s such a good boxer, but he’s not that big of a guy and now he’s fighting a very big super middleweight. I give him a lot of credit, I think fight fans should be appreciative of the fact that Canelo is willing to take the kinds of risks that so many other fighters are not willing to take.
Jenna J: Looking forward to 2021, what big fights do you think we could see next year?
Steve Farhood: I think the first hint to that is the fight that everyone wants to see, Crawford-Spence. Bob Arum has said that he’s sick of promoting Crawford and there’s nothing he can do with him, and in a way that’s good for boxing fans because that means Crawford is that much closer to being able to sign for a fight with Spence. That’s a fight everyone wants to see, they are two of the top five fighters in the world.
You also want to see what is going to happen with Teofimo Lopez because the lightweight division with Haney, Lopez and Ryan Garcia vs. Campbell, we’re going to want to see some of these guys fight each other sooner rather than later. They are all very young and you wonder if we’ll have to wait a while before we get the perfect matchups at lightweight.
Is Fury going to fight Joshua? Where does Wilder fit into all of that? It seems like Fury-Joshua is a fight that is a natural for England and there would be world wide interest. Those are some of the fights we can look forward to, but you have to take it day to day because we don’t know how this pandemic is going to impact boxing in 2021.
Jenna J: It’s been over a year since Manny Pacquiao beat Kieth Thurman, what do you see for his future?
Steve Farhood: I think the pandemic hurt a guy like that more than most because there have been indications that he wants to fight until he runs for president of The Philippines. I think the election is coming up within a year or two, so maybe we are looking at one more big fight for him.
I don’t know how committed he is to any kind of long range commitment to boxing at this point. It seems like his future is more in politics than in boxing. If that’s the case, then celebrate him. The guy is over forty, you can’t expect too much from him at this point. He won his last fight where he was an underdog to win and he showed he still had something left, He’s an all time great and I don’t expect much from him at this point because of his age and because his future seems to be as president of The Philippines.
Jenna J: There has been a lot of talk about a fight between Manny Pacquiao and Conor McGregor. Do you think that fight makes any sense at all?
Steve Farhood: Well if he wants that and the money is there, God bless him. I don’t have any interest in it. We saw Conor McGregor already. If Conor McGregor was serious about being a boxer, he would fight six round fights or eight round fights and develop as a boxer. He has talent, he could probably do that.
McGregor showed some positives when he fought Floyd, but if it’s just a money grab.If there is enough of an audience for it on PPV, let them make their money. I don’t see Conor McGregor doing very well against Manny Pacquiao, regardless of Manny’s age.
Jenna J: In closing Steve, is there any message you want to pass along to all the boxing fans out there?
Steve Farhood: Just stay healthy, stay strong, wear a mask and hopefully since you can’t really attend fights, when the time comes that there are small shows again in your neighborhood, please go and support the mid level promoters because boxing at the grass roots level is what builds the sport and we can’t lose that, so that’s very important to think about at a time like this.