As Mary Gauthier wrote, “Fish swim. Birds fly. Old men sit and think. I drink.”
As the columnist Dave Kindred said on 60 Minutes, “Writers write.”
Both are old enough to remember when boxers boxed.
In 1966, Muhammad Ali fought in March, May, August, September and November. In 1971, he fought Joe Frazier in March but still got it together well enough to appear in July, November and December. In 1972, he fought in April, May, June, July, September and November. Even after his unspeakably brutal win over Frazier in 1975, Ali entered the ring four times in the next 12 months.
Julio Cesar Chavez fought 115 times over 25 years. Less than four months after his last-second upset of Meldrick Taylor, he was in the ring again. In 1986, Chavez went through 38 rounds in a five-bout span.
And if you’re analyzing the charisma of Mike Tyson and why it endures, look at how he became a regularly scheduled ABC series. In the 12 months of 1986, Tyson fought 13 times. Each knockout launched more magazine covers. He walked in without a robe. By the end of the year, he had a heavyweight title and the sport on his back.
Not all these opponents were worthy, and the workload was heavy because the paychecks were light. But boxing has no superseding authority. The athletes are in charge of keeping themselves relevant. To do that, they need to perform. Someone should remind them of that.
On Saturday night, Emanuel Navarrete will provide an example. He again will make his case as the leading boxaholic.
He defends his WBO featherweight title against Christopher Diaz in Kissimmee, Fla., a Top Rank card on ESPN. He became WBO 122-pound champ in 2018 and defended that for five fights, then moved up and became the 126-pound champ in October. This is his eighth appearance in 24 months.
The 26-year-old Mexican takes an eight-inch reach advantage against Diaz, who is from Puerto Rico. “I believe he’s just going to try to move around,” Navarrete said. “At some point he’ll have to come inside, and that’s where I’ll hurt him. I want it to be a war. That’s what I’m looking for.”
What boxing needs is fewer conscientious objectors.
Remember Keith “One Time” Thurman? He was considered the top welterweight. Nobody knew the nickname would refer to Thurman’s annual boxing schedule. Sure, there have been injuries and COVID-19 considerations, but One Time has become the king of Down Time. He hasn’t been in a ring since July of 2019, when he lost to Manny Pacquiao. He has boxed three times since Donald Trump was inaugurated.
It takes a squad of determined paparazzi to catch Gary Russell Jr., the most talented featherweight, in an actual fight. Since 2015, Russell has been in the ring once a year, just like clockwork.
Terence Crawford has boxed five times in the past 35 months. Make that five times in 40 months for fellow welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr., who was sidelined by a high-speed auto crash shortly after he beat Sean Porter in September 2019. Crawford, Spence and their promoters need to stage their super-fight before the fans forget why they wanted to see it.
The heavyweights are just rumors. Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua have nothing scheduled. Wilder and Joshua had five fights in the three previous years, Fury six but none in the past 14 months.
Teofimo Lopez besieged the lightweight division with eight victories in less than two years. Then in October, he defrocked Vasyl Lomachenko to finish his “takeover.” Not until June 5 will he be seen again, against George Kambosos in Australia. He feels no urgency to meet Devin Haney or Ryan Garcia, two fights that would set Facebook on fire.
“You can buy a car, a house or a yacht with the money that some of the guys want to get into the ring,” said Carl Moretti, vice president of Top Rank. “You find out a lot about a guy when it comes time to fight.”
Canelo Alvarez is the best boxer in the world and often seems moved to demonstrate it. On May 8, Billy Joe Saunders will be Canelo’s seventh opponent since September 2018.
But Canelo is not boxing’s biggest influencer. Not when Jake Paul just drew 1.5 million pay-per-views on Triller Fight Club, surpassing Canelo’s 1.3 million handle in his first meeting with Gennady Golovkin.
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As Pete Davidson, the Black Keys, Snoop Dogg and Justin Bieber kept the tempo going, Paul almost immediately dropped an MMA washout named Ben Askren, just as he put former NBA guard Nate Robinson to sleep last fall. Now 52-year-old Kendall Gill, another NBA alum, wants a piece of Paul, or at least his money.
Boxing people can call it a joke if they want. At least it has a punch, and a line.
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