Hype and hate. Two all too common parts of modern boxing. Contrasting entities, so why do they go hand in hand?
Creating a buzz is essential in building a prospect into a contender and hopefully, as is often the end goal, into a champion of the world. (“A” world champion rather than “the” world champion is a point for another day). In order to do that, a promoter has to promote. It is literally their job to increase awareness of their boxers. I get that. I know why they would have you believe their latest prospect is already a pound for pound star in the making. It doesn’t mean it sits any better with me.
In a world where even the smallest promotional entities have access to audiences in the thousands (courtesy of social media and online advertising) it is a lot easier to spread the word. In terms of attracting attention to a particular boxer, promoting has never been easier. That is brilliant for those who wouldn’t otherwise be known outside of a very limited local catchment.
The problem, for fans, is that is allows the bigger organisations a relentless vehicle for their propaganda. For example, Frank Warren and Eddie Hearn have hundreds of thousands of followers across social media. Granted, many of them will be mutual followers but that is still a huge market they can target instantly. There are unlimited short highlights clips of boxers which can whet fans’ appetites and a couple of replies to the public will do wonders in garnering support. It requires very little effort from them to engage the masses and attract them to boxing.
The internet has been fantastic for the sheer amount of coverage boxing gets. With two main networks competing, they should always be looking to produce innovative and original content (in theory).
You’d think then, with such a wide and captive audience, that promoters have little reason to exaggerate and mislead the public. Sadly, this isn’t always the case.
These two are fierce rivals. Although they have easy access to feed the masses their agendas, they are in direct competition. They can’t rest on their laurels. They can’t allow their target market to form the opinion that there is a superior product only a few channels away. With the recent introduction of BT Sports to boxing, fans can realistically expect higher quality content as both sides vi for the top spot. So far, so good for those wanting to push their message on the boxing public. And for those wanting more high-quality action on the box.
Sadly, for those peddling hype, this also means that every aspect of the sport is more open to criticism than ever before. So for every time a promoter tries to convince us that their latest prospect is the next big thing, there are hundreds of baying boxing nuts ready to analyse, criticise and chastise each sub-par performance. Fans are arguably wiser now and certainly more opinionated (well, more capable of making their opinions known).
The more hyped a fighter is, the more haters they are going to attract. Hype = hate.
Personally, I never take what any promoter says at face value, therefore I never get too worked up over how good or bad a show will be. From video interviews with the main men mentioned above to local promoters I’m proud to know personally, I know their game. They are doing a job. They are basically specialised salesmen. I’m not claiming they are untrustworthy, far from it. Many of them pride themselves on their integrity and honesty. However, only the extremely naive would believe every aspect of what they say, especially when discussing their products, whether that be individual boxers or their events.
As I noted earlier, it is literally their role to big up and increase interest in their shows. The problem for them is the correlation between their hype and the viewers’ ‘hate’. The bigger they build a potential star, the harder the fall.
Take Anthony Yarde for example. A somewhat divisive figure. A perfectly good boxer with devastating power. He is on an upward curve, having compiled a perfect 15-0 record with all but one of those wins coming early. Now, were you to believe Yarde, and his promotional backers, this is the best light-heavyweight in Britain and the second best in the world (he is ranked Number 2 with his promoter’s preferred sanctioning body). They would also have you believe that every other domestic rival is running scared and want nothing to do with him. Visually, he has been impressive so far and I have no doubt that he is capable of securing a world title eventually. Now, if you suspend reality for a moment and took all of the above as gospel then you’d definitely want to tune in and witness greatness for yourself.
If you had done so this past Saturday, with those lofty expectations, you might have been disappointed.
Yarde did stop his overmatched opponent but looked laboured in doing so. Frenchman Tony Averlant, 33, is rated as the sixth best light-heavyweight in France and had 9 career defeats. He was coming in as a huge underdog (Yarde was 1/100 to win) and in reality had little chance of emerging victorious, or even lasting the distance. Yet he managed to land enough right hands to have Yarde’s detractors nodding sagely, as though this were clear evidence that he is overhyped.
Now, had Yarde been pushed as someone who was on the fringe of British level, with relatively little amateur experience (both true), his performance wouldn’t have been that bad. The problem is that realistic portrayal doesn’t set him apart from many of his peers.
In short, he is in the same position as thousands of other boxers around the UK. He is unbeaten against limited opposition, he is yet to box at British level (despite what his team would have you believe) Yet, if Frank Warren said that the interest in his own man would be quashed. He needs to separate Yarde from the crowd. That’s acceptable. But Frank must then accept that if he paints the picture of a world champion in waiting, the fans’ standards are going to be higher. Boxing fans (mostly) aren’t stupid so they aren’t going to tolerate the mixed messages before and after fights. A potential world beater before, young and learning afterward.
I feel the need to add that I only use Yarde as an example because he boxed recently and divides opinionl. The truth is there are countless boxers in the same boat.
Callum Smith: world title challenger in waiting but barely has a win above domestic level.
Conor Benn: limited amateur experience who wants to make his own way in the sport. Yet enters to his Dad’s (Nigel Benn for those who didn’t know) and uses a variant of his nickname ‘The Destroyer’. Admits he’s barely Area level but regularly gets shown live on Sky Sports.
Dubois: Very limited amateur background and only 20 years old. Yet Warren claimed he wants him to be youngest ever World Heavyweight Champion.
Each one as contradictory at the last. Sadly, I could go on. Thankfully, I won’t.
The hype is understandable. It sells. It is part and parcel of being a successful promoter. It just goes hand in hand with hate.