Dana White’s Gonna Save Boxing!

By Paul Magno on July 9, 2019
Dana White’s Gonna Save Boxing!
“You could build a business with boxing .You’ve just got to break it and rebuild it.” (Getty)

White’s plan to build that “real business” is light on details and big on what can only be assumed is intentional naiveté…

Well, thank God the UFC’s Dana White plans on saving boxing.

White from MMAFighting.com:

“If you look at the way that it was in the 80s, 90s, even the early 2000s, you had [a few] guys that were [making money]. You had Floyd [Mayweather], you had [Manny] Pacquiao, [Oscar] Del La Hoya, maybe a couple other guys,” White said. “But boxing as a whole, you’re talking about tons of fighters that weren’t making big money and weren’t in big fights. I think that the sport could be so much more.

“If you look at what [the UFC has] built over the last 20 years, and our events, and how many events we’re doing — we’re doing 42 events a year. Every time you go to one of our events, they’re either sold out or they break the record for ticket sales. This year we’re going to break the record for ticket sales, ever, in UFC history. There are more tickets being sold this year than ever before in the history of the company. We continue to put on these fights, people come and see them. They’re on TV, free, they’re on ESPN, which everybody has. And we’re still doing million-dollar gates on these things without the Mayweathers and those types of fights.

“You could build a business [like that] with boxing — build a real business. You’ve just got to break it and rebuild it.”

White’s plan to build that “real business” is light on details—despite reported plans to kick his boxing efforts into gear sometime after the summer—and big on what can only be assumed is intentional naiveté.

How else could one explain a “smart” self-described boxing fan not knowing the source of boxing’s biggest business hurdles and how his sport, which has essentially been run by one company for the last 25 years or so, is so much different in how things can be put together?

Boxing is a sport run by dozens of promoters worldwide, broadcast by dozens of networks, sanctioned by four major governing bodies. In the US, alone, there are several major promoters, four major networks, and the four sanctioning bodies pulling the sport and its best athletes in all different directions.  Looking at the unruly size of everything and its conflictive/combative business structure, it’s truly amazing that fans manage to get as many fights as they do get.

To make this more understandable to White, one need only mention one little phrase: “Fedor Emelianenko vs. Randy Couture.”

Emelianenko-Couture was the MMA heavyweight superfight that never happened. And it never happened for the same reason that Terence Crawford-Errol Spence is not happening—because rival companies could not get together to hammer out a cooperative deal for a fight that would’ve made big money for everyone involved. Couture worked for White’s UFC, Emelianenko worked for a rival MMA company, and nobody would bend. Both sides insisted on not needing the other to sell their respective world champs and, ultimately, they were right. But MMA fans lost out on what would’ve been an all-time classic.

When it comes to the sport of boxing, think Emelianenko-Couture—times one thousand.

Putting the smaller fighters in bigger fights against one another and then building towards the blockbusters—as White proposes—is easier when one company owns almost all the fighters.

In the boxing world, promoters and managers are looking to protect their investments in fighters against relative soft-touch opposition, stacking them on the undercards of bigger names, who have exclusive deals with a specific network, and then parlay that broadcast deal into other deals for more of their fighters.

If Top Rank, for instance, controlled 95% of boxing, they could match up anyone against anyone and still emerge victorious. Their network deals would not be based on the salability of certain fighters, but on the salability of the product as a whole. It would be in Bob Arum’s best interest to put on the best, most appealing fights rather than build the star power of a handful of his top fighters.

Maybe it WOULD be in boxing’s best interest to be run by one dictator rather than a bunch of tiny tyrants (although it probably wouldn’t be in the fighters’ best interest as they’d lose much of their leverage in negotiating deals and would have to settle on UFC-style ring undercompensation and overreliance on sponsorship deals). But, it’s not going to happen, not without the aid of full-scale atomic war or a zombie virus overrunning the planet.

It’s true that fixing boxing would involve a “break it and rebuild it” strategy, but the problem is that nobody—not those in charge, not the fans, not anyone in the business—will let it be broken enough to get fixed. Boxing will always roll along on busted wheels, just busted enough to be rolled into convenient ditches, but not broken as to demand actual fixing.

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  1. FrankinDallas 04:07pm, 07/11/2019

    We all know the big problem with boxing…making the best fight the best….it’s the promoters who sign with a TV channel or a streaming service and won’t mix and match.

    Promoters are like fishermen who KNOW they are removing their product until it doesn’t exist anymore. They just don’t care that they are biting the hand that feeds them.

  2. Bruce Kielty 12:20pm, 07/11/2019

    The key to breaking down the pathetic mess that is pro boxing rests solely at the money source:  television & streaming outlets.  Unless the broadcasting people face the reality that boxing is slowly suffocating with promoters and sanctioning bodies in control, nothing will change.

  3. Lucas 10:49am, 07/10/2019

    Hangin’  I don’t think that’s what Gracie Slick had in mind when she sang “Feed Your Head.”

  4. Hangin' Down At Kinos 09:13am, 07/10/2019

    Dana White and Toe Rogan were made for each other. Strangely both Toe Rogan and Dana White’s heads keep growing larger and larger, both figuratively and literally.

  5. Mike 08:05am, 07/10/2019

    Good one !

  6. Lucas McCain 08:00am, 07/10/2019

    Hangin’—maybe Dana is “diversifying his portfolio” because of that. (The phrase strangely sounds like a euphemism for sex!)  I’ve long thought MMA competition would work out for boxing in the long run, since the martial artists themselves often admire traditional boxing, and bring their fans with them.  Boxing is hard to get into for modern digital-heads because it requires a longer attention span to watch a 10 or 12 round fight as well as a deep sense of history.

  7. Hangin' Down At Kinos 07:20am, 07/10/2019

    MMA is a dying sport just like boxing so I don’t know what the hell Dana White is talking about. MMA is just a tad more popular than boxing right now and nowhere near as popular as it was 10-15 years ago.