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BOXING’S 0 HAS GOT TO GO

The long vaunted 0. A clean slate in the losses column. It is protected by many, coveted by others, but the 0 is not the sign of a great fighter and it never has been.

Despite this, much has been made of its importance in what could be called the “Mayweather era”. Mainly by Floyd himself. Fans have bought into the fallacy (and “bought” is a key word) but the illusion of importance may well be about to fall away.

Although promoters, TV and Floyd must take a lot of the blame as the 0 became a commodity because of them, there has been a notable shift in emphasis on a loss.

As Dave Allen versus David Price draws near, there is perhaps no clearer a sign that the general public are happy to pay to see a great fight. A fight driven by loved characters, two of the most popular in Britain, and great matchmaking. There is a lot at risk, much to gain and lose, and the fight promises fireworks without the need for staged animosity and the risk of a first loss- between them Allen and Price have left the ring empty handed ten times.

Carl Frampton, Amir Khan, George Groves, Carl Froch, Ricky Hatton, Lennox Lewis…

All great fighters, main events, world champions. All still sold on TV despite losing fights, they remained the ‘A side’ (another enduring Floyd-ism) of an event even after tasting defeat. Allen against Price, while not officially the A side, is of such huge interest it almost eclipses the main event; Dillian Whyte’s bout with Oscar Rivas.

Whyte, of course, also has a loss to his name, and Dereck Chisora who also appears on the card has nine in the red yet still attracts an audience. Fights make fights, not noughts.

“I can knock anyone out” David Price on Allen fight

Imagine what interest Amir Khan fighting Kell Brook would have welcomed immediately after their defeats to Saul Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin. Look at the little mentioned 80,000 seats sold at Wembley for the rematch between ego free Carl Froch and George Groves. Good fights sell.

Viewers are key. Draw fans, create fans, provide the fans with a good product and the fans will repay you. Tickets mean money, yes, but TV is the real gravy train, one which currently swells more generously to the sport by the year. It will reach a nadir, sure, at which point promoters will find a new angle. They always do. Necessity is the mother of invention.

For now though the all or nothing, no guts no glory type of fight that Allen and Price’s represents may well continue to grow. Even more so after a certain cash cow was beaten into defeat.

Anthony Joshua’s loss to Andy Ruiz Jr. was a shock, and his unbeaten, divine status for British boxing suddenly crucified. To continue the metaphor, Eddie Hearn has admitted he’s now excited to be able to sell AJ’s ascension, his return to glory. Joshua no-longer has a spotless, Floyd-style record, but he will still sell pay-per-views and put bums on seats. You can be sure that if it sells for AJ, it’ll become the norm.

The switch to using narrative, selling with storytelling, which was hinted at in Hearn’s comments, is a welcome one. One of the simplest devices driving this type of promotion forward is Matchroom’s decision to play a fighter’s promotional “journey” video before they step into the ring. Everyone, wherever they’re watching the fight, is given a story and context for the bout they are about to see, whether they buy into it or not.

For a first-timer, someone who has been dragged along by their friends, this can transform the experience of watching the fight. They’re given a compelling story. They might want to tell it to people. They might want to come again. They certainly don’t waste any time thinking about an ‘0’ if the story they are told does not idolise 0ne.

It was lazy to simply rely on a clean slate to sell a fight, to drive the interest. Worse still, it often supplied a sterile spectacle. Finally promoters are waking up to that. The more creative approach may well have greater longevity and most importantly, provide the best possible shows for the fans.

Yes, protecting that unbeaten record will always remain desirable. In some situations it is and will always be incredibly helpful- particularly on the small hall circuit where boxers and promoters rely solely on ticket sales for a living. Convincing the masses that a loss does not a bad fighter make will boost the quality of shows. All or nothing fighters rarely retain the 0 and are all the more fun for it. Gabe Rosado anyone?

As the horde of fans sees and buys into it via TV and big ticket shows the love of the sport will hopefully trickle down to the incredible small hall scene, and build the sport’s strength at a grass-roots level.

If we’re lucky a new approach will bring better fights and offer greater exposure to the wonderful men and women who risk literally everything for our entertainment. Boxing will benefit from losing the 0. It has to go.

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