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Wealth or Respect?

Every boxer comes into the sport with a dream. But not all the dreams are the same. Some want wealth and fame; some want the respect of their peers. Others want to create a legacy and be remembered as one of the best, some just want to make their family proud. But in general is there one goal that all fighters strive to achieve?

Not every boxer will propel themselves to stardom off the back of winning an Olympic Gold Medal like Anthony Joshua. Truth be told only 1% of the elite boxers manage to do that. So what do the boxers who come from varying levels of the amateur game strive to achieve when they turn pro?

What should be the main aim of a boxer from their career?

  • To remain unbeaten and win titles?
  • To win titles against the easiest opposition?
  • To fight in the most financially rewarding fights regardless of titles?
  • Or to fight the most challenging opponents, regardless of a named accolade?

It’s a tricky one, but I’ve been fortunate enough to get the opinion of four professionals, all at different stages of their career and all with different dreams.

Danny Connor’s dream is to have a career that is remembered not for what he won, but for who he fought,

“When I finish I want to be able to say, ‘I did it the real way’, not the plastic way fighting for bullshit titles versus nobodies to get a ranking. I look up to fighters based on their ability to fight, not their record. If I was fighting a real fighter for a title I would fight for it but I wouldn’t value the belt I’d value the win over that fighter. I fought for the British Masters against Tyler Goodjohn, someone ranked higher than me (at the time) and thought of as a future champion.

I beat him. I wouldn’t fight for (say) an IBO title against an Eastern European to build my record and to get an easy route to a world ranking. I want to beat the best to earn my shot so I know deep down I done shit the real way and nobody can chat shit to me. I’ve lost fights but I’m proud of my record and the fact I’ve not been scared to test myself. I’ll literally fight anyone.”

Ohara Davies falls somewhere in the middle,

“Me, personally, I think that we need to have a warrior’s mind-set but most importantly we have to be able to provide for ourselves and our families, which is more important. Business will always be first. But to get to the point where we can put business first or even think about the cheques we need to grind and build our brand. I would rather fight, get the money and fame which will take me into another industry after my career is done, than fight hard and tough opponents my whole career and then get nothing financially out of the sport and end up still needing a day job when my career is done.

Thomas Hearns is a living legend but only has a net worth of $50,000. Ian Napa was British and European champion but ended up homeless. Boxing is constantly saying, “fuck you” to us all – the promoters don’t give a toss about us deep down so it’s time to say, “fuck you” back and play boxing like chess and make money. Certain fighters take on career threatening fights for a purse that was almost half what I got to fight a bum on the Leeds card. They have all the fame and followers but still take the bus to the gym. I think if you only have the warrior’s mind-set the game will fuck you and then throw you to the dogs.”

Prince Patel was quite level in his opinion,

“Promoters want the 50/50s for as cheap as possible. And then when they don’t get made someone is accused of being scared, but are they scared or smart for knowing their worth to such a fight? And if the fans have an issue with that they should put pressure on the promoters to offer the fighters value to get the fight made. It’s like having an amazing shop but there’s no security – you’ll get robbed blind. Everything has to be done properly – right learning fights and the right fights at the right time.

I wouldn’t say you have to take the fights with the least threat. I would say just, like everything in life, it has to be done smartly. Take this for example: you wouldn’t open a steak house in a town full of vegans. I wouldn’t allow myself to be mugged off for a potential world title fight with a poor purse. I would take a smaller, good purse to build and learn and get a higher ranking than take what might be a career high purse at that point, but if it’s a rubbish purse for a world title, to take on a world champion when I’m not ready. I’m not stupid, it’s like any business. When I finish I don’t want to be broke.”

Robert Asagba has yet another perspective,

“My situation is not ideal. I would probably take the risky fights to move up but I know that’s not the best format. If you’ve got the money or support to build yourself up is the best way. You don’t get paid for taking a hard fight you get paid for what the promoter gains from his fighter beating you – world ranking, popularity etc. It’s a business. A 2-0 kid won’t get paid what a 20-0 kid would even if he is taking the exact same risks.

My aim for my career is to get myself in a situation where I can make as much money as possible. That’s only possible by fighting, and beating legit opponents. I’m not fussed about titles; it’s what the title can do for me. I strongly feel it’s about who is backing you. I believe it’s down the management/promotion team more than the belt or opponent as to whether you make money out of the game.

Boxing is a business. You can’t but a house by showing your record with some big names on it. Or your shopping. You have to try and make the most out of the game.”

Four different fighters with four different takes on what is most important. The running theme in three of the four answers was financial gain; to not end up with nothing to show at the end of their careers. But if financial gain was all a boxer gets in the game for, why not be a journeyman or a gatekeeper? Those who are called in as an opponent and get rewarded for being there in essence to lose? They get paid and they go home with their purse.

All in all, most fighters want the careers that people will remember, that fans will talk about for years after they’ve retired. But most fighters want to be able to enjoy their career once they’ve retired as well. After all this is the hurt business, and the risk these fighters take should be rewarded with financial gain or the opportunities to prove themselves at a level they strive to be at. At the end of the day it’s down to the individual.

Wealth, fame, prestige, accolades, respect.

Some may be more worthy than others. They’re all legitimate reasons to fight.

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