A full slate of fight cards is being lined up as boxing is poised to resume June 9. One key issue fighters are facing amid the coronavirus pandemic is a new reality for the money they’ll earn each time they step foot in the ring.
For the time being, fighters could be performing for less money than they were used to getting for similar fights.
Without live, paying audiences in attendance at sporting events, a vital stream of revenue is currently shut off. With that, boxers across the board must deal with a difficult choice: take a pay cut (as there is no live gate being generated to support their purses) or delay their careers and risk not fighting at all for the rest of 2020.
ESPN asked several world-class fighters, including some who have bouts coming up in the next month or two, for their thoughts on taking less money to fight and the decisions they have made.
Jamel Herring, WBO junior lightweight titlist (fights Jonathan Oquendo on July 2)
I recently had to sacrifice and come to the table with Bob Arum, personally. I spoke to him over the phone, myself and my trainer, Brian McIntyre. We came to an agreement for a reasonable purse, and I look at it as me being a team player. I understand what’s going on in the world. I understand that the live gate is big in boxing. Right now, we can’t get that, we can’t sell tickets.
You just have to be a team player and just do what’s right, not just for yourself — but the whole team, including Top Rank. So I’m not worried about it. Something is definitely better than nothing.
I’d tell the young guys, especially, just get through this rough patch, stay active and you’ll be rewarded at the end. Just keep building your résumé, keep building your profile, and the money will eventually come. This is only temporary, I believe.
But all these young fighters who are thinking that they’re already at the top, or they deserve this and that, they need to just chill out and be patient.
Keith Thurman, former unified welterweight titlist
I would take less money against a lesser opponent. So I would perform, I would put on a great performance. But let’s put it like this — you shouldn’t be able to put a mega-fight together for a discount right now. That’s what I’m saying. [Top] fighters are not going to sacrifice themselves — and the promoters are not going to sacrifice themselves — they will not be super mega-fights on sale, OK?
But if you want to get a certain amount of talent up against another certain amount of talent, you [are going] to take a little hit, here or there. I’m negotiable, because I’m OK with just picking up a check for the year and keep it moving. I bet there are a lot of fighters that can do that. I’ve done it many different years throughout my career where I fought once that year.
The pace that we’re at right now doesn’t really affect me because I’ve been here, I’ve been at this pace for many years already. I think there’s a certain caliber of fight that can be made. I don’t believe I would fight pay-per-view, I don’t believe I’d be fighting [Manny] Pacquiao this year. But there’s some fights out there at certain numbers that I could probably be OK with.
It’s interesting, and if it’s not worth it, then we’re not going to see it because there’s a saying from before I was born: If it doesn’t make dollars, it doesn’t make sense. And I think the fans of any sport should understand that this is just a very awkward time. All of these industries — basketball, football, baseball — they’re multimillion, if not billion, dollar industries, and it’s not just easy to go ahead and take a loss.
Jessie Magdaleno, former junior featherweight titlist (fights Yenifel Vicente on June 11)
Yeah [I had to take less money]. I wasn’t really worried about it. I just kept on my craft, just kept working hard, and really focusing on getting a sooner fight date and getting back in [the ring]. … At the end of the day, whatever is safer for us boxers, if they feel that’s safe [no crowds], then that’s what you have to do with no audience and no people. Making sure that us fighters are 100% safe, and we’re ready to get in there and fight.
So I’d rather be safe than sorry, rather than put my family through a situation like that. … It sucks that I had to take a pay cut. But whatever. I’m safe, I’m back June 11.
Joseph Diaz Jr., IBF junior lightweight titlist
Me not fighting again in ’20 is out of the question. I want to fight, I want to fight as soon as possible. Whenever Golden Boy says. I’ve already talked to Oscar De La Hoya, and he’s saying that I’m up next because I’m a champion, and I’m the first guy to get my name out there and to get a fight this year. So with that being said, I want to fight. I’m a newly crowned champion and I want to defend my title, and I want to make some serious noise in the sport.
It is about the money, but my main focus is about making a name for myself as well. I feel I’m at my prime right now, so I can’t take anything for granted, and I just have to accept everything for what it is, and just adjust. And if it means that the money ain’t right, I still have got to go out there and do my thing and showcase to everybody who I am and build my brand … build my name, because [that] is much bigger than money.
I just have to be really, really active right now, and stay on top, and stay in the ring. That way I gain experience, and I’m able to be active for people that are fight fans, in general, so they can start watching me and just be Joseph Diaz fans.
Alex Saucedo, former junior welterweight title contender
In my situation, right now, I’ve just got to get back to the No. 1 spot. I’ve got to get back to my spot and by any means — that means taking this kind of fight. Once I’m back in my spot, I’ll be able to ask for what I want.
As of now, this is my situation. I’m going to take it and make the best out of it. You have to think about everything, because I do have a family to feed and this is my career. So it was something to think about in the situation that I’m in. I want to fight and show that I’m there again. Sometimes you have to take some stay-busy fights to get back into it.
David Benavidez, WBC super middleweight titlist
I mean, that’s very unfortunate, but if [taking less money is] what has to be done, that’s what has to be done. I know that when we come back there’s a possibility that we’re fighting without crowds. I think everybody is just taking a big hit right now. Honestly, I’ll be grateful if I’m fortunate to fight within this year, with all this stuff that’s going on. But that may be a possibility, so we’ll see what’s going to happen and what we’re going to have to take.