Updated: Oct 15, 2020

Egoism is nothing new in individual sport, especially boxing. Indeed, in a sport where the exacting preparation and training requisite requires significant time spent in isolation, it is an oft-energising fuel often needed to sustain and sharper a fighter’s hunger, focus and belief. It has long been the dominant expression of pre-fight press conferences and pre-fight promotional hype; and in this world where traditional forms of machismo and masculine pride still predominate, it extends to inform the patterns of behaviour for not only fighters, but trainers and promoters alike: the egos of Don King and Floyd Mayweather Senior being preeminent cases in point.

Yet, contrary to previous generations – when arrogance and ego used to be built upon and enhanced by exploits undertaken within the ring – we are now transcending into an worrying era where ego, boasting and braggadocio is centring predominately around the should-be externalities of money and (perceived) popularity and the financial size of tv broadcasting deals.

Who or what is responsible for this shift?

There are primarily two converging factors responsible: (1) the effectiveness of using money as an overt promotional tool and (2) the thrusting forth of previously-hidden-‘money men’ and their mundane operations out into the glare of the media spotlight.

Stories of ludicrous capital excesses have followed fighters throughout each generation. However, these were usually framed negatively as tragic and portentous, detailing squandered riches and the declining graces of former heroes who would assail to the heights they had once reached.

It was not until Floyd Mayweather Junior that we encountered a fighter who so readily and successfully inverted this narrative to use money and the acquiring of money as a salient means to differentiate and market himself; often displaying his lavish car and watch collections, clothes, private jets, expensive suites, mansions and bags full of stacked cash as a means to sell an entire lifestyle, inextricably associating his success within the boxing ring to his material success outside of it. The blurring of these two distinct existences served to synergistically strengthen each of them: with an identity based around money, as he became continually more successful within the ring, he was able to command more money in business transactions and pay-per-view percentages, thus increasing his wealth outside of it; as he became wealthier outside of the ring, he became viewed as different, other and (in the capitalist sense) more successful than his rivals, which translated to the way he was handled within it: he was granted more power and ‘A side privileges’, from choosing the type of gloves opponents would wear, to mandatory drug testing, to choosing preferred catchweights and ring surfaces and sponginess.

His approach was pioneering and amplified by the concurrent success of online social media platforms, which allowed him to sustain relevance, market himself directly to consumers, become a brand, control his own narrative and transcend the sport as a renown celebrity and talk show personality, reaching fans/consumers constantly and cynically, especially in periods outside of an upcoming fight, when the resources of traditional media was restricted to covering other fighters and upcoming events.

The proliferation of social media outlets and their insatiable craving for content links in and leads directly onto the second factor: voices for the money-men. Whereas the thoughts of promoters, tv executives and financers used to be confined to weekly paper columns, dedicated monthly-boxing-magazine features or at broadcasts of pre-fight press conferences, we now live in a world where it is possible to receive the wisdom of dominant promoters Eddie Hearn, Frank Warren, Bob Arum, Kalle Sauerland and the President of Showtime Sports, Stephen Espinoza many times a week and across a plethora of outlets, covering breaking boxing negotiations and considerations in real time. Their inter-network and inter-company rivalry has become a publicised narrative in itself, and has allowed for fresh egos and interests to further complicate and conflict negotiations; only theirs occur at a rarefied level above any fighter’s considerations and their word is final.

Each tow the disingenuous line that the boxers’ interests are their own, yet the boxers are the pawns in the money/power game constantly being played and in flux and materialising between the vested interests of these companies, who care exclusively for viewing figures and generated revenue. Their voices have given celebration and exposure to prosaic externalities which should be decided, discussed and confined to boardrooms; and separated entirely from the pure brilliance that is two unarmed men exacting their physical will onto one another until one is vanquished, either through being rendered unconscious, retiring or being adjudged to be better in skill. Instead, they laud their own assets, when what they possess is dull and disinteresting and this process is now leading to a growing percentage of media and coverage being shaped that way.

Who wins?

With the recent news being that Tyson Fury has yielded to the money and signed a reported £80-million-pound-five-fight-deal with Bob Arum and ESPN, consequently and concurrently nixing the immediate rematch with WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder in the process; of the Fury, Joshua, Wilder triumvirate, the recent developments have benefitted ‘AJ’ and Wilder the most.

Despite having 3 of the 4 major belts, Joshua found himself at the back-end of 2018 and entering into 2019 in t