Danny Flexen of Boxing News Interview: On Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao, UK Scene, Ricky Hatton, Lennox Lewis, Joe Calzaghe and so Much More! By David Tyler, DoghouseBoxing (Oct 13, 2010) - Tweet
The world's oldest boxing magazine is not owned by Oscar De La Hoya. It's Boxing News which is based out of the United Kingdom. Danny Flexen is the senior writer for the magazine and the editor of their website. Please welcome this knowledgeable young man into the Doghouse.
David Tyler - Please tell the readers here in the United States about Boxing News, the world's oldest boxing magazine.
Danny Flexen - The magazine was founded in 1909 by original editor John Murray as, simply, Boxing. Murray had been a regular contributor to Health & Strength magazine and convinced its owner, Bill Berry (later Lord Camrose) to launch a weekly magazine dedicated solely to boxing. It is believed Murray had been inspired by Jack Johnson beating Tommy Burns to become the first black World heavyweight champion. My boss, Tris Dixon is our 13th Editor but has not proved unlucky thus far!
DT - How popular is boxing in the UK and Europe compared to the sport here in America?
DF - The sport here has a dedicated hardcore base of fans but in terms of mainstream popularity, boxing has enjoyed better fortunes. The main problem here is that boxing is no longer widely available on terrestrial (i.e. network) television, in fact it is not available at all on free TV, bar a weekly highlights package shown in the early hours. Sky, our main satellite broadcaster, has done an admirable job in keeping the sport visible but the days of boxing attracting over 10 million viewers seem to be over the pay-per-view model has not taken off anywhere close to the extent it has in the States. Football (soccer) is our national sport and dominates the national newspapers boxing is lucky to get a look-in these days as most dailies no longer employ full-time boxing writers. But it’s not all doom and gloom. There are plenty of shows, good attendances, the David Haye-Audley Harrison-topped show in a 20,000-capacity venue in Manchester is almost sold-out, despite no undercard having been announced and some fine prospects coming through. It would be good if another major TV player preferably but not necessarily terrestrial provided some competition for Sky, allowing more fans to watch and boxers and promoters to have better options.
DT - Sorry to hear about the recent problems with Ricky Hatton, do you think he will ever fight again?
DF - I do not believe Hatton will fight again and I sincerely hope he does not. The fire is gone, the skills are not what they were and he certainly does not need financially to fight again. He has a promotional company which is doing very well but perhaps taking a more hands-on role in that would provide the focus his post-boxing life seems to be missing. He began training for a comeback last year and quickly realized the old enthusiasm had evaporated. Any fighter will tell you, that is the time to go.
DT - Carl Froch is set to fight Arthur Abraham in November as part of the Showtime super six tournament. Your thoughts about that fight and the tournament to this point.
DF - The Super Six started well with an exciting first series of fights Froch-Dirrell aside. But the whole concept seems to have struggled to gain momentum. The recent pull-outs have been a disaster but even before that, you’ve had fights from the same series not happening at the same time, making it harder to retain fans’ interest. All the fraught negotiations regarding purse monies and venues has made it difficult for fans to make travel plans and frankly bores supporters the whole USP of Super Six was the best fighting the best with limited complications and we have had several complications. In the UK especially, it has been hard because the fights have been broadcast on low-profile pay-per-view channels rather than Sky or a terrestrial station. This has left us with the ridiculous situation that Froch is probably more famous and appreciated in America than in his home country. Maybe a high-profile replacement for Dirrell can save the tournament but it may be too late.
DT - Your thoughts about the Amir Khan / Marcos Maidana bout in December .....can Amir take the punch of Maidana?
DF - Khan insists his poor punch resistance at lightweight was due to weight-making problems and until he gets whacked on the button by a big hitter we will probably never know. He may not be able to take Maidana’s punch but I’m not sure we will find that out. He is so much faster, rangier and more technically skilled than the rugged Argentine it is hard to imagine Khan taking the sort of blow that did for him against Breidis Prescott. Maidana is aggressive and throws plenty but comes forward in straight lines and against someone who throws those long, rapid-fire combinations like Khan, he’s asking for trouble.
DT - Is Joe Calzaghe one of the greatest fighter to ever come from the UK and who do your fans think is the all-time best?
DF - That’s a big question and as a 29-year-old man one I’m not sure how qualified I am to answer. We recently celebrated our centenary and picked out Jimmy Wilde, the superb Welsh flyweight known as the “Mighty Atom”. The main argument against Calzaghe is that he beat few genuine world-class operators when they were at their peak. Roy Jones and Bernard Hopkins despite the subsequent win over Kelly Pavlik were faded, Jeff Lacy and I know it’s easy to say this in hindsight was possibly overrated. Mikkel Kessler was Joe’s best victory, given the quality of the opposition, and he also beat several B+ rated fighters, like a slightly over the hill Chris Eubank, Byron Mitchell and Mario Veit. But the best ever? I’m not sure Joe’s even the best of the last 30 years, competing against guys like Lennox Lewis.
DT - Your feelings about Floyd Mayweather? Is he the best boxer in the business today?
JL - Mayweather may well be the best boxer in the sport but he is not a good ambassador for the game or a good role model. I lost a great deal of respect for him after the anti-Pacquiao video. I’m not prone to sensationalism but how Floyd’s defenders can say a film which reinforced racial stereotypes which are often derided in the western world was not racist, I cannot fathom. He may have done it simply to stir up interest in the fight or to rattle his rival but that does not make it right or a good example to young fighters who idolize him. From a purely boxing perspective, I have been lucky enough to see Mayweather train and fight at close quarters and I have certainly never seen a better boxer live.
DT - Do you think that we will ever see a Pacquiao/ Mayweather fight?
DF - For a long time now, I’ve gone along with the accepted wisdom that there is far too much money on the table for the contest not to take place. But the longer it goes and the older they both get Pacquiao’s trainer is encouraging him to quit soon, Mayweather has already ‘retired’ once the more my hopes fade. That said, I remain relatively confident it will happen in 2011 presuming neither suffers an upset in the meantime. There are legal issues between both camps but it’s amazing how these suits and counter-suits fall away when a big fight is made.
DT - What are your thoughts when you see a boxing card on HBO that features only fighters that belong to one manager/promoter, i.e. Golden Boy or Top Rank?
DF - I’m obviously removed from this problem but it’s the same in the UK. The TV stations, in theory exercise quality control but they do not have the power to bring several promoters together to form a combined card. I have no problem with one promoter putting on an entire show as long as the fights are good and the paying public get value for their money. But we are lucky here because at the domestic level we have something you guys don’t one omnipotent governing body, the British Boxing Board of Control. Laws here do not vary from region to region and the Board is active in forcing the British, English and regional champions to defend against the best challengers, regardless of promotional ties, by a process where any fights that cannot be agreed go to purse bids. This has been a real boon for the UK and has led to some fantastic fights.
DT - Is boxing a dying sport? If not, what can be done to save it from extinction?
DF - Boxing evolves in peaks and troughs. I find it hard to foresee it regaining its place as one of the top three most popular TV sports in the world, but I also cannot envisage a world where boxing, in some form, does not exist. We need more TV coverage which will in turn feed the national newspapers, we need big stars who can cross over in the mainstream and promoters and broadcasters need to embrace forward-thinking and take risks by trialing new ideas. Super Six may have ultimately flattered to deceive but the bantamweight Super Four looks great and innovation is never a bad thing. The 20-20 idea has done wonders for cricket in this country and while boxing fans may deride UFC, we can learn some lessons from their marketing, production values and cross-over appeal. For real boxing nuts, the in-ring action will always be enough, but to attract a mainstream fan base, you need stars and big ‘events’. It’s not rocket science.
DT - Danny, just what is the 20-20 idea that has done wonders for cricket in the UK?
DF - Basically 20/20 is a shortened version of the game of cricket, a sport which in its traditional form can last for several days. 20/20 is completed in a matter of hours and so encourages the players to take more risks while time is always running out - bigger shots and more spectacular plays for the fans. It's a modern makeover for a very old sport. We do something similar in boxing here, called the Prizefighter series. These are eight-man, one-night tournaments where all the fights are over three rounds. Very exciting and popular on TV.
DT - Danny, this has been a very informative interview about boxing "across the pond" as we say here in the states. I will continue to visit your website and look forward to more of your good work.