The importance of narrative in fight sports

Heavyweight clash between WBA, IBF, WBO, IBO World Champion Anthony Joshua and WBC World Champion Tyson Fury is now on.

Two fights to be scheduled in 2021 that will crown a new Undisputed Champion since Lennox Lewis back in 1999, when he defeated Evander Holyfield in back-to-back fights.

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Eddie Hearn, managing director of Matchroom Sport and Joshua’s manager, immediately told ESPN: “One of the fascinations about this fight will be the buildup because they’re two totally different characters, two totally different personalities. The mind games will be on another level for this fight. Tyson is very good at that. Anthony is excited by that. … He’s so pumped, so focused, he hasn’t stopped training since the [Kubrat] Pulev fight [in December]. He’s like a caged lion. The buildup is going to be epic”.

Neither Joshua or Fury are Cinderella Men, both of them are champions, both of them are great fighters, both of them represents an amazing fan base such as British boxing’s one.

Still, they NEED this fight to be put in the right perspective in terms of narrative in order to be SOLD.

Every contest, every sports match or fight has to mean for something great. People have no more time to waste (or let’s say, less time) to watch something which isn’t worth their time.

If I don’t see a new champion or something really important to change at the end of the fight/match/game, why should I watch?

That’s why so many titles came in boxing: a long list of new federations, belts, a great display of fantasy in order to crown fighters here and there to promote any kind of meaning to the fights.

In Joshua vs Fury case, this is not necessary because ALL the belts are there on the line. Still, it’s necessary to convince people that this is FINALLY the fight we all wanted and needed to happen.

Was it the same with the Wladimir Klitschko’s fights against Fury and Joshua, which he lost by the way? Yes, but…

World Boxing Council (WBC) belt wasn’t there. For some years, Wladimir’s brother Vitali Klitschko held that title and there was no way they would step into the ring to fight each other. So, as strong as they were, as different as they were (Vitali was believed to be “tougher” than Wladimir), we missed a unified, recognized, unanimous World Heavyweight Champion.

This time, all the titles are in contention. This time is for REAL and it has to be sold this way. This time there will be no opinions, just facts. Two fights to determine who’s the man, who’s the best, who’s the unified, recognized, unanimous World Heavyweight Champion, the most important title in fight sports because of its story, its legacy and its drama.

Several generations grew up watching the Rocky saga in theater, home video or tv. We still are influenced by the 70s legends such as Muhammad Alì, Joe Frazier, George Foreman.

Here in Italy, despite a good number of World Champions in all weight classes, nobody is even close to Primo Carnera’s legendary aura. Not even Francesco Damiani, who held the WBO title in the same years as Mike Tyson wore the WBC, WBA, IBF titles as the Undisputed World Champion.

Why Primo? Because of that Heavyweight mystique.

That’s why these upcoming fights are made to set a new standard in boxing narrative. It lasted 22 years since the Undisputed Champion was crowned: too much, hopefully not too late to return to the boxing prime among fans and media all over the world.

Pietro

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