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.


Pandemic vs. Entertainment: Now and Then

The global spread of the SARSCoV2 infection has forced all of our activities to adjust, which also means to just stop and close indefinitely. As for sports and entertainment industry, all of the activities are made behind close doors since last year and it affected all the organizations and people involved, including fans of course. Lots of questions have been made, lots of topics have been discusses, lots more have to be. There is a time, now, when the pandemic is leading the way sports/shows/concerts/events (you choose the order) have to be “played” and how (as fans, viewers, workers) we have to be involved.

The modern technology, streaming services, social media and other tools are making it easier on an individual standpoint but it looks like we are all considering this a transition: at some point pandemic will be the past, but we don’t know when and we don’t know how.

Fans, more specifically, will be the key to reshape the sports and entertainment in the near future and the process will consider what we’ve done during the infamous lockdown era to still live our passion. What will we keep from that experience?

Virtuality has become the only reality to fans/customers, for now. We all miss packed venues, we all miss that energy, we all miss that way of life and we all want to have it back.

However, will we really be back to life as it was? How long will the transition period in between be? Will we have to adapt to some sort of “new normal”? I have a few questions, and no, I don’t have the ultimate answers. Do you?

As a sports and entertainment professional: I want to discuss with you if what we do now is still right/will still be right and if our profession will still be required in the near future.

As a sports and entertainment fan: I want to question my options, my views and my wishes on how I enjoy now and how I would in the future.

Please find a few questions below. Feel free to answer, comment, send more.


How can we be fans?
Are Social Media the only way to do it?

How can we be there?
Are “Virtual Arenas” be enjoyable in the sense of togetherness?

How can we support financially?
How much and how long are we paying subscriptions to get some merchandise and services without attending any game/event/show?

How can we encourage?
Do the “likes”, “emoticons” and comments are the right way?

How can we share?
Without high fives, hugs, any other form of physical enthusiasm, how are we sharing our passion?


How will we be fans?
On-Site Events will be back: which of these are you waiting for besides live games/events/shows?

How will we be there?
Are we going to get sellout crowds again with actual capacities?
Will the venues (stadiums, arenas, theaters) be transformed to welcome less people, trading bigger attendance with more security and comfort?

How will we support financially?
Will ticketing be as important as it was in terms of rates?
Will tickets be cheaper?
Will tickets be implemented with online services from now on?
Will “virtual” tickets help to have a larger attendance thanks to technology and tools?

How will we encourage?
Will we be ready/allowed to get ourselves into large crowds again to just cheer our favorite star?

How will we share?
How long it will take before physicality will be back for good into fans reactions?