June 16th, 2011 By Professor Chuck Marby
THE RAGS TO RICHES STORY ARE SO RARE
Las Vegas, NV- I love fighters and I love the fight game. And while I pontificate occasionally about how the sport (and it’s participants) has at the very least not kept pace with it’s contemporaries, if not regressed, one thing has not changed; for every Klitschko brother, Bernard Hopkins, Andre Ward, there are dozens if not hundreds of boxers who fight for peanuts on under cards or in walk-out bouts.
EXPLAINING DEFINITIONS FOR THE NON-EXPERT
For those not familiar with the term ‘walk-out’ bout, many promoters put forth a prelim fight to go after the main event to give the fans something to watch on their way out, or in case the main event is a stinker, or to try to keep the fans hanging around if the fight was staged in a casino. These fighters dream of, not a top ten ranking or a title fight, they dream of a shot of a fight with a decent payday.
AFTER ALL, IT IS ALL ABOUT COLD CASH!
Now, don’t get me wrong, I do not begrudge any fighter (or any athlete) one single dollar they can earn. I am a free market capitalist to the core. Yet, it is common for those outside the fight game to make the false assumption that just because a fight is held at, say, the MGM Grand, or some other plush casino, that life is “all sunshine and rainbows” for the fighters, simply because the fight surroundings are nice, money flows like wine, and the “beautiful people” are everywhere.
THE WAY OF THE BOXING WORLD
Imagine getting booked for a fight on only two weeks or less notice. Imagine getting scratched from a fight on the day of a fight. Imagine a career where you need two other jobs just to make end’s meet. Imagine a job where health insurance, dental coverage, and any type of retirement plan (except “early”) are non-existent. Imagine an occupation where you are almost guaranteed to be injured at least once, and bleed almost every day you punch the time clock “at the office.” Imagine being promised one pay for the job, and then the ‘Boss’ trying to pay you less than you agreed on…Now imagine none of this being imaginary. Welcome to the world of pugilism, especially if you are not a “prospect,” in other words, if you are like 90% of the fighters in the world, an under card fighter.
THESE ARE THE GUYS THAT CREATE WINNERS & CHAMPS
They go by many names, under carders, journeymen, blue-collar fighters, ham and eggers, pugs, mugs, bums, trial horse, etc., you get the idea. Please, just don’t call any fighter a bum within my earshot!
LACK THE CONNECTIONS OR THE COMPLEXION
These are usually fighters that have skill and heart, but haven’t caught the breaks or the favor of the power brokers in the pugilistic world. Or, it could be, that while they do have skill and heart, it simply isn’t to the level of others. (In the eye’s of our Creator we are created equal, but when you step into that ring, you find out we may be created equal differently!) Often the problem is financial. The fighter isn’t able to afford the luxury to put in the time in the gym, or go to training camp, to focus enough on learning the craft of boxing because of his or her “normal” job that they have to have to pay the bills and put food on the table. That’s life. Many are journeymen because of bad or no management, no one to “hook them up” to guide their boxing career, yet whatever the case, they are out there, night after night, fight after fight, literally giving their blood for a chance, for a shot at a decent payday, and for our entertainment.
TALK ABOUT A BULL SPIT FIGURE!
According to “SimplyHired.Com” the average professional boxer in the US as of June 14th, 2011 is $32,000.00. I would love to know where they got those figures from! I would bet the farm that they came from promoters, not from any real live, breathing “average professional boxer” in the US today, not net, anyway! The payoff scene in the Rocky movie with Spider Rico plays out more often than we would care to admit. Of course, I know there are many variables that go into the paying of a fighter; paid attendance, any TV revenue, name recognition, honesty of promoter, experience & skill of the fighter, the fighters own agreements with his corner men, etc.
LESS THAN FIVE PERCENT MAKE MORE THAN THE RENT
However, the sad truth is, for every fighter who has “made millions” there are countless others who wind up broke. Hell, even some who did make millions, wind up broke. Mike Tyson is a good example. The record books will indicate that the Hall of Fame former heavyweight champion earned (gross, not net) in the neighborhood of $350 million in the ring. That’s not counting any outside income. Now, for those who may not know, a fighter never takes home his total paycheck from a fight. You have managers, trainers, sparring partners, cut-men, (Kick-backs), taxes, and so on. So, if Tyson earned 350 Large, you can figure he took home around 35% to 40% of that, tops. Now, granted, 140 million smackers is not chicken feed where I come from, that’s a lot of money. Yet, we still hear the stories about Tyson’s financial woes.
ANY MAN WITH GUTS TO FIGHT IS ABOVE AVERAGE!
Now back to the “average fighter.” (I use that term begrudgingly, because anyone who has the intestinal fortitude to step into the ring is anything but average in my book!) The average fighter, who in my experience earns from $300 TO $500 a fight, to the $32,000.00 figure cited earlier, take the same percentage that we used for Tyson, because those are the real numbers, and they get to keep 35% to 40% of their fight purse. Add in, no insurance, no retirement, and the injuries, and you realize not everyone in the fight game is going to get rich and famous, and yet without the one who will fight the under cards and the walk-out bouts, you wouldn’t have the main eventers.
YOU CAN MAKE “AVERAGE JOE’S DAY WITH A GESTURE
So do the sport a favor and also make a fighters day. The next time you go to a live event (you do support live, and local event’s when possible, right?) instead of just fighting the rest of the crowd trying to get an autograph or pic of the local hero’s in the main event, go up to one of the under card fighters, snap their pic, have them sign your program. Tell them you appreciate what they do. You will feel better, and they will be grinning for weeks!
Professor Chuck Marbry