Substance vs Appeal
In many aspects of life, substance trumps appeal, but in the fight world it’s a little different. Substance is defined as the quality of being important, valid, or significant. These are usually traits that would matter. The combat sports world is a weird paradox that bases substance on appeal by making appeal become the sole definition of substance.
With its subjective scoring system, lack of morals, and value of an undefeated record, boxing isn’t about how good you are, it’s about how many people care you’re fighting. A professional boxer must dedicate the first few years of his career to a spectacle called “building a record”.
Because you aren’t valued unless you have an undefeated record with a high knockout percentage, boxers are forced to build records by fighting unqualified opponents.
A boxer with 15 year experience will select an opponent with 6 months of experience in order to add another spectacular knockout to his highlight reel. Once a boxer develops a name for himself by KMFO (knocking mofos out), he is now appealing which will sell tickets. If you can sell tickets, you now have substance.
The problem is, to build a record, you must have money to invest to pick the right opponents. If you pick the wrong opponent too early and your record becomes blemished, you have lost a significant amount of substance due to the loss of appeal. At this point, you will be fighting for less money, have less invested in you and may even become an opponent to a boxer with an unblemished record. You learn more from a loss than you do a win. In actuality, you have more substance but in the weird world of boxing, substance is appeal.
To be a successful boxer, you have to do more than just be a champion. You must be more than exciting in the ring, you must be exciting outside of the ring. You must build a following. You must be marketable. For example, the average person will not recognize Andre Ward if he walked past them in a grocery store. Andre Ward is the last (male) gold medalist Olympian for the USA. He hasn’t lost a match since he was a kid and is an undefeated professional champion that has been dominating the ranks for more than a decade. Ward, pound for pound one of the best boxers on the planet, in his biggest fight, against Kovelev, pulled in only $5 million. When Mayweather fought Manny Pacquio, he pulled in a cool $220 million dollars.
As another example, there are so many Olympic medalist boxers that were literally the best boxers in the world, that made very little money in the pros. While Butterbean, made a full career off of 110 fights which 106 were scheduled for 4 rounds again inexperienced opponents. Butterbean was a 5 foot 11, 425 pound tough man that was marketed correctly to make a successful boxing career by knocking people out. He has very little skill or substance, but the massive man contained appeal. Appeal = Substance.
The best recent example would be UFC 207, where Superstar Ronda Rousey was
obliterated in under a minute by the defending champion, Amanda Nunez. Twitter lost their minds when they found out Ronda, the loser, left with $3,000,000 and the winner, defending and reigning champion, Nunez only made $100,000.
Why did this happen? I’ll ask you to recall the excitement level of Nunez’s last fight. Oh, you’ve never even heard her name before she fought Ronda? Yeah…me neither.
Of course, you’ll need some level of talent to be successful but it’s almost useless without appeal.