OTHER SPORTS HAVE ‘EM. WHERE’S BOXING’S TRADE UNION?


Football, tennis, Formula 1, basketball, American football (referees included…), baseball and cricket are just a few of the sports with unions, also referred to as players associations.  Their purpose is to represent the athletes and advocate on their behalf.  If any of our more conservative readers bristle at the thought of a trade union in boxing, or think that it’s pointless and maybe even harmful, then they should take a look at the stereotypical sport of business magnates and assorted anti-union types i.e. golf.  Golf wouldn’t be what it is today without the PGA, which for all intents and purposes is a players union.  I wasn’t surprised to read of the very recently formed Track and Field Athlete’s Association as well as the rationale behind it.  The athletes in the sports with unions feel that it’s the right way to go and haven’t looked back since.

A boxers union is absolutely different from the various sanctioning bodies (WBC, WBA, IBF, WBO etc.) whose interests are very narrow, to say the least.  A proper boxers association represents the athletes and doesn’t have any conflicts of interest e.g. the head of the association can’t also be a promoter etc.  The idea of a trade union in boxing isn’t new.  Apparently there’ve been discussions in boxing circles to start one but as far as I can tell that hasn’t resulted in much (anything?).

Boxing is nothing without boxers and even more obviously a boxer isn’t a boxer without the sport.  From an overall perspective that’s why the sport itself and its boxers must always be the priority.  If these two fundamental aspects are in order then the third pillar, the supporters, will be offered the best possible product and be more willing to shell out their hard earned money.  More money willingly leaving the fans’ wallets means more money in everyones pockets, from the cut-man to the promoter.  I’m even more convinced today that emulating other player associations will seriously benefit professional and amateur boxing, the supporters and even the promoters.

A boxers association must either be a unified, global body or a series of like-minded and very closely coordinated regional entities.  This allows for consistency in all areas and greater negotiating power when advocating for its members with promoters and other business partners.

  •  The first area in which a boxers association could serve members is wages.  How much a boxer makes should rightfully be a factor of how good they are and how popular they are, but every professional boxer who dedicates themselves and is good enough at it should be able to support themselves and their families.  Currently this isn’t always the case, but with true collective bargaining, a reasonable and livable minimum wage would probably be one of the outcomes.  Once this happens, not only would existing boxers benefit, but the sport would become a much more attractive and viable career for athletes who might never have considered the sweet science in the first place.
  • Healthcare.  Addressing the vitally important healthcare needs of boxers while they are active and also once they retire.  Thankfully many countries offer national health care coverage of some form, but the association would be able to make additional options affordable.
  • Pensions/retirement income, as they are for all other players associations, would be a central aim.
  • Affordable access to a variety of services such as legal services.  For example by using a ‘group purchasing model,’ service providers would be willing to offer materially discounted rates to members because of the number of customers they would have.  The players association might even have in house legal resources for its members.
  • Coordinated marketing/public relations.  Boxers are brands, just as footballers etc. are brands.  Instead of only being in the limelight to promote their next matches, the association could co-ordinate with various fighters’ management and promoters to make sure that these guys remain in the public’s mind (for the right reasons).
  • In a similar vein to the above, if deemed necessary, the union might advocate against self-destructive scheduling of bouts where promoters have competing events on the same day and time.
  • The increased amateur interest, because of the financial viability of boxing as a career, will increase the size and quality of the talent pool.
  • Better development of young talent because the association will implement better controls e.g. all trainers will be subject to a proper qualification process with continued education etc.
  • The above two points should result in a higher quality of ‘entry level’ boxer.  This can benefit promoters as well because they won’t be taking as much of a financial risk on a completely unproven fighter.

There are obviously obstacles to forming a boxers association and more than likely the idea will not sit well with many, but the advantages clearly outweigh the disadvantages.  The players association will not replace promoters and managers, it will function as it does in every other sport.   Just as professional sports teams have embraced players unions as a way of life so too can promoters.

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