By Sean Crose
So the other night a pal of mine who likes boxing asked me what Marlon Starling’s been up to. Having been a huge fan of Starling’s back in the day, I eagerly took to the net to see what the former welterweight champ from the late 80s through the early 90s was doing with himself. I soon discovered a recent article from the Hartford Courant about the “Magic Man” and eagerly jumped right into it.
Needless to say, Starling was reportedly not doing well. At least not financially. While he was doing his part to help his community by working with local kids, many of them troubled, he was also struggling to make ends meet. While I personally find all honest work honorable (I myself was in the supermarket business until I reached my forties, where I regularly swept floors and dumped garbage) I was saddened to learn that Starling had become a limo driver.
Starling, the man who knocked out Mark Breland, the man who gave Donald Curry not one, but two great runs, the man who gave the flamboyant and menacing Lloyd Honeyghan a world class beatdown, had been reduced to having Joan Rivers tell him to stop talking so much. There just seemed to be something unfair about that.
Yet this piece is not about the plight of struggling former boxers who were once on top of the heap. It’s about today’s current crop of top dogs who are often criticized, sometimes in print, by people like me. Those of us who love boxing want to see the best fight the best, after all. We don’t like it when we hear that Adonis Stevensen, for instance, doesn’t want to jump right into a bout with Sergey Kovalev. We begin to smell cowardice. We start to sense a lack of dignity.
Yet, as Tyson Bruce, my comrade in arms here at Boxing Insider, has pointed out, guys like Stevensen have a right to make a living. And taking a couple of easier, big money fights before facing someone as challenging as Kovalev makes all the sense in the world from a practical perspective. Why not earn millions while you can?
This, of course, does not excuse those who simply choose NOT to fight quality opponents for no solid reason. Honestly, is there any good excuse for Floyd Mayweather, the highest paid athlete in the world, to avoid Manny Pacquiao at this point in time? If there is, I’d like to hear it…as someone who admires and even roots for the guy. Few fighters are in the position Floyd’s in right now, however. Most have a lifetime of shaky earning potential before them when they finally retire from the sport.
Take Carl Froch. Sure, he’s a celebrity in England, but how long will his star shine bright there? If sport’s fans throughout the world have one thing in common it’s that they tend to be forgetful. Don’t believe it? Ask yourself if William “The Refrigerator” Perry is still a celebrated member of our society.
Therefore, while most fight fans would love to see Froch battle George Groves once again, Froch would be smart to think with his wallet. Perhaps facing someone like Julio Chavez Chavez Junior just might make more business sense. The operative word here, however, is “might.” No one really knows whether Froch will be motivated by money, arrogance, common sense, or even (gasp) fear.
That’s the thing with boxing. It seems to hold within it’s realm an unending war between earning potential and athletic purity. And this war is fought in a gray zone, where the line between business sense and an unwillingness to rise to the challenge is oftentimes blurred. The point, it seems, is that we fans have to take more than our need for exciting matchups into consideration. Fighters are people like us, after all, in that they have bills to pay, mouths to feed and futures to make the most of.
As for Marlon Starling, he’s willing to be a trainer, both on a personal as well as on a professional level. If you’re a young fighter hoping to make a start, the man may be worth looking up. He defeated Floyd Mayweather Senior back in 1981, after all.