In the world of boxing, the name Johnny Bos does not resonate with most folks the way Don King, Bob Arum or even that Runyonesque, cigar-chomping fedora-wearing scribe, Bert Sugar, does.
Bos, 53, is more of a cult figure, a behind-the-scenes guy; he represents the backbone of the sport, and has played a role in the careers of at least 50 world champions over the last 30 years.
His crucial but underappreciated job is that of the matchmaker. Sometimes he characterizes himself an “advisor,” when he’s building the career of a single fighter, as opposed to putting together a card on the behalf of a promoter.
Those in the know—such as the aforementioned Sugar—will tell you that Bos is probably the most knowledgeable “fight guy” in the world. When you factor in historical knowledge, familiarity with the current landscape, first-hand understanding of how the backroom deals are really made, and all the other minutia and gossip you could imagine, nobody beats The Bos.
The man breathes, bleeds and excretes boxing.
So I thought it would be interesting to ask this boxing authority about his take on MMA. Unlike other loyalists of the sweet science, I’ve never known him to attack the new kid on the block. Nor has he moved over to the other side, like boxing promoter Gary Shaw has (now involved with Elite XC) or the former Executive Director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission Mark Ratner (now the UFC’s Vice President for regulatory affairs). If anything, Bos just doesn’t seem to pay the brash youngster much mind.
“I’m not sure if MMA couldn’t end up being a flash in the pan,” Bos said in a phone interview conducted recently. “Because they might be over saturating the market right now.
“Maybe I don’t understand it (MMA) as much as I should. Am I fan? Do I find it entertaining? I have to say a major difference is, in boxing, quitting is not accepted. While in MMA, as soon as a guy is hurt, he taps out. Or if he’s wobbled a bit, the ref will call the fight.”
I countered that when you factor in the use of elbows, knees, kicks and only four-ounce gloves not much thicker than a pair of Isotoners, an MMA fighter can ill-afford to be discombobulated in the Octagon.
“I don’t know if their elbows are any more dangerous than a boxer’s left hook,” Bos replied.
Where does he see the two sports five years from now?
“I can tell you for a fact,” Bos said, “the way boxing is going right now, it may not be here in another five years. Mind you, I’m just speaking about the American scene and boxers it produces. Globally, the sport is doing very well.
“One of the things killing boxing is the cost of medicals and the lack of uniform regulation,” he continued. “If a kid fights in New York, he’s gotta pay for his medicals before he fights. That could cost more than his purse! If he goes to fight in California two weeks later, he’s gotta go through the entire process again. That’s a lot to ask of a kid who might not have a promoter, or a manager with deep pockets, paying his way.
“Understand something,” he said. “If you pass your drivers license test in New York and you’ve got a valid license, you can drive anywhere in the United States with that. Now, if you get a license to box in New York, which is like a federal ID, why can’t you get a federal medical? This may seem like a trivial thing to seriously damage an entire sport, but it’s not. I could be wrong, but I imagine the UFC foots the bill for the medicals of any fighter that’s ever competed one of their cards.”
In the final analysis, does Bos see MMA kicking the tar out of boxing, as UFC President Dana White would have you believe?
“No,” he said. “What you’re getting now is an initial reaction to something new. What’s new today is old tomorrow. You’re getting a lot of interest from people wanting to know what MMA is. Boxing screwed itself—you don’t need me to recount all the ways it did it. My understanding is that MMA has it’s structural and integrity problems as well. The question is will MMA screw itself too?”
- Next week’s column will address some of the match-ups in UFC 74, in particular one of the more intriguing welterweight matches that can be made: Georges St.-Pierre v. Josh Koscheck.
- Don’t know about you, but I’m chomping at the bit to see Charles “Krazy Horse” Bennett back in the cage. On August 25, on ShoXC (Showtime, 11 p.m. ET/PT), he’s facing Victor “Joe Boxer” Valenzuela in what’s shaping up to be an explosive and genuinely rancorous rematch. Expect a no-holds-barred interview to drop with “Krazy Horse” in the near future.