This week on a recent episode of fight sport podcast No Holds Barred there's a section on the possibilities of organising boxers into a union. The discussion notes that other sports have unions and have had high-profile strikes but boxing has never had any noticable level of organising.
Like mixed martial arts (MMA), boxing, as an individual sport, with many promotions organising fights and the vast majority of fighters pretty much just earning a wage fight-to-fight (if they aren't supplementing it with another job, coaching, pimping themselves to sponsors etc). Jeff Monson spoke about the need for MMA fighters to organise.
I'd imagine there'd be similar specific issues for boxers to organise around – guaranteed minimum purses for fights, promotions covering costs for injured fighters (after all, the risks fighters take in the ring are much less than the promoters, but they are compensated very differently).
The interview with Carl Froch (fighting Andre Ward tomorrow) is a bit comical as he consistently gets 'union' mixed up with the idea of a professional association making good fights happen, or even just the idea of 'unifying' belts from different sanctioning bodies. The host does see the role of a union to be a collective of workers fighting for the shared interests but doesn't make that clear when interviewing Froch. Andre Ward says the idea would be 'awesome' but doesn't really mention why and implies that a collective of boxers might be able to resist corruption but doesn't elaborate.
Don't expect a thorough critique of the mediating role of reformist unions, it's a fight podcast. But none the less it'll be interesting to keep an eye on the attempts to organise what is a very individualised and overwhelmingly casualised sport.
Other individualised sports have had threats of strikes in the last few years – Andy Murray threatened a tennis strike (over too many matches) in September, Formula One drivers did something similar in 2008 regarding licence fees* so it's not out of the question that an individualised sport like boxing could organise.
I fully admit my almost total ignorance about the history of boxing, though I do occasionally watch it. Has there been any previous attempts to organise boxers, even through mainstream unions? I'm assuming from the interviews with two super-middleweight world champions about the 'need for a union' means one doesn't exist, and the apparent ignorance about what a union might look like on Froch's part suggest there isn't even a culture of discussing that type of thing.
I'd be really interested in any previous attempts, what nature did they take, why did they fail etc?
* as far as I can tell, nothing came of either of those strike threats