The Sweet Science Has Been Admitted to Hospice

Sep 16, 2011 by

Can boxing be revived, bringing back the prominence of yesteryear?  Are we funneling research dollars for a cure?   Does the public even care?  Unfortunately, those questions are universally answered this way-No, huh, and definitely not.   I follow MMA, UFC, or I just watch Jet Li movies for my fighting fix.  The death rattle can be heard loudly throughout the boxing world.

Not too long ago, fights mattered to the casual sports fan.  We  can all remember gathering at someone’s house, handing over $5.00 to pay your portion of the PPV price, and watching a minute and half of boxing before Mike Tyson’s opponent remained face down on the canvas for good.  Many boxing fans feel the sport just needs the “fight of the century” to recapture the public interest.  I wish it was that simple, but even if the Mayweather/Pacquiao fight does happen, the sport still needs a complete overhaul.  The magnitude of an event such as a Mayweather/Pacquiao could be the catalyst to a potential uprising but that fight alone would be like keeping the brain dead patient on life support, it will not change their fate.

Boxing is littered with intriguing personalities, which any successful professional sports league or organization relishes.  However, for every Ron Artest or Chad Johnson (I am sticking with their birth names), there are intelligent business-minded people behind the curtain running the organization and raking in the almighty revenue dollar.   Say what you will about Bud Selig, Roger Goodell, David Stern or Gary Bettman;  boxing has hardly any leadership, and certainly no one of their caliber.

Individual based sports must have a focused emphasis on marketing their product, athletes with dynamic personalities, and intense rivalries firing on all cylinders to compete in stature amongst the team sports, or to at least garner the attention given to the level of second tier individual sports, i.e.; tennis, golf, and ultimate fighting.

Currently, boxing has minor rivalries (and an illusion of a major one) but nothing that would pique the interest of anyone outside the minuscule and vastly disappearing fan base.  Personalities have always been evident in the boxing culture, however, if the talent is underwhelming compared to the personality, no one bats an eye.  They would rather watch meathead roommates battle on Jersey Shore instead.  Aside from HBO, (who are forbidden to broadcast a major title fight live) no one in the industry has tried to promote the sport since the days of Don King.  So there you go, no one interesting to watch, and even if there was would we know about it?

I’ve anointed myself  the Tsar of Boxing this week to make changes that could potentially allow boxing to be viable again (Or at least delay the funeral). Here is the list:

1.)    All Marketing efforts, television exposure and major purses  will occur in only 8 weight class divisions

Perhaps there is hint of over-saturation present within the landscape of professional boxing. Boxing boasts an absurd number of weight classes.   The current format sanctions 17 with up to five titles in each of them.  If you need concrete evidence of over-saturation and the effect it has on the quality of a league, look no further to the NBA and NHL expansion efforts.

I am not in favor of eliminating any, but only the following weight class divisions listed below should have concentrated efforts in promotion and television exposure (More on that later).   If a fighter relishes the opportunity to earn a major payday, load up on some carbs and move up a few weight classes.  The weight classes listed below will be the only ones to receive the attention of professional boxing:

Heavyweight (No restrictions on pounds)
Cruiserweight (200 LB)
Light Heavyweight (175 LB)
Super Middleweight (168 LB)
Middleweight (160 LB
Welterweight (147 LB)
Lightweight (135 LB)
Featherweight (126 LB)

If you are interested in any bouts between fighters that weigh as much as a 6th grade boy, then  I suggest that you head over to your local middle school to gather with other children taking in the after school fight.  Honestly, do you have even a remote interest in a fighter at the 112 pound Flyweight division?  Quickly name your favorite Super Bantamweight champion of all time.  You get my point.

2.)    The four major boxing organizations need to unify.

Not one sports fan enjoys the following- Ties (Except fans of soccer – and they defy explanation on many levels), double elimination tournaments, multiple leagues with equal talent within the confines of the same sport (Also evident in soccer), and especially multiple so-called champions of the same sport.  Have the four major boxing organizations (WBO, WBA, IBF, and WBC) unify so that one champion holds a belt for each weight class division.  I will leave it up to a panel of former fighters to come up with the new acronym.

3.)    Be gimmicky at times

Vacate the title and run a heavyweight tournament over the course of a year for the top 8 ranked fighters.

Be unoriginal and steal an idea: Pull out some chump from the local gym to compete in the bout of a lifetime with a current title holder, hosted in the local guys’ hometown.  Sylvester Stallone’s exact same premise inspired the original Rocky film and it landed him in the Boxing Hall of Fame.  Still scratching my head over Sly’s induction but does that open the door for MLB writers to vote in Roy Hobbs?  He was a pretty good hitter but might not get in due to his short career…..

As an undercard of a major title fight, have Tyson lace up the gloves again with Evander Holyfield or bring out a Hagler versus Leonard bout one more time.  You scoff at this idea but old guy fights can be entertaining.  Let’s not forget the recent past, I can recall a 45 year old overweight grill salesman winning the heavyweight title. (Wow, Boxing really can be a joke at times.)

4.)    Change the scoring system

When HBO announcer, Jim Lampley, screams at Larry Merchant to see how he scored the round, Larry mumbles something to the affect of “10-9 to Pacquiao, back to you.”  We can get into the details of how judges score the way they do, but why decipher that bit of useless information when I could change it immediately.  I am not even sure judges are needed today, especially with the technology making a fight clearly objective.  Every fight I view, on either HBO or Showtime, shows stats flashing on the screen between each round with numbers of punches thrown and landed.  I might be missing something here, but if that technology is currently in place, can’t we remove the three worthless judges sitting ring side?  I am not the brightest person, but if I view a fight, whether it’s in a bar or in the ring, the guy who is either still standing, or at least made the most connections of his fist to someone’s face or body, is declared the winner in my book.  Let’s do the same with professional boxing.

5.)    Title fight event locations

Only a handful of cities throughout the world truly care for boxing and fill an arena of fans.  The following cities and their arenas may host championship fights:

  1. Madison Square Garden-New York
  2. MGM Grand Arena- Las Vegas
  3. Staples Center-Los Angeles
  4. O2 Arena-London
  5. Some soccer stadium-Johannesburg, South Africa
  6. A back alley street-Mexico City, Mexico
  7. The Red Square-Moscow, Russia (Sorry still heavily influenced by Rocky IV)
  8. Anywhere in the Philippines-Manny Pacquiao fights only.  The Philippines will be removed from this list once Pacquiao retires.

A rotation of different weight class title bouts will be held at each location through the year.

6.)    High school drop outs are welcomed.

The lesser the educated, the more talented the fighter.  I hate to advocate anyone not to seek higher education but the only kids going to college to fight these days are over-privalaged winey white kids who club box other equally annoying kids at Ivy League schools.  In every sport in America, (even bowling) star high school athletes can further their prowess in college, this does not true for talent in the boxing ring.   To be honest, I don’t even want professional boxers to graduate high school.  The shittier the neighborhood (or country), the angrier the fighter, which equals champion from my perspective.  If the brain can somewhat function after the career, then they can go hang out with coeds.  Maybe the only silver lining in today’s dreadful economy is that it can one day produce a possible heavyweight champion.

7.)    Elect a commissioner to govern the sport

My vote goes out to HBO’s boxing analyst Max Kellerman.  He at least graduated from college and posses a wealth of knowledge of the sport.  I would also look to someone outside of Boxing, which actually might work best, such as UFC’s President Dana White.  Even the misunderstood CEO of the WWE, Vince McMahon could make an impact.  I would love to make room for all three but the massive egos of McMahon and White would deter any true progress.

8.)    No more PPV fights

Have you forked over $59.99 recently for a fight?  I think the last time I paid for a fight was sometime in the mid-nineties, when my bank account always began with a negative.  Now I wouldn’t even think about paying for a fight and it seems like most of the public is on my page.  Boxing needs to begin giving away their product.  I would host championship fights on network TV, or ESPN, over the course of the next three years.  If the Mayweather/Pacquiao fight every come to fruition, that event should be shown after the Super Bowl on Fox.  Boxing should also create an exclusive channel to showcase bouts of rising stars, some stupid reality show featuring Mike Tyson’s foray into a legitimate actor, classic title fights, and a series aptly named “Whatever Happened to ___” featuring Buster Douglas as the show’s host, and since there are too many to count Hollywood films about the sport, those can be run throughout the night.

9.)    Collaborate with companies to launch a balls out marketing frenzy to the sporting world

Seems like the smart choices for partnership deals would include: Nike, Apple, ESPN, HBO, Gatorade, and definitely some strange potentially toxic energy drink company.

10.)  Bring back the Heavyweight division

Boxing cannot remain interesting to anyone if there is no likable or unlikable heavyweight champion, Vladimir Klischo is neither.  All we know or care about Klischo is that he dated the cheerleader from the former NBC show Heroes.  Anyway, boxing needs to put their efforts towards a quality development program.  America has enough obese kids, now let them push aside their shitty eating habits and begin training as a heavyweight fighter.  Most 14 year old tip the scales at 200 plus pounds anyway, now they just need their own version of Gus D’amato.

Is it too late?  Maybe, but let’s give it one more last ditch effort.

I wrote this not because I am some self-acclaimed boxing expert, but because I miss the excitement of a massive event that only boxing could ever do well.  Boxing is one of the few sports that would garner interest of both men and women.  Boxing, like tennis, can be fascinating to watch when the athletes are performing at a high level and the matchup favors different styles meshing into beautiful art.  Boxing rested on its laurels and like the newspapers of today will be soon be extinct.  If you run your sport similar to the way you did in 1987, start digging your grave.

468 ad

1 Comment

  1. bob norton

    Very good. The days of Howard Cosselle and Ali (Dance like a Butterfly/Sting like a bee) That was exciting theatre!And some very celebraed matches. I think Geroge Foreman and Sugar Ray might just be the last of the “legitimate” contenders.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.