Wherefore art thou, professional boxing?

Perhaps prematurely the crowd shrilly proclaimed “The King is dead, long live the King!”

Boxing had been written off. It was too dull to draw modern crowds, they said.  UFC was a looming force. How could investors and fans keep shelling out cash if no one cared anymore? The grand storylines were gone, they said. The heroes were not rising up, some suggested. Look at how the kids flock towards such flash barbarism!

The system needed a shake-up or it was kaput.

Sure there were still intriguing narratives in boxing but no one really wanted to follow as old heads dragged out a career or showy promoters mentored another star to the top of their division. It was all part of the pantomime alongside the staged conference bust-ups and the continual assurances of pundits that this guy –now this guy? –would go toe to toe with anybody.

Pessimistic this perspective may have been, the few protagonists worth lauding were surrounded by flotsam. In particular, the heavyweight division had fallen spectacularly. No one was watching. Lennox Lewis had retired, vacating his unified titles, scattering them for a swathe of eastern Europeans to scrap over. Where were the Holyfields, the Tysons, the Fraziers and the Alis? Where were the characters, good or bad?

No one wanted to give up on boxing so someone had to step into the breach, someone who could sell a ticket and whip up a crowd, either someone controversial, or someone hugely talented.

Enter the charlatan David Haye.

The London-born boxer dominated the cruiserweight division and did so with a smile on his face, corn-rows in his hair and ambition in his eyes. He could talk too. Not your usual jabbering about hard knocks and a lack of respect for his opponent, but talk about defining a generation and hammering the heavyweights ‘til boxing was great again.

People shot a glance.

He moved up a division.

People raised an eyebrow.

He beat Monte Barratt.

People looked.

He beat 7ft Nikolai Valuev to win the WBA heavyweight title.

People were staring.

He successfully defended his heavyweight title against John Ruiz and Audley Harrison before calling out the Klitschko brothers. He had previously goaded them with illustrations depicting himself holding the Ukrainian brothers’ severed heads.

People were standing now, mouths agape.

A fight was arranged between Wladimir Klitschko and Haye.

People were grouping together, whooping, hollering and gambling in droves. Could this guy redefine the sport?

POOF! It all ended, ignominiously, too. Haye was shown to be lacking the power or guile to defeat Klitschko and he limped off, complaining of a broken toe and muttering about retiring to move to Hollywood. Our flirt with change was ruefully dismissed.

Haye tried to save heavyweight boxing, but he may well have resigned it to cryospace for another generation. He is back already, out of retirement and working towards another frenzied publicity drive before arranging a fight with the other Klitschko, Vitali. If this does go ahead it will be a nice pay day for the two of them. It will also be boring. No one can trust Haye anymore.

It is just another tacky narrative. Another heavyweight let down.

Good thing, then, that we have something shimmering and exciting on the horizon. Forget the heavyweights. I’ve just checked Twitter. This one could be on. Two icons could finally clash. The winner could well be proclaimed the best pound for pound boxer in a quarter of a century.

Floyd Mayweather, whose domestic violence case will not be heard in court until June, has called out the Pac Man. He said “Manny Pacquiao I’m calling you out let’s fight May 5th and give the world what they want to see”.

I for one would want to see this and I think the rest of the sports world would too. This is a genuine story, and could do what many failed to recapture the average sports fan’s imagination. Boxing would have a new king, and it would definitely pronounce itself alive and kicking.

23 thoughts on “Wherefore art thou, professional boxing?

  1. I wouldn’t get your hopes up just yet, AD.

    We’ve all been waiting for this fight to happen for some time now. Just because Floyd Mayweather Tweets that he’s ready to rumble doesn’t necessarily mean the fight is in the bag.

    Readers and I have discussed the downfall of the heavyweight division at length and our frustration with the lack of any structure in professional boxing… but we’re always willing to gripe about it some more, he he.

    So many of us are waiting for the sport to give us something, anything and all we get is nothing.

  2. Pingback: Wherefore art thou, professional boxing? - BallHyped, MMA | BallHyped Sports Blogs

  3. David Haye on a good day would have an even worse day trying to defeat an ailing & elderly Larry Holmes much less any heavyweight within this era ! Boxing has become a complete joke with the likes of De La Hoya , King and Bob Arum having ruined the sport from top to bottom as promoters ! . What’s even worse the “alphabet spaghetti brigade ” (WBA, WBC, IBF , WBA , IBO and WBU) known as the international governing bodies of the sport have become inherently corrupt .

    I’d take the MMA under the banner of UFC over the sport of boxing any damn day of the week ! Far more entertaining bouts with the UFC actually taking care of their fighters ringside/octagon with strict monitoring of the fighters and clearly defined rules concerning the use of illicit substances unlike within the sport of boxing . Screw up in MMA and the ban is immediate without much recourse .

    If Mayweather and Pacquiao takes places this year then look for that bout to be something of a farce !

    Alan aka tophatal ………

  4. AD…

    I told Tophatal long ago that I’d nominate him as Official Boxing Commissioner to straighten up the sport.

    You can see why.

    I wouldn’t have even asked for a cushy post in his regime in return.

  5. There’s something about it that still pulls you in, though. Would you watch Mayweather v Pacquiao? I would.

    The problem is there are no interesting guys anymore. No searing rivalries. No underdogs.

    In the modern era professionalism may have killed it because the most talented get the best coaching so they infest the top. Interactions are staged and outcomes made mundane. “Oh we’ll glitz it up by going to Vegas…same as the last 47 ‘big’ fights!”

    Boxing is like the boy that cried wolf. It said it would make a big return to rival UFC, but we’re still waiting. It isn’t dead, but it sure is festering…

    I will say one thing, though: Dr. Steel Hammer (Wlad Klitschko) is one laughably stupid, and therefore awesome, ring name.

  6. Chris

    If the mess that has happened with the Jets’ season is said to be bad then why blame Sanchez ? It’s not as if the head coach and his asinine statements during the season helped the team’s cause ! The best team in the Big Apple much less the tri state ? Are we talkin’ varsity ?

    Your thoughts ?

    It Ain’t Easy Being Cheesy But It Certainly Helps To Have A Sense of Humor …….. Unless You Happen To Be The New York Jets ……

    tophatal ……..

  7. Well, I predicted two years ago now that the Manny-Mayweather fight would happen after they both fought a few other scrubs over the next few years, and when May saw that Manny’s speed might be slowing a bit they’d actually do the fight. Looks like my predictions is closer than it’s ever been, but I’ll believe it when I see it. I love boxing, but the sport is straight up corrupt, and we never see the cards we want to. The only way to fix the heavyweight division is to get some football players into boxing instead of football…

  8. Don’t get me wrong, AD.

    It was a great piece and we all love to sit around and bitch about the state of professional boxing.

    We all also agree that the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight would be perhaps the most watched event outside of whatever thing Tim Tebow doesn’t happen to be doing that day.

    I actually thought Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys was going to get that fight to happen, considering he wanted to host it in his own stadium, which would be the perfect venue for it. And we all know, whatever Jerry wants, Jerry gets, unless it’s the Cowboys making it to the Super Bowl, of course.

    They could legitimately charge whatever they wanted in pay-per-view for that fight. People would pay over $100, I’m sure.

    But they need to hurry this thing up. These fighters aren’t getting any younger. Both of them around 34 to 35 years of age and are no longer spring chickens.

    On a side note, I wonder how the Klitschko’s will be remembered when it’s all said and done.

  9. Al…

    Here’s the comment I left over on your Jets piece. I liked it so much, I cut and pasted it over here…

    There’s a line near the beginning of “Remember the Titans” when the team is slowly starting to put things together. The two defensive All-Americans, Julius Campbell and Gary Bertier, have a heart to heart and Campbell tells Bertier “Attitude reflects leadership.”

    Usually when things go wrong, we point to the head coach, unless of course we’re talking about the San Diego Chargers, in which case the head coach gets an extension, but in New York’s case, this all clearly has to fall on Ryan’s lap.

    He’s taken them to back to back AFC Championship games before shitting the bed this season so that has to count for something.

    If Sanchez isn’t getting it done, then make sure he does or find someone else to fit the bill, but ultimately, it’ll be, and should be, Ryan who takes the blame for his locker room being such a mess.

  10. Chap…

    That’s another problem we rarely touch upon. Well, maybe Al does.

    Boxing IS corrupt, and there’s absolutely no structure to it.

    Ya’ know, we have Congress meddling with the football lockout and the steroid scandal yet no one wants to do anything to fix boxing.

    On a side note, as you guys know, and probably do yourselves, when I put up a post, I submit the URL to other sites, like BallTribe and BallHyped.

    When you do that, they ask you for a category, like MLB, NBA, NFL, etc.

    Did you guys know that neither one of those sites has a boxing category under which to submit pieces?

    My, how the mighty have fallen.

  11. Yup, the Don Kings and Bob Arum’s of the world screwed up the structure that’s for sure. Another thing that bugs me is how many belts there are. Seems like there are a thousand weight classes these days which makes it even harder to get excited about.

    That is pretty funny they didn’t even have boxing as a category, but not that surprising. ESPN barely recognizes the sport!

  12. I agree on both counts, Chap.

    Belts are not like football conferences, and even football conferences are falling by the wayside.

    One belt per weight class allows for one champion. Done and done.

    And the thing that amazes me about Don King is how long he’s actually been screwing up the sport. We can sit and gripe about Selig getting a two-year extension but look what King’s done to mess boxing up over the last forty!

  13. AD & Chris Humpherys

    Boxing creates as much excitement for me now as a political debate ! Not to say that the debates aren’t comical to begin with ! You know from the get go that the content matter will be banal ! There are no more really good top class fighters at the major levels . Pacquiao is simply the major bread earner for promoter Bob Arum . De La Hoya’s stable of fighters is filled with wannabe’s who on their best day would have trouble placing their protective guard around their packages without the aid of a trainer .

    As for Don King , well let’s just say he’s like a vulture who’ll swoop down to peck at the carcass of a dying child if he knew it would actually fatten his girth and that has summed up his career way before he ruined the careers of Ali and Tyson !

    The Jets give you every reason to believe that their players there are just as egotistical as any other overbearing professional athlete . Overpaid …. under-achieving and about as much use as dose of chlamydia would be to a hooker !

    If it takes LT to see the bickering to make the guy now contemplate retiring then you know things are out of control there . Santonio Holmes on the other hand has been a plague wherever he’s been in spite of his undoubted talent as a player .

    What happened with Dwight last night ? Guy simply wild 40 pts , 23 reb’s ! I can only think that his ex and the mother of his kid sent him a letter saying she wants ” more” (in terms of child support) ……..” I want more Dwight ” !

    Not that the Warriors played badly but they simply had no answer for Dwight Howard .

    Don King hasn’t screwed up the sport it was already screwed up long before he entered its arena ! How many guys do you know with King’s background and repeated legal issues over the years would be welcomed back with open arms each time by the damn idiots who govern the sport ? Need I say anymore on the matter ?

    tophatal ………….

  14. There goes professional boxing in a nutshell, AD.

    You know what Al, you and I should do? Come up with a top ten post. Top ten ways to fix professional boxing. That would put us well on our way to commissionership.

    So, Al, of the three dysfunctional teams that are the Jets, Cowboys and Eagles, which is mostly likely to make the playoffs next season?

    Dwight was wicked last night and just reminded us how dominant he is and how important it is that Orlando keeps him.

    If I were Otis right now, I’d be doing a lot of wining and dining. His job, and the future of that franchise, depends on it.

  15. Yup, that pretty much sums it up Al!

    On Orlando vs GS, yeah, it’s depressing how much I miss Kwame. I never thought I’d utter those words…

  16. Chap…

    I can’t believe you said that either. In fact, that might be the first time those words have ever been uttered.

    You and I both know that Kwame’s presence wouldn’t have made that much more of a difference.

  17. Chris What’s the adage ? If it ain’t broke then it don’t need fixin’ ? Well boxing is broke and it’s bereft of intelligence and ideas ! And no one really has any idea how to really fix that friggin’ mess ! I say let it go the way of the extinct doh-doh ! Otis knows that come the trade deadline he and the Magic’s front office will have to make that decision that’ll no doubt have some serious ramifications if they should to let Dwight go . tophatal ….

  18. Al…

    Most of us old school (boxing) sports fans go to sleep at night thinking that boxing, the sweet science, is fixable, if not able to find greatness again.

    The problem we face is what will it take to get to that point?

    And what rif-raf needs to be rid of to facilitate that process?

  19. I will second Tophatal as the new Commish of all things Boxing. If anybody can make it relevant, he can. Geez, I saw most all of Ali’s fights…Leonard’s…it is so freakin’ amazing how far Boxing has fallen off the sports radar. There definitely has to be a reduction in acronyms. For the greater good, most of these title-issuing organizations have to consolidate…to no more than two. I’ll compromise at two because there should only be one…the National Boxing League…but I know somehow at least one other entity will keep their hand in the till no matter what…so maybe we could get it down to two “bodies” awarding titles? Then, you are automatically set up for “unification” fights which seemed to do well back in the day before everyone started handing out titles.

  20. The best way to fix boxing is ditch the predetermined purse.

    The winner should get more, period.

    Make it a at least a 60-40 split to provide motivation.

    A bonus for knockouts would help too…Extra incentive for them to really go at it. No more running and poking to rack up points and win a decsion like Mayweather does. People pay to see a FIGHT, so FIGHT…Don’t run.

  21. SA….

    I think you just set yourself up nicely for a post in Al’s regime.

    You say it’s amazing how far boxing has fallen. What’s even more amazing is how many of us who grew up with the sport crave it’s comeback.

    We’re all sitting here, begging and pleading to see the next big bout or the next big fighter… to no avail.

    With that much fan interest, you’d have to be an absolute numbskull to drive the sport that far into the ground.

    All I’m saying, Mr. King, is if the shoe fits…

  22. Bleed…

    I’ve always found it kind of distorted that higher-profile boxers get a bigger cut of the pie, win or lose, but I guess that makes good business sense if they’re the draw.

    I mean don’t schools that draw determine who goes to what bowl game?

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