By Josh Leadbetter in Opinions
October 20, 2011
For a long, long time, boxing has been a relatively dead sport. Once considered the top sport in America, it has fallen off that pedestal in recent times.
There are many reasons for this collapse, including primarily the rise of the National Football League and National Basketball Association, which attract many of the athletes that would have otherwise been drawn to the ring. There is a direct correlation between the rise of the NFL and NBA and the regression of boxing.
Since the early part of the 1980’s when the athletes in both the NBA and NFL started to receive million dollar contracts, the young talent that would have been boxing switched to these safer sports.
Can you name any boxer from the early-middle 1990’s worth anything (besides Iron Mike)?
This is still the case today; many of our youth are joining peewee football and basketball instead of joining boxing gyms.
However, in mainly the last two years interest in boxing has been on the climb from irrelevancy to packing the Dallas Cowboys’ Stadium.
So where has this recent surge in boxing interest come from?
I believe we could credit the growing popularity in boxing from its main competitor, the UFC. The Ultimate Fighting Championship has had an incredible rise in viewership in the last ten years bringing attention back to combative sports.
Incredible athletes (and highly marketable as well) trained in many different fighting disciplines has given adrenaline junkies a reason to watch TV again.
However, the athletes who made the sport famous such as Chuck “Iceman” Liddell, Tito Ortiz, “Rampage” Jackson and Ken Shamrock are old and losing decisively in the cage.
One can argue that current champions Georges St-Pierre and Anderson Silva have been “too good” since neither of these gentlemen have lost since 2007 and 2006 respectively.
The UFC has gone stale. They draw prospects from watered-down circuits or smaller shows and promote them as superstars. For instance, the current UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones, who is 24, has only had 15 professional fights, 7 of which were against “nobodies” in Mixed Martial Arts.
So where do the adrenaline junkies get their fix, then?
In comes boxing. Boxing knows this and has jumped at the chance to promote their superstars heavily. We all have seen the commercials featuring Manny Pacquiao.
Boxing has been hyping up a future match-up between two of the best fighters to come around since the 1980’s, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, for nearly two years now. This has drawn a considerable amount of interest in the sport once again.
Have you noticed the way the last two pay-per-view matches ended?
The Mayweather-Ortiz fight ended in dramatic fashion to say the least. Floyd Mayweather controversially knocked out Ortiz with perhaps a sucker punch after being head-butted by Victor Ortiz.
Floyd Mayweather, who was accompanied to the ring by a rapping 50-Cent, eccentrically talked trash to the commentary personality Larry Merchant.
Larry Merchant, 80, responded to Mayweather’s alleged acknowledgement of a bias toward him by saying “I wish I was 50 years younger and I would kick your ass.” Did I mention Larry Merchant was 80 years old?
Even more recently, the Chad Dawson – Bernard Hopkins fight also ended quite controversially with Dawson securing a “TKO” and included some serious trash talking after the fight.
All this controversy has brought boxing back into the spotlight and with the perhaps dying of the UFC (including thankfully TapOut apparel). Whether or not boxing can grab on to this opportunity to reclaim some of the spot light it once had is still up in the air but its looking positive for the future.