The Trouble With Boxing

Back in the days of heavyweight champions like Mohammed Ali, Joe Frasier, George Foreman, etc. those boxers were stars and household names. Even a little later in the day of Mike Tyson and Evandar Hollifield championship fights were the stuff of headline news and common conversation. Now I can’t name a current champ and I don’t care.

I am not what you call an avid sports enthusiast, but I do follow some sports. I’m usually aware of what teams are competing in the World Series, or NBA playoff finals. I watch the Superbowl most years. I pay some attention to local teams and my wife and I usually watch the local Texans games when they are broadcast on Television. I’ll watch quite a bit of the Olympics.

I don’t watch boxing. Maybe once every ten years I’ll watch a boxing match. I’m not interested.

I suppose some who care for me would like to think me losing interest in boxing is a result of some form of evolution toward becoming a higher being. Some would like to think I’ve been turned off to the senseless violence, the brutality of the sport. That’s not it. I watched Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini kill Duk Koo Kim in 1982 on CBS Sports, and that didn’t stop me from watching boxing. And for those needing a history reminder, Mancini didn’t “kill” Kim as in beat badly. Mancini hit Kim with an uppercut lifting him off of the mat and Kim hit flat of his back never to get up again. Kim died five days later as a result of brain injuries from the fight. It changed Mancini and it changed boxing, but it didn’t stop me from watching it on television.

What stopped me from watching boxing is I lost interest because I didn’t watch it. In a chicken and egg scenario, me not watching boxing resulted in less interest, so I don’t watch it. But what precipitated me not watching it in the first place is Pay Per View. I stopped watching it because it was and is no longer free.

Watch almost any interview with someone from the world of boxing (competitor, trainer, manager, etc.) and you will hear them talk about the need to get young people interested in boxing. I agree. Boxing will not become more mainstream again until young men start watching it, and young men are not going to get acquainted with boxing as long as it cost fifty dollars to tune into a match.

When I was young I watched several boxing matches on ABC’s Wide World of Sports on Saturday afternoon. I didn’t do it because I had a particular interest in the sport. I did it because I couldn’t find anything else to do or watch for a particular Saturday afternoon. But I did develop an interest because of the boxing matches I saw and I checked out a book on boxing from the library, learning the difference between a left hook and a right cross. I saw Frasier vs. Ali with the whole world on television, and we didn’t have to cough up cash to do it.

What killed the sport of boxing was Pay Per View. What keeps boxing from coming back into the limelight it enjoyed in the 1970’s is Pay Per View. The promoters found interest in the sport was great enough people would pay to see it. But as people payed to see it, fewer people saw it, leading to fewer people becoming familiar with the champions and stars of the sport, leading to fewer and fewer stars and more and more champions nobody recognized. I can be interested in boxing, I have been interested in the past, but I will not get interested at fifty dollars a match, and in that respect I am not alone.

There is a saying on Wall Street: Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered. It means while a healthy desire to make money is good for your pocketbook, too much greed results in costly mistakes. Promoters in the world of boxing got greedy with Pay Per View and destroyed widespread interest in the sport. They killed the goose laying the golden eggs. Kids don’t get interested in boxing because they don’t see it. The world of professional boxing does not “see it” either. What keeps boxing down is the greed of Pay Per View.