De La Hoya-Mayweather: The Fight to Save Boxing or Just a Superfight?
04.05.07 - By Umar Lee: People in the mainstream sports media are calling the Oscar De la Hoya V. Floyd Mayweather fight tonight the fight that can save boxing and let me first and foremost dismiss that ridiculous notion. It is true that the sport of boxing has declined steeply from what it once was in terms of popularity, and that mixed martial arts may some day soon equal or even surpass boxing as an industry, but at the end of the day boxing is going to be around for a very long time to come..
Article posted on 04.05.2007
If boxing is lost there is no one fight that can save it; but the fact of the matter is that boxing today has a hardcore following off fans, a lot of young talent, and an amateur system to feed that professional ranks that has declined but is till pumping out quality talent. In New York where I am tickets are selling like crazy for the Miguel Cotto-Zab Judah fight next month and there will be several more events of this nature this year alone.
The participants in this bout obviously do not believe that one fight can save boxing or they would have simply put on a fabulous undercard instead of the two mediocre bouts that are scheduled for the televised undercard (and as a matter of respect for the fan I think there should be at least four competitive bouts on every pay-per-view card). They know that this is a superfight, the biggest fight of this century thus far, and possibly a career-defining fight for both fighters, but this fight is not about the entire sport it is about two men; Oscar De la Hoya and Floyd Mayweather, Jr.
Boxing is interwoven into the history of America and is a tradition and those in the sports public that are traditionalists, such as those who reject Arena Football and even American professional soccer (which I happen to be a fan of), and still love baseball more than basketball, will be people who will tend to always favor boxing over the non-traditional combat sports. After all, boxing is the Sweet Science, and when performed by a virtuoso can be an act of grace, and such a thing cannot be said of the crudeness of mixed-martial arts. My preference to boxing over mixed martial arts is similar to my preferring avant-garde jazz music over smooth jazz made for the radio, Radiohead over the latest creation of American Idol, Lupe Fiasco over Snoop Dogg, or what is playing at the local theater playing foreign and indie films over what is showing at the megaplex.
There is also a cultural dynamic to all of this and I believe that the demographic of the mixed-martial arts fan base is similar to that of professional hockey in America and that the fan-base of boxing will gradually become more African-American and Latino outside of a handful of metropolitan areas with deep-seeded boxing histories such as New York, Philly, and even Las Vegas.
I do not need the affirmation of the masses, so I am not worried about what sport is the most popular and what every Tom, Dick and Harry is watching; it is good enough for me that I love boxing and can appreciate the artistry. Because I do not listen to sports talk-radio (for any number of reasons), and seldom watch Sporstcenter it is of no concern to me if boxing is getting covered in those areas. In this regard, the boxing public needs to stop crying over this and invest in the media that does cover the sport and help it grow and find alternative ways of making televised boxing affordable and this includes looking at younger networks that can help grow the market such as SiTV and MUN2 (cable stations for younger Latinos who speak English), BET, Spike TV and the CW.
If television remains a problem for boxing then fight fans will just have to go back to the old days when there was no TV, fighters made less and the money people in the industry earned came from ticket sales and this means grassroots locally-based promotions which is a good thing for fans.
As for tonight, this is a mega event, and people all over the world are talking about this fight. People who know nothing about boxing at all are giving me their prediction as to who will win the fight and guys I know who have never ordered a PPV fight are ordering this one. This event is huge and while it lasts fight fans should enjoy it and let us hope that it lives up to all of the hype.
When the bell rings tonight it will not be about anything other than two men trying to achieve victory and there can be two things that will be good for boxing; a great fight that is highly competitive, or an overwhelming domination by Mayweather that creates a new crossover megastar.
Umar Lee operates a blog at umarlee.com and may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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