Why boxing's REALLY in trouble Ė itís not just the alphabets
23.10.07 - By Jason Peck: Imagine if the NFL only broadcast on premium channels like Showtime and HBO. Now imagine they have the audacity to charge $60 for the Superbowl.
Article posted on 23.10.2007
I'll tell you one thing Ė it sure as hell wouldn't have 100 million viewers.
Ask The Ring Magazine about the biggest threat to boxing. Without skipping a beat, theyíll point to the sanctioning bodies and talk of the chaos and uncertainty sown by the alphabets. Many readers triumph this claim Ė very rarely does a day pass by when I log on to Eastside without reading someone who complains of the crisis as though he just thought of it.
I'm sick of everyone treating the Ring like its editorials were carved into stone tablets. I don't support the alphabets either; they're stupid, inconsistent and inevitably prevent good fights from happening. But they're not the real problem.
Horse racing hasnít had a Triple Crown winner in 30 years, but few talk of the confusion there. In fact, cable TV still carries the Kentucky Derby, and Barbaroís death received far more attention than Leavander Johnsonís.
The real problem is unbelievably blatant. Itís the lack of access. In this day and age, boxing is more a cult sport than anything else. But the promoters act like it could fill stadiums.
Twenty years ago, boxing was broadcast on cable TV. That exposure resulted in more popularity, which lead to more fighters, which lead to more money, which attracted the top athletes to take up pugilism. Alphabet confusion hardly mattered. With boxing on top, fan demand and bigger purses could make any fight happen.
Today that situation has reversed itself. Premium channels like Showtime and HBO hold the rein, and actually prevent viewers from watching. Great fights that could make maniacs of the masses such as Morales-Barrera receive pay-per-view status, making them even more inaccessible. Consider also that the fans most likely to appreciate boxing come from a blue collar background. Hockey takes thousands in equipment; boxing requires two hands. In fact, many champions started boxing merely because they couldn't afford anything else.
If Iím shelling out $50 for a fight, I better get a bang for the proverbial buck. But many PPV cards have few undercards with little potential for real action, making them one of the worst deals in the sporting world.
The Associated Press estimates that 2.5 million homes shelled out $60 for a bad fight between Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather. That essentially eliminated 2.5 million homes' worth of potential fans.
Ultimate Fighting Championship President Dana White once called boxing promotion an example of everything that could go wrong. I disagree with White most of the time Ė that his fighters have "quality", that his fights have "action", and that UFC demands more skill than boxing. But I agree whole-heartedly with his assessment of boxing.
White recognized the UFC's role as a niche sport, and turned that to his advantage by making his sport far more accessible. Mixed martial arts grace cable TV, and fight videos are available at the local Blockbuster to lure potential fans. I donít have to find the UFC. Itís just there.
White also realized that we live in a world more defined by YouTube than HBO. With the digital technology available, promoters could create fight videos with acceptable quality, then post them free of charge online. In fact, that could be a far better way to promote up and comers than any other method I can think of.
To hell with the titles. It goes back to greedy promoters and their failure to change.
People arenít stupid. They donít need a title. They donít need the one true champion. They need a good fight, and they know it when they it. Walk into a bar with a fight on the TV. That fight commands their attention when the action gets going.
It's a shame those fans will never see that fight.
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