Boxing: Can You Spare Some Change?
By “Old Yank” Schneider: Can you name a sport that has changed its rules and as a result become more boring? The NBA added the shot clock to make the game more exciting. So too did college ball. Football moved the goalposts and as a result added excitement to the game because more field goals became possible. Even tournament-level ping-pong has had its changes taking the game from 21 points to 11 points to speed up play and excitement. But boxing has had very few rule changes over the past five decades and virtually all of them have made the sport more boring. It’s time for some rule changes in boxing that bring some excitement back to the sport.
Article posted on 07.03.2008
We need to raise some serious questions here. Have the rule changes made in boxing accomplished what the changes intended to accomplish? Did the rule changes make the sport better for the participants, the fans, both or neither? Is the sport more or less exciting as a result of the changes? Have the changes brought more fans to the sport? And finally, if none of these questions can be answered in a positive way, then why hasn’t the sport ushered in new rules that can make a difference?
Why was the championship distance for the length of a boxing match shortened from 15 rounds to 12 rounds? The short answer is that 15 rounds is a health hazard for the fighters and shortening the distance to 12 rounds would result in fewer injuries and fewer deaths. The skeptics answer is that 15 rounds did not conveniently fit into a one-hour broadcast slot for the major networks, and it was more commercially viable to shorten the distance from 15 to 12 rounds; leaving ample time for paid advertising. The “purists” answer is that it was the final blow in a vast and long-term conspiracy to deny the importance of “last man standing” in the historical context of the sport. The response from a typical fan would be that whatever the reason might be, shortening a championship fight from 15 rounds to 12 rounds has made the sport more boring rather than more exciting.
Why was the weight of boxing gloves changes from 6 and 8 ounces to 8 and 10 ounces? The short answer is that horsehair padding broke down so easily that having the extra padding reduced the risk that a fight would virtually become a bare-knuckle bout; and it was a health hazard to the fighters when this happened. The skeptics answer is that extra padding reduced the number of quick knock outs so commercial television did not have as much risk in having to fill the better part of an hours broadcast with “filler” tape. The purists answer is that a vast conspiracy was at play to allow the “ballerinas of the ring” to ply a craft that would fly in the face of paying homage to the roots of a sport bound up in a tradition that should clearly state that the “last man standing” rules the roost. The response from the typical fan is that adding padding to boxing gloves has made the sport more boring.
Why can a boxing ring be any size from 18 feet by 18 feet (an 18 foot ring), to 24 feet by 24 feet (a 24 foot ring)? Keep in mind that when the championship distance was virtually unlimited, the “official” size of the ring was a 24 foot ring. Considering the fact that eventually only one man would prevail as the last man standing, the “running space” of a 24 foot ring did not mean that much. But as the number of rounds began to get shorter and shorter, why were fighters allowed the same 24 foot “running space” as when fights were of an unlimited number of rounds? Was it not obvious that “running space” would allow for “hiding space” when the number of rounds eventually got down to 20 or 15 or 12? Was it not obvious that a 24 foot ring would allow a fighter to obscure the fact that he could not, in fact, become the last man standing? Was it not obvious that this would open the door for fighters to “look good”, to “look pretty”, to “look cute”, instead of “being good” and fighting like they wanted to become the last man standing?
What is the truth behind the health statistics and theoretical objectives of the rule changes?
Are fighters avoiding injury and death as a result of the number of rounds getting shortened from 15 to 12 in a championship fight? Nothing seemed to propel this rule change more then the ring-death of Duk Koo Kim at the hands of Ray “Boom-Boom” Mancini in a 15 round bout in 1982. The sport was under global pressure. Several European countries had banned boxing and the brutality of the sport was under a microscope. Did boxing need to make the rule change to save the sport or was the safety of the fighters a real issue in a 15 round bout?
Although there is a mountain of medical evidence that supports claims that dehydration compromises nature’s way of cushioning the brain, there is absolutely no statistical evidence that shortening the championship distance from 15 rounds to 12 rounds has in any way improved the health or safety of the fighters. The number of ring-deaths that happened between the 13th and 15th rounds is virtually statistically insignificant when compared to the total number of deaths between the 1st and 12th rounds. But let’s allow for the possibility that 12 rounds are more palatable to a society bent on banning a sport for its brutality than 15 rounds.
So if 12 round bouts are to be the championship distance, then do 8 and 10 ounce gloves still make sense? The truth of the matter is that nearly all makers of the popular brands of boxing gloves abandoned the use of horsehair decades ago; all of them bowing to the more resilient properties of synthetic fibers. The old “horsehair argument” for the use of more padding is absolutely and inarguably a false argument today. In addition, all significant championship bouts no longer occur on commercial, network television. All the skeptical arguments associated with reducing the number of quick knock outs for commercial purposes are gone. If we are to return to attempting to determine who could be the last man standing, then reducing glove weights back to 6 and 8 ounces will certainly increase the number of knock outs. Too many important bouts are left in the hands of judges and this will reduce the number of decisions left to the judges. With the number of rounds shortened from 15 to 12 rounds, reducing the weight of boxing gloves from 8 and 10 ounces back to 6 and 8 ounces certainly seems to make a lot of sense.
Finally, if a bout is not to go on indefinitely, what give “running space” to a fighter who is intent on running? Let’s make the 20 foot ring the standard for championship bouts. If we want to know who is the best fighter then let’s not leave room to question who is the best runner. If we want a fight to break out, then limiting the room for a fighter to run, forces more opportunities for fighting. This is not a brain tease.
So here is the proposition: Let MMA bring to the fight fan a fighting environment that determines who can be the “last man surviving”, or return boxing to its roots of “last man stranding” by ushering in overdue rule changes; rule changes that reverse the toll of boredom that was foisted upon us by unsupportable speculation about protecting the health and safety of fighters. We must reverse the skeptical view that rule changes were made for commercial gain. Let’s bring back 6 and 8 ounce gloves so men who have what it takes to “end it” can “end it”. Let’s standardize the ring size at 20 feet so there is no place to hide. Let’s do what every sport in the history of man has had to do in order to survive; let’s make the rule changes necessary to save our sport. Can you “spare some change”?
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