Being A Fight Fan Can Really Suck
06.03.06 - By Chris Acosta: When I became a boxing fan, Larry Holmes was the heavyweight champion and every world title fight was on network TV. I looked forward to every new issue of The Ring so I could catch up with all the news I missed and to see who the up and coming talent was.
Article posted on 07.03.2006
(Which we now take for granted with the internet providing so much info at our fingertips) In those days, you could count on boxing routinely occupying a nice portion of the daily sports page and see Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran doing 7-Up commercials.
And with so much coverage, there was respect. Boxing was every bit the “sport” as football, baseball, and basketball and for awhile, it was just as American, at least from the perspective of a young boy. But then a funny thing happened.
When all the other major sports began evolving with the times into more of a flash industry than a substance based- one, boxing stayed put. Deeply rooted in all things “old school” the fight game began to gradually disassociate itself from other sports. While every one else was going the way of scientific training methods and state -of -the art food supplements, many in the boxing biz saw those signs of the times as pugilistic heresy. Why would someone want to use nautilus machines when they could chop wood? (I can hear Oscar De La Hoya now: “When I am training for a fight, I use my Springer Shovel to dig holes and fill them back up – it’s a knockout!”) Hell, some of those assemblies of exercise equipment look like an industrial accident waiting to happen. But for athletes in other sports, they produced results and just like that endorsements came in droves and brought new faces into our living rooms every day.
Forget what you hear about the lack of televised amateur boxing being to blame for our pros suffering from anonymity, it’s the lack of marketing that has been the real culprit. Sure you’ll see boxers in print advertising once in a while but hardly ever on TV. And for a fighter to get an endorsement they have to have a gold medal. Boxers don’t get signing bonuses out of high school so they have to achieve quite an altitude of success before the perks come attached. You see, a fighter can’t have an equivalent of a “losing season” and keep the money coming. If that were the case, Courtney Burton would be doing commercials for Playstation.
But bad marketing doesn’t just in the form of anemic media coverage. Many in our own business have given this devolution a helping hand. We all know that the some major promoters, have kept boxing from achieving true mainstream success because it’s more important to them to pad their wallets than to take the time to nurture a fighter from the beginning and expose him to the largest possible audience, ensuring that even more folks will be willing to shell out today’s outlandish PPV dollars. But that takes work and it goes entirely against the value of the quick buck. The future rests on Main Events and Golden Boy Productions to honorably carry the torch once it is passed.
I often wonder if the Heavens themselves would rumble in disarray if the Super Bowl were $44.95. Or how about The World Series being on the last page of the sports page behind golf and checkers? If these aren’t signs of The Apocalypse, then I don’t know what is. Fortunately it doesn’t happen for those fans because their promoters realized that it is, how do I put this eloquently – stupid.
If you are the only real boxing fan in your group of friends then you no doubt have tried to your best to recruit new people into the game. Hey, I know. I have been at it for years. I tried to arrange “fight parties” where people could drop by and see fighters they would never have known about (Manny Pacquiao and Jeff Lacy were always popular). More often than not, I would get return visitors but then something happened that inspired me to write this article.
A few of my buddies commented that they’d heard that boxing wasn’t what it once was and that the fights were fixed etc.
“Where did you hear this nonsense?” I asked.
“Oh, I read that in Sports Illustrated or sawit on that Ringside show on ESPN.”
A-ha! So now I was on to something. I began to pay more attention to what was being written in SI and I even watched a segment of Ringside with Brian Kinney, Teddy Atlas and Bert Sugar. Sugar, who is still living five decades ago, has failed to realize that his words of wisdom are verbal boomerang. His top ten lists include pretty much everyone up to and not exceeding 1980, as if the sport no longer exists. Atlas was on the same boat, proclaiming such absurdities like Lennox Lewis not being able to last a handful of rounds with heavyweights 50 pounds lighter because they fought in a tougher era. The overall theme of this show is that fighters just aren’t what they used to be.
If that’s the case, then why not bring Leavander Johnson’s (the former lightweight champ who was tragically killed in a title defense against Jesus Chavez) family to the show and try to get them to understand that very logic. Boxing hasn’t gotten any easier. Yes there are more championship opportunities and the period between bouts is lengthier but you’re also dealing with athletes who are finally accepting that it’s okay to lift weights (sports specifically), take vitamin supplements and are using available science to enhance their performance, producing more venom in their fists. Don’t give me this nonsense about boxing being so different from other sports that the rules of performance do not apply. B.S! The sport suffers when it dates itself.
The casual sports fan is easily fed. They consume whatever is thrown at them and digest with nary a thought. They are drawn to the most intriguing prospects on that sports page or sports talk show. Thanks to our esteemed fight journalists, boxing is on an endless wait for the next big thing. Suddenly a candidate appears and when he fails to live up to the ravings of a hopelessly hopeful media, he is a punch line. He may actually be a heck of a fighter but that one slip is enough to draw the vultures, many of who are boxing journalists who lack the balls to stand by their initial impressions and leap on the bandwagons to save face.
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