Boxing – Slowly K.O.’ing Itself

May 04, 2009 | Tom Clayton

Saturday night I was very excited about watching the Manny Pacquiao-Ricky Hatton fight.  I hadn’t really planned the night out much; I figured I would just fall into a place where people were watching the fight.  I started by calling all of my friends; most had no idea there was a fight happening and the few that did made it very apparent they had no intention of watching it.  My next step was to call all of the local bars to see which one would be the best place to grab a cold one and watch the fight.  I received the same response 90% of the time to my question, “Are you getting the fight tonight?”  The puzzled bar employees responded with “Is there an MMA fight on tonight?”  After explaining it was a boxing match every single bar gave me the same simple, disappointing answer, “No.”


I realize I am now in a very small minority of sports fans that still follow and enjoy “the sweet science” as boxing has completely fallen off the sports radar and it is nobody’s fault except boxing itself.  Boxing is basically telling the American public “We have something you don’t really want anymore but we are going to charge you $50 to watch it”.


Buying a fight on Pay Per View can also be a massive rip-off.  For people who paid the $50 on Saturday night they got less then two rounds of action.  When you break it down, they paid $8.33 per minute to watch Pacquiao beat down Hatton. 


When you have a sport that has become an after thought, why would you force fans to pay upwards of $50 to watch your event?  It is impossible for a sport that has such a small fan base to maintain its current status much less grow when they are charging such outlandish prices for their product? 


It also doesn’t help that the boxing fan base looks like a scene out of Cocoon.  I am 28 and feel like I am one of the youngest fans the sport has.  While Wrestling and MMA is wildly popular among teens, most of this key demographic have no idea boxing exists.  Boxing has a single-sex demographic; how many women enjoy watching boxing much less could be considered a fan?


Speaking of MMA they have put a huge dent into the popularity of boxing.  MMA consistently outperforms boxing on both basic cable ratings and Pay Per View purchases.  While MMA fighters like Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz are massively popular, boxing has nobody of that stature at the moment.  Gone are the days of Sugar Ray Leonard and George Forman.


Boxing also kills itself with its inability to crown a true champion at any level.  The fact that each weight class has forty-nine champions makes it hard to promote any fight as a true championship fight.  American sports fans want a single champion, not forty different guys who can call themselves World Champion at any one time.


Another major hurdle boxing faces is the lack of one true governing body over the sport.  Promoters, plain and simple, control boxing and prevent a lot of the really exciting, interesting fights from happening.  By having one governing body, it would help to navigate through much of the red tape that is currently needed to setup a fight.


Don’t get me wrong, I still love boxing. I think it is a beautiful, tactical sport that is exciting to watch.  Boxing has been a defining sport in American history and has produced Muhammad Ali, the greatest single athlete in the history of the sport.  That’s why it kills me to watch boxing slowly and painfully commit suicide.  If boxing doesn’t straighten itself out, I fear it will go the way of Gary Coleman and the McRib; great things that have completely fallen out of the consciousness of the American public.