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Brawling Hurts the Sweet Science

“Gentlemen, come out fighting at the bell.” For years we’ve heard that or similar invitations made to two boxers, not two brawlers. When it’s the latter, the public is turned off and turns away from the sport. Ideally, brawling has no place in the sport; although, it’s always been there. In fact, some of boxing’s most popular and colorful boxers weren’t above fracturing a rule or ten. Guys like Harry Greb, Fritzie Zivic, Sandy Saddler, and Two Ton Tony Galento. The modern day list holds more than just a few. We won’t offend individuals by naming them. The truth is some of the best of our current crop of greats, such as Floyd Mayweather, Jr., Bernard Hopkins, and Andre Ward aren’t above cleverly using elbows, forearms, a glove behind the head pulling a man off balance, and the good old noggin. The difference is the men have many other skills to bring about a victory.

Die Hard fans get a thrill out of boxing in all its forms, including those less aesthetically pleasing and only faintly resembling the sweet science. But, in order for boxing to make any kind of crossover for a bigger share of the entertainment dollars, it needs to develop more practitioners of the sweet science, not just push meat head brawlers into the squared circle.

In general, sports fans who watch boxing at all, dislike two types of boxers. The first type are ones that fight like scared rabbits, who are reluctant to take any chance of engaging each other. They never get beyond that first round feeling out period, avoiding any action that might put them in harms way. Boos start early and grow in loudness as little change occurs. The second type are the brawlers, the pretenders who loosely resemble true boxers, only in that they wear boxing gloves and grapple over rounds. Beyond that there’s no sugar as in Ray Robinson or Ray Leonard.

The sport of boxing needs more sugar, otherwise it will continue to wallow around in a depressed state. One simple way to quit rolling around side to side in the mud is a simple one. Enforce the rules. When a boxer continues to lead with his head, slap this reckless, clumsy oaf with a penalty point, and then DQ him if he is also hard of hearing. When the referee sees a palooka repeatedly using clubbing blows to the back of his opponent’s head, then he needs to spank him with penalty points and yes DQ him if he fails to listen. All to often, the public sees too much grabbing and clinching. Clinching for survival after a fighter absorbs a particularly damaging blow is one thing. That occurrence is an exception, not the rule. When grabbing and holding is the ugly modus operandi of one or both of the brawlers, then the referee needs to once again caution the fighters and their corners His warning should be sweet and simple. Knock it off or the offender(s) will lose points and get the heave ho if they don’t stop. People didn’t pay good (hard earned) money for crap like that, when they could go to the local pub and see it for free.

The goal is to entertain the fans. Great fighters, previously mentioned, packed in the crowds, even though they might have fractured a rule here and there. First and foremost they were great fighters, exciting to watch. They were colorful personalities in and out of the ring. In order for referees to help carry out the desired results, they need support from commissions. They’re not going to get it from promoters; although, the good ones realize they too are better off with a little sugar. Undoubtedly this process will thin the herd, but it’s needed to cull these sugarless bozos. The true goal or objective is to provide quality entertainment, a pleasurable diversion from the stress and pressure of everyday life. The sport needs more of what it claims to be, the sweet science. All too often it’s a poor imitation. There’s misplaced concern about losing fans to MMA. That’s going to happen, but if boxing makes an effort to display more of the sweet science, it needs to do so with fighters who have learned their trade and can display their talents. When done properly it is a beautiful, artistic display of athleticism. Oh, how sweet it is!

Floyd Mayweather, Jr., Manny Pacquiao and retired Oscar De La Hoya have proved over and over again that the sweet science can attract record breaking numbers. Floyd is the highest paid athlete. It’s not because he’s a good brawler. Consequently, fighters who haven’t been taught properly, ought to be encouraged to learn by enforcement of the rules. If they refuse to learn, then they should be pressed to take up a different line of work. Such action would sweeten the pot, so to speak, and the more sweet science there is, the more moola can be realized. As Robert Blake used to say as Barretta, “That’s the name of that tune” and “You can take that to the bank.”