Mayweather/De La Hoya: Boxing Blows It Again

mayweather07.05.07 - By Matthew Hurley: In spite of the fact that the De La Hoya – Mayweather bout turned out to be a pretty good scrap that left even marginal boxing fans happy, the card itself begged the question, “why does boxing keep shooting itself in the gut?” This was an event that could have been used to showcase tons of new up-and-coming prospects on the under card. Instead pay per view buyers were cheated. Only two bouts, the rousing Rey Bautista – Sergio Medina junior featherweight fight and the pedestrian featherweight bout between Rocky Juarez and Jose Hernandez were offered to the buying public. On top of that small sundae, pay per view buyers were demanded upon to pony up ten dollars more than the usual $45.00. So you paid more and got less.

The strange thing is that the card was promoted by Golden Boy Promotions. Oscar and his company has a herd of terrific young prospects in their stable and instead of marching them out in front of the world’s stage, a stage boxing hasn’t had in quite some time, they opted not to.

Why? If Oscar is so keen on promoting the sport, why not use this opportunity to really grab the public by the balls and show them why boxing is still a viable mainstream sport. And it was on Cinco De Mayo to boot!

A lot was made of the idea that this fight would make or break boxing in the mainstream media. For whatever reason, sports analysts who cover multiple sports give no credence to the fact that while boxing may not be as popular in American culture as it once was it is still hugely popular within the Mexican and Puerto Rican populous, and overseas. Joe Calzaghe’s last fight against Peter Manfredo sold out a thirty thousand seat arena. A pretty good Irish fighter like John Duddy can still sell thousands of tickets at Madison Square Garden. Local fights in my neck of the woods, Boston, always gather terrific crowds of loyal fight fans. But if there isn’t a big fight every few months, or there isn’t a De La Hoya or a Mike Tyson to dominate sports headlines, the sport is either dead or fringe.

But those who run boxing, from promoters like Golden Boy Promotions to cable networks like HBO, which has consistently dropped the ball in recent years, are as much to blame. Constant mismatches and too many unworthy pay per views have weeded out the casual fan.

And then there is the UFC. Most hard-nosed boxing fans turn their noses up at Ultimate Fighting – and most of them have never really sat down and watched the sport. Regardless of what you think of the UFC, boxing promoters should use the UFC broadcasts as a template for their own. Basically the UFC is providing to its paying customers what boxing used to provide twenty years ago. If you pay $40 bucks for a UFC card you’re going to get upwards of five fights and all the fighters are the top contenders in their respective divisions.

Dana White, the UFC president, understood why boxing was floundering when he created the UFC. His plan was simple – and simple is always the best way to go. Put the best fighters in together and then load up the card with fights to keep the customer satisfied. White, to his great credit, even put potential pay per view events on free television (Spike TV) when previous pay per views were disappointments. Don King, Bob Arum and Oscar De La Hoya could learn from this guy. Ironically, White is just doing what King and Arum used to do.

“It was a huge fucking fight,” White said, in regards to De La Hoya and Mayweather. “But when you really break it down, everything I’ve said over the last six years is true. I take the blueprint of boxing as to what not to do. You’ve got to help grow this thing. Instead, the powers that be in boxing have reached their hand in, ripped the life out and stuck it into their pocket.”

“They live fight to fight, not thinking about the future. They build up one fight instead of building up a card. They should have been creating new stars off this fight. Oscar De La Hoya promoted the fight. He owns Golden Boy Promotions. Oscar should have all his guys fighting. They should have stacked this card. It’s your card, secure the future of your sport. But they don’t think that way.”

White’s point is well taken. But is it greed or just stupidity? Or do the powers that be feel that the boxing public will purchase any piece of shit they’re offered? One of the next pay per views will be Bernard Hopkins – Winky Wright which even fans of both fighters have to be saying to themselves, “my god, that’s going to be a snoozefest.” But if you want to watch it you’ll have to pay nearly $50.00 and, guaranteed, the under card will be terrible.

Sometimes I think boxing fans, and I’m firmly established within the club, are masochists. Why do we stand for this nonsense? And then when friends or the fella sitting next to you at the bar denigrates the sport in any way we leap to its defense when we know that it could be so much better.

I watched the De La Hoya – Mayweather fight with a close buddy, who is a huge UFC fan, and we both thoroughly enjoyed it. But my friend, whose sports idol, as with me, is Thomas Hearns, kind of shrugged his shoulders when it was over.

“It ain’t like the old days,” he said, draining his bottle of beer.

I wanted to counter him with something like, “What about Erik Morales and Manny Pacquiao?” But I didn’t because he’s one of those former boxing fans who just gave up. Sure, he’ll watch the fights with me or go to the arenas for a live card but the passion isn’t there anymore.

He’d rather watch the UFC.

Article posted on 08.05.2007

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