What Splendor: Why now is a great time to be a Boxing Fan

By Jeff Fenster: The year 2007 was supposed to be remembered as the year that boxing died. The year that the most corrupt, narcissistic, and greedy sport on the planet, faded into the distance and eroded into nothing but fond memories. But 2007 has come and passed, and boxing is still here. Its once glamorous appeal is reappearing, its respect among other sports fans is heightening, and its ability to entice future champions is gaining momentum. Boxing, despite all its downfalls and shortcomings, is slowly finding its way back. Instead, 200y will be remembered as the year boxing miraculously came back from the dead..

oscar de la hoya "[Michael] Wilbon, are you excited for Mayweather versus De La Hoya 2?" asked Tony Kornheiser on the popular ESPN show called 'Pardon the Interruption.' "I'm shaking in my boots," Wilbon, the host of the show, sarcastically responded, "Boxing is dead..." Wilbon's words shook me. I wished I could have taken Kornheisers' spot making the questions, and ask Wilbon if he could name one fight that has happened in the last year, outside of Mayweather and Oscar De La Hoya. The fact that Wilbon wouldn't be able to name just one fight, is a fact that is just as much painful as it is frustrating. Unfortunately for us boxing fans, he isn't the only one. Boxing deserves these peoples undivided attention.

We had a war between Joe Calzaghe of Whales and Mikkel Kessler of Denmark, heroes of their homelands, that packed more than 50,000 people into a soccer stadium. We had Miguel Cotto pack Madison Square Garden to its rafters twice in two incredible fights. We had the original and the rematch in what is destined to be an all time great trilogy between Rafael Marquez and Israel Vazquez. We had the resurgence of great champions like Bernard Hopkins, and the insurgence of new ones like Kelly Pavlik. All of this wasn't spread over four or five years, but was instead packed into a single unforgettable year. The fact that most sports fans will never see any of that action is, again, a painful and frustrating fact for us boxing fans. Fortunetly for us, however, boxing and its "powers that be" are currently working on it. 2008's lineup promises all the action we got in 2007, and maybe then some.

First of all, our champions are fighting more frequently, which is commendable. Miguel Cotto has stepped up big this year, taking on a tough plan for 2008 after two monster paydays against De La Hoya and Mayweather fell through. He will take on tough and talented Alfonzo Gomez in a fight that promises lots of action. Don't get me incorrectly, Miguel Cotto will win the fight, but it promises to be a doozy in the process. Gomez is a highly underrated technician that is an offensive talent and a crowd pleaser. 'Knockout' isn't the name of his game but he comes to win and trains hard, thats all you can ask from an opponent. Margarito is taking the same path, fighting Cintron in a rematch on the same date as Cottos' fight, April 12th.

Another promising encounter between two warriors. Just like in the olden days, the winner gets the champion in Cotto only a few months later, both promising another fight or two before years end. Kelly Pavlik, boxings newest and potentially brightest star, will fight Taylor in February, Duddy in June, and Abraham in December. Juan Diaz and Michael Katsidis, two lightweight potentials, are promising 3 fights apiece this year, one of which will hopefully be against each other. Oscar De La Hoya, boxings biggest money man, will fight Forbes in May, Mayweather in September, and a TBA farewell opponent in December. The only way you won't be satisfied this year, is if your favorite fighter is Floyd Mayweather, who will only fight once this year and then zero times the next year.

Secondly, events are becoming bigger and better. If Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito are to get past their April 12th opponents, a matchup between the two will be held in Yankee Stadium. Holding close to 70,000 fans for a boxing match, Yankee Stadium wont be close to full that night. However, the 40,000 fans that do show up with witness something very special.

Of the fighters featured in the big Madison Square Garden in the last 10 years, only one has not been a Heavyweight. That man is Miguel Cotto, and he is all alone in the list of "fighters below heavyweight" featured at the MSG arena. Everything changed June 7th, where Middleweights Kelly Pavlik and John Duddy are sure to sell out the Garden and treat the massive crowd on hand to an exciting, if not one sided, encounter.

Oscar De La Hoya could possibly treat up to 100,000 fans in Mexico's Azteca Stadium to a tune-up fight with Steve Forbes, or he could pack Dodgers Stadium. Either option makes for a huge event, and they are the top two choices on DLH's list. These types of events are what lures obtuse sports fans like Wilbon to start paying attention to boxing. These events are huge for the future of boxing, and believe me when i tell you that they will do wonders for boxings image.

And Lastly, fans are being treated to more boxing for less money. In April, Bernard Hopkins and Joe Calzaghe will clash in a hugely significant fight. Luckily for us, this one will be free on HBO as a gift to the fans, something that doesn't come along often and is never turned down by the fans. Sure, there are alternative motives, like the potential disaster the PPV might be due to Calzaghe-Kessler earning the dubious award of "lowest rated boxing show in HBO history," but it doesn't matter. What does matter, is that casual fans can tune in to a real "event" and not have to shell out cash to do so. Following the trend is Oscar De La Hoya who will fight on free TV for the first time since giving Gatti more then a few bruises and bumps. In fact, HBO will only have two PPV shows from now until June, with stars like Juan Diaz, Michael Katsidis, Paul Williams, and Wladimir Klitschko all to be featured for free on HBO. This is a positive trend obviously, and one we can only hope continues.

So the next a supposed "sports expert" makes a comment on boxing, just ignore it. I'd be shocked if it was a positive comment, and the only reason it would be negative is because they are uneducated. Magazines have labeled boxing a dieing sport in order to hide their ignorance for not covering the sport. If boxing is dieing, can somebody out there please explain to me why 2007 was the best year boxing has had in years, and 2008 figures to be even better?

Article posted on 01.02.2008

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