Making the case for Boxing reform

Jack JohnsonBy Robert Jackson: Boxing in itís golden years of the 20ís thru 50ís was not a product streamlined, choreographed and packaged up by Television for the consumers consumption, in fact during those years FAMILIES gathered around the radio to listen to a Joe Louis, Ray Robinson or Willie Pep fight.

Imagination played a big part of it. Boxing was perpetuated mainly by word of mouth; this was the way a fighterís legend was passed on. Even further back to Jack Johnsonís time I suspect that the Morse-code teletype passed on the boxing news of the day. In July of 1910, 22,000 people in Reno Nevada watched from a custom built stadium a fight between the infamous Johnson and challenger Jim Jeffries.

Johnson was paid an astonishing $225,000.00 for his defining victory over Jeffries. Fast forward to the year 2008 with all of the technological advances provided by the internet, HDTV, and cellular, boxing seems to be at its lowest point, almost ready for the 10 count. Why? When I think of boxing or fighting in its purest sense I have to reference the movie ĎHard Timesí a movie where Charles Bronson plays a 1930ís Ďhitterí (underground fighter).

James Coburn played his shyster, gambling, womanizing, manager who arranged Bronsonís fights. Those types of fights as portrayed in the movie were controlled by underworld figures. But as a definition of the fight game this movie may be closer to the truth than any of us will ever know, this movie gives the viewer that feeling. Bronsonís reputation preceded him and he was an in-demand pugilist, all of the top guys wanted to fight and beat him to make their own reputation larger than life.

Tournaments, if you want to call them that, were held to pare down the competition until the top two guys met in the Ďmain eventí, and of course Bronsonís character won the main event. Bronson rose to a level of prominence by fighting cripplers and physical specimens found mainly in penitentiaries, so his reputation was well earned! Bronsonís alter-ego in the movie was totally responsible for how the fights were made and fought. The TV networks are making huge profits off of the current arrangement so to them why fix whatís not broken?

The promoters also receive a huge chunk of the pie. Fighterís managers in a lot of cases get 33% of a fighterís purse so where is their incentive to change things? The fighters have the power in their own hands to change boxing but have perpetrated the rules of a system that was previously run by underworld figures. Fightersí standing up for the best of boxing is the only way to reform boxing! Fighters demanding, determining and stating publicly whom they want to fight and then fighting them will get the fans interested in boxing and shift a lot of the power to the fighters.

The power structure in boxing has the Promoter at the top of the food chain and the fighter at the bottom, fighters in-fact are the last ones to get paid, but by advocating fighters can reverse this time honored practice. The promoters and managers work for the fighters not the other way around.

A good example of how fighters can change boxing is how Roy Jones and Joe Calzaghe have taken total charge and ownership of their fight, promoting it themselves and eliminating the middlemen. Donít know how successful an EVENT this fight will be but I think it will be a damn good scrap, while setting the example that fighters can and should be the focal point of and lead any movement advocating boxing reform.

Article posted on 17.08.2008

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