Boxing Reality Show Canceled Before TV Dinner Defrosts

10.06.04 - By Bert Randolph Sugar, Sr. Boxing Analyst at-large for CMXsports. Some years ago television critic John Crosby of the old-old New York Herald-Tribune wrote about a television executive who decided to try an experiment while watching the fights on his network, deciding that every time the announcer directed him to go to the refrigerator for a frosty, ice-cold bottle of beer he would follow his directive. Gulping furiously he managed to stay abreast of the announcer, fetching a new bottle of beer from the fridge every time the announcer told him to do so. The result: the losing fighter was KO'd in the tenth; and the TV suit was flat on his back, asleep, by the end of the ninth.

The TV exec Crosby's punch line depicted lasted five more rounds than those watching the boxing reality show "The Next Great Champ," which the Fox Network mercifully pulled off the airwaves after just four rounds of the series, its viewers falling asleep trying to find the remote control.

What made those TV brainiacs--and those over at NBC with a similar show -- "The Contender"-- think a boxing reality show would work? After all, a boxing bout is the greatest reality show of all, with a winner and loser and all the attendant drama of a Hallmark presentation in and of itself without "gussying" it up in a reality format.

But then again, TV suits have never been known for their imaginative thinking. Or, as Fred Allen once said about TV, "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." Go back to the days of early TV, when western show-after-western show rode the range on TV, followed by quiz shows, variety shows, enough detective shows where every Tom and Harry was a dick, to a smarm of game show hosts hosting game shows, to police shows, lawyer shows and now to reality shows. It seems that the only thing worse for TV execs than having no taste, is having no shame, as they copy each other's offerings of the current fad, making more pilots than a stewardess.

(And here it should be noted that NBC, which has called Fox's "The Next Great Champ" a "blatant rip-off" of its own boxing reality series "The Contender," has pushed back the start-date of "The Contender" from November to January, if then, based upon "The Champ" early KO loss.)

If it's a reality series the TV suits want why not try one Dave Barry suggested: "A Live Celebrity Gets Eaten by a Shark?" Or have Keith Richards and Robert Downey battle over who gets to the drugs fastest.

But a boxing reality show? One with fighters from different weight classes fighting each other, no public weigh-in, and with no report of the results of the locked-in-a-time-capsule taped fights? What boxing fan can take them seriously?

For those of you who thought that a boxing reality series would provide boxing with more exposure (and probably think a myth is a female moth), you can still catch the concluding episodes of "The Next Great Champ" over on the Cat Box Channel or somesuch. That's where they belong. As for Yours Truly, I'll take the real thing, real-live boxing bouts. And demand longer commercials in any boxing reality show that surfaces in the future.

Bert Randolph Sugar, CMXsports Sr. Analyst At-Large, called "The Guru of Boxing," has a new book "Bert Sugar On Boxing," (or "The Best of Bert Sugar, The Worst of Bert Sugar, What the Hell's the Difference?"), published by The Lyon Press and currently available at Border's, Barnes & Noble and

Article posted on 06.10.2004

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