How to Make Boxing More Mainstream Again

By James Stillerman: The last couple of years in boxing contained numerous electrifying boxing matchups, including last year, Strum v. Macklin, Berto v. Ortiz, Wolak v. Delvin, Salido v. Lopez, and Donaire v. Montiel, among others which contributed to the sport being rejuvenated and capturing people’s imagination once again.

Last couple of years, many fighters risked their undefeated records and titles against one another which have not been seen in the sport for some time. This created a great financial year, generated media buzz and gave the sport a much needed boast. Nevertheless, while boxing appears headed in the right direction, much more work needs to be done in order to improve the sport before it captures its mainstream appeal of the 1970s. Boxing should eliminate all the governing bodies and create a national organization to oversee the sport, reduce some of its seventeen weight classes, make one champion per division, get the heavyweight division back to being the premier weight class and have pugilists fight more often.

The governing bodies detract from the sport. They prevent many of the best fighters in a division from becoming champions because they remain reluctant to unify titles since they lose money when they have to divide the sanctioning fees with both governing bodies instead of keeping it for themselves. This prevents fans from knowing who the best fighter is. The governing bodies usually strip champions of their titles for ridiculous and unfounded reasons or have multiple fighters holding the same belt with one fighter being the super champion, another being world champion and another as interim champion.
Boxing should create a national independent boxing commission to oversee the sport. This idea is strongly supported by Arizona Senator, John McCain and ESPN boxing analyst and trainer, Teddy Atlas; however it is highly unlikely it will come to fruition anytime soon.

Boxing from 1900s to the 1970s consisted of one champion for each of its six weight classes. Now four champions, inherit each of the seventeen divisions -- one for each of the governing bodies, WBO, WBA, WBC and IBF. Boxing retains sixty-eight champions not including the interim, regular, super and regional belt holders. The sport consists of too many strap holders making it extremely confusing for individuals to follow the sport.

To make boxing better they ought to merge the weight classes starting with combining the seven divisions inhabiting the seventeen pound difference between the 105 to 122 pound weight range into two instead of having one every three and a half pounds. Then make all the belt holders in each of the remaining divisions fight one another to create one unified champion. Fewer weight classes and belt holders will make more competitive fights, better pugilists and bring even more popularity back to the sport.

Another problem facing boxing involves the inactivity of fighters. Boxers in the past fought several times a year and sometimes once a month. Archie Moore while in his prime fought on an average of seven times a year including fighting twelve times in 1956. Now if a pugilists fights twice a year it is considered being busy. Many fighters make a substantial amount of money, so they do not have to fight all of the time. Numerous boxing fans become disinterested in the sport when their favorite fighter remains inactive for long periods of time, especially when they see their favorite sports team multiple times a month.

Fighters with world titles should fight at least three times a year and against good competition or otherwise be stripped of their belt. As with other sports, the more active a player becomes, the more marketability it generates the sport.

An old saying in boxing states: as the heavyweight division goes, boxing goes. This saying rings true for the present situation as the heavyweight division’s decline coincides with the disinterest in boxing. This weight class remains the best known in boxing and if it struggles then many people will not follow the sport, no matter how good the other divisions remain. The weight class` talent is depleted as many good athletes turn to basketball and football rather than boxing because of the guaranteed money involved. The heavyweight’s popularity in America falters because of the sudden decline of U.S. talent in the face of the star Eastern European boxers. The influx of Eastern Europeans makes this division nearly unrecognizable to the average American boxing fans. Furthermore, Vital and Wladimir Klitschko have ruled this division for a number of years, yet they have no notable opposition to fight and the opponents they do fight rarely give them an entertaining fight.

The culmination of these problems contributes to the significant drop-off in media boxing coverage. Sports radio, television and newspapers rarely discuss boxing events or issues unless it pertains to Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather, making the internet the only place to obtain information. Furthermore, it does not help that ESPN Wednesday and Friday Night Fights remains the only cable venue to watch boxing. Many people do not want to pay $45.00 to watch a fight on HBO. The lack of media exposure prevents boxing from expanding its` fan base and it takes the common fan out of the mix.

The improvement in the sport and the need for more progress is important considering the serious competition boxing faces from the new and extremely popular, Ultimate Fighting Champion, who signed a 90 million dollar seven year deal with Fox, giving the UFC even more media attention and a larger fan base.

Boxing even without improvement in these areas is still a great sport and has drastically improved itself over the last couple of years with numerous quality fights involving upper echelon pugilists and unification bouts which helped the sport grow. However, until the changes are implemented, sit back and enjoy the next couple of months of great boxing action with fights like – Mayweather v. Cotto, Froch v. Bute, Pacquiao v. Bradley, Peterson v. Khan and Alvarez v. Mosley.

Article posted on 29.04.2012

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