Is Inactivity Killing The Heavyweight Division?

23.01.07 - By Paul McCreath: The other day I was thinking about my favorite division in boxing, the heavyweights, and kind of wondering who might be in line for title shots after the current round of mandatories is finished. I tried to think of some of the top men who might be making a move when I realized that I could not even remember some of the names in my top twenty. What's wrong here? My memory, while not perfect, still functions pretty well and I follow the heavyweights about as closely as anyone. Why don't I know these guys and if I don't how many of the general public are going to know them?

I knew we had a problem so I decided to do some digging. First off, I pulled out my list of the top twenty and began to look up their records for the past year. I discovered that these 20 fighters had a total of 41 fights during 2006, about 2 per boxer. Only 5 men fought more than twice, while 6 had of them had less than 2 fights! Looking further down the list at the top prospects, I found that they for the most part are fighting about 3 or 4 times a year, although many are still only at the prelim level. Now I know that champions are not likely to fight more than twice a year but what is going on with these others? This is not normal,I thought.I decided to have a look at the records of some of the better champions over the years and see how active they were.

Rocky Marciano turned pro in March of 1947. After a short return to the amateur ranks, he returned to pro boxing in July 1948 and by year's end, he had totaled 12 fights. In the 5 years before winning the title, he fought 43 times.

Muhammed Ali was not quite as active but had 19 fights before becoming champ in about 4 years. George Foreman turned pro in June of 1969 and worked in 13 fights before the end of the year and a total of 37 bouts in 4 years before he attained the throne. Mike Tyson had 28 fights in less than 2 years as he approached his title bout with Trevor Berbick in 1986. Lennox Lewis fought 22 times in a bit over 4 years while chasing his first championship. Clearly, it paid to be active for these very successful fighters as well as most of their contemporaries who were contenders during those years. Why are today's heavyweights not as active?

Then I thought about other pro sports. Baseball teams play nearly every day during their season. Hockey and basketball teams play about 3 or 4 times a week. Soccer clubs have a league game every week plus any cup matches they are involved with and American football teams go at it once a week as well. For the individual sports,both tennis and golf have tournaments weekly with about 3 or 4 days of action. These players have their names before the public on a regular basis. How can boxing compete with this when the fighters are only seen twice a year? Would the New York Yankees have many fans if they played two games a year? This is a big problem for boxing because we are no longer creating new fans. The sport was forgotten by the mainstream public years ago and now is threatened by becoming even more obscure. Only a few of us diehards are left and we are getting old.

Now some will say that this is taking a negative attitude but we will not cure what ails boxing by sticking our heads in the sand and pretending that all is well.I prefer to openly debate boxing's problems which are many in the hope that somebody will come up with some ideas that will improve the situation.

For one thing, we need to get back to the days of local club boxing cards where fights are held on a regular basis, say at least once a month and featuring local fighters. This way local heroes can be developed that will draw the crowds back like Joe Mesi did in Buffalo or Ricky Hatton in Manchester. Today, our prospects are not being brought along well because they just don't fight enough to gain experience and once a fighter gets ranked he hardly fights at all. The average man in the street has no interest in boxing any more because he never gets to know any of the top fighters. The only time the public cares any more is when a big event like Mayweather and De La Hoya is held. When it is over they forget boxing again. The most publicity boxing gets is when someone like Mike Tyson gets arrested again. We need to start attracting the general public back to boxing by getting our fighters active again. I have discussed mainly the heavyweights but what I have been observing is I am sure true of the other divisions as well.

Boxing needs a serious makeover and soon before our favorite sport disappears completely from the radar, especially in North America. There are many problems with pro boxing and more activity won't cure them all but it would be a step in the right direction. LETS HAVE MORE FIGHTS.

Article posted on 23.01.2007

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