Boxing 101: The Woes of Pugilism

10.18.04 – By Coach Tim Walker: Unscrupulous promoters, greedy managers, unprincipled matchmakers and unknowledgeable trainers are all playing a role in the demise of the sport of boxing. Once one of the greatest athletic spectacles in the world, boxing is now relegated as a side sport to car racing, football, and basketball in the states. Elsewhere sports like soccer and cycling dominate boxing in attendance and public interest. Even arena football and slam ball rival boxing’s public interest on occasion. Unlike many major sports, boxing has felt the effects directly of its scandals and its scandalous.

Other than fighters and trainers, promoters make up some of the sports most recognizable characters. There is no need to call names because enthusiasts know who the major players are. We also have a good idea if a promoter is a leech sucking the very life’s blood out of the sport. The harsh reality, though, is that this group is not unlike many other successful business people. They are unwavering in their pursuit of fortune and are willing to divide and conquer on the road to it. Given their behavior it seems that only an act of Congress will force them to abandon their questionable yet successful business practices. Promoters learned this trade of tricks early and no matter how you view their methods, and we all know there are times when their methods are unsanitary, they work. Unfortunately many times they work more on the side of the promoter than the boxer.

It is surprisingly not difficult to become a promoter. A license fee here and there, a few novice pugilists, a venue, one or two nicely shaped ring card girls, a ring and a date and you are a promoter. Rarely, if ever, do they take into consideration the fighters they don’t have some vested interest in. Thus many local shows consist of skilled prospects and local walk-ons with little skill and no chance of winning. There are existing rule language that assigns some responsibility to a promoter for overmatching but that seldom comes up unless there is a very severe outcome. Thus in the eyes of fans promoters trounce the sport with uncompetitive bouts and uninspiring bout cards all the while exacting their will without the slightest possibility of reprimand.

But the quality of a bout isn’t necessarily assigned to promoter. This falls into the land of matchmaking. Matchmakers are the eyes and ears of the promoter and this position is largely unheralded. A matchmaker must know the venue, the area, and know what type of show the promoter wants. Does the promoter want all first round knockouts or does he want bouts that potentially go the distance so he can sell more beer? Usually there are rules that read similarly to “Matchmakers and promoters will be held responsible if they make matches in which one of the principals is outclassed” but as I stated earlier those are seldom enforced. It is not uncommon to see a fighter with a solid amateur and professional background take on an opponent with little or no experience. It is unofficially called bringing a fighter along. The general fan will wow at this level of competition but the true enthusiast sees these types of bouts for what they are.

Within the nucleus of a skilled boxer’s entourage lives a manager. I point out a skilled boxer because most boxers are fortunate to have a trainer and a manager is a luxury that many can’t afford. A good manager can systematically put a boxer on the road to being a prospect or contender or champion just as a bad one can lead him to the slaughter house. His job is in some ways similar to a trainer in that he must know his boxer. He has to know his boxer’s strengths and weaknesses, state of mind and skill level as well as his fear factor. Using this knowledge a manager handles the business aspects of a boxer’s life and methodically puts his stamp of approval on opponents having worked out details with matchmakers. Styles make fights and managers weave thru dozens of styles and fighters to find the best opponent that will allow his boxer to excel while improving.

Training is a different story. The art of training is virtually lost. Knowledge of certain styles of boxing resides with one or two people and the wisdom is not being passed on to the next generation. I have seen it a hundred times. Some guy decides he wants to volunteer as a trainer, walks into a gym with little or no credentials and before you know it he is working a young man thru heavy bag drills. Training is so much more than that. Training a boxer means attention to detail, knowledge of the details, appreciation of the details and application of details.

I have had the misfortune of hearing trainers simply blurt random instructions to fighters with no rhyme or reason. They demand a fighter go forward but have not taken the time to teach him how and when to move his head. They demand that he be aggressive without ever taking the time to establish his footwork. They demand he go forward but never teach cutting the ring off. They teach shorter fighters that they must get inside of taller fighters without ever having taught them how to truly get inside or what to do once they are inside or how to remain inside once they’ve paid the price to get their. It is possible to be an excellent trainer without boxing experience but that takes dedication and sitting under the wing of someone who knows the sport.

A boxer’s ring success depends largely on the knowledge of his trainer. Firstly, of the sport and secondly, of his boxer. How many rounds does it take to peak my fighter? When is the proper time to pull back the reigns on training? How many days before a fight should my fighter hit weight to be primed for competition? Good trainers know the answers to these questions and bad trainers make it them up as they go.

Too often the road of boxing leads to pain and poverty. Radio and television give details of the millions of dollars that a boxer can make but very few are making that type of money. A fighter on a local card would be very fortunate to make high 3 or 4 figure paydays. How? Take a 500 seat venue at $10 per seat with approximately 20 percent of those seats going for about 50 bucks and you end up with approximately $9,000 at the door max. Minus from that venue rental, ring rental, hotels, poster advertisement, ticket printing, security, insurance, radio advertisement, announcer, ring card girls, judges, referees, air travel and ground travel, doctor fees, paramedics, and maybe a half dozen other charges and you can see the pot getting smaller.

There are no quick fixes to the woes of pugilism. It didn’t get broke over night and it won’t get fixed over night. Know this though keepers of the boxing flame, if your core audience is constantly fed garbage as its dietary source of boxing they are bound to stop eating as regularly. If you haven’t noticed that by now heaven help you.

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