Why do We Love Boxing? Reflections On The Sport I Love…
Why do we love boxing?
It is something I often ask myself since often it feels like the sport doesn’t love us back. Most sports have clear parameters, boundaries, and a system in place for competition. Then, at some point in the year, you see a form of a bracket competition that pits the best against the best. Boxing, we’re lucky to get two-or-three meaningful big fights a year, if that.
Don’t get me wrong, we get good fights often, but they occur in USA Boxing Nationals (in the amateurs), undercards as development bouts, or on smaller platforms like ShoBox/Ring City/PBC on FS1, etc. The tests and developments often tend to be better than the marquee bouts, as once people get to a place of making generational wealth – they’re not so eager to lose leverage and I don’t blame them.
So here is the problem that I see.
The boxers and managers don’t want their fighter to lose (d’uh, dude!), but in doing so, unless no route is left, will create a path that benefits them, but isn’t always exciting, because of this as fans we have to watch fights more so based around generational talents being in the ring, then the fight itself.
For me, this is fine. I am a lifer, I will watch any-and-all boxing, but this I think is the entry point that hurts the sport, as we’re competing against the NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB, PGA Tour, and whatever the tennis league goes by. Each and every one of the sports, have short-term, and long-term goals for their sports, so even if you miss a week or two, you can be filled in – boxing often fights to happen out of necessity, or a budgetary necessity. On top of that, boxers fight, and in the modern era, you’re lucky if you see a star twice in a year, many major sports athletes are available via your television to watch, weekly, if not in some cases nearly daily.
If you bring logic to boxing, let alone reason to watching boxing you will be stumped, as 85% of the time, I feel like most boxing fans know the result, but tune-in based on how compelling the fighter is, and whether they are binge-watch worthy after working a 40-hour work-week. The upsets keep us hooked as when Andy Ruiz Jr. knocked out Anthony Joshua, or Buster Douglas stopped Mike Tyson, these defied the odds and told us anything is possible.
This is where Jake Paul and Logan Paul found a niche in the sport. Sure, they don’t have pedigree, but the bouts they’re in, people want to see – shoot, I want to see them, and that is something boxing has lacked. Currently, boxing has three stars, in my opinion, Canelo Alvarez, Tyson Fury, and Teofimo Lopez. After those three, we have really good fighters, who subsections of fans are behind, but they need a massive win to become one of the faces of the sport.
Canelo beat Gennady Golovkin, Fury beat Wladimir Klitschko and Deontay Wilder, and Teofimo Lopez beat Vasyl Lomachenko. In each of those bouts, we had doubts if they’d win, the rest of the top 5-or-6 guys in the world, haven’t been in those types of fights, in which we felt an impending doom or dread around the win, with maybe the exception of Errol Spence Jr. beating Kell Brook in the U.K.
For example, one of my favorite current boxers, Terence “Bud” Crawford, is a 3-division world champion, unifying the super lightweight world title in that process, but his dominance, has been so great since his bout with Yuriorkis Gamboa, as a fan of the sport, we look towards the Errol Spence Jr.’s and Manny Pacquiao’s of the world to provide a generational challenge for us to see him go to the next level, as Crawford has been the favorite in most if not all of his fights to this point, no fault of his own.
What frustrates me from a competitor’s standpoint is that I don’t see outside of a few fighters anyone trying to thoroughly dominate and conquer a division, but rather get rich, with less of a focus upon legacy, or the optics of the fights. Sure, guys are avoided, but I don’t see a lot of the top guys actively seeking the best fights at this point, outside of Canelo and Fury.
The sport is not on the ropes or dying, but it is in need of change.
We can build young fighters up since they’re the future, and every professional sport has that, but what we need is the integration into pop culture, whether it is social media app like Triller, musicians and boxers integrating, or even further outside of the box thinking, boxing has long held a view of disappointing its fans, and the one’s who love it becoming bitter and jaded, because of it.
Boxing can’t compete with any major promotional sport currently because the best don’t always fight the best, and that is the mission statement of the playoffs in America, yet when boxing puts on a great fight – the world stops. Deontay Wilder vs Tyson Fury ruled the airways, Teofimo Lopez vs Vasyl Lomachenko was as much a must-see moment as anything else.
Now let’s talk about the fans and media.
It is divided, more so than ever.
Certain writers clearly bash certain promoters, some writers and vloggers I don’t think even like the sport, and their disdain clouds their readership or viewership, while some love the sport with too much childish glee, they might miss contextual piece to help inform the reader. Why is this though?
Funding in boxing for publications is terrible. Everyone for the most part has another job, and rarely will you see a big income from writing about boxing, so you will get what you pay for, and the investment in coverage and compelling storylines, is not much. Further that with the advent of video or IG interviews taking precedent over in-ring action, real-time results, or observations, a lot of times major boxing promoters see media members asking about Deontay Wilder or Jake Paul, more so than the fighter they’re in, which offers little service to the direct promotion of the fight.
It feels like from a fan’s standpoint, rarely do we see fans who enjoy each promotional entity. It feels divided, and it feels as though each fan at some point has to choose which promotionally entity to align with, similar to politics. In this day in age, you can’t say you look at political situations, and make a judgement, most want to know if you’re a republican or democrat, before you offer your insight to pass a judgement. In boxing, I feel as though most want to know who you’re a “fan boy” of in terms of a promoter, before hearing your opinion.
So why do I love boxing?
I love the people. I love that we’re all outsiders, we don’t fit in. It is a group of socially odd misfits, who found professional fist-fighting as something that made sense to them. I love how the boxing Twitter is full of people who get overtly passionate about stuff, I love seeing the fighters train to the max not knowing if they will be the same after the fight. I love the sport, because it encompasses life.
Life has birth and death, and so does boxing. It shows the beauty of life, like a great dance, along with the brutality of life, not unlike war.
For those of us lifers of boxing, boxing becomes more than just a sport, it is your identity. It helps you make sense of the world, not unlike a good friend, it is always there for you. It is the sport of the castoff, the person, who is the underdog, underachiever, or the often labeled, and allows them to write their own story once.
I will continue to watch boxing, because nothing else compares to the people, the community, and sport itself, as much as it frustrates me sometimes