(This is a solo column by Joe, the senior citizen writer for the Gab Four. Visit their official Web site and read more about Joe and the other members of the Gab Four at www.MyBriefs.com.)
After following the Floyd Mayweather, Jr. vs Shane Mosley fight buildup for so many months, it was certainly a letdown to have Mayweather win his 41st fight without a loss Saturday night from such a clearly overmatched opponent. Most everyone who commented on the fight had Mosley only winning two rounds at the most, while Mayweather confidently slugged his way to superiority in 10. It makes one wonder if boxing, in its preoccupation with grooming championship fighters by pitting them against frustratingly inept opponents, hasn’t become the irrelevant sport?
In the same way that spectators tire of watching sporting giants like North Carolina or Kentucky clobber lowly schools like Wounded Knee Tech or Cumberland Gap in early season basketball, or cringe at the thought of powerhouse football teams like Ohio State or Alabama running up scores of 50 or 60 points against Grandma’s School of Nursing or Beavis and Butthead’s Prep Academy, boxing has become the domain of the over-hyped, safely-chosen championship match.
Throw incredible amounts of money into advertising, pummel the sports pages with glowering photo-ops of the two opponents staring angrily into each other’s faces, then brew “bad blood” between them like terrorists targeting an orphanage, give the fight a fancy name like the “Train of Pain” or “Fists of Fury” to parody the really classic battles of Ali-Foreman or Ali-Frazier, and you’ve got the makings of a $100 million fight.
Yet, isn’t boxing slowly (exasperatingly so) falling out of interest with what was once an enthusiastic audience? People used to know who the champions were in many weight divisions, used to look forward to seeing Sugar Ray Robinson, Floyd Patterson, Thomas Hearns, Ray Leonard, Joe Frazier, or even Mike Tyson fight, and used to revel at the antics of Muhammad Ali. But that has been supplanted by safe, mismatched, glamour fights that have more of the smell of money than liniment and sweat.
Professional boxing needs to have more fights, more often, and to allow international competition. Get some great Russian or Cuban boxers to mix it up with the prima-donna Americans. Toss in some British or Irish brawlers, and invite some German pugilists, and see what interest is generated.
My only fear is that boxing may then go the way of hockey, baseball, tennis or marathon running, and the only great athletes in the sport will be foreign!