By Dominic Sauboorah
Throughout the 20th century boxing was considered to be one of the biggest attractions in the history of sport. Not just the fact that thousands of people from around the globe had the opportunity to witness two warriors clobbering one another in a somewhat barbaric and even inhumane fashion; however there is a more in depth reason.
Boxing to many is considered an art that only the most skilled of people can master. The way in which a boxer fights in the ring is more complicated and complex than just throwing punches in bunches, which is what the typical uneducated, mainstream fan of the sport would come to think. There have been many superb boxing technicians in the 20th century. The likes of Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard and Marco Antonio Barrera; these fighters are to be considered legends of the sport. Not so much because they knew how to throw big punches or fast combinations, but more due to the fact that they had that belief and desire, so were therefore extremely entertaining to watch. Nowadays however, boxing is anything but the same.
Ever since the new Millennium, boxing has gone through some drastic changes. We don’t have as many flash or brash boxers in the ring. We are lacking in someone like a Sugar Ray Leonard, who would throw large and ridiculously quick combinations, a Marco Antonio Barrera, who would have that typical Mexican spirit by taking a barrage of punches and then refusing to go down and a Mohammed Ali, who brought a style of fighting that only he could emulate. His influential truffle shuffle changed the sport of boxing for decades. Despite this, boxing is a dying sport. The main reason for this today is due to the pre-fight hype, whereby boxers simply aren’t living up to the expectations that they set themselves as well as the fans.
There are far too many boxers who are “all bark and no bite.” One perfect example could be the Grudge Match on May 21st, 2011 between stable mates George Groves and James DeGale. The fight was scheduled to take place at the 02 Arena, London and there was a serious sense of animosity between the two boxers. Both were constantly slating each other off in somewhat immature yet entertaining fashions. Both Groves and DeGale, immaturely and unrealistically, predicted that they would win the fight within four rounds. Many pundits and fans from around Britain expected a tear-up; however would they expect the pair of them to respect one another?
No. In fact the total opposite. Many were expecting anger and serious determination to play a big part in the fight between two men that appeared to show a vast amount of hatred for one another. Groves was quoted as saying “After I beat him, it will end James’s career.” Slightly ironic. James DeGale now has an up and coming European title fight. I wouldn’t exactly call that ending a career. Nevertheless there’s no excusing James DeGale as he said “you’re going to see the best James DeGale, guaranteed” and yet he loses. Now as far as I’m aware if you lose a fight, then you clearly weren’t at your best. The main fact that both fighters predicted that they would blow each other away within four rounds was simply a lie.
The reason the fight was deader than a funeral service was down to only one of the fighters and that fighter is ‘Saint’ George Groves. Now to call him a ‘Saint’ is slightly bizarre in my opinion, due to the fact that you normally associate that term with honesty and good heartedness, yet pre-fight time he was extremely antagonistic towards James DeGale, mocking the way he boxed and was even quoted as saying that James DeGale will never beat me.” Fortunately for George Groves he wasn’t criticized after the fight, instead he was announced Best Young Fighter of the Year for 2011. Unfortunately the majority of the wider public were oblivious to the fact that Groves promised a tear up and what did they get? They got George Groves running around the ring like a sissy school girl. He fought like a coward. Like someone who never had the courage to fight with that sense of pride.
A fighter, who simply couldn’t live up to his own hype. He said he would go toe-to-toe with James DeGale and from the word go you could sense that DeGale wanted a war to commence, yet George Groves never allowed for that to materialize. He isn’t a fighter, he’s a business man. He wanted to get the job done. He did that. He won the fight fair and square. Too bad he made himself out to look like a complete fool when he promised to go into the trenches with DeGale, yet decided to give the fans a sneak preview of him training for the London Marathon. He relied upon hype, hype that he failed to live up to.
Floyd Mayweather Jnr. Despite his undefeated record and the fact that he’s considered to be one the best pound-for-pound fighters on the planet, his pre-match hype has rarely lived up to expectation. He’s a very defensive boxer who is too much of a coward to trade blows with a fighter and would rather instead let his endurance get him through a 12 round tickle fight and leave it up the judges, knowing that he’s most likely won all the rounds, because you can’t beat what you can’t hit and to land combinations on Floyd Mayweather is an impossibility. Oscar De La Hoya fought Mayweather at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada and Mayweather made clear that he was going to “kick his ass.” Yet, without much surprise, the fight went the 12 round distance and there wasn’t one instance when De La Hoya looked hurt or as if he was going to hit the canvas.
Boxing is a dying sport, due to fighters such as these. Fans don’t want to see fighters doing well in their careers, earning a lot of money, remaining undefeated or relying on pre-fight hype that they know will never come to fruition. The fans want to see excitement, entertainment, passion, desire, all the words that you can think of that don’t relate to boredom. The fans want to see boxers going toe-to-toe, showing the public exactly why they are boxers. Fighters, to me, are supposed to be brave, yet you don’t see much of that from Floyd Mayweather who’s constantly landing single punches and practically running away from his opponents to avoid getting hit. That’s not bravery. Many boxers, in this era, might box well, but that doesn’t mean they’re true fighters, which is what the sport is lacking in. That’s why I believe boxing is a dying sport, because there are too many “fighters” who are fighting for their careers, hyping up a fight so that it gains more money from fans, thereby benefiting them. Boxers should be fighting for pride and the idea that they are actually giving the fans what they want by living up to pre-fight hype. From the 20th century to the new Millennium boxing has changed drastically and, unfortunately, it might never be the same.