By Sean Crose
Sometimes you just have to look reality in the eye – and the reality is that the sport of professional boxing needs to grow up. It’s acting like an irresponsible teenager. That’s not a good thing. Adults know how to reign things in. Teenagers don’t. Take this past weekend’s nightmarish Evander Holyfield-Vitor Belfort fight. Level headed people know novelty fights can be fun and exciting. Those on the flip side of the coin think it’s a good idea to bring out a 58 year old man on a few days notice and put him in a prize ring for the first time in over a decade.
The whole thing doesn’t stop at novelty fights, either. Adults know there’s consequences for their actions. A careless driver has to deal with an accident he or she caused, whether it was intentional or not. That’s not always so when it comes to boxers and banned substances. Whether or not he ingested a banned substance on purpose, Oscar Valdez not only got to compete and hold onto his world title last week, the rest of us were reminded by the World Boxing Council of what a good kid Valdez was. It was like watching a parent in the principal’s office explaining away a child’s misdeeds.
And lets not forget about the social media feuds. Adult professional athletes like to prove themselves in competition. Some top boxers, however, prefer to snipe and post on social media. Teenagers talk a good game. Adults put themselves to the test. Over and over again. To paraphrase Geico, they know it’s what they do. Teenagers aim to be social media stars. Professionals use social media to further their careers. Muhammad Ali talked a great game. He also fought the most challenging competition in the world. Repeatedly. For years. Ali was aware of what it was he was supposed to do. Teenagers often lack such focus.
To be sure, boxers have an obligation to keep themselves as safe as possible. Yet, being professional adults, they should know what is required of them – to challenge themselves as much as it is reasonable and responsible to. As for promoters, managers, and media outlets – its their professional obligation to keep in mind the safety of those they may earn money from. That’s adult ethics 101. And it’s being ignored. Not just by the powers that be, but by a lot of us who follow and report on the sport, as well.
Boxing needs to grow up. Otherwise it will be altered beyond recognition. For decades, it’s held a longstanding reputation as a seedy sport. At this rate, it’s going to earn a reputation as a reckless and unserious one.
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