By: Sean Crose
I confess this title should read: “Even Those Who Actually Still Like The Sport Are Down On Boxing.” That would probably be more accurate. No matter. For years now I’ve defended the sweet science from those who tell me (always with a smile) that boxing is dead. Indeed, I’m forever pointing out to these gleeful doomsayers that they’re wrong, because they are. It’s not that boxing’s dead…it’s just that boxing is now, in 2022, steamrolling towards absolute irrelevancy. Sound good? It’s not. Boxing was reportedly the fourth most popular sport in America back in the 80s (and probably a good chunk of the 90s). Now no one here in the United States even knows who the top heavyweights are.
That’s an indication of serious decline if there ever was one. Sure, you could argue that no one knows who the UFC heavyweight champion of the world is, but the UFC has a rabid and satisfied fanbase. The current mood of boxing fans, on the other hand, is abysmal. Don’t believe it? Take a trip to that virtual city known as “Boxing Twitter” and grasp the mood for yourself. Of course fight fans are particularly aggrieved at the moment, as two major – and I mean major – bouts that could have conceivably gone down this year just fell through. I’m talking about a heavyweight title throwdown between Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua, and a battle for the undisputed welterweight championship of the world between Errol Spence Jr and Terence Crawford.
Instead of engaging in fights fans have been craving, Fury will fight Derek Chisora, a man he’s beaten twice already, while Crawford faces the widely unknown David Avanesyan. Who knows what Spence and Joshua will be up to for the remainder of the year? Not that Spence and Joshua are necessarily responsible for not signing contracts for potential megafights. The truth is no one knows for sure why these fights aren’t happening…or even what’s behind the sport’s rapid decline in general.
A percentage of the fan base that prefers boxing’s behind the scenes drama to the fights themselves might have something to do with it. As, of course, might the fact certain fighters refuse to fight serious competition for anything less than pipe dream money (which, sadly, follows a nationwide trend of earning potential egomania). Then of course, there’s the fact that no one knows who the top fighters even are anymore. Boxers simply don’t fight on basic cable enough to be truly recognized by the general public. The news, then, isn’t what’s going on in the world of boxing, but what ISN’T going on.
And that’s not a good sign. Fortunately, women’s boxing and at least some of boxing’s lightest divisions are on fire. The question now is whether or not the rest of the sport will catch up.
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