Taylor's Twins Talk

Focusing on the Twins, with a few ramblings on other things that catch my attention

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Emeritus Champion No More

Boxing has always fascinated me, probably because I can't imagine anyone wanting to step into the ring knowing that even on a good day, you're going to leave the ring in rough shape. This afternoon I watched WBC Champion Samuel Peter lose his belt to WBC Champion Emeritus Vitaly Klitschko (in German nonetheless!). The fight was . . . bad. There wasn't clutching and grabbing, which is the bane of so many major heavyweight fights -- but Peter got pretty much no offense in over the course of the 8 rounds that the fight lasted. He couldn't answer the bell for the ninth. It was pretty much the equivalent of watching Ohio State lose to LSU in the NCAA Football National Championship game. Oy.

Boxing has bigger problems, though. For one thing, the idea of having a "Champion Emeritus" in the first place. Nearly four years ago, Klitschko "retired" due to injuries while holding the WBC belt. As a result, the WBC needed to strip him of the title -- but named him "emeritus" champion so that if he chose to come back, he could demand a title fight. The WBA did the same thing with injured champion Ruslan Chagaev, although they deemed him the "Champion in Recess." By my way of thinking, getting hurt is part of boxing. If you can't defend your title, you should lose it -- and when you come back, you should at least have to fight someone before getting a title shot again. Four years gone and then right back to a title fight? Of course, Klitschko's win today hurts my argument a bit.

The bigger problem is the one that has long plagued boxing. How can you get anyone to follow your sport when you have four major sanctioning bodies (WBO/IBF/WBC/WBA) and countless minor sanctioning bodies? This problem was made worse tonight with Vitaly's win, because the possibility of unifying the titles has now disappeared until either Vitaly or his brother Wladimir (holder of the WBO and IBF titles) loses their belts or retires, since they've long refused to fight one another. I've read enough boxing articles recently to know that even boxing journalists were hoping that Peter would retain his belt to hold open the possibility of a unified title.

I will continue to watch fights when I get the chance, because I remain fascinated by the sport. It's no surprise, however, that the sport seems to be slowly dying. Maybe someone new and exciting will step up and electrify the sport. I suppose Alexander Povetkin, a 29-year-old Russian with a 16-0 record, could step up and stun Wladimir Klitschko in December to start a run as a monster in the sport -- but it seems unlikely. Maybe David Haye can step up into heavyweights and electrify the division -- but before he's fought a single fight at that weight it seems premature to pin the sports' hopes on him.

My suggestion? A way should be found to eliminate at least two of the major sanctioning bodies. Combining four into two would reduce some of the redundancy and make the sport easier to follow, while leaving some of the intrigue of having dueling sanctioning bodies. That won't happen unless all parties agree, but it would help immensely. The sport should also try to get some major heavyweight fights back on free TV. How else are you going to convince people that it's worth watching? If you charge people $50 for Evander Holyfield's latest return fight, or a Mike Tyson freak show, or an underwhelming battle between two lumbering fighters, you'll only get the hardcore supporters. Get some of the younger, up-and-coming heavyweights on Friday Night Fights. Maybe be really radical and put a title fight on free TV. Do something to spark interest!

As for me -- I'm still hooked. I can't wait for the flurry of heavyweight fights in November and December that could make things interesting in the division. I just hope something changes before the sport suffocates itself.

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4 Comments:

  • At Sat Oct 11, 11:50:00 PM , Blogger John said...

    Cool post... in the past year or two I've really gotten into boxing and the sport's troubles in the US are unfortunate (in Europe, boxing is more popular than ever, and it's at least steady in Asia and Latin America). Boxing has everything you can want in a sport- speed, power, strategy, etc.- but also requires a unique degree of mental and physical toughness.

    I feel like there are two big, overarching problems. First, fighters (or, more likely, their promoters) are too fearful of losing a fight. Too many fighters are protected from top competition in the hopes of landing only favorable match ups. The result is too many one-sided fights. Sports fans want competitive contests and too often that is the exception rather than the rule in boxing.

    The second problem- boxing's lack of wide TV exposure in the US- is where boxing's lack of central authority is so damaging. There is a collective action problem at work: each individual promoter benefits from PPV (or HBO/Showtime non-PPV fees), but in doing so they hurt everyone else that wants the sport to succeed (including themselves, in the long run).

    I'm not sure what the solution is. People inside the sport talk a good game but don't deliver... Bob Arum has mentioned putting Kelly Pavlik on free TV, but his next fight is against a slow, boring, defense-oriented 43 year old on PPV. And that's not the sanctioning bodies at work- there aren't even any titles at stake.

     
  • At Sun Oct 12, 08:21:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    One of the best posts I've seen about boxing. Where do you go to get your information? You seem to be very knowledgeable.

    Pete

     
  • At Sun Oct 12, 09:34:00 PM , Blogger JST said...

    Nowhere outside the mainstream -- I check out ESPN's Boxing page a couple times a week and read a lot of the articles there. I occasionally see what's on other sports sites like CNNSI. Once every couple of weeks I go to the major sanctioning body's websites to see how the rankings stack up. And then, whenever I get the chance, I watch the fights.

     
  • At Mon Oct 13, 10:33:00 AM , Anonymous IronMike said...

    Some good sites for news

    www.fightnews.com
    www.maxboxing.com

    For Minnesota check
    www.minnesotaboxing.com

    The quality of cards need to improved. I'm also a MMA fan and they tend to have several good fights on each card while boxing usually has a bunch of mismatches excluding the co-main events. On a local level it's often worse with even the main events being mismatches.

    That being said, for anyone interested check out the Litsau's @ The Armory on Oct. 24

     

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