The Revival of Boxing(5-14-09)
By James P Dayap
The dressing room is seemingly quiet until the press and trainers get inside. You look at your shorts and count how many advertisers got their patches on you. Your trainer tells you to put your hand up so he can wrap up your hands. The assistant trainer squirts water into your mouth to help hydrate you. The referee walks in to tell you the rules to the engagement. A security guard walks in and signals it is time to make your way to the arena. The hallway is cleared, but many cameramen and media people are still around to document your every move towards the ring. Everybody cheers as they see you walk into the arena. Your opponent is already standing opposite of you, and Michael Buffer is announcing your name and titles. The man you are facing has been favored as the person who will win the fight, with experts of the sport saying you have no chance. Your coaches give you a few more words of advice, and the bell rings. The man opposite of you touches gloves with you, gives you a smile, the throws a huge punch towards your face that wakes you up. It’s a fight. In retaliation, you throw a left and right hook that daze your opponent, and then rush in to throw a straight right. The man from the other corner notices this and counters your punch with a punch of his own. It’s a massive exchange of blows. The crowd roars cheering you on. One man falls to the canvas after six rounds. Luckily, it wasn’t you. Michael Buffer walks to the center of the ring and announces that you won.
What is the sport of boxing? Most onlookers would see it as the brutal collision of two people in a violent slugfest, but to patrons of the sport, it would be known as the sweet science. Fans of the sport would go as far as calling boxing a lesson in physics, using terms relating to physics such as mass, speed, velocity, time, and gravity. The sport of boxing can be dated back to the dawn of mankind, and even documented as a sport as far back if not farther than the time of the Roman Empire. American boxing would be as old as America is, but most of it’s substantial record keeping of the sport, dates a hundred years back. In modern times, boxing rules are unified across the globe, creating organizations and sanctioning bodies that would award a belt, to the highest level contenders of weight classes. It’s popularity would peak in the late sixties and into the seventies and eighties, but start to decline in the nineties. But why was boxing so popular at one point, the decline at another?
The advent of radio and television brought the sport’s popularity up in the 20’s and up to the 60’s. Matches were being heard or watched constantly by people around the world, and fighters were becoming superstars in their countries or worldwide. Great superstars like Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, and Joe Frazer emerged in the 60s and 70s, and became great superstars of all time. Muhammad Ali would go forth to most likely be the greatest fighter of all time, not just because of his techniques in the ring, but his charisma and dedication to the sport. Being a poet and somewhat of an artist, he gave fans a complete package of a boxer, person, and entertainer. Set aside from the honor and chivalry of boxing, dirty tactics and actions started to come into play early and often. Ali’s match with a man named Sonny Liston, would be slightly tainted by Sonny’s attempt to blind Ali with using acid on his gloves. Unfortunately as boxing grew more popular, it started to become a lot more about money. With money comes a lot of corruption and dirty business. Come the 80’s, a young and powerful boxer named Mike Tyson would emerge as the heavyweight world champion, being devastating in the ring, and uncontrollable out of it. Known for raping a woman, and pushing his mother down the stairs, Mike Tyson would be a prime example of what would cause the downfall of boxing. He would outrageous claims to opponents like when he said ,“I want to rip out his heart and feed it to Lennox Lewis. I want to kill people. I want to rip their stomachs out and eat their children,” or resorting to strange illegal tactics in the ring, like biting the ears off of his opponent at the time, Evander Holyfield. Mike Tyson would eventually end up in prison for his actions, leaving a huge scar on the world of boxing.
Boxer’s actions would not be the only place where boxing would find itself in a dead end. The actions of promoters would often be just as bad. I asked boxer Harry Harnescfeger about boxing promoter Don King and boxer Mike Tyson, he replied ,” Great boxer, terrible personality, as for Don King? Sorry but that man is a piece of shit.” Don King would be known for making match ups that were very flashy, and sometimes dangerous for one or both boxers. He is known for not caring much for his fighter’s safety at times, and also stealing a lot of the prize money for himself.
While being charismatic in boxing is a good thing, cockiness would often decrease a boxer’s fan base substantially. A current boxer named Floyd Mayweather Jr. would have some of the fastest hands, an unbeaten record, and boxing skills like no tomorrow, but because he cant shut his own mouth about how good he is, he often is booed and hated by crowds of boxing fans. Boxing in the 90’s would find it’s savior in the form of Oscar De La Hoya. A young Oscar De La Hoya would win a gold medal at the Olympics in 1992, and forever be known as the Golden Boy. His charisma, humble attitude, and constant will to want to challenge the best, left him as a six division world champion, winning 10 different belts. In wake of his success, he started his own promotional company, named after his nickname, Golden Boy, the company currently sees the highest level of success. “Oh yeah, Oscar De La Hoya is a promoter, I remember he just fought the small Filipino, Manny Pacquiao, “ said Harry after I asked him about Oscar. In Oscar’s recent bout before his retirement, he faced the next savior of boxing, Manny Pacquiao.
The Filipino slugger, Manny Pacquiao came from a life of poverty and hunger. He found himself selling donuts and stolen cigarettes to survive and help his family. He would eventually run away to another island in the Philipines to train as a boxer, in hopes of a better life for himself and his family. He never saw what was coming. Today, he finds himself at the top of the sport, recently becoming a six division world champion, like Oscar De La Hoya, and being named the best fighter in the world, if not of all time. Having charisma and a good attitude, Manny Pacquiao surpasses Oscar, giving a lot to charity, and being overall extremely humble, without a glance of cockiness. “Boxing needed a guy like him, he donates almost all of his money to the poor in the Philipines, and he is very kind and warm hearted. It makes a lot of boxers want to be like him, so yes, he can save the sport because he sets a great example to all the other boxers. He even sets a great example to all atheletes, “ said Harry Harnescfeger, on the topic of Manny Pacquiao, “Manny is a great boxer, most of us boxers look up to him.”
Boxing fans exciting fights, fights where the outcome is either not obvious, or a lot of great exchanges can happen. Champions are looked down upon when it appears they are avoiding or “ducking” opponents that challenge them. Although boxer Floyd Mayweather is an undefeated great, he has been known to duck many opponents, and in some ways wait for some opponents to get older or weaker before he decides to fight them. Manny Pacquiao, who is the currently rated as the number one boxer in the world, has never ducked or avoided any boxer. Manny always steps up not only a level, but weight classes to challenge bigger and stronger opponents, proving he is the best, and entertaining the fans to no limit. His recent bout with United Kingdom’s Ricky Hatton, proved a major stepping stone in his brilliant career. Although Manny Pacquiao had defeated the larger, stronger Oscar De La Hoya months ago, many would dispute Oscar was too old and weak. When Manny took the challenge of Ricky Hatton, it would deem Ricky the underdog, but at the same time you must factor Manny and Ricky are the same age, and Ricky has never been defeated at their agreed weight limit of 140 pounds. Pleasing the fans, Manny Pacquiao destroyed Ricky Hatton in under 2 rounds, nearly sending the British man into coma after the bout.
Aside from all the looking into the promotions, build up, and even the boxers themselves, a large amount of the boxing patrons find themselves a fan of the sweet science of boxing. Fans of this aspect would find themselves watching the slow instant replays of boxing matches, studying the very techniques and decisions that the boxers use. From the very angle the boxer executes the punch from, to the exact area of impact that the fighter decides to unleash their power. This can even lead to documentation of a fighter’s training, allowing fans to view what the fighters are working on to bring into the rings with them. The boxer’s trainers, ever so doting, help mold the sweet science of boxing into their fighters, in hopes of making champions.
While nobody can shut up or stop the negative parts of boxing from happening, it is good to know that great champions and good hearted people can still lead the sport in the right direction. I can see the sport becoming a lot more popular in the next ten years, and a higher interest in more programs to promote the sport.