Boxers Are Killing Boxing

I follow boxing more closely than any other sport for some reason.

It’s a strange choice considering that, according to common widsom, the core fan base is quite specific and quite unlike me: Mexicans and Americans of Mexican, Puerto Rican and Cuban descent.

Anyway, last night I watched the Pacquiao / Mosley Showtime PPV and, like most, found it disappointingly boring.

This puts me in a mood to complain about the sport. It is something of a cottage industry to speculate about what is wrong with boxing, so maybe I’ll take up that pitchfork.

I like to think of the problem as expressed by a single fact: boxing doesn’t really have tournaments.

The giant-killing underdogs, the drama of elimination, the wash of satisfaction from knowing who ‘the best’ is. Boxing fans rarely get to have all these feelings as a package.

In a way, this strikes me as fairly sensible, actually. For instance, the here’s the lesson I take from the ‘super six‘: the best boxers are really good and if they all fought each other regularly, the probability of life-changing injury skyrockets.

Combat sports are and should be a young man’s game. Fine, but pro sports are businesses and the business of boxing is designed to maximize the economic life of a few superstars. This makes the template unsurprising: old fighters contesting rare, super-hyped matchups.

The top fighters like this because they don’t want to fight too much. Guys that fight too much get Parkinson’s and they’ve already clocked a lot of miles. The promoters like this because top boxers need good promotion to maximize the impact of infrequent fights.

And the system is self-sustaining. Remember, you have to beat the best to be the best and you have to fight the best to beat the best. If the superstar-promoter axis doesn’t play ball, there’s no deal.

Tournaments would destroy the economic model. They would wipe out the entire older generation with injuries and create new stars without lots of promotion, really.

The best fight, from a promoter-superstar collusion standpoint, is just what we saw last night, two aging stars that are easy to promote playing patty-cake for 12 rounds and bringing in huge purses.

Do the fans lose? You betcha.

That’s why boxing is far less exciting than it can be.

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