Boxing: Despite All The Bad, The Good Shines Through
A lot has changed in the boxing world since my first entry into the sweet science, unfortunately not all of those changes are positive ones.
As I advanced through my teenage years and beyond I was spoilt, I had an unprecedented golden generation of fighters to follow. I was fortunate to see the likes of Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran and the rest of that splendid era at their magnificent peak, at the height of their considerable skills, almost immediately I was hooked.
The alphabet boys were under control, only two recognised governing bodies, still one too many, but it was still a sport which even the casual of fan could follow and understand.
Live TV coverage of the sport was limited, long before satellite TV would give us more content, we only had the BBC and ITV to give us our food of choice.
But despite this, there was something truly special about a big fight live experience. Fights involving the likes of Barry McGuigan, Frank Bruno and others were nights I will never forget.
McGuigan winning the world title from the long-reigning Eusebio Pedroza had far wider implications than just a pure sporting event, the troubles of the time were at least temporarily halted, those nights meant something, the country stopped, we cared.
Radio was important, often the only other option to experience the fight as it actually happened. Bruno in his first attempt at the world heavyweight title against Tim Witherspoon and the Marvin Hagler Thomas Hearns war are stand out memories for me. The excellent commentary of Ian Darke added a little extra, the words of Darke made the lack of pictures irrelevant.
Of course all those memories were free to witness, no subscription required, PPV at least on UK soil, still years away.
Regular readers of my articles probably assume I am a hater of PPV cards, but in truth I’m not. I understand in some cases there is a need, but in most cases there isn’t a need. I have no problem paying for the likes of Froch Groves, Joshua Klitschko, Wilder Fury, but PPV should be an exception, reserved for the mega events.
But in recent times sadly and predictably it has got abused, that exception is now the norm.
Of course nothing stays the same, we have more choice, but sadly that greater choice comes at a heavy cost. Money probably now than ever rules the sport, it dictates what we are served up and the price we have to pay.
Promoters talk about obligations in growing the sport, yet it’s all about the money, fans see it for what it is, they see through the carefully scripted words.
Can anyone seriously call themselves a world champion when there are so many belts around, do they even care, I suspect the fans have long since stopped caring, and that is a sad reflection of where the sport is.
Winning a world title should be the pinnacle of the sport, but in truth what does it really mean in today’s world, certainly not what it should.
We now know so much about drugs in the sport but we do so little. Lack of testing, no united stance, punishments which do little to deter.
Jarrell Miller will return in the not too distant future. Someone said he would become a more marketable fighter because of his failed drug tests. You cringe in disgust, embarrassed at the nerve, but also knowing the comment is 100% correct.
Judging controversy is never far away from the surface, how did Gennady Golovkin not get the judges in at least one of his fights with Saul Alvarez, but as I wrote at the time, you just knew what was coming.
Even one of the most sensational performances in recent times was ruined by the judges, Tyson Fury denied what should have been rightfully his, by the people who are paid to get it right.
I’m not saying everything was perfect all those years ago or that everything is bad now, but as I get older I get more cynical, more aware of what goes on, too much of the sport leaves me cold.
Now I’m involved in the sport in my own small way, I know what the fighters put into it, and they don’t get very get much out of it, at least financially.
Fighters even more so than the fans are what makes this sport so great, but like the fans, they are not treated and appreciated like they should be.
But strip away all the politics and everything else that’s wrong in the game, when the two fighters are left alone in the ring to do what they do best, it’s still the most purest of sports. That’s what makes me return again and again.