Sunday, September 28, 2014

The demise of professional boxing

For a very long time, boxing was a very big deal in the American sports world. The list of notable pugilists over the decades is long indeed. Back in the days before televisions even existed, many legends had carved out their spots in American boxing history. Think of Jack Dempsey, Gentleman Jim Corbett, Sugar Ray Robinson, Jake LaMotta, Rocky Marciano, and the mighty Joe Louis to name a few.

Yours truly wasn't around in the pre-TV days, though as a young boy, I do have memories of watching a black and white set with rabbit ears on top and only 4 channels to choose from. Obviously, this was long before cable, dishes, and TV coming through a phone line was ever even imagined.

Yet, believe it or not, wireless remote controls existed back in those days. How do I know this? Because I WAS one for my late beloved dad.

Get me a beer, boy.
Turn it to channel 2, boy.
Go help your mom with the dishes, boy.
The picture's fuzzy, boy. Fix the rabbit ears.
Turn it up, boy.
Stop walking in front of the TV, boy.

But dad, I have to -- to get you a beer or help mom in the kitchen.

You heard me, boy.

Ah yes, the good old days. And Friday night was a holy time in our household. At least to dad. Some razor blade company, either Schick or Gillette -- I forget which -- featured the Friday night fights. Dad was into boxing -- in a big way. Those were times for us remotes to get like Elmer Fudd -- be vewy, vewy quiet. One time, during a particularly very good match, I forget who the competitors were, I actually went out of the front door, walked around to the back to fetch a beer in the fridge, then reversed course to present it to dad in the living room -- so I wouldn't walk in front of the TV. We remotes had to improvise at times.

But in the 1970s, I got into following boxing myself. Over the next couple decades, there were a lot of world-class guys to root for or against. Danny "Little Red" Lopez, only a featherweight, was one of my favorites. Hector "Macho" Camacho was certainly famous, as was Julio Caesar Chavez. Going up a few pounds, there were the likes of Roberto "Hands of Stone" Duran, Tommy "Hit Man" Hearns, Sugar Ray Leonard, and "Marvelous" Marvin Hagler.

And oh my, the heavyweights were everywhere. Besides Ali, consider Smokin Joe, George Foreman, the Spinks brothers, and Ken Norton. Even Jerry Quarry was a household name. Later on, along came the likes of "Iron" Mike Tyson and Larry Holmes, to name but a few. Boxing was STILL a big deal.

Yet as we all know, though it's still out there, pro boxing has all but disappeared as a mainstream sport over the last decade or two. Even Olympic boxing every 4 years has been relegated to back-burner status compared to what it used to be.

How or why this happened in America is a very good question. Did fans just grow tired of the sport? Maybe. Or did all the shady back room deals involving promoters, highly controversial decisions that went against the apparent winner of a match, and seemingly every even semi-successful fighter having his own "posse" of wannabes and thugs following him around everywhere finally turn people off?

And let's get real. Boxing always was, and is the only sport where nobody knows what the score is until it's all over. That's ridiculous. Even more outrageous is the fact that the ringside triumvirate of "judges" are free to go back and change their scores in a particular round that happened earlier. That not only sets the stage for possible corruption, but invites it. Unlike the umps in baseball, and refs in football, basketball, and hockey, boxing judges largely remain in the shadows.

The most obvious thing they should have corrected a long time ago is the scoring itself. Beginning with the first, after a round is over, the scores of the judges should be posted on a scoreboard for all those in attendance to see, and certainly not subject to change later. It's preposterous to think that could happen in any other sport. The score is what it is, inning by inning, quarter by quarter, round by round, and even second by second. So SHOW IT in real time. What's the problem?

Nevertheless, for the above and likely other reasons, pro boxing has all but died in this country. Don't believe that? OK, quick, name a famous boxer not named Floyd Mayweather in ANY weight division, and he's 37 years old. See what I mean?

Sure he was, and is a great champion. But even Mayweather, with all his millions, undefeated record, and bravado is withering away in the public eye. In order to watch one of his latest fights, one had to pony up $79.95 or whatever to catch it on a cable station. Even more telling is there was little coverage either in print media or on the Net as to the outcome of his latest match.

Floyd may still be raking in the millions but he, and all the others, can't even seem to find their way onto TV sets in most homes.

Methinks sometimes the old days were better. At least we could watch it on TV for free, even if it was in black and white, and had to forever twiddle with rabbit ears to get decent reception.

Maybe one Friday night soon, I'll make a pilgrimage to my dad's grave. I have this very old long neck bottle of Pfeiffer that I could rest against his tombstone. I think he'd like that.

We remotes never totally forget our place.....

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