Boxing, much to the distress of fans of Mixed Martial Arts, is making a comeback, thanks in large measure to NBC and the live broadcast of fights.
It’s almost as if the historic order of things is finally being restored as the sweet science is coming back while the brutality of the animalistic MMA may well have peaked.
I saw Milwaukee’s Anthony Pettis lose his title in a fight with Rafael dos Anjos Saturday night and was struck at how much interest there was in this sport.
One of the most common statements you hear about boxing is that it’s been killed. I think the real deal is that boxing committed suicide. With the explosion of dueling organizations and lust for the almighty dollar, boxing is now a sport with more confusion than a guy who’s been married four times.
But the appeal of the sport is still there.
It’s much more appealing that this MMA junk where guys spend a lot of time laying on top of each other with almost no fighting taking place at all. MMA is a bout that features moments of panicked kicking and hitting and tackling with long pauses for the two guys to rest on top of each other.
In order for boxing to restore itself to its rightful place in the pecking order, there are a couple of things the sport needs to do.
As a first step, the different divisions need to agree that real leadership is needed. The major reason for the success of UFC has been the tireless promotion and regulation of Dana White. Boxing needs the same kind of leadership.
The next step is to eliminate of all these divisions, titles and belts. If you’re a lightweight, you are a lightweight and there is one world champion lightweight belt. You have a quantifiable points system to determine champions, or, if you really get daring, you could stage a year long tournament with 16 men in each weight class.
Imagine the thrill as you get toward the end of the season when pairings are narrowed. It’s March Madness with fists.
The other thing that this kind of fix will do is create the kind of champions who people not only know, but who we could all root for. The reliance on fights like the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao event isn’t enough and they get in the way of the overall health of the sport.
Think back to the names Leonard and Hearns and Duran and Ali and Foreman and Frazier and Marciano and Louis. These were names that were in the everyday consciousness of sports fans. At one point boxing was one of the most popular sports in the world.
There’s another thing about boxing that’s important.
You can teach your kids to box. The phrase "fight like a man" springs to mind here. What that means is standing tall and throwing your best punch. It means taking one on the chin and still facing your foe. It does not mean kicking someone or tackling them or riding them to death.
You could be proud of a child who learns how to box. A child who learns mixed martial arts probably needs some serious counseling.
I’m not sure that the people who are involved in boxing will see the wisdom of making profound changes for the overall health of their sports. The lure of occasional big, big money may be too strong.
But if they pause and take a look at the respective TV ratings of both sports, they will clearly decide to pursue a path toward restoration. And if NBC decides that this is worth it, the network could easily start calling a tune. And once television speaks, the rest of the world seems to listen.
With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.
He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.
This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as OnMilwaukee.com keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.
Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.