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Is Boxing Dead?

My answer is nope... But it is certainly dying. 

Giphy Images.

I wrote a blog yesterday about Tommy Fury being an absolute genius. Instead of fighting his way to the middle of the cruiserweight division with his limited skill set, he is instead making MILLIONS beating up online celebrities… What I failed to mention is Tommy's fight was broadcast on DAZN PPV which has pivoted a great deal of its resources lately towards influencers and away from real boxers. 

Then, this afternoon, news dropped that Paramount is shutting down Showtime Sports, a brand that has been in existence for nearly 38 years and has broadcast some of the most iconic bouts in boxing's history. The announcement was partially expected and affects other sports as well… Paramount still owns Bellator but has been in the market trying to sell it for months. But this move affects boxing the most.  Showtime has aired nearly 2,000 fights, starting in 1986 when Marvelous Marvin Hagler fought John "The Beast" Mugabi. 

Focus On Sport. Getty Images.

I bring that fight up because I remember it vividly… My favorite fighter in the world, Hagler, was towards the end of his career (he was only 32, but would fight only one time after Mugabi) and he was taking on this fucking MONSTER kid from Uganda who was 26-0 with 26 KOs.  Hagler knocked "The Beast" out in the 11th Round, but with 65 professional brawls under his belt, Hagler looked slower than ever. Then Marvelous hung up the gloves just over a year later after losing a controversial split decision to some guy named Sugar Ray Leonard.

For those not old enough to remember names like Mugabi, Leonard, or Hagler, Showtime also aired fights like Mike Tyson vs Evander Holyfield and Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao, so the channel has had its hand in crafting the sport for decades.

And now it is walking away.

And Showtime is not alone.

Showtime's biggest competition for years, HBO, made a similar announcement years ago that it was exiting the sport in 2019.

The HBO news was disappointing to most in the industry, but this latest announcement has the biggest names in the sport spooked…

Ryan might have been exposed after his fight with Tank Davis, but he is still a very visible athlete within boxing, and his comment elicited a response from one of the best pound-for-pound fighters alive when Bud Crawford chimed in…

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So what happens now?… What happens to a sport that used to be a valuable component of everyone's basic cable package no longer being on cable (for the most part)?

Well, like everything else, the sport has got to pivot… And here are a couple of things it could do immediately…

First off, boxing has too many belts.  I sat down with Dana White a couple of years ago and we talked about how what is wrong with boxing might partially fix what is wrong with the UFC.  If the UFC were to create more weight classes and/or add another belt to each of its existing weights, it would create more champions for its fans to root for and give contenders more shots to hold a strap.

Again, Dana and I were just talking about that possibility… He has no immediate plans that I know of to fix what's not really broken.  Especially since boxing took the "added belts" idea and totally fucked it up by adding belts that just don't matter, essentially making everyone a champ.

Now boxing is in a situation where it desperately needs to cut down on the number of belts in each weight class and make the remaining champions true champs.

Secondly, boxing has got to put together the fights that need to be made… Although the fight wasn't competitive, Bud Crawford versus Erroll Spence Jr was a HUGE fight to make, but it took nearly 3 years to get it done.  If Crawford is serious about being the savior of boxing, he needs to fight more than once a year, and he needs to give the fans the fights they want in a more timely manner.

And again, in that respect, UFC is eating boxing's lunch because, even without enough belts, they have the right fights being made nearly every month.

Third, the powers-that-be in boxing have got to make the sport more accessible to the average Joe.  In my lifetime, I went from watching fights for free on ABC, to paying for them in my monthly cable bill, to paying for them on monthly streaming services, to paying even MORE for them on PPV within the streaming service I already pay a monthly fee to.  It's a lot of scratch for the average viewer, and if you're looking to save the sport, then you gotta make the financial barrier of entry much lower.

And there are a ton of other things that need to happen within the culture of boxing… Outside of the tremendous amount of corruption within boxing's ranks, de-prioritizing a fighter's unbeaten record leaps to mind, as does the non-denigration of gimmicks.  Tyson Fury got some grief for agreeing to this upcoming money-grab vs Francis Nagannou, but the bout will inevitably raise the public profile of the Gypsy King exponentially as he (hopefully) schedules a unification bout vs Usyk.

Remember, boxing's Lord and Saviour, Muhammad Ali, fought Japanese wrestler, Antonio Inoki…

Bettmann. Getty Images.

Chuck Wepner ("The Bayonne Bleeder") fought Andre The Giant…

Bettmann. Getty Images.

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And Rocky fought Thunderlips…

Michael Ochs Archives. Getty Images.

Boxing needs to sell its soul a little, embrace the gimmick, and raise the profile of its fighters.

To close, I'll go glass-half-full and maybe see yesterday's announcement as a positive… A wake-up call to promoters.  As PBC, Matchroom, Top Rank, and others see the options to broadcast their fighters dissipate, perhaps they can "play better in the sandbox" when it comes to creating matchups that are cross-promoted.   Maybe the fewer networks the less politics and the more fights we actually want to get made.  It puts the boxing promoters on notice to make the big fights in order to renew interest in what I consider the greatest sport in the world.

Or maybe Elon can buy the whole fucking sport and clean it up himself.

Take a report.

-Large