Maybe I’m just amazed at why Trump is frighteningly a front runner, but somethings making me want to wonder what is different about today’s boxing.
I’ve been reflecting deeply on what characteristics and/or behavior patterns a boxer needs to demonstrate to profit from the sport, and in turn have the sport grow in stature from the boxer. It’s almost March of the year 2016, and I feel almost convinced that some stars of the sport are gladly or reluctantly passing the torch to the next generation; however, no one has really stepped up and seized their own stake in the sport of boxing. Not to say that there’s a void left behind from previous stars, but typically by now feel like I could find fighters to get behind fully rather than pulling out the boxing history books and stargazing towards the past. There is a lack of charisma and intelligence in today’s best in Professional Boxing and it’s showing.
I was reminiscing on fighters like “Prince” Naseem Hamed, the last star that brought a lot of attention to the lighter weights due to his explosive in and off-ring offense, and young Floyd Mayweather Jr. who brought attention to lighter weights due to his unshakeable confidence and water-tight ring defense. These particular fighters greatly profited from the sport, and were rewarded in retirement with respect and riches (well in Naseem’s case he’s just goddamn happy). Was charisma and smarts a quality that made fighters like these profit from the sport? Where are the other fighters that are reaping the rewards?
The lighter weight classes are an especially harder conversation, as I’ve read by legendary boxing writer A. J. Liebling. In his book of boxing essays, I read a heartbreaking story of a featherweight fighter risking his life every week serving as “cannon-fodder” or “record-padding” to welterweights and middleweights in 1950s Brooklyn because of the lack of profit available to make a mark in his own weight classes. If there weren’t any fans coming to his fight, it wasn’t even worth trying to act up his role in winning it. This was a time where if you weren’t a heavyweight, you were nothing to pay for. Arguably still a truth that most boxing heads still preach, with one or two champions that blip up every 5 years that make you want to anticipate title defenses.
Is this what professional boxing have come to? Countries breeding big men to bring attention to their best in the sport (ahem Anthony Joshua ahem), and letting the lighter weights basically be “Professional Boxing, Jr.” as they grow into a more comfortable weight? Cultivating a media mouth and an imagination as big as confidence to succeed in attracting fans to every fight? I shudder to think about the potentially lucrative alternate timeline of the great champion Alexis Arguello if he wasn’t a gentleman, or was a huge potty mouth. Nice guy, 8 title defenses, 4 different weight classes, died early vs. Media brat, 49-0, retired before 40 in peak physical health.
Fans and modern professionals forget the mental maturity needed at the highest level demonstrated by all the great champions in history. However, little has been said about the new kind of savvy and intelligence that is now needed to succeed and profit at today’s highest level. Maybe we should anticipate the “shrewd” move of Amir Khan challenging Canelo Alvarez. (Who could arguably maybe need 1-2 fights before retiring with enough money). Seems like Floyd is still schooling in retirement because this strategy was perfectly orchestrated in his career resume. Andre SOG Ward might also be playing this game with his economical style making him still as sharp as ever even with long layoffs. Finally, El Chacal Rigondeaux. Now that I think about it, his style and physique could keep him fighting past 50 at the same weight, which he should if he could. He could greatly profit by fighting all these young bucks trying to swipe a belt while growing in physique.
Sorry for this rambling thesis, but I’m calling this here. Boxing in today’s world is evolving towards the individual franchise, where longevity-supporting boxing style plus media smarts equals not only legacy (which was always the promise for our dear sweet science) but also a rewarding retirement.
“The question isn’t at what age I want to retire, it’s at what income.” – George Foreman at age 45, on his fight with Michael Moorer