November 6, 2007

The Contender Helps Boxing

Over the last decade, the popularity of boxing has waned substantially. In my opinion, and that of many others, there are many reasons for this. First, poor judging decisions have left the public questioning the legitimacy of the sport and its governing bodies. Second, so many governing bodies exist that it's almost impossible to keep all of them straight, or to know which matters. Third, the retirement of the great heavyweights has left a hole at the top of the sport. Great heavyweight fights have always garnered the most attention because their power is unparalleled, and the retirement of Tyson, Holyfield, and Lewis, among others, has left us with a bunch of no-name, little-talent hacks by comparison. Fourth, mixed martial arts organizations like UFC have captured some of the bloodbath audience, stealing some of boxing's popularity and rightfully so. Fifth, and finally of the ones I'm going to list here, the pay-per-view lineup, while still weaker than in years past, has sucked out whatever life was left in the sport because no one is willing to pay ridiculous rates when the UFC is on for free a few days after the live event. None of the "great" fighters have appeared on ESPN or other TV in a long time, and Friday Night Fights has continued to spiral into oblivion.

Until now, I haven't felt that the Contender, Sugar Ray Leonard's TV show for aspiring boxers, has done much to change anything. But tonight, in the finals for $750k (chump change by old-school standards), Sakio Bika knocked out Jaidon Codrington in one of the best fights I've seen in years. I wouldn't say it was a GREAT fight like Brian Kenny kept repeating, but it definitely kept you entertained and on the edge of your seat the whole time. Fights like that can energize the whole sport and start to build excitement. Boxing doesn't have to die in the face of the UFC, but it will take exciting fights, with the outcome constantly in doubt, to bring it back. As a fan of boxing, I hope it can make it, but it's still a long road and I'm not sure we've seen the bottom yet.

As a final note, consider that the Contender website isn't even on ESPN, nor is there a story about the fight or any pictures of it available that I can find. While it wasn't a title fight, ESPN aired it in primetime, but they can't give it any links on the main page? Poor.

4 Responses:

Russell said...

Update: More than an hour after the fight ended, ESPN has a story up on the main page (the very last story linked), still without pictures.

Brien said...

I think you hit the nail on the head with most of boxing's problems, but you got the PPV argument wrong. UFC is still mainly PPV events. There are a few free ones on Spike, but they make their money on pay per view.

The difference is that boxing has one fight that you're really interested in, and an undercard full of no-names that you hope can give a good fight. A UFC pay per view is likely to have 2 marquis fights, 2-3 fights featuring guys you've heard of, and 1-2 filler fights if the other ones are short.

UFC stacks the pay per view cards so you don't feel quite as ripped off as with a boxing PPV.

J-Red said...

People aren't going to pay $44.95 too many times to see a main event that lasts 27 seconds.

Plus, the pay-per-view era really began to flourish along with the rise of Mike Tyson. When he disappeared, people were confused. They couldn't comprehend paying for a fight that didn't involve Tyson. Some turned to De La Hoya, but a De La Hoya fight isn't exactly going to draw a lot of people over to your house.

Jeremy said...

The only fight I ever paid for was back when J-Red was living in Laurel and he, myself, and a few others chipped in to watch Lennox Lewis-Mike Tyson. That was the fun fight where Lewis played Tyson for a few rounds, battered him just enough so he stayed on his feet, then absolutely lit him up. For a fight like that, it was fine for me to chip in $10 to watch. But there aren't any fights like that anymore. Sorry, I can't get very excited for Bernard Hopkins or Oscar de La Gaya

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