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The Decline of Boxing

Where has boxing gone? Boxing has slowly been declining in popularity over recent years and it is constantly slipping under the radar. Even when there are huge fights at hand, such as Floyd “Money” Mayweather fighting against “Sugar” Shane Mosely, we rarely hear much about them. Floyd Mayweather is a very popular fighter, and it seemed initially he would be able to revive the sport. Manny Pacquiao is another popular fighter. The Filipino born fighter sports a record of 53 wins (38 knockouts), 3 losses and 3 draws. Roy Jones Jr (last held a belt in 2004) fought Bernard Hopkins in the battle of the grandfathers (Jones Jr. is 41 and Hopkins is 45) and there wasn’t much pre-fight hype. These two fighters had very exciting boxing careers but have since declined with their old age. In a fight in which two legends are battling it out would usually be exciting, but compared to previous years the fight didn’t receive much attention from the media. The problem is the combined age of the two fighters is 86, which led to a boring fight, ending in a decision in favor of Hopkins.

We look at these seemingly interesting fights, yet many people never even heard of them, were interested in seeing them, or were able to watch. This begs the question of what has happened to boxing and why?

Boxing has clearly declined in popularity in the United States. One reason for the lack of popularity could be the absence of an American born heavyweight champion for some time. The last heavyweight champion from the United States was Shannon Briggs (won a WBO belt in 2007). I won’t lie, I am a huge sports fan, and I have never heard that name in my life. Other recent heavyweight champions have been Hasim Rahman (WBC belt in 2006), Lamon Brewster (WBO belt in 2006), Roy Jones Jr. (WBA belt in 2004) and Chris Byrd (IBF belt in 2006). Going through this list, I can only recognize the names of Rahman, Byrd and Jones Jr. The others are names I have never heard. This just shows how boxing has really dropped off the map. Current belt holders are Vitali Klitschko (WBC belt [Ukrainian born]), David Haye (WBA belt [British born]), and Wladimir Klitschko (IBF and WBO belts [Ukrainian born]). Yes, the Klitschko’s are brothers.

People from the United States tend to support their fellow countrymen more so than those of other places. This could be one explanation for the lack of attention boxing has been getting recently. Despite attempts at getting publicity, such as having Floyd Mayweather fight in the WWE against “The Big Show.” Fighters like Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield in the late 90’s gained great attention, but their departure from the sport has marked the decline. Tyson has moved on to bigger and better things, like tattoo’s on his face and cameo appearances in movies like “The Hangover.”

Tyson v. Holyfield

The emergence of the Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) has been another reason for the loss of publicity for boxing. The UFC is a growing organization in which fighting rules are more broad than just boxing and kickboxing. Athletes incorporate fighting techniques from a broad range of cultures, such as Muay Thai, kickboxing, wrestling, Jui-Jitsu, Hapkido, Karate, and Taekwondo (to name a few). These different mixed martial arts methods are all unified to form a more complete fighter, with a more extensive set of skills. Boxing limits the fighters to standing up and throwing simply punches, while the UFC and mixed martial arts techniques incorporate kicks, elbows and submissions additionally. As the fighters are more highly trained, possessing a broader skill set, the fights become more exciting. Higher skilled fighters have the ability to manipulate other fighters and apply their skills to create exciting ends to fights.

I have previously addressed this idea of people enjoying violence in sports, which is another reason for the increase in popularity. The violent knockouts and submissions lead to UFC fights being very unpredictable. Any fighter, regardless of skill level, has the ability to end a fight against any other fighter (regardless of their skill level), by taking advantage of an opportunity that presents itself. One wrong move by a fighter, if recognized by the opponent, can be the end of a fight. A quick submission or a well placed punch can mean the demise of the opponent, no matter who was winning at the time. The unpredictability of the fights make the UFC very exciting, a potential reason for its spike in popularity over recent years.

UFC submission

As is clearly visible, the UFC is taking the place of Boxing as the most violent sport in the United States. The absence of an American born heavyweight champion can be another reason for the decline of the sport of Boxing. Regardless of the reason, it is gaining less attention from the media, and the UFC is slowly taking its place. Other organizations, focusing on mixed martial arts are also emerging, slowly overtaking the place of boxing. Some of these are Strikeforce, World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC), and Dream (Japan). It will be interesting to see in a few years how popular mixed martial arts have become, and where boxing will be. Boxing will continue to decline unless the owners of the sport can find a way to draw attention to it with new marketing techniques. They have a new rival on the block (the UFC) who is stealing all their thunder. Expect the UFC to explode in popularity and boxing to become obsolete in the coming years.

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