By Tom Donelson (BWAA)
Member Boxing Writers Association of America
Feature Writer for dmboxing.com since 2008
The big fight is over and now the obituary for boxing has begun as the fight fail to live up the hype. Many pundits misses important points. I have already heard how big events like Mayweather-Pacquiao is bad for boxing but that is like saying the Super Bowl is bad for Football and how many times will we read how this particular fight will do little to increase boxing? That is the equal of saying that a Super Bowl blow out will destroy the interest in football and we already know that not to be true. Football proved to be as popular even after the Seattle Seahawks devastation of the Denver Broncos two years ago. There have been many big boxing events that fail to develop upon the hype and yet, boxing still survived.
I won’t disagree with the idea that boxing will never return to the popularity heights seen in the past but there is no reason that boxing can at least improve in popularity and add new generation of fans to maintain itself as a sport with a strong niche of fans. Hockey is a sport that fills arena but rarely garners big ratings on TV and baseball will never regain its place as Americas’ past time. Colin Cowherd noted that NFL draft got higher ratings than even many baseball’s playoff games but yet baseball set baseball attendance records over the past decades and sports like Tennis and Soccer (called football outside of the United States) still have their millions of loyal fans.
Boxing can increase its own market share among sport fans and super bouts like the recent Mayweather-Pacquiao do increase interest among causal fans.. Over the past year, we have seen the expansion of boxing via television as Tru TV, Spike, along with NBC and CBS have expanded boxing coverage through the Premier Championship boxing series. There are at least seven or eight outlets that cover boxing on TV. The Premier Championship boxing series have reintroduced good fighters to a larger audience and the effect will be create new boxing heroes as well as potential bigger fights down the road.. Over the next month, we will see Andre Dirrell, the brother of former WBC Super Middleweight champion Anthony Dirrell, and Amir Khan, a potential future opponent for Floyd Mayweather. If these fighters win their next bouts; this will only increase interest in them and others down the road.
Another aspect often overlooked is that boxing is an international sport. Why did the Klitschko’s brothers fight in Europe for the past decade? The answer is that they filled out big arenas and many European fighters are ranked among the top 20 fighters of each division, in particular those divisions above Middleweight.
Bob Arum has promoted fights in Macao and opening new markets in China while boxing remains popular among Hispanics, the fastest growing demographics in the United States. The biggest story often overlooked is how much of our sporting world has gone international. Baseball has seen influx of Hispanics from Central and South America as well as Asia and many South Americans and Europeans basketball have seen success in the NBA. International basketball has improved in quality from the days that the Dream Team marched through the 1992 Olympics and so has basketball popularity world wide.
Boxing may never reach the heights that many of us remembered from the Ali’s era but boxing will not die but continue as a niche sport along with others sports like Golf, NASCAR, Tennis, MMA and soccer. At this point, the only truly national American sport is football but there is no guarantee that football will retain that popularity over the next generation.
Boxing is not dead and its demise has been predicted so many times in the past. Boxing does not live or die based on big PPV but its increase popularity will be based on good fights for fans to enjoy. Ward-Gatti proved to be as popular as any PPV over the past decade and the reason is simple; it was a great trilogy. Boxing will find new heroes and there will be future Gatti-Ward fights. Young fighers just as Saul Alvarez, Gennady Golovkin, Dontay Wilder, Keith Thurman among others are ready for their day in the sun. The Mayweather era is about over as Mayweather is prepared to ride into the sunset but there are stars just right behind him ready to provide a new generation of boxing fans with their own memories. Boxing is a niche sport with millions of loyal fans worldwide. There is one thing that will guarantee boxing staying alive; the expansion of channels available through cable, direct TV or on one’s computer. As viewing options increase so does the need to find sports to fill the increase times. Boxing will not die.