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Boxing needs a Bolt

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Ben Dirs | 23:00 UK time, Tuesday, 15 September 2009

The idea of my dad or any of his cabbie mates not knowing who the best heavyweight boxer in Britain was would have been, well, it just wouldn't have happened.

When it comes to certain topics, drivers of black cabs are social barometers, canaries down the mine, except angrier. And when cabbies have stopped chirping about boxing, you know the sport must be in trouble.

So when my cabbie the other night announced that he didn't know who David Haye was, I was understandably shocked, to the extent that my cabbie felt the need to apologise. "Sorry mate, dunno who he is. Used to love a bit of boxing, but it's not on TV any more. Is it?" Haye, in case anyone doesn't know, is the best heavyweight boxer in Britain.

Floyd Mayweather is a former five-weight world champion - but not boxing's Bolt

Now, before anyone gets upset, this isn't another "boxing's on its last legs" blog. Everyone apart from Don King will tell you the sport's not as popular as it used to be, we've accepted it, there's no point going on about it. This blog is more about hope. The hope that somewhere out there is boxing's Usain Bolt.

Floyd Mayweather may return to action this weekend after a 21-month hiatus, up against the flinty Mexican Juan Manuel Marquez in Las Vegas, but then Mayweather never has been the crossover star boxing craved. A rare talent, no doubt, but boxing's Usain Bolt? Well, for starters, boxing's Bolt will likely be twice Pretty Boy's size.

It's always the heavyweights who are tasked with 'saving' boxing: Joe Louis in the '30s, Muhammad Ali in the '60s, Mike Tyson in the '80s. Similarly, athletics has usually looked to its sprinters to project the sport above and beyond the track: Jesse Owens, 'Bullet' Bob Hayes, Carl Lewis. But athletics has suffered a stark reversal of fortunes since Lewis' day.

Ben Johnson effectively spiked the Holy Grail, although there were others before him, and marquee sprinters have been choking on the chalice ever since.

Lewis himself was implicated after his retirement, although he has always protested his innocence. Britain's Linford Christie, the 1992 Olympic champion, was subsequently banned for two years for doping. Justin Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic champion, is currently serving a four-year ban. Tim Montgomery, a former world record holder, was also caught out and is now the fastest man in the exercise yard after a conviction for fraud and heroin distribution.

bolt595.jpgBolt is a triple world and Olympic champion, and one of the most marketable sportsmen in the world

Boxing has been brought low by those that run the game, rather than its participants, the public dazed and confused by a dizzying lack of clarity. Too many belts, too many weights, not enough television coverage. Who's the best? No-one really knows, not even the best themselves, because the best too rarely fight each other.

The heavyweight division is even more depressing than sprinting was before Bolt burst onto the scene in a hail of imaginary arrows. The crop of sub-10 second 100m runners never failed, unlike the crop of top-class heavyweight boxers, which appears to have been almost entirely destroyed, in the United States at least.

The Klitschko brothers, Wladimir and Vitali, are fine fighters and, by virtue of their various humanitarian efforts, fine people. Unfortunately, both are artisans rather than artists in the ring, and, perhaps more importantly, they're not American.

Athletics is one of the few truly global sports, but boxing's spiritual home, at least since gloves were donned, is the United States. The first gloved heavyweight champion, John L Sullivan, was American; so too the first black heavyweight champion, Jack Johnson; Joe Louis 'fought' the Nazis in the ring; Muhammad Ali was quite simply 'The Greatest', and every great heavyweight champion since has been American, with the honourable exception of Britain's Lennox Lewis.

Only the Americans have the necessary know-how to turn things round, to unearth a gem and polish it so hard that the rest of the world is dazzled. Because boxing in the United States has been low before, although, admittedly, never as low as this.

As far back as the 1950s, venerable boxing writer AJ Liebling considered that he was covering a sport in terminal decline. "There exist certain generalised conditions today," wrote Liebling in 1952, "like full employment and a late school leaving age, that militate against the development of first-rate professional boxers."

When the newly-monikered Ali defended his heavyweight crown against the little-loved Sonny Liston in Lewiston, Maine in 1965, just 2,434 fans were present, the lowest attendance for a heavyweight title fight.

Tyson, difficult as it is to believe now, was considered the sport's deliverer when he was rampaging across a parched heavyweight landscape in the 1980s like some crazed bull. The glamour of Leonard, Hagler, Hearns and Duran fading fast, replaced by the captivating menace of the 'baddest man on the planet'.

Boxing could do with a more benign saviour this time, although some of Tyson's fury in the ring wouldn't go amiss: to most fans, heavyweight boxing without the knockouts is like football without the goals or cricket without the wickets.

But the key thing is charisma, something Bolt has in spades. The Jamaican runs very fast, but he looks joyous doing it. He wins world and Olympic titles while mucking about. They say he's thinking about switching to the long jump. I wonder if he could be persuaded to strap on the gloves instead?

It would be foolish to consider Bolt as a panacea, the tracts of empty seats at the World Championships in Berlin last month revealed he is not. But, while papering over the cracks to a certain extent, he is pulling in punters and TV viewers who would otherwise have stayed away. Punters who, when Bolt isn't strutting his stuff, might find themselves wooed by a Kenenisa Bekele or a Yelena Isinbayeva instead.

The audience for boxing never went away - there will always be plenty of people across the globe who like watching two men trade punches, that's just the way many of us humans are hard-wired. The sport just needs a Bolt to remind us exactly how thrilling it can be.

When Bolt smashed the 200m world record in Beijing last year, he proclaimed that he'd "blown the world's mind". It was like a distant echo of the past, replicating, deliberately or not, Cassius Clay's "I shook up the world" after his victory over Liston for the world heavyweight crown in 1964.

Bolt gives fans of boxing hope - indeed he gives fans of any struggling sport hope - that however moribund their sport might appear, lightning might be about to strike.


  • Comment number 1.

    I like David Haye. That is all

  • Comment number 2.

    I must confess I've been wooed by Isinbayeva for some time and not just her vaulting prowess.

    All sports need superstars with charisma, but the sports without any "immediate" mass appeal need them more. While football, tennis and athletics for example are easy to understand and fairly universal (anyone can try their hand), other sports like rugby, cricket or baseball have sometimes incomprehensible rules and little in the way of immediate appeal to the non-initiated audience, and so really need their stars - Lomu put rugby on the world radar at a time when it was sink or swim for the sport, for example.

    Boxing is the odd man out here: it's really the most basic of all sports, the easiest to understand (surely only a pie-eating contest would be more genetically ingrained into humans), yet it's also the one most people would be least willing to attempt. But at the same time we do have a fascination for it, watching two guys beating each other up.

    You say that America's the place for heavyweights and you're right. But wouldn't its mass appeal be enhanced by greater competition? I mean someone like Lewis, only facing tougher competition. That's what heavyweight boxing really needs: a full stable of very competitive Americans, and a handful of great heavyweights from the rest of the world, as in golf. You only need to look at the lower divisions to see it works.

  • Comment number 3.

    I dislike Tyson Fury, that is all

  • Comment number 4.

    I take the theme of the blog on board, however the public have en masse given the Boxing product of the last decade the thumbs down. Fans have voted with their feet at live events and their remote controls at home, instead viewing Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and in particular the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). The UFC has engaged Boxing in direct competition in the Pay Per View market and is choking the life from Boxing's market share.

    The reason is simple, Boxing has lost itself amidst a sea of disjointed promotion and self interest. The best rarely touch gloves in their weightclass, instead a fighter must mow down numerous journeymen opponents before they step into the ring with a worthy peer.

    The explosion in popularity of MMA in the USA, Brazil and Europe has saw Pay Per View buy rates skyrocket at Boxing's expense. The UFC heavyweight Brock Lesnar is widely regarded as the new 'baddest man on the planet' going into the next decade. David Haye et al do not come anywhere close on that shortlist. Boxing needs a more savvy communications strategy with the public, and to promote the right fights at the right times.

    Boxing may not be dead, but when the dust clears after the inevitable Mayweather v Pacquiao clash we'll see just how healthy the sport is.

  • Comment number 5.

    I've never really bought the theory that "as go the heavyweights, so goes boxing". Before Marciano's reign, and well after Joe Louis was of any relevance, the sport was enjoying what a number of people regard as one of its golden ages. Pep and Saddler, among the featherweights; Ike Williams, Beau Jack and Bob Montgomery heading the lightweights; the greatest crop of welters and middleweights we've ever seen, with Sugar Ray Robinson their undisputed star. Boxing was never more popular, despite the shenanigans of the Mob, a popularity that was just as eveident in the UK as in America.

    We can see a similar story in the early to mid 80s. Ali has gone, no-one is inspired by Holmes and his successors are a bunch of under-achieving, over-eating gutbuckets. However, Hagler, Duran, Leonard and Hearns ensure that this is another wonderful era for the sport. So do names such as Arguello, Pryor, Chacon (never in a bad fight), the greatest bunch of light-heavyweights ever, Sanchez and Gomez. Again, people are talking about boxing the day after fights, even if they're just casual fans of the sport.

    The difference between the late 40s and early 80s and today? Exposure. Everybody could watch title fights back then, everyone knew who these fighters were, heavyweights or not. If a division was no good, you had alternatives. Big money could be made by men at any weight. World of Sport used to show title fights from all over the place at Saturday lunch-time. Newspapers would analyse forthcoming match-ups and dissect them after they'd happened. It doesn't happen now. Somewhere along the line, boxing became the viewing and reading pleasure of a minority and Jesus Christ himself, reincarnated as a hard-hitting heavyweight, won't change that.

    Newspapers need to feature the sport properly, with writers that love and know the sport. Terrestrial television also needs to do its job properly and try to divorce itself from its love affair with the inane. Bring the sport back to the public and it will flourish again, with or without a top-line heavyweight.

  • Comment number 6.

    Boxing doesn't need the heavyweight division to survive. It needs boxers, their promoters and their trainers to fight the other marquee names in and around their weight class. Freddie Roach has openly stated he wants Khan to have no piece of Valero, instead opting for Dmitry Salita instead. Who?! I'm pretty hardcore and even i've gotta go onto boxrec to check that guy out. Frank Warren should have his license revoked with the way he's robbed paying fans with the way he's 'guided' Calzaghe, to an extent Hatton (who left him to get the big fights and stop getting swindled) and now Khan.

    A fighter won't 'save' anything, the best fighters fighting the best will. Mayweather v Pacquiao is probably 'the' fight to do that. It just happends that they're around the 140lb mark and not heavyweights, in 10 years time we could have 10 genuine heavyweight contenders again... and don't be surprised if every single one of them is from the Eastern bloc!

  • Comment number 7.


    I feared the worst when I began reading this, another attempt to knock boxing I presumed. But I was mistaken, an interesting and thoughtful angle.

    I could argue boxing in the UK, Germany, Eastern Europe and other areas of the world is thriving. Record gates, regular TV etc. But it does feel a little like the Moscow Olympics. It misses some soul without the Americans.

    But they simply don't have a heavyweight anywhere near capable of dethroning the Klitschkos.

  • Comment number 8.

    The multiple title belt situation (and there are more popping up every year) has also muddied the waters horribly. The big problem there is not that people don't know what to do, a unified champion is an easy wish to make, but that the will to do it is virtually impossible since all the boxing orgs prefer their own little kingdoms and fees.

    David Haye has the opportunity to be a real 'thunderbolt' for the heavyweights but his inactivity and political tug-of-wars in the last 12 months have really blunted his momentum badly. He needs to get back in there and get a big win soon. Without that, or worse with a loss, that hope fades again.

  • Comment number 9.

    I like your comparison of the The heavyweight division being to boxing what the 100m is to athletics. If Athletics was in the same state as the heavyweight division this years world championship would have been won by someone running 10 plus.

    Of course the marquee event needs a star but it is not dependent on it. You alluded to it by mentioning the days of Leonard, Hagler, Hearns and Duran bringing the glamour and interest to boxing.

    We all know politics plays it's part in boxing more then any other, and the organisors are more to blame then the boxers, but there is reason for hope. The Super six series might create a new buzz in the sport and the other stars out there may follow. taking boxing around the world again would help too.

    And of course there is Pacquiao. He is a star, loads of charisma, an all action style and still plenty of years left in him if he wishes. Given the right platform, he can have cross over appeal and lead boxing back to the glory days. optimistic maybe, but here's hoping.

  • Comment number 10.

    I agree, too many weights, too many divisions, very little terrestrial tv coverage.

    Although there are no superstars in the heavyweights, Pacman and Mayweather are the biggest names in the sport, and does every tom, dick and harry know them? Probably not. Hell, even setanta had trouble spelling Pacquiao.

    Watching Pacman is exhilirating stuff tbf, i only get that level of emotion watching my football team play.

    From the sounds of your blog though, it seems like your implying the evil of doping in athletics has enhanced its coverage, whereas the relatively clean (from drugs) boxing is going down in the mire!

    Did you so happen to see that youtube vid of Mayweather saying pacman was using illicit methods?!

  • Comment number 11.

    I think Usain Bolt has had the huge impact because of the nature of his sport. It is the times - not the constant winning - that make us all gasp. The simple act of covering the 100 metres at such a speed is awesome. Boxing is hampered, here. Boxers can only beat who is in front of them and if who is in front of them isn't that great then the achievement is diminished. Most outsiders wouldn't care if a great heavyweight came along and cleaned up the Klitschkos, Valuev, Haye, whoever any more than most boxing fans would care about a great squash player beating all-comers.

    I think, rather than hoping for a Messiah figure, boxing should be looking at, say, cricket, where declines in popularity have been met with changes in thye format and presentation of the game, ie the emergence of the one day game, twenty-twenty and the current debates about a world Test championship.

    With the demise of Ricky Hatton and Joe Calzaghe going on (gulp) Strictly Come Dancing, I must say my enthusiasm is dwindling and I've been a fan since the Rumble in the jungle.

    These are worrying times for the sweet sport.

  • Comment number 12.

    I don't know Ben, I think you're clutching at straws a little bit trying to draw a comparison with Bolt's impact on Athletics with what any potential emerging superstar might do for boxing.

    I don't necessarily think it's fair to say that Mayweather isn't that man because Bob Arum said so in the sun. And even if he's not, most people not interested in boxing probably now know who Manny Pacuiao is by now. Captaincarrantuohil (fine moniker by the way) pretty much hit the nail on the head.

    Whilst Mayweather - Pacqiuao could make for a classic, there's every chance that one or both of them will get beat in their upcoming fights against Marquez & Cotto respectively. Surely here we have two examples of the best fighting the best although it was entirely predicatable that someone would surface trying to knock the sport citing the rise of MMA as an example/reason for boxing's "decline".

    It would also perhaps have been appropriate on a boxing blog to include a mention of Darren Sutherland.

  • Comment number 13.

    Many thanks for all your comments so far, much appreciated.

    Jimmy "WTFDID?" McNulty - "From the sounds of your blog though, it seems like your implying the evil of doping in athletics has enhanced its coverage". Aye?! Where did I say that?! I'm pretty sure I said it was on its knees because of a string of spinters taking drugs.

    Things were better under Harold Wilson - "I think Usain Bolt has had the huge impact because of the nature of his sport. It is the times - not the constant winning - that make us all gasp." Totally agree, and that's my point. It's not good enough just having a pretty decent heavyweight cleaning up, we need someone who does it in tremendous style, who knocks people out quickly, and it can happen, because it's happened before. I don't think boxing's hampered in that way: just as Bolt runs silly times and throws silly shapes, you can have a heavyweight boxer who knocks everyone out in double-quick time and looks like he's having fun doing it.

    edmatic - "I don't necessarily think it's fair to say that Mayweather isn't that man because Bob Arum said so in the sun. And even if he's not, most people not interested in boxing probably now know who Manny Pacuiao is by now." Erm, I don't take my cues from Bob Arum, it's pretty clear to everyone that Mayweather isn't the man because, let's face it, most people in Britain wouldn't know who Mayweather was unless he'd fought Ricky Hatton. Ditto Manny Pacquiao.

    As for Darren Sutherland's death, I'm quite comfortable we've covered it on the news part of the website, with many heartfelt tributes from people who actually knew him. I didn't know the guy, so the last thing the world needs are some empty platitudes from me.

  • Comment number 14.

    Another good blog Ben, objective and interesting.

    The biggest blow for boxing has been UFC, I am a huge fan of boxing and will watch almost any boxing that is on but I have to admit I enjoy UFC more.

    It's probably due to the fact it is more technical, more brutal and ultimately more exciting than boxing - particularly in the heavyweight sense.

    I think you are correct though in terms of having a big impact star to shake up the boxing world. Maybe David Haye could be this guy - his attitude is professional and serious - he clearly likes a challenge and if you see him in interviews etc. he doesnt pull any punches (excuse the pun) and is very relaxed and confident....a calmer Ai some might say.

    with boxing too the crop of fighters is poor and not as good as it has been in recent decades, this is another reason why boxing fans are migrating to UFC and also that most boxing now is on sky at silly o clock in the morning and ppl dont want to stay up that late or cant to pay £20 each time it's on.

  • Comment number 15.

    Sorry - 2 mistakes in my blog Ai is Ali and "can't afford to pay £20 each time it's on"

    Spelling must improve :-)

  • Comment number 16.

    Pay per view TV affected the popularity of boxing big time. Not to the hardcore fans but for fans like me. I remember the Watson, Ben, Eubank, Collins era where most of the fights were on ITV. I missed the vast majority of Calzage's career - Hatton too. I missed most of Roy Jones Jnr's career as well Mayweather's. I thought boxing was not worth watching because it wasn't hyped up on normal TV or the sports pages in the newspapers. It's only recently since I started hanging with my cousin and his friends who are proper fight fans I've realised that there were indeed great fighters and fights in the late 90s early 2000s. I've gone on youtube to watch most of those. At the time though i wasn't interested. Why? Because I had not heard of most of the fighters and also because the fights cost an extra £20 to watch while showing at 4am.

    I am not surprised your cabbie has not heard of David Haye, Ben. If I didn't have sky sports or setanta and didn't hang out with hardcore fight fans I probably would know about him either.

  • Comment number 17.

    I don't get the UFC comparison. I see why people like it but its a completely different sport (one I personally hate)and its aimed for people who want a real version of chumpville WWE. Anyways thats a personal opinion and one that will probably be slated, dont care.

    Boxing has a couple of major problems, its needs less belts, more big names and less politics. It's ruined itself and its damn shame because it is truly a magnificent sport.

    If Haye beats bigs names (doubtful) he might be what it needs.

  • Comment number 18.

    I have to agree its gotta be either a big, crushing heavyweight that brings punters back or 2 or 3 quality fighters in the same division who are actually willing to fight each other a few times to see who really is the best. The biggest problem is the belts though in my opinion. Yes there probably are too many weight divisions, particularly at the lower end where it seems some weight divisions are only separated by about 4 pounds! But to have that many weight classes and then 3 or 4 major belts in each creates an abundance of "champions" but no-one to rule the roost. The fighters and promotors know if they can hand pick some opponents they'll get a few nice paydays before having to fight another champion and having their lights punched out. Look at Maccarinelli, the guy was obliterated by Haye and has been on a downhill spiral ever since. However before that fight there was talk that he was the best in the division.

    The sooner boxing gets its superstar or group of superheroes battling for supremacy the better.

    P.S Read your book on holiday Dirs and I have to say congratulations, an absolutely fantastic read and I loved every minute of it. Definitely recommend anyone to go buy the musings of Fordyce and Dirs and their travels round the world (well the UK and a bit of Europe) as they attempt to conquer all. Also well done for kicking lumps out of that hairy so and so Bremner, I salute you!

  • Comment number 19.

    Unfortunately, most of us just missed the Bolt of boxing - Roy Jones Jr.
    If anyone can be given such a comparison, it was this great athlete. He was head and shoulders above his competitors, always looking for challenges, and just plain dominating.
    Who knows when the next Jones Jr will come along?
    I cant believe you didn't mention his name!!

  • Comment number 20.

    Thanks Ben.

    re Mayweather & Pacquiao, as someone who covers a British site i can understand why you'd look at how a British audience might perceive the two fighters, but i wouldn't have thought there's much doubt that stateside - and indeed globally given Pacman's status in the Filipines and beyond - both are now two of the highest profile names across the world of sport & entertainment, and this despite Mayweather being inactive for nigh on 2 years. In this respect it's probably their victories over Oscar de la Hoya that account for their much wider appeal.

  • Comment number 21.

    5ubjugator - With respect, I think you're too close to the sport if you think Roy Jones was anything like a 'Bolt of boxing'. The uncomfortable truth is your average man on the street didn't know who Roy Jones was even when Roy Jones was at his peak. "Always looking for challenges"? That's not how I see it. Jones spent many years avoiding, whether deliberately or not, the best men in and around his division and looking sensational against men who shouldn't have been in a ring with him. He was a fine, fine fighter, don't get me wrong, but if Joe Public doesn't know who is, then he's not the Bolt of Boxing!

  • Comment number 22.

    edmatic - Not sure I'm coming at it from a British perspective, in fact I would argue boxing is far healthier and more high-profile here than it is in the States. When I've been in America covering fights, you read the papers, and boxing barely registers. It's a footnote sport, only the very biggest fights warrant a mention. The best example of how far boxing has fallen was the time I was in Vegas (for a stag do actually!) and Hopkins was fighting Pavlik (admittedly not in Vegas). Dunno if you've been to Vegas, but they have these things called sports books, which are betting areas with giant screens all over the place. The screens were showing pro football, college football, baseball, horse racing, chariot horse racing, nascar, even a bit of soccer, but I couldn't find the fight anywhere. And this is 'Fight Town'. Go to America and you'll realise it's more dead than you ever imagined.

  • Comment number 23.

    My love for boxing has been replaced with ambilvalence over the last few years. Really looking forward to PBF vs Marquez and Pacman vs Cotto and I'm glad that 4 of the best boxers in the world are finally going to be fighting one another but beyond that there is not much to get excited about. Haye tried, got injured and lost his opportunity to fire up the HW division and Khan looks a hot prospect alongside our Olympic fighters. The future looks reasonably bright for the UK talent pool. None of them give me butterflies on fight night though like Lennox or Tyson used to, or like Bolt does now when he lines up for the 100m.

    The UFC is just so much more exciting, with so many strong personalities and gifted fighters. Brock Lesnar, Lyoto Machida, Anderson Silva, Georges St Pierre, BJ Penn and those are just the champions. The beauty of the UFC is that the majority of the best fighters in the world are held within one organisation, so there are no greedy promoters to block the best from fighting the best. Saying that, the best fighter in the world and the 'Ali' of MMA still plies his trade outside of the UFC, which kills me. Fedor Emelianenko - the second greatest man ever to step into a ring.

  • Comment number 24.

    The last Bolt of Boxing was Mike Tyson. How many books about him have been sold? How many videos and DVDs about his life? Compare to someone like Mayweather or Roy Jones Jnr. How many people would buy their autobiographies? Same can be said os Pacman outside the Philipines and hardcore fight fans. Ask my mum if she knows who Manny Pacquiao is and I think she'd be stumped. Ask anyone over 20 years old about Mike Tyson and it would be a different story.

    I was Joe Public in the 90s when Roy Jones was at his peak and I didn't know about him at the time. All I knew is that he beat up the bloke who was dissing Ebank's mother on TV (James Tony).

  • Comment number 25.

    Forgot to mention, how come the BBC doesn't cover Mixed Martial Arts at all now that it has become a major global sport?

  • Comment number 26.

    There's no doubt Bolt has brought Athletics to an all new level and audience. His heroeics at the Olympic Games and the World Championships was something quite brilliant, and a feat maybe no man will ever achieve again.

    However stating and as I quote "Mayweather never has been the crossover star boxing craved". Is quite false and inapropriate, Mayweather has been credited with the title 'The Best of his Generation' and rightly so. Mayweather has attracted billions of fans across the world. Any sports fan, would tell you who he is, and what he stands for in the world boxing. Furthermore, Mayweather's showdown with Marquez on Saturday could cement his place among the best fighters of all time.

    To add further to your false statements, and I quote "the best too rarely fight each other". The super fight between the former 'Pound for Pound' king and the current number two in the rankings, fight this weekend. Also the the Pacquaio-Cotto fight is scheduled for November 14.
    So quite clearly the best do infact fight each other.

    In conclusion both men are giants in what they stand for in their chosen sport. But stating they other has made the greater contribution is a little inapropriate. Without true facts and evidence, you cannot say Athletics has replaced Boxing in the leading sports on earth.

  • Comment number 27.

    I must say MMA doesn’t do it for me. Especially the grappling on the floor. Some of the fights remind me of a fight in the pub carpark. 2 guys rolling around. Some of my mates love it though.

    As MMA gets bigger and bigger it might just end up with all the politics that boxing has now. I read somewhere that the money the promoters make compared to what the fighters earn is amazing. The fighters get screwed financially. When they wise up and start getting proper promoters and managers we’ll see the politics I reckon.

  • Comment number 28.

    Fighting sports needs fighting young men to succeed. Fighting young men invariably want to prove to everyone around that they are toughest. In times past boxing had the mystique and the general perception was that the best (heavyweight generally) in the world was the hardest/baddest man on the planet. This mystique held up well for a very long time.
    During the seventies and eighties Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Mr T & Jean-Claude (and others of course) had us look at; and properly consider which style of fighting art was genuinely the most effective. It soon became clear that a combination of striking and grappling wins the day and before you know it MMA is the biggest draw on PPV. Who do we think pays for this in the main? Old guard pugilistic evangelists caught up in the romance of tough streets, old tough trainers and rags to riches glory stories? That stuff is being left where it belongs; in the past. Only bad writers will cling to the reckage of the Good Ship Donking et al.
    Young guys, wannabe tough guys, doormen and bedroom warriors are all switched on to it. All the people that a generation ago might have cared about boxing are now looking at MMA as the only serious unarmed combat event worth watching. The most amazing thing about it is that the BBC has been so slow in adding an MMA page to the website. I bet if they did it would soon tell its own story. That being - follow the young guns if you want to keep up with the action.
    The King really is dead (and I love him still) but going forward, long live the king.

  • Comment number 29.

    liamo1991 - "stating and as I quote "Mayweather never has been the crossover star boxing craved". Is quite false and inapropriate." Well, it's a matter of opinions for the most part, but also of circumstantial evidence and the odd fact. If you want to pretend that Mayweather is this giant worldwide star in the mould of a Mike Tyson - or a Usain Bolt - then go ahead. But your statement that "Any sports fan, would tell you who he is, and what he stands for in the world of boxing" is simply incorrect. Most general sports fans in Britain (and to be a huge crossover boxing star, you'd expect him to be big in Britain) will know Mayweather as the flash little American guy who beat up Ricky Hatton. That's it. You want to know how much the average sports fan in Britain knew what Mayweather stood for in boxing? The average sports fan in Britain thought Ricky Hatton might win, that's how much they knew!

  • Comment number 30.

    Ben, it's ironic that you're writing this blog on the BBC, which for all it's merits, has contributed to boxings slide in popularity.

    When I was young sitting down to watch the fight was a family affair, me, my parents, and on occasion my grandfather, all sitting down together to watch a big fight on a saturday night.
    As my interest in the sport grew I also found I could see up and coming fighters on grandstand (where I first saw Mike Tyson, Michael Watson and many other fighters), and watch big american fights on ITV.

    Then the BBC got cold feet. It didn't want to spend money on this nasty working class sport. After the Watson and McClellan tragedies (and the growing chequebook of SKY) ITV bottled out too, despite the fact that Eubank, Watson and Benn had provided some of the highest ratings of that time.

    Suddenly if you want boxing, you need to pay extra. Some people did, but people like my parents didn't. Boxing suddenly became a minority sport, a niche market. As a result press coverage drops, interest dwindles, and your cabbie doesn't know who the heavyweight champ is.

    It doesn't have to be this way. We it saw with Khan's exposure on the beeb during the olympics and early pro career on ITV. There is still a huge market for boxing, but it needs to be accessable

    Boxing doesn't need a Bolt, it needs a BBC.

  • Comment number 31.

    Hello again,

    I was in the states about 10 years ago and managed to make it to the Lewis-Holyfield fight, and i remember the fall out from that decision was front page news across several newspapers. I still have a copy of one, with "two hurt in New York mugging!" probably my favourite headline.

    Although i didn't think the decision as awful as some, and i wasn't that far from the ring (same block as Paul Weller!) the stink in the media certainly made an impact and quite likely caused a few casual fans to wonder what the point was. And that was to unify the heavyweights for the first time in ages as i remember.

    I have been to Vegas Ben (not for a fight) and i know what sports books are (I work for one!) and i must admit i didn't know boxing had fallen that far down the pecking order over there, i thought it was in better shape than you say.

    I think the quality and quantity of fighters operating now is fairly good, if not comparable to the great eras of previous generations. The main problem, as an earlier poster said, is the lack of exposure today's fighters receive.

  • Comment number 32.

    spenser - I agree with much of what you've said. It is all about exposure, or lack of, indeed any sport is. It pains me that the BBC doesn't bid for highlights of these big fights, but there's not a lot I can do about that and I don't know the financial ins and outs. As for live stuff, I don't think it's anything to do with class, it's just that the BBC can't afford to compete with commercial channels like Sky. When you've got a fighter like Hatton expecting to pull in whatever ludicrous amount he pulled in for his two fights with Mayweather and Pacquiao, then the BBC just can't compete with that.

    and the growing chequebook of SKY

  • Comment number 33.

    I agree with Spenser there. Amir Khan (who I rate and he's from my town!) got great coverage from ITV and so the majority of sports fans in England know who he is, he was a "star" before he won the WBA light-welterweight 'world' title.

    But James Degale, who won GOLD at Beijing, is not getting the same TV exposure and probably won't become the same household name throughout his career, as Khan has. Yet he seems to have the tools in the shed that people say makes a star, eg charisma, talent, etc.

  • Comment number 34.

    Well one issue with boxing is the guys they produce. Bolt is out on his own and doesn't worry about competition. Gatti was similar to Bolt is some ways but he lacked personality and belief in himself. Boxing also involves huge self-confidence like Bolt has but its difficult to take a supreme athlete who could do many sports to a boxer who generally comes from a poor background and education, surrounded by poverty and poor role models.

    Haye has 'personality' but not charisma or charm. Mundine is the same but with a huge chip on his shoulder. Boxers tend to have more demons than runners and the fact that its a one man sport (in the end) really does led to any kind of bonding or charm offensive.

    Bolt is charming. Many Mexican fighters can be charming. JMM is a real gent in and outside the ring but the language barrier and his quiet persona let him down in the Bolt department. Pac is the same.

    You could argue Hatton but he is barely articulate at times and his fans are a bunch of monied-chavs.

    So no, there is no one.

  • Comment number 35.

    MMA doesn't seem to need the BBC or ITV so why does boxing? Could it not be that the life-blood of the sport have moved on to new pasture..

  • Comment number 36.

    edmatic - Sorry mate, didn't mean to be patronising! Just didn't want to assume you'd been over there and knew what sports books were!

  • Comment number 37.

    Who's the Bolt in MMA?

  • Comment number 38.

    At 2:35pm on 16 Sep 2009, GrandmasterMelDarji wrote:
    Who's the Bolt in MMA?
    Thats the point Grandmaster - Its got the hype, testosterone, image, girls, clothes/ brands and fighters.
    If your not dying you dont need salvation.
    I'm not an avid fan of MMA by the way, I have always loved boxing but I'm just calling it as I see it.

  • Comment number 39.

  • Comment number 40.

    Was just keeping with the Bolt theme of this blog.

    But sirJon I hear what you're saying.

  • Comment number 41.

    Hmm, good blog Dirsy, interesting read.
    I think Edmantic (above) has hit the nail on the head with regards to boxing becoming a niche sport. I'm 21 and of my main group of friends i'm the only one who follows boxing in any depth.

    The problems are multiple:
    1. Boxing has no real superstars any more, yes Mayweather is incredible, as is Pacman, but none of my friends knew either of these fighters until they knocked out Ricky Hatton.
    2. Boxing has no exposure to mainstream audiences. Sticking a world title fight on ESPN at 3 in the morning means nothing to your everyday man, they'll never see it. Replay it at 7pm the next day on BBC 2 though and you WILL get some interest.
    3. The UFC is taking away the younger audience. A lot of kids watch WWE, and UFC is a far easier transition for them to make compared to boxing. The UFC is also managed excellently, as you can tell from the way that every day people hardly ever say MMA (mixed martial arts) any more, just UFC, which is a private organisation.
    4. Boxing as a contrast is appallingly managed. Promoters protect their boxers from the best and we have four different champions at almost every weight class (of which there must be what, 15 now?!.

    For me boxing had reached its lowest ebb when we had a British fighter in a world title fight against one of the P4P best fighters on the planet and it wasn't even televised. Carl Froch won the world title against Jermain Taylor with a stunning knockout at the end of the final round and it barely got a mention in the press.

    On the subject of Froch, a recent development that has given me hope is the unveiling of the Super 6 series which is pitting 6 of the top super middleweights in the world against each other in an round robin/elimination format. This eliminates much of the fight dodging that goes on and i think if it were marketed and televised well, it could really capture peoples imagination.

    However the main thing that gives hope to boxing is that when it comes down to it, people DO still love boxing. Hatton and Mayweather was so well promoted that by the time it came around, it was televised in my SU bar at 4am and no word of a lie there were pushing for 1000 people in there having fun and singing Ricky Hatton songs. The Hatton-Pacman fight was a similar story, though with slightly fewer spectators.
    The atmosphere those nights was incredible, and despite Hatton losing them both in spectacular fashion all of my boxing-phobic friends loved it.

  • Comment number 42.

    "MMA doesn't seem to need the BBC or ITV so why does boxing?"

    But MMA is not, and will never be, as big as boxing once was.
    You say yourself that MMA is for the doormen, the bedroom warriors, etc. It's not something that a family will sit down to watch together on a Saturday night.

    MMA has nothing to do with Boxings decline, boxing has always co existed with other sports, and even in it's weakend state boxing attracts as many fans as MMA (if not more). This is reflected in the fact that there is significantly more money to made in boxing.

    MMA is a minority sport and will nevr be anything but. Boxing is becoming a minority sport but has the appeal to be much bigger.

    "the BBC can't afford to compete with commercial channels like Sky."

    Ben they don't even try. The BBC abandoned boxing as a policy in the early 90's, well before the dominance of SKY. They had a couple of brief attempts at getting back into but got their fingers burned and gave up. First up they bought the rights to Lewis vs Rachman. Lewis got himself sparked an they didn't get rights to the rematch.
    They then ploughed stupid money into Audley Harrison and he dissapointed pretty much eveyone in the country, bar himself, and walked away with all the BBC's boxing budget. So the money is there, it has just been spent very unwisely, which is what happens when you employ people with no real love or understanding of the game.

  • Comment number 43.


    It really would need a very long list to name the MMA Bolts.

    If we solely look at the period since MMA polished off the rough corners and began to be looked at as a legitimate sport......

    Chuck Liddell.....not well known over here but a mega star in the states and that is where sporting legends are created. To be a legend participating in a "brand new" sport just shows the appetite for the action that MMA provides.

    Randy Couture..... Ageless and constant underdog takes on allcomers, some of whom are both of Usain Bolts legs bigger and heavier than him, yet always gains respect, admiration and awe. He is 46 and still competing at the highest level. That is an indication of how dedicated, professional and universally embraced he is, not an indictment of the skill and athleticism of his opponents.

    Tito Ortiz.... The Bad Boy. Every sport, combat sports in particular, need a heel. This character divides the MMA public but everyone has an opinion. Can you say that about todays boxers? Add Brock Lesnar into this catagory too.

    Georges St Pierre/ Anderson Silva. Both champions. Both fighting people bigger and stronger at times. Both have a phenomenal range of skills. Both are the pinnacle of athletic endeavour. Anderson Silva fighting is a thing of true beauty. "A ballet of violence" Joe Rogan (colour commentator) describes it as. Nothing can be truer. Anyone reading these comments should take the time to look up Anderson Silva on You Tube. Then tell me MMA is "bar-room" brawling.

    Quinton "Rampage" Jackson.... Aside from Mayweather, you may not find a more entertaining speaker in boxing. A legend in the sport already, and grabbing the public by the scruff of the neck and shaking them until they either laugh at his outrageous comments, or insist on tuning n to see what he is so hyped up about.

    Wanderlei Silva.... Despite losing 5 out of his last 6 fights(must check that fact) he is LOVED by MMA fans win, lose or draw. A softly spoken and caring man with the ability to frighten anyone with a single look.

    And finally....
    Fedor Emilianenko.... almost silent, small, slightly chubby in appearance. This Russian heavyweight has an almost mystical reputation, despite never riding on the cash cow of the UFC. 100% respectful and extremely intelligent at all times. Watch this man fight Hong Man Choi, Kevin Randleman and Mirko Cro Cop and tell me that you are not amazed, impressed and more importantly, eager to see his next fight.

    All of the above (and many others notmentioned) omit the fantastic WEC organisation, Strikeforce and only tip a hat to Pride. Include those and I can provide so many bolts, our energy crises will be forever banished.

    I understand the initial feeling of brutality. I had that thought too. The friend that introduced me to MMA showed me gruesome bloodbath fights, knockouts, and 25 minute wars. Intriguing, yes. But if my friend tried to introduce me to boxing and showed me 12 x 3 minutes of jab, jab, clinch, I would not have bothered visiting him again. He would show me the knockouts that rattle the viewers fillings.

    Take the time to look beyond the middleclass snobbery. Afterall...MMA is the new boxing. And I don't see anyway that boxing can mount a challenge. Let's have BBC coverage in writing at least. I am certain that the footfall to BBC MMA would far outweigh boxing, darts, tennis and maybe rival cricket, rugby and football. I jest not.

  • Comment number 44.

    "I am certain that the footfall to BBC MMA would far outweigh boxing, darts, tennis and maybe rival cricket, rugby and football. I jest not."

    You may not be joking, but I fear you're a little over confident in the support that MMA generates.
    How many female fans do you know? I mean actual fans, not just the women you see at events, but people you know. How many over 30's do you know who follow the sport? Over 40's, 50's, 60's?

    MMA will never generate the mass appeal that footbals does, and that boxing once did, and could do again. I'm a fan of the fighting arts, but I find the appeal of MMA limited. For the casual sportsfan MMA has less appeal than snooker, let alone boxing.

  • Comment number 45.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 46.

    On UFC, I sat down and watched it the other night (it was a replay of Randy Couture's fight with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira) and while I'm still not sold on the spectacle within the cage, beyond it I'm blown away by the razzmatazz and absolute slickness of the operation.

    Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the skill involved, these guys would annhialate the average boxer with their blackbelts in various martial arts, but I just find the kneeing and elbowing and stuff a little difficult to stomach (although I also realise the repeated hitting to the head with padded gloves in boxing makes that sport probably more dangerous). Outside the ring though, boxing could learn an awful, awful lot, it's one well-oiled machine.

    As for why we don't cover it on this website, I hate to pass the buck, but that's one for people who are far more imortant than me...

  • Comment number 47.

    Two and a half years ago Bolt was a relative "nobody" to the mainstream, he was mostly recognised only be followers of Athletics who know he had talent from his early career. He shone on a GLOBAL stage in Beijing and then again in Berlin.

    There are not many opportunities for a boxer to show the WORLD who they are on such a stage. The Olympics gives the public a glimpse of a fighter at the start of his career but when will amateur boxing ever be bigger in the Olympics than the 100m sprint?

    We can't predict the future but we can look at the past and see that there have been occasions where the public has said the same thing, boxing is in decline due to this & that. From Johnson to Dempsey to Louis and Robinson to Ali to Leonard to Tyson to De La Hoya... Boxing has always found a way to reproduce a new superstar that transcends the sport. With such a rich history, boxing will always have a pedestal to tumble off, and folk will always compare eras & fighters/stars and be negative.

  • Comment number 48.

    Fair enough Ben. If you get the time, have a look at the headline makers in UFC. 102 was a good and interesting card and that is the majority. Rare are the snooze fests.

    When the BBC want to include MMA, give me a shout...I would love the gig!


  • Comment number 49.

    I report on MMA for various websites now and formerly at Pride/K1 events and can only say Anderson Silva has the bolt effect. His skills are outlandish and persona is flamboyant. But he hasnt bothered embracing any world but his own. His English is passable (I spoke to him 4 years ago) yet he never uses it in the cage simply because he doesn't need to. He is interested in getting back to Brazil to eat, sing, dance, ride motorbikes and look after his family. Thats what he said to me and the reason while he does what he needs to rather than what is wanted of him.

    Chuck, Fedor, Randy, GSP etc have none of the personality, charm or clash to lead the sport. The UFC is huge but remember that even the biggest stars dont make close to what Pretty Boy or Hatton have made for recent fights. Lesnar gets $400k a fight. 3x a year. Sure there is sponsorship but thats the same as boxing.

    I grew up on boxing, trained in MMA and follow both sports. Its funny that fans seem to argue this so much between the sports because most MMA guys love boxing.

  • Comment number 50.

    Come on Dansiron!! You're a hardcore MMA follower of course you're gonna think the Silvas and the Fedors are all Bolts!!!

    Ben you really need to define what a "Bolt" is! And we don't want 'vindaloo' in the definition. Now that's always a bolt...

    A few Bolts off the top of my head, since we mixing sports: Tiger Woods, David Beckham, Michael Jordan. Now I love watching Anderson Silva whoopin ass but come off it, he aint not Bolt

  • Comment number 51.

    Apologies Edmantic, it was Spense who made the niche comment.

    Seeing as MMA/UFC is being discussed now (shockingly)I'll throw my two cents in.

    As Ben said the UFC is an absolute monster of a promotion, high quality coverage with good commentary (Rogan is hilarious at times) and lots of top fighters in each weight class.
    They also have some dominant champions (bolts if you will), which is what really puts bums in seats. Anderson Silva (MW) and GSP (WW) are astonishing athletes who usually put on very good shows, whilst BJ Penn has dominated lightweight for years. Lyoto Machida (LHW) is a unique Karate based fighter who is shaping up to be a dominant champ whilst Brock Lesnar (HW) is doing the same. Lesnar also provides the "heel" factor someone mentioned earlier, in that he is one hell of bad guy, and people would pay to see him get beaten up.

    The UFCs great appeal is in it's unpredictability, ruthlessness, excellent marketing and it's bringing together of all the finest fighters in the world (bar fedor) and making them fight each other.

    If boxing amalgamated its organisations into one which was as slick and well run as the UFC it would be more popular than it has ever been.
    I love boxing and UFC and watch them both, but the crucial difference is that there is a UFC fight i care about and would pay to watch almost monthly, whereas those kinds of fights come along far more rarely in boxing.

  • Comment number 52.

    I'll never forget hearing about Tyson being knocked out by Buster Douglas. I write "hearing", because I heard about it from someone at work. He'd watched it, I think, on Pay Per View. I should have watched that fight live, or at least seen it in full the next day on ITV or BBC, but that wasn't to be, because, presumably, terrestial tv wasn't even allowed to show a re-run. For me, that was the end of boxing on tv, and was the end of boxing in a larger sense. A few years later, I stayed up through the night to hear the Lewis vs Mercer fight on Radio 5. That should have been on TV too.

    The only good thing for boxing fans now is that we can watch all the old fights on YouTube. Who needs Tyson Fury when you can watch a young Ali taking apart an aging Floyd Patterson? And then there's the first Bowe vs Holyfield. And I could watch Lewis vs Tua a few times more yet (I might be in a minority there). And then there's Roy Jones vs James Toney (wow!!!).

  • Comment number 53.

    The fact thats MMA is referred to as UFC is a sign of the domiant position of the UFC in its marketing and access to markets. Its one reason why Dana White is liked and loathed in near equaly measure.

    Considering the brilliant fighters (outside the UFC) and shows (in Japan mostly), its sad that exposure is so dominated by the UFC to make the majority believe the best are all in the UFC.

    An epic boxing match up still bests an MMA match-up for me, even the Kawajiri/Alvarez or Hansen/Alvarez match-ups of last year or Tokoro-Cullum/Sanchez/Guida of this year.

    JMM vs Diaz in February was epic.

  • Comment number 54.


    You are right in that I love watchng MMA. I am not "hardcore" as many truly hardcore fans will gladly tell me!

    My point was.....even though you say I obviously claim GSP and Anderson Silva to have the Bolt effect....the truth is that they do. Maybe that is slightly trumped up given the sports infancy, but people who know next to nothing about MMA get the butterflies as I do when Silva faced Griffin.

    True, we are not at at Beckham-esque proportions yet, maybe we never will be, but I am very confident then when we look back over a years action in boxing and MMA, the watercooler for the MMA fans will be as dry as the topic pool for the boxers.

  • Comment number 55.

    Ben, with all due respect, I suggest you watch some footage of Anderson Silva (easily UFCs most technical fighter) in a boxing ring, with some Brazillian club fighters, in the late 90s.

    He was knocked out in under 2 minutes. By a club fighter. Even worse, a Brazillian club fighter, who would probably last 2 minutes with most british club fighter.

    I assure you, a pro boxer would last longer in a UFC ring, and have more chance of victory, than a UFC fighter in a elite boxing ring.

    Guys like Chuck Liddell and Anderson Silva are proven losers in most contact sports, other than UFC

  • Comment number 56.

    Mike_Naylor - I agree, I've got no doubt that if a top UFC bloke was to fight a top boxer, and only allowed to 'box', then he'd get badly beaten. All I was saying was that a boxer would get similarly beaten up a UFC octagon!

  • Comment number 57.

    I was taken aback slightly by your response #29:

    "You want to know how much the average sports fan in Britain knew what Mayweather stood for in boxing? The average sports fan in Britain thought Ricky Hatton might win, that's how much they knew!"

    One of the big attractions of sports in general, and boxing especially, is that however much we think we know about it, a result always comes along to surprise us. The average sports fan in South Africa may have thought Hasim Rahman would beat Lennox Lewis, and they were right, whereas the endless list of journalists who arrogantly predicted he had no chance were wrong. My point is that the average sports fan in Britain was right, Ricky Hatton may have won, because in sports you just don't know, and thats why we watch.

  • Comment number 58.

    What boxing is " A MIKE TYSON", not a Bolt. Once they went after Tyson for not agreeing to prolong his fights and succeded in destroying him, that was the beginning of the down fall of the sport. Tyson brought something special to boxing that all fans loved. Since he stop boxing, me and all membets of my family stop watching the sport.

  • Comment number 59.

    Having lived in the self-proclaimed 'fight capital of the world' in Las Vegas for seven years. I have witnessed the decline of boxing and the upsurge in MMA.
    Today in Las Vegas, it is very hard to find a boxing gym but much easier to find MMA gyms. From what I can observe from visiting boxing gyms in Vegas, there are fewer and fewer fighters under twenty years old. But MMA gyms are turning away kids. So boxing seems to be getting badly beat by MMA in the talent pool.

    Having attended a lot of boxing and UFC fights in Las Vegas the differences are huge. The biggest disappointment for me with boxing is the fight card. I can remember the Hatton vs Pacquaio/Mayweather fights vividly, but I can't tell you about the under-card. For the most part the MGM Arena was only 10-20% full for the fight directly underneath the main event-and they were world title fights!
    Similarly this weekend for Mayweather vs Marquez, my $500 ticket is essentially for the main event and I have little idea on what precedes it. For the upcoming UFC 106 in Las Vegas, I know there is Lesnar vs Carwin AND Ortiz vs Coleman. Both fights are genuine main events. In between there is eye-candy. Anyone who has watched a lot of boxing knows how boring some under-cards get.

    So unlike Ben (great article by the way!) I do fear that boxing can't save itself, unless it re-packages itself and genuine great American fighters emerge. Right now I don't see young Americans going in to boxing. However, I also see the inevitable split occurring in UFC, when eventually one fighter gets so huge and big it will be interesting to see what emerges.

  • Comment number 60.

    Another great, great blog. Between me and you mate, I think you might have a future in this business. ;)

    Whilst I get exactly what you are driving at, and pretty much agree with you, I always found a good rivalry hard to resist. With regards other sports, the greatest legacies were nearly always forged in the fire of strong competition. I say Coe, you say Ovett. I say Senna, you say Prost. McEnroe / Connors. Nadal / Federer. The fabled 'big four' in the Premiership. Gatti / Ward. Tyson / the world. All these rivalries got people interested in there respective sports. In a way, Bolt goes against this as, unless he snaps a hamstring, he's untouchable.

    I started really getting into boxing way back when Benn, Eubank, Collins and Watson (amongst others) were knocking lumps out of each other. The fact that these good/great fighters were all around at the same time, and actually fought each other a bunch of times, means that their records stand up better than, for example, Calzaghe's. Ok, so they were all from our side of the pond, but their proximity to each other (both in terms of geography and ability) made for an exciting division that bought in punters and made back-page headlines.

    The problem with the heavyweight division is that there are no rivalries right now. Wladimir and Vitali will never fight each other (and if they did, would you want to watch?), and there doesn't really seem to be a crop of fighters who can step up and challenge them. Until we get 5 or 6 equally matched fighters at the top, the division will continue to meander. Until that happens, our only hope is the Hayemaker. Oh dear...

  • Comment number 61.

    Ben Dirs,

    You say that a lack of boxing on TV is a problem for the sport, yet you write for the channel which makes the least effort to vault the sport. For countless months, boxing fans have been making petitions etc. to get the BBC to do someting about showing the sport - can you not use your considerable influence to get the BBC to be more pro active about boxing?

  • Comment number 62.

    Boxing would be a hell of a lot more popular if the BBC could be bother to broadcast it, i am told they were offerd a David Haye world title fight this year and cound not be botherd to even listen to how much the asking price was for the fight....with 2.7 billion a year being made by the BBC i carrnt accept they dont have the money, just look at the money thr BBC spends on formula one and match of the day, the truth is purely down to class and boxing does not sit well with the suits in there ivory towers who tell us what we can whatch on the BBC.It is a shamefull discusting situation, i hope all boxing fans will join the campain being run by the boxing news to get boxing back on the BBC..BUT WILL IT DO ANY GOOD ,I DONT THINK SO, FOR THE REASONS I HAVE JUST SAID.I would like think that people who work for the BBC and earn a living out of boxing would join the campain and try to do something about it,OR DO YOU JUST ONLY OBEY YOUR ORDERS.

  • Comment number 63.

    Interestingly, Ray Mercer, now considerably closer to 50 than 40, has just KO'd Tim Sylvia, apparently an MMA practitioner of some repute, in a recent MMA contest. Takes some imagination to imagine Randy Couture, or some equally venerable MMA warrior, KOing a recent former titlist like Chagaev or Samuel Peter in a boxing bout.

  • Comment number 64.

    The greedy promoters of boxing (and probably MMA) have pushed too hard and too long for the gold coin, so I agree that BBC should not spend large budgets for what is only a passing interest for a small number of their users, and a minute number of real fanatics of the sport.

    As a socially responsible body, maybe the money saved should be used to ensure the populous can write posts that are legible. Or promote a spell checker!

    Note......accidental typo's are exempt positively encouraged.

  • Comment number 65.

    I'm a Big Boxing fan and still find there is some attraction to the sport, although I do have to look hard to find it, but usually end up reading about it, rather than seeing it.

    With Setanta dying I have felt it even more.

    I have been involved in boxing all my life and know the unfortuate double crossings that happen behind the seens. Promoters have know loyalty to their fighters but do their best to make the public think they do. They dont promote the fighters, they promote themselves and if their fighter lucks out it is goodbye to him as he is know worth.

    Too much of boxing is fighting bums and getting paydays while robbing the fans in the process. Prime example of this is hatton, although I like him alot, he was never going to win either P4P fights, no matter how much we wanted him too.

    I am fine with all the weight divisions as a couple of extra pounds makes all the difference, but there should be only one belt.

    Boxing is all about money and the only people I see winning is the promoters. Boxers end up getting robbed and once they are over the hill they may start looking for a job brick laying. And unfortuanately we get robbed our selves tricked into thinking we are getting a evenly matched fight. An example of this for me is Calzaghe who never took a risk, hasnt got half the bravery of hatton. For the future I can see Kahn having all his fights hand picked so Frank Warren can have another cash cow.

    For me this is why boxing is dying and there is no more TV showings, people got feed up being bluffed into watching a fight that was never a fair one

  • Comment number 66.

    captaincarrantuohil - the Sylvia/Mercer fight is generally a poor example to because Sylvia came into that fight weighing about 350lb having clearly assumed that he wouldn't have to train for an old man like Mercer. He embarrassed himself rather than MMA in general. Should you put Mercer or dare I say Chagaev, even one of the Klitschko's in a ring with Fedor under MMA rules, they would be destroyed.

  • Comment number 67.

    lennoxfan1975 - I don't know the ins and outs of the David Haye situation, so I can't comment on the financial implications. But I would be very surprised if the BBC could compete with Sky, who are showing Haye's fight against Valuev on PPV. We just have to face facts, the BBC cannot morally stump up millions of pounds for individual fights to compete with commercial channels. Boxing is, sadly, a fringe sport now, those days of the 80s and early 90s are long gone. And contrary to what some of you seem to believe, I am not powerful enough to hold any sway in this organisation! It's not a case of "obeying orders", but what do you want me to do, mug the head of sport and nick his cheque book?

  • Comment number 68.

    If we're talking solely about what is shown on BBC TV then, unfortunately, boxing is by no means the only fringe sport. Both codes of horse-racing, with the exceptions of Ascot and Aintree, cricket and a fair chunk of rugby union have disappeared from the Beeb's screens in recent times and presumably, have also been awarded minority status.

    Indeed, aside from football and the noble (!) pursuit of Formula One, very little sport seems not to qualify for Auntie's dreaded "minority" rating. Boxing remains extremely popular in the country at large. It would be even more popular if various influential organs of the media actually bothered to give the sport a chance to prove it.

  • Comment number 69.

    the solution does not need to be too complicated

    1 have some free-to-air boxing( fights and review programmes )
    2 let the best fighters fight each other
    3 let the best fighters fight more often

  • Comment number 70.

    I accect you are not the head of BBC sport but who is, i would like to write to them and ask them to answer a few questions i have, or even better let them treat us all with a bit of respect and go on radio 5 live and let some fans ask them some questions about the BBC total lack of boxing on tv.As for the BBC not morally being able to spend money on boxing, what on earth does that mean, the BBC has my money of me evey year weather i want to watch the crap they put out or not, how can the BBC morally jusityfy paying 40 million a year on formula one[a sort that untill Lewis Hamillton last year was not getting as big a veiwing figures as Amir Khan was getting on ITV for commonwealth title figths,] Khan last fight on ITV got six million. To say it is not morally right i am affraid sounds like you are towing the party line.As for boxing being a fringe sport thats a matter of opinion and you are wellcome to youres, but for a fringe sport 2 years ago Joe Clazage and Ricky Hatton both never even having had a live fight show on the BBC came first and 3rd after a public vote on sports personalty of the year, not bad for a fringe sport. And if we are talking fringe sports let be honest the vast ammount of sports the BBC do show are nothing more than minority fringe sports, to be honest i find your comment very insulting and the fact the BBC enployes you to wright about boxing when to you it is just a fringe sport says it all...The David Haye situation with the BBC is common knowlage for those of us who do follow the sport closely, Adam Booth David Hayes manager tried to get the BBC to the table for the proposed Vitali Klitschko-David Haye fight and he said both Kilitschko and Haye were happy to meet with the BBC only to find they had no inclination to see them, despite not knowing what the fight fee was.. IF the BBC is worth anything we are owed better than that shamefull treatment, they carnt even be botherd to bid for the higlights, i and millions of other boxing fight what better value for my licence fee.

  • Comment number 71.

    Perhaps AJ Liebling was right, Ben.
    As a participatory sport, I would guess boxing probably gets not much more 'parental support' than badger-baiting.

    Also, like football and athletics, today it has to compete for market share with so many other activities.

    And Hollywood does human-violence so much more glamorously.

  • Comment number 72.

    WHat we need shut-of is American dis-information and American bias.

    Its called the "WORLD" Heavyweight Championship.

    Not the "New York Press Association Heavyweight Championship"

    Truth be told, the world is not ready for White Heavyweights to rule. THe Americans are distinctly uncomfortable with the concept, and so the presence of these white fighters is passed off as a "weak division". Its baloney. Frank Baloney.

    The Welterweight division is in a mess, and has been since the Flop of the Century "fight" between ODLH and Tito Trinidad. Since 1999, there has been NO consensus champion at 147. Yet, we are told, it is the heavyweight division that is in a mess. Nonsense.

    Just follow the pattern I present: right now, here and now, Mosley is the man at 147. Mosley lost to Cotto, who lost to Margarito, who was done for cheating, who lost to Paul Williams, who lost to Quintana, who lost to Williams, who beat Margarito who lost to Shane Mosley who was involved in Balco who lost to Vernon Forrest who lost to Mayorga who lost to Oscar who lost to Mosley get the picture. A merry-go-round of mediocrity at 147.

  • Comment number 73.


    Agree completely with Americans issue with the "white heavyweights". If any of 'their boys' could fight like either klitschko, and happened to be African American, then you can guarantee the hoopla surrounding them would be huge.

    I don't quite agree with your comment on the 147lb division. You could chuck Berto in with Mosely and lose, but chuck him in with Williams and win etc. Overall i think the top 10 147lb'rs could, as you point out detrementally, beat one another on any given night. For me it's Cotto who's the #1 at 147lbs and Mayweather will resume #1 when he beats Marquez (which WILL happen). How many other weight classes are there with 10 genuine world class fighters who have spent/will spend years beating each other up?

  • Comment number 74.

    Ben, seeing as though you work for the BBC can you pretty please, with ice cream on top if you want, answer me this:

    Why, when neither ESPN/Sky/ITV have gone for Froch's upcoming fight against Dirrell (part of the super6 series as well) is the BBC not putting in a bit of money to show it?

  • Comment number 75.

    Good blog, plenty of food for thought.

    Ben, consistently interesting articles and content on the BBC. Just wanted to say thanks. Enjoy reading what you have to say. Long may it continue.

  • Comment number 76.

    Without entering the MMA/UFC debate too much, I think that it's popularity over here is overstated. I know a handful of people who could name more than 5 MMA fighters but plenty who could name more than 5 boxers. Ali is perhaps the most famous sportsman there has been and other boxing legends are world famous. Hatton, Calzaghe and Khan are household names in the UK, is Bisping? Lesnar? No.

    Yes, the Heavyweight division has been lacking stars. Yes, the dirth of boxing on terrestrial TV has ensured that boxing is a minority sport. The main danger for boxing is that it's fanbase is largely over 30 and UFC's mostly under 30, so in 10-20 years' time UFC fans could outnumber boxing fans. I have a feeling that unless the top MMA fighters get a bigger slice of the pie they'll shoot themselves in the foot the way that boxing did anyway and end up with the top guys not facing one another (in the same way that THE top MMA fighter is not in the UFC, so their HW champ is not the true world HW champ).

    In short, if boxing promoters want to popularise their sport they should accept the sort of money the BBC and ITV can pay. That would propel boxing to household fame again and help the sport to grow. If they don't do this they won't win young fans and will be in trouble a few years down the line with the MMA demographic ages.

  • Comment number 77.

    This blog comes at a time when I've been musing (again) on the current state of boxing. I've been reading "Hands of Stone: the Life and Legend of Roberto Duran" which has got me thinking. He's the kind of figure the sport needs now. There are those who are controversial, nad there are those who are brilliant. There are few who are both. Duran was an exceptional fighter, but I doubt he was better than Mayweather (comparison is impossible of course) but his place in boxing folklore is assured ahead of "Pretty Boy" for a few reasons. Firstly, his style of fighting. He was excellent defensively (though not as good as a few of his peers) but he was so exciting to watch because of his intensity and brutality. There are few around today, and since Erik Morales retired, who can match that kind of ferocity, and those who can don't have Duran's skill. Mayweather is good to watch as a purist, but he isn't the kind to get into a real toe-to-toe war, and that's what the mass market will love. He also had rivals at a comparable quality who he could fight. Where are Mayweather's DeJesus, Benitez, Leonard etc? Nowhere, and when there is a suggestion of such a thing, geting them in the ring through the politics is too difficult.

    Although it wasn't the case in Duran's day, perhaps the best way to go is to create a world title that means something again. Fighters love to brag that they're the best in their division. How many of them step up and prove it against the best? It's nothing new, but it is choking boxing, and it's getting worse. Even ignoring the worst alphabet titles where some very, very ordinary fighters are winning "world titles" there are frequently 4 "credible" world champions in each division. They have become so meaningless that the man who is widely viewed as the best in the world in more than one division, doesn't actually hold a title anywhere, and that isn't seen as something he'll be keen to rectify. It'll never happen (The Ring are closest to doing it) but until the general public can easily understand the answer to the simple question "who is world champion at(x)weight?" the sport is going to struggle to broaden its appeal.

    Even then they need the characters though, as you say. Duran fought journeymen (he even lost to one) but he was still the type of man and fighter that fascinated people. We lack those now. We need both the right fighters AND the right politics to return boxing to the mainstream.

    So there.

  • Comment number 78.

    Is boxing not as popular now in general or just in Britain?

    I was taken in by the sport watching Ricky Hatton and Joe Calzaghe, and before that Naz.

    Hatton and Calzaghe carried the torch for world class British boxing for so many years and now we must see where the next Ricky and Joe are coming from. The only British Boxer who has taken the sport in this country by the scruff of it's neck is David Haye. One man. Is bares similarities to tennis.

    Should Amir Khan be recognised because he too is a world title holding? By title yes, but he has a long way to go yet. My view anyway.

    Nevertheless, I could still fill a room of mates and put box office on to see Mayweather, Pacman etc. We Brits just need a new boxer to look forward to and hoping Haye will do that; I hold out little hope for Khan.

  • Comment number 79.

    The Mercer/Sylvia fight was an exception for a number of reasons;

    1. Sylvia was 70 lbs heavier than when he was UFC champion,

    2. He had already lost 3 of his last 4 going into that fight, and has never (not entirely sure of this) been top 3 in the world.

    3. Due to the nature of the sport, anyone has a punchers chance, especially a guy like Mercer, and its multiplied by the fact that Sylvia generally likes to stand up and jab and plod to victory avoiding his opponents takedowns.

    4. Big Timmeh has always been the butt of many mma fans jokes.

    As for the "boxing vs MMA" argument, i think boxing can continue and become fairly popular once again for the simple fact;

    for 2 reasons.
    thats right, the UFC is responsible for the explosion in popularity of mma, but it is also responsible for putting limits on its popularity.
    By aiming solely at makes aged 18-34 the UFC can only be so popular and will never be a family sport. They play only metal music and have splats of blood on the screen during intros etcetera, simply put; the ufc presentation doesnt have the CLASS of a japanese mma show, or, more importantly a boxing show, and THAT is why it will never be a huge sport in the way the actual beauty of the in ring/cage arts have the potential to be. In japan mma is considered family entertainment, and unless the UFC changes their product, the future of mma died when PRIDE FC went under.

    The second reason is that compared to boxing, the top MMA fighters get paid very poorly considering how popular they are (though the undercard fighters get paid comparitivley well). The p4p and absolute best fighter of all time bar none Fedor Emelianenko has said the UFC doesnt treat the fighters like people (thats something because he generally doesnt talk), and this could cause athletes to stop going into mma.

    and for the record, big of a boxing fan as i am, I will be sky plussing the mayweather/marquez fight, and watching the UFC live, but only because my favourite all time fighter Cro-Cop is fighting.

  • Comment number 80.

    UFC is the premiere of MMA organisations and ESPN have that. There are other organisations though which the BBC could show, currently there is no UK channel for Dream, Sengoku, the WEC (sister org of the UFC which focuses on weights below 155 pounds, who need some exposure) and Strikeforce. With SkySports choosing to pick up Ultimate Challenge UK rather than the UFC or the other orgs mentioned so far gives the BBC plenty of options. M1 Challenge has recently been picked up by Bravo so that is out of the question.

    But the BBC isn't interested in combat sports so what are the chances of them jumping on the bandwagon, if BBC aren’t going to follow the sport on the television, what’s the point in blogging about it? There would be no gains made from doing such a thing only informing and possibly sending potential viewers to rival broadcasters. Following the UFC videogame being a hit and EA Sports working on another MMA game (featuring Mayhem Miller, King Mo and probably Gegard Mousasi, Shinya Aoki and Fedor, it is only a matter of time before it is widely recognized by the masses.

    The reason why MMA is becoming a big hit is because not every culture follows boxing, in Brazil it used to be about Vale Tudo for example. But because many martial arts can adapt to MMA successfully that has brought many fans to the sport. Look at Japan for example, huge on football and baseball but such arts as Judo, Jujitsu and some styles of Karate have helped it to produce many successful organisations (Sengoku, Hero's, Pride FC and Dream) and fighters(Sinya Aoki, Genki Sudo, Kazushi Sakuraba and Kid Yamamoto). Fighting is a something which we can all relate to on some level, but if you go see Boxing which has one single range of fighting, some just people won't be interested.

    Another point is that MMA is still in its infancy; right now there are just fighters from one particular style moving into MMA:
    Boxing - Marcus Davis
    Kickboxing - Rich Franklin
    Karate - GSP or Lyoto Machida
    Judo - Karo Parisyan or Yoshihiro Akiyama
    Jiu Jitsu - Renzo Gracie (or any member of the Gracie clan who has competed in MMA)
    Muay Thai - Melvin Manhoef
    Sambo - Fedor Emelianenko
    Various forms of Wrestling - Sakuraba, Brock Lesnar, Kevin Randleman and Pat Miletich

    Mixed Martial Arts is essentially the triathlon of combat sports with three phases; The Stand-Up, The Clinch/Takedown phase and the Ground fighting.

    Look at boxing, most of the time they're in the clinch and then the referee comes along and separates them, then they clinch again. In one of James Degales fights in Beijing, it almost turned into a Judo match. Is that considered exciting to you? Not really to me, in Mixed Martial Arts the clinch game is essential as it will lead to something happening, maybe pushing someone up against the cage to land some knees or uppercuts, maybe a takedown or try and get the persons back. But the opponent against the cage could overpower or get a submission out of nowhere.
    People can see MMA as a blood sport or human cockfighting but people thought of Boxing that way when it started, with Battle Royales, bare-knuckle and underground fights. It is complex, the grappling takes time to understand but it was proven essential from the get go thanks to Rickson, Royce and the rest of the Gracie Clan. The fact that some people are put off by it thinking it is homoerotic, just ask that to the person who is getting choked out or the person whose arm is getting cranked in an armbar. Rickson Gracie once said “I am a shark. The ground is my ocean, and most people don't even know how to swim.” sure boxers are good fighters and all but if they ever get taken to the ground by even a whitebelt, it could be over. I know someone who competed in one MMA match, he trained Muay Thai for a long time, the bell rang to signal the first round, and he was taken down and submitted in 20 seconds.
    Grappling is pretty new to most people but it has been proven effective time and time again, the United Arab Emirates have Brazilian Jiu Jitsu blackbelts teaching at as many schools as they can. That is how much fighting is viewed; many parts of the American Military Forces have BJJ as its base for hand to hand combat.

    IF you do go and pay to watch Mayweather vs. Marquez it is for one fight and it could be boring, you pay to watch an MMA event and there will be lots of entertaining fights. ESPN showed just past midnight a UFC Fight Night live event and that was only four matches but those were all entertaining, with just one not going the distance. UFC beats Boxing and WWE PPV’s now, which says a lot for such a young sport.

  • Comment number 81.

    I read your blog with some interest the other day after reading about the Death of Darren Sutherland. I was surprised you had no mention of it. From what I can gather it seems he was a real character just like Bolt. However his tragic death it just another sign of what is indemnically ( if I have spelled that correctly?) wrong with the sport! A man so suicidal that when his boss calls to the house, he suffers a heart attack finding him dead, was not crying out for help. There is something amiss when your promoter can't tell that something is up, or you are feeling down. I don't reckon Don King is the only amoral person in this sport, or any other given this weeks events. Boxings downfall is a bit like Formula 1. Lots of people who have nothing to do with entertaining the fans have got rich off the backs of those who do the donkey work. The public aren't fools. Or rather you can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time. The public have boxing sussed the same way the did cycling...There is no faith anymore. RIP Darren!

  • Comment number 82.


    Another point is that MMA is still in its infancy; right now there are just fighters from one particular style moving into MMA:

    Boxing - Marcus Davis
    Kickboxing - Rich Franklin
    Karate - GSP or Lyoto Machida
    Judo - Karo Parisyan or Yoshihiro Akiyama
    Jiu Jitsu - Renzo Gracie (or any member of the Gracie clan who has competed in MMA)
    Muay Thai - Melvin Manhoef
    Sambo - Fedor Emelianenko
    Various forms of Wrestling - Sakuraba, Brock Lesnar, Kevin Randleman and Pat Miletich

    This is almost completely exaggerated. Marcus Davis hasnt boxed for over 10 years. GSP has been training BJJ and wrestling for 9 years. All of these fighters have cross trained for 10 years or so. The exceptions are the one dimensional fighters who started near 15 years ago (Randleman.Gracie even Bas was one dimensional when he arrived and wasnt much better when he retired).

    The rest have cross trained for years and with the best in the business (Fedor with Golden Glory, Nog with the Cubans, even Sakuraba with Chute). The sport isnt in its infancy. Promotional maybe, many fighters who fight now start as MMA fighters working off a BJJ or wrestling base.

  • Comment number 83.

    I think the Klitschko's have taken ownership of heavyweight boxing and have decided to hide it away in Germany which is not really the hotbed of boxing. The Klitschko's bring very little showbiz to the sport and are very conservative individuals both inside and outside the ring.

    They could have fought more in the US and helped promote the sport but they chose to keep the world title to themselves and Central/Eastern Europe. People can say what they want about the Klitschko's being fine upstanding citizens but the reality is that in their tenure as world champions boxing has fallen to it lowest point in the history of the sport.

    I think the Klitschko's have a lot to answer for. For everything boxing has given them they have given very little back to the sport. Why aren't they fighting in Vegas and doing the US chatshows, I'll tell you why they couldn't be bothered. Their legacy will state that they were champions when boxing was dying and they did little to give it life.

    Ultimately in the past two days I have formed the opinion that the Klitschko's are very selfish individuals who do not care about the sport or their legacy. I hope Vitali never gets his wish of being elected mayor of Kiev.

    Ben Dirs wrote

    "Muhammad Ali was quite simply 'The Greatest', and every great heavyweight champion since has been American, with the honourable exception of Britain's Lennox Lewis."

    There's a guy who has just left 606 who always maintained Lewis was Canadian.

  • Comment number 84.

    magnificentcatcher, i agree that UFC is still in its "infancy" and may well evolve.. Will be interesting to see what happens when the fighters start asking questions as to why they're not earning $10m+ for fights like boxers do...

    As for your last paragraph:

    "IF you do go and pay to watch Mayweather vs. Marquez it is for one fight and it could be boring, you pay to watch an MMA event and there will be lots of entertaining fights. ESPN showed just past midnight a UFC Fight Night live event and that was only four matches but those were all entertaining, with just one not going the distance. UFC beats Boxing and WWE PPV’s now, which says a lot for such a young sport."

    Have you ever been to York Hall to watch a domestic card? Or have you watched Friday Night Fights at the Nokia Club in L.A? Cards packed with evenly matched fighters engaging in some great tear-ups.

    As for the UFC fights being "entertaining, with just one not going the distance"... Dear dear me, how about you go and watch any of the Marquez (Rafael) v Vasquez fights, Gatti v Ward, Barrera v Morales etc etc They're fights with 12 rounds of absolutely amazing action, just because they don't end in 5 minutes and actually require the attention span of someone above the mental age of 15, doesn't mean they're any less exciting.

  • Comment number 85.

    there are too many belts and catergories for fans to relate too! surely there is a way to unite the belts and have 1 world champion in each weight that way people would know who was best in each weight! i love boxing but am not 'super fan' and at a young age i cannot grasp the concept of having four world champions in any individual weight.... MMA is an evolving exciting sport and quite straihtfoward i think boxing is much classier but has lost its roots and has turned into a form of wresting not in technique but in there being no excitment with the exeption of a few boxers!
    younger viewers do not enjoy boxing as much MMA because its not as exciting and attractive!

  • Comment number 86.

    Oh, and for the record (as i forgot to mention) the card for the fight on Saturday night (American time) is:

    1st: Orlando Cruz v Cornelius Lock
    2nd: Vicente Escobedo v Michael Katsidis
    3rd: Chris John v Rocky Juarez
    4th: Mayweather Jr v Marquez

    The first bout is between 2 guys who have thrown the promoters "careful careful book" approach out of the window and should be a decent fight. 2nd fight involves Katsidis, who's never one to shy away from having a huge scrap. 3rd fight involves a guy who's already beaten Marquez against an American hope in Juarez, their first fight was quality and should be a repeat. Main event may have to push some to live up to what could happen on the undercard... Golden Boy p'mts are now going to be making all the major PPV cards resemble the one listed.

  • Comment number 87.

    How to get that cab driver interested in boxing again?

    Show boxing on terrestrial television!

    A World Champion like Carl Froch, a star in Nottingham, who fills the Nottingham arena, and he can't even get a TV deal for his participation in the Super 6 tournament - a torunament where the best ARE fighting the best!

    BBC, where are you?

    ITV got solid ratings for Carl Froch vs Jean Pascal. I've heard stories about how people who never watch boxing were talking about that fight with interest after stumbling across it last year.

    In Germany, more than one terrestrial channel shows prime time boxing cards, and they get big ratings.

    Sky often claim they kept British boxing alive for long periods, and there's some truth in that - but in the long term, they may well have contributed to its marginalisation.

    Terrestrial exposure for big fights would give boxing a massive shot in the arm.

  • Comment number 88.

    collie21 wrote
    "The public have boxing sussed the same way the did cycling...There is no faith anymore."

    Except that cycling is thriving. Huge roadside audiences at this years Tour of Britian, record roadside attendance at this years Tour de France. For all it's troubles it's still a hugely popular and (in europe at least) easily accessable sport.

    If anything it shows how a troubled sport can survive. Make it cheap, or even free to watch. That way, you retain a big audience and have something to offer potential advertisers.
    Boxing is pricing itself out of the market. Fights are £15 a pop, or you pay that a month for a specialist channel. Attending a fight is now a major investment, tickets cost a kings ransom and a lot of fights are held in Vegas, so nearly everone has to travel.
    Why not drop ticket prices, hold fights in cities where people actually live, put on free to view TV then sell advertising rights? It works for plenty of other sports.

  • Comment number 89.

    I think these sheer number of post/comments that this blog has attracted says something about the enduring popularity of boxing!!

    Heavy weight boxing has taken a nose dive in America due to the fact that very very big athletes can now go and play american football or basketball and earn multi-million dollars a year which wasn't true in the "golden age of boxing", and only the top rank of boxers have ever earned decent money. I'm not saying that american footballers or basketballers don't train hard, but boxing needs possibly the most commitment of any sport so why wouldn't they go and play an "easier sport"?

    What annoys me is BBC played hundreds of millions of for football HIGHLIGHTS a few years ago, and now say they don't get return on investment after having their fingers burnt with by the £1million pound contract with Fraudley Harrison. ITV paid a fraction of what the BBC paid for the football highlights and had the second largest viewing figure for a Danny Williams fight a few years ago behind the EUFA final.

    Boxing began to decline in UK when Frank Warren signed a contract for X amount of fights a year on Sky Sports, which allowed Frank to put up his Golden Eggs against no hopers for many years. So not only was it taken away from terestrial TV but the fights were generally not up to standard.

    Why don't TV company just take the some of the lower, less top marque fights? Unlike most other sports where the best competition will be amongst the best teams i.e. Real Madrd v Barcelona, or Brazil v France, with boxing some of the best fights are among the British, Commonweatlth or Euoropean (when the European fights are judged fairly). So OK it may cost millions to buy a Haye or Khan fight, why didn't some pick up the recent Carl Froch world title fight?!

    Finally fair play to Barry Hearns Prize Fighter Series, a truly excellent idea, and great way to get people who weren't that interested in boxing into the sport. Three things need happen for boxing to become become a big sport again:
    1. The judging need to become more transparent and fair (see the recent Tyson Fury V Mcdermott fiasco)
    2. Boxing need to come back on to terestrial
    3.Every boxing fan needs to get two of the mates into boxing. Boxing evangalism if you like!! I'm taking 12 people the next Prizefighter event for example...

  • Comment number 90.

    Khusthi, Kabaddi and Boxing are enjoying good times in different parts of India and the sub-continent. Our Pehelwans or grapplers, Kabaddi exponents and seasoned glovemen are eyeing medals in the forthcoming Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and other inter-continental meets. These close body encounter sports still have a magnetic appeal among large sections of our people in cities, towns and villages across South Asia.

    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 91.

    I notice that my post on this blog seems to have been removed. If it has been taken down could you let me know why.

  • Comment number 92.

    After seeing Mayweather dismantle a superb fighter in Marquez, can we really say this guy isn't a superstar. He plays the pantomime villian hence his popularity isn't what it should be, but has there been a more natural talent in the ring since Suger Ray Leonard? I don' think so. Now with the prospect of fights between Mayweather, Paqiuao, Cotto and Mosley, I think boxing fans have alot to be excited about in the coming year.
    Love him or hate him, Mayweather is pure and utter class and we're privilged to see him back....

  • Comment number 93.

    There's your Bolt Ben.

  • Comment number 94.

    Good blog, a very interesting read. I should first say that i'm not to the biggest boxing fan, but do like to watch and take an interest in the big fights and big personalities. I can only agree though that there are no real big personalities around at the moment and i only really watch when a British fighter is involved and there's someone for me to root for, but even then if it's £16 on pay-per-view i rarely pay it, because the spectacle that's delivered is frankly not worth it from the fighters around these days.

    I watched the Mayweather/Marquez fight at the weekend and while it was entertaining it was hardly thrilling and i find Mayweather a very difficult personality to like - his nickname of "Money" is hardly endearing and when he was interviewed about the fight afterwards he was too busy namedropping his sponsors to give any kind of opinion. It just gets very tiresome to watch a sport that is full of money but running short on spectacle.

    Lastly, just to expand your analogy of "boxing needs a Usain Bolt" - you could easily have traded Bolt's name for that of Valentino Rossi. Whereas in F1 we had Michael Schumacher dominate for the best part of a decade and everyone got bored and disliked him, Rossi has dominated the world of MotoGP, but brought an imense sense of fun and entertainment to the sport. Every sport needs these characters.

  • Comment number 95.

    A Bolt is not required.

    Boxing is as good as the fights not the fighters.

    We need more than one Bolt is my point.

    Get a billionaire to unify the belts, structure the ranking and expand the TV and you once again have the worlds biggest sporting spectacles. Until that occurs the great sport will continue to be shafted by the crooks and opportunists it has always attracted.

  • Comment number 96.

    " lucap25 wrote:

    After seeing Mayweather dismantle a superb fighter in Marquez, can we really say this guy isn't a superstar. He plays the pantomime villian hence his popularity isn't what it should be, but has there been a more natural talent in the ring since Suger Ray Leonard? I don' think so. Now with the prospect of fights between Mayweather, Paqiuao, Cotto and Mosley, I think boxing fans have alot to be excited about in the coming year.
    Love him or hate him, Mayweather is pure and utter class and we're privilged to see him back...."

    That's the problem though. Mayweather may well be among the best fighters of all time, and boxing fans enjoy watching him. However, his style and personality mean he isn't boxing's Bolt, because he has zero appeal for people outside boxing's fans. This doesn't mean he's not a great fighter, but he isn't a superstar in any sphere outside boxing. Probably more a reflection of the state of the sport than Mayweather himself, but it remains the case. Ability doesn't make you a superstar, public interest does that. Go and find an average sports fan in the pub (one who isn't really a boxing fan) and see what he knows about Floyd Mayweather. Then if he's of the right age ask him what he knows about Leonard, Hearns, Duran or Hagler. People outside boxing's hard core following watched them fight, nobody outside that group will have bothered with Mayweather v Marquez. Sad but true.

  • Comment number 97.

    The lack of terrestrial TV coverage is a massive let down in the UK and with the majority of top fights being pay-per-view it's more difficult than ever to enjoy the best match ups around on a global scale. Take, for example, the Froch v Taylor fight...they seriously struggled to get a TV station to cover it, which was very disappointing for a UK boxing fan like myself who was hoping the ITV would take it up and show it on ITV1 as they had done for his other fights. Together with highly priced live venue tickets it's becoming increasingly more difficult for fans to enjoy boxing. So whilst the next Ali, Tyson or Lewis may be just around the corner the vast majority of people won't be able to see them fight and so interest naturally will fall. I know people have to make the effort, but there are so many barriers being put up (difficult TV coverage, corrupt promoters, fighters not always taking the top fights) it's becoming more and more frustrating. least the UKs 'Prize Fighter' match up should help....NOT!!!!

  • Comment number 98.

    Tyson was like a crazed wild animal in the ring.

  • Comment number 99.

    Well if you look at Boxing and MMA and then look at the franchise that owns aspects of each sport it becomes quite apparent as to who has the upper hand. With MMA you have UFC which has a major manopoly over the MMA sport and means that all the fighters of a division will get to fight the best (at world title level) if they are good enough. With Boxing you have at least four different world titles in a division all owned by a different organisation. This concludes with Boxing having up to four world champions per division and no real overall "champ" unless they unify all the belts.

    I and the purists would prefer it if Boxing took on just one title per division and I'm sure Joe (also known as Bloggs, average etc) would be reasonably happy about it as well.

  • Comment number 100.

    I like the idea that there is someone out there with the ability to shake the sport up like Bolt has done but it has t be said that it is harder to make that impact in boxing as one fight or performance wouldn’t do it. I just hope that when it happens they turn out to be british. Amir Kahn is doing us proud, David Haye has people talking (although personally I don’t like him) and we need something else to add to the mix (with Kevin Mitchell dropping out of the race with his defeat last night).



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