The Sad State Of Boxing

It was more than ten years ago that I first said to a friend and colleague that the sport of boxing was morphing into pro wrestling. The occasion for that comment was when some guy jumped up to the ring ropes to interrupt a championship bout. That had been standard fare in pro wrestling for years but it seemed to be a step in the wrong direction for boxing.

Today boxing is not exactly dead, but it’s not healthy either. It would be a great term paper assignment for a sports journalism class to have the students look at the history of boxing and horseracing and then compare the glories of those sports in the past with what is there today. Part of boxing’s problem is that there are too many horrendous mismatches and far too much hype for what is delivered. Oh by the way, that is not all that different from pro wrestling…

Recently, José Canseco stepped into the boxing ring with former NFL kickoff/punt return specialist Vai Sikihama. Despite a seven inch height advantage and a fifty-pound weight advantage, Canseco lasted all of a minute-and-a-half before going paws up. This is the kind of spectacle that should never get any attention in a sport that hopes to pretend to be a “major sport”. But it got attention – - way too much attention.

Last night, James Toney and Hasim Rahman duked it out for something called the NABO heavyweight championship. Stop ten random folks that you encounter today and ask them what NABO stands for; more people will say “Nasty-Assed Body Odor” than will say “North American Boxing Organization”. In the James Toney/Hasim Rahman context, possibly both expansions of the acronym would be accurate but that’s not the point.

These two “warriors” are not as old as Methuselah, but Methuselah isn’t trying to box anymore either. They fought to a draw in 2006. Since that fight, Rahman has lost whatever title he held at the time and then fought four tomato cans with forgettable names such as Willie Last and Kenny Getup.

Toney – on the other hand – has been more visible. He did lose two fights to Samuel Peter – not to be confused with Simon Peter, Simon and Garfunkel, Simple Simon, Simon Says or Peter, Peter the Pumpkin Eater – and then he won a split decision over Danny Batschelder. The great thing about the Toney/Batschelder fight was that both fighters tested positive for “improper drugs in the bloodstream” in post-fight testing. Seriously, if they did post-event testing for pro wrestlers, how often do you think that both combatants would light up the test tubes?

So, with that backdrop, Toney and Rahman stepped into a ring such that there was an opportunity for one of them to walk out holding a championship title. Do not go to Google anyone but here is a prop bet for you:

    OVER/UNDER on the combined ages for Toney and Rahman – - 78.5

    What’s your call?

And if you care, James Toney won this “classic encounter” in the third round. Try to maintain your composure…

As if those two examples are not bad enough, here is an item from Dan Daly in the Washington Times that summarizes another example of how boxing is dying before your eyes:

“Speaking of altercations, 49-year-old Azumah Nelson and 44-year-old Jeff Fenech met in the boxing ring again last Tuesday -16 years after they last fought for the super featherweight title. The bout, won by Fenech on a 10-round decision, was widely denounced by such groups as the Australian Medical Association, the Ghanaian Boxing Association and the Hair Club For Men.”

I notice that the Brewers traded for CC Sabathia putting CC and Prince Fielder on the same team at the same time. Having all of that gravitational potential in the same dugout runs the risk of warping the space-time continuum sufficiently to create a small black hole, which could then devour the city of Milwaukee. My calculations say that is highly unlikely to happen but here is something that will probably have to happen:

    The Brewers will need to put Omar the Tentmaker on retainer to sew team uniforms for the rest of the season.

With baseball at the halfway point of the 2008 season, it’s time for a few observations:

    Was the substitution of Joe Girardi for Joe Torre such a no-brainer that even the Steinbrenner braintrust could figure it out?

    How could Jeff Francoeur’s career have fallen so far so fast? He was in the running for Rookie of the Year in 2005; he played in the World Baseball Classic in 06; he hit .293 with 19 HRs and 105 RBIs last year; this year he was sent to Class AA Mississippi to work out the problems with his ability to hit a baseball.

    The Pirates are only six games under .500 so they have a shot to avoid the ignominy of a 16th consecutive season below the break-even mark. The problem is their pitching. The Pirates are fifth in the NL in runs scored but they have only the eleventh best record. The team ERA is 5.24 and the starting rotation has a combined ERA of 5.64. That is not the way to win more than 81 games in a season.

Finally, I have been telling you for several years now that the Washington Nationals will not be a big draw in Washington DC unless they are championship contenders year after year after year. I have also told you that in their new stadium, there are huge blocks of empty seats for every game. Now here is what syndicated columnist Norman Chad has to say on the matter:

“So, how’s that spanking new, paid-for-by-the-people Nationals Park working out? The Nats are 12th out of 16 National League teams in home attendance in the first year of the fresh-faced, gleaming facility — your tax dollars hard at work!”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…

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