By Doug Halberstadt
Are the glory days of professional boxing a thing of the past? There are no longer any fighters who stir the emotions of the fight fans like Ali, Frazier, Tyson, Holyfield, Hagler, Leonard, Duran and Lewis used to do. Fight fans knew those guys, looked forward to their fights and would gladly pay good money to see them perform. Sadly, those days are long gone.
I can recall many times when I would either host, or go over to a friend’s house for a “fight night.” We’d get a group of guys together, throw in a few bucks each and purchase a pay-per-view event and enjoy watching one of the previously-mentioned guys go at it, sometimes against one another. I can’t recall the last time I hosted a fight night or went to one; it may have been when Tyson took a bite out of Holyfield’s ear. That was in 1997.
I don’t think the fighters of today carry a candle to those guys. Even the second-tier boxers of years past are more inspirational than what the sport is currently producing. Michael and Leon Spinks, Gerry Cooney, Kenny Norton and James “Buster” Douglas were more notable boxing personalities than anyone I can currently think of in the sport. Professional boxing has lost its luster, and somewhere along the line, boxers have lost their charisma.
This past weekend, a new heavyweight world champion was crowned. I defy anyone reading this column to name him. Unless you are another sports writer, or someone closely associated with the world of boxing, I’ll bet you $10 you couldn’t come up with his name in three guesses. Wrong, wrong, and wrong again.
Allow me to introduce the new heavyweight champion of the world … Alexander Povetkin. He defeated Ruslan Chagaev by unanimous decision Saturday, Aug. 27, to claim the vacant WBA heavyweight title. Big deal, who cares?
Not I, and obviously not any of the other 12-15 big fight fans I used to get together with for major title fights. No one bothered to host a fight night for these two guys. I’m not even sure it was televised anywhere. I didn’t see it listed on pay-per-view or, for that matter, I’m not sure it even qualified for ESPN Ocho.
The biggest punches I’ve seen on TV lately were thrown by a hurricane. Irene drew more interest than Povetkin and Chagaev combined. I never thought I’d see the day when the Weather Channel was more interesting to me than a world heavyweight title fight.
To me, that’s a sad commentary about the state of professional boxing.
Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.
From the Aug. 31-Sept. 6, 2011, issue