Sunday, August 21, 2011

The death throes of American Heavyweight Boxing

Is there even a heavyweight division anymore? I’m not being blind here, I know that there are a pair of Frankenstein’s out there that have taken heavyweight boxing from the arenas of America and placed them solidly in Europe.

My problem is not with good fighters holding titles. My problem is with a land called America, with a history of heavyweight boxing champions, going stale and stagnant in that division of that sport.

It’s not like there’s not incentive. In fact, the problem may be that there is too much incentive. In the day, of the greatest heavyweight champions ever (and I will give exception to a chosen few that have profited greatly), fighters were there to make a living, but they were there more so for the belt. It was a sport of sacrifice and pain, and a man that was average to below average in everything else could be the (lights and glitter) heavyweight champion of the world. Now I’m not even sure there is a single American boxer interested in it, at least from the media apparatus we are exposed to.

I know quite well that the old devil, Don King, swam right across that pond once his bread and butter, heavyweight boxers, held shop there. He goes where the money goes. But just because he goes there, does that mean that there is some unseen power that says the well bred men (OK, a bit of an embellishment) of America cannot be chosen and driven and trained to be the heavyweight champion again?

It’s been a long time since America has had a champion in the heavyweight division.

You can go back to 2006, when Shannon Briggs, the world-class six foot 5 inch bricklayer, pulled one out of his sash in the very last second of the fight to win the WBO ‘shampionship’. He summarily lost that belt in his next fight, to the Russian Sultan Ibragimov.

From there, we have to go back another year when Hasim Rahman won the title in an interim decision against Monte Barrette, and then was claimed full WBC champion after the challenger Vitali Klitschko bowed out due to knee injury.

If we continue to look back, we increasingly see American heavyweight champions until there are American heavyweight champions exclusively. Regardless, the drought is five years, an eternity in the boxing timeline. The reasons for the drought might be many, or few. I see a few possibilities:

1) Don King has control over the pay-per-view rights of the heavyweight belts, and sees more profitability in Europe than in the USA. Therefore, he has decided to back European fighters almost exclusively, and has given American fighters the shaft. Don King, “only in America”. What a salesman.

2) The greatest heavyweight trainers in all history have simply kicked the bucket. There are still a couple out there, but they represent foreign fighters and not American. There has been little transfer of wisdom in America, and therefore the trainers of today are literally starting from scratch.

3) Boxing, like so many other things genuine to America, has been emasculated by an ever-increasing PC and soon to be bankrupt society. The only good citizen is a simpleton.

4) Soccer. Tennis. Golf. I list these because they are the dominant sports put forth before children these days, and are all non-contact and PC. Plenty of room for digression here, bur I digress from that.

Perhaps it’s over for the life of boxing in America. It’s hard to say with the ever-evident popularity of mixed-martial arts and the octagon. But still, there is a division called heavyweight, in a boxing ring, where once champions like Johnson, Dempsey, Louis, Marciano, Frazier, Ali/Clay, Norton, Foreman, Holmes, Tyson, Bowe, Holyfield and all those in-between gave us minute to minute panic and raging heartbeat in anticipation of what might happen. I miss it. I want it back.