Why has boxing become irrelevant?
Five years ago, ten years ago, fifteen years ago I was always able to name the heavyweight champion, a few of the major heavyweight contenders, and a few of the other major titletholders. Now, I find that the heavyweight title is divided among four different contenders, none of whom I’ve ever heard of.
Boxing is not such a bad sport to watch on TV. It has clear commercial breaks, and tends to be reasonably exciting. The possibilities seem to be as follows:
1) America has outgrown boxing: The American public can no longer, on a consistent basis, deal with the violence of boxing. This seems patently absurd.
2) There are no charismatic boxers: Was Mike Tyson charismatic? Lennox Lewis? Larry Holmes? Evander Holyfield? Doesn’t make any sense.
3) Boxing lacks a central organizational body: This one make a lot of sense. MLB, the NFL, and the NBA all devote an extraordinary amount of effort to marketing their product. The major boxing organizations seem to be most interested in competing against one another, and only tangentially interested in drumming up interest in the sport as a whole.
4) Bad Marketing: I also find this one plausible. I wonder if the major promoters and organizations were too greedy, too enthusiastic about seizing the revenue available from cable and pay-per-view, while remaining oblivious to larger considerations regarding developing a future audience for the sport. The NFL is smart enough to refrain from making the Superbowl pay-per-view, if only because it helps develop a younger audience.