Hi guys, Scott Asner here. As you all know, I love sports and I particularly love boxing.
Boxing is one of the purest forms of a sport you can find; two men, competing directly against each other with no external forces influencing the outcome. Or, well, it was previously like that. Boxing has changed.
When Muhammad Ali fought George Foreman in 1974 it was just two men trying to best each other with pure technique, strength and determination. The best boxers didn’t just have the best physiques, but possessed an extra gear; a voice that simply said “I won’t lose.” Mike Tyson fought people much larger than him, weathering barrages that should have knocked people much bigger than him out, but his competitive spirit refused to lose. These boxers were concerned with nothing other than beating their opponent; it was as simple as that.
Today boxing has become something very different. While I love the notoriety and prestige that boxing has enjoyed in recent years, I thinks the sport has changed. Where there was once a pure, unadulterated contest between two athletes, there is now more circumstance than fight. Publicity has taken center stage, with sport playing second fiddle.
Much like other sports, boxing has adapted to social media; but the sport lost something along the way. Boxers used to fight each other for accolades. The desire to be number one was their main driving force, but today that force is money. It’s hard to say when exactly this change happened, but the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight of 2015 is a good example. You might remember how that fight went, or rather how it ‘didn’t’ go, with both fighters trading what seemed like inconsequential blows until a judge’s decision mercifully ended the altogether unremarkable bout.
While you may remember the fight, chances are, most people remember the build-up much more. The media had a field day with the headlines, the whole world was on the edge of its seat. I couldn’t help but think about how out of hand things had become. Boxers have always been interested in the prize money, but $300 million for a single fight is ridiculous; a prize like that can’t help but change the ethos of any sport.
Muhammad Ali and George Foreman each took home $5 million dollars for their historic fight in ’74, but even adjusted for inflation (about $27M in 2021) that only represents 1/10 of the purse earned by Mayweather and Pacquaio for their 2015 bought. The focus of the sport has undoubtedly shifted to generating revenue. The names on the ticket being almost more important than the fight itself.
More recently, boxing has taken another strange turn. Where it was once an arena for seasoned athletes, today it has become a place to settle celebrity beef. It’s shocking to see internet personalities that I’ve never heard of before on the billing cards of high-profile fights. Jake Paul comes to mind. This is someone whose internet fame seems to eclipse his athletic accomplishments, but he still garners attention in a boxing match. When Jake Paul fought Nate Robinson, I had little respect for either fighter. Here was a retired basketball player and an internet celebrity fighting in the ring, a place made sacred by the likes of Sugar Ray Robinson and Mike Tyson. It felt like people were there to watch the story of the fight, to cheer for the ‘underdog’ when neither fighter was even a boxer by trade. The purity of the sport is long gone, and what remains is unproven.
Jake Paul, after handing Robinson a loss by K.O. went on to fight a former MMA fighter and won that bought as well, but any boxing fan understands that these wins mean very little. Paul hasn’t fought a real boxer before, but at least he’s fought, unlike his brother.
Logan Paul, Jake’s brother, fought Floyd Mayweather in June 2021. Logan has fought only once before, losing to fellow ‘YouTuber’ KSI. I was outraged. What happened to climbing up the ranks; having your eyes set on the championship title as you progressed past ever more challenging opponents? How is it that someone who has never even participated in a professional boxing match now gets to fight one of the greatest of all time without qualification?
The easy answer: it’s all about the money. This boxing fan, however, misses the time when it was all about the competition.
~ Scott Asner, wannabe musician and Founding Principal of Eighteen Capital Group (18CG) in Kansas City, Missouri.