The sport of boxing is in desperate need of some good R & R. Contrary to popular reports – new ones from every generation dating back several centuries – the sport of boxing is not dying. Nor will it ever die. However, the last few months have been particularly tough for boxing fans, and those involved in the sport directly.
Let’s see, there’s the ongoing competition with uber-punk Dana White, the comparisons between UFC and boxing and the usual lack of high quality, free TV boxing matches. But none of this is new, and the boxing realm has a collectively thick skin in any event. However, with tragedies, misfortunes and scandals mounting up, the sport is in serious need of some help.
Proving that deaths really do come in threes, the boxing world has seen three well known brethren die early deaths in the span of less than a month. On July 1, the death of Alexis Arguello became known. While ruled a suicide, it must still be looked at suspiciously. Arguello had just been elected the mayor of Managua, Nicaragua the year before and had recently carried the flag for his country at the Beijing Olympics. Most famous for his wars with The Hawk, Aaron Pryer, Arguello was just the sixth fighter to win world titles in three weight classes.
On July 11, news came in that the Ultimate Blood and Guts Warrior, Arturo Gatti, was found dead in Brazil. With his wife initially arrested as a suspect for his murder, Brazilian authorities eventually ruled the death a suicide, a claim which is also still disputed. Gatti engaged in one thrilling bout after another, most notably his trilogy with brawler Micky Ward.
There was no disputing the murder charge that came in on July 25, when Vernon Forrest was found shot to death. After an attempted robbery, Forrest took out his gun and was eventually shot down, potentially by parties unrelated to the initial robbery. Forrest was a fantastic amateur fighter that burst onto the national spotlight by beating the then undefeated Shane Mosley twice.
Fight cancellations are nothing new to world of boxing. Due to injuries, disputes and various more sketchy circumstances, fights are commonly postponed or cancelled entirely. However, the past few months has seen a string of some heavily anticipated bouts put on the backburner or taken off the schedule for good.
First it was the David Haye vs. Wladimir Klitschko showdown. The trash talking Haye, a former cruiserweight champion, had managed to actually bring interest to the heavyweight division before he pulled out of the fight two weeks prior to it taking place.
Next up was the return of Floyd Mayweather, against pound for pound candidate Juan Manuel Marquez. Scheduled for July, the bout got pushed back until September due to a Mayewather rib injury. Combined with the Haye-Klitschko cancellation, the hot summer months showcased a sizzling void of major fights.
Finally, a major fight was recently announced and subsequently was immediately pushed back and may still be canceled altogether. Weight class hopping, former welterweight champion Paul Williams was set to take on middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik in the biggest match that could be made in the division. However, a Pavlik hand injury put the kibosh on that one before the fires could even be stoked.
Scandal and Controversy
Scandal and boxing go hand in hand, and some controversy is never a bad thing. But when the sport has been so devastatingly hit by misfortune during a stretch of time, as it has now, the scandals only serve to make matters worse.
In the beginning of the year Antonio Margarito illegally wrapped his hands against Shane Mosley, and was suspended for a year. The topic was brought to the surface once again when HBO released their Assault in the Ring documentary, chronicling the infamous Luis Resto vs. Billy Conn match, in which Resto’s gloves had the padding removed prior to the bout.
Finally, in one of the few remaining anticipated bouts of the summer, Nate Campbell vs. Tim Bradley, the fight ended in controversy following a cut caused by a head butt.
What can boxing hang its hat on?
-Pound for pound champion Manny Pacquiao, coming off of his blazing second round knockout of Ricky Hatton in May, is scheduled to fight Miguel Cotto in November. In addition to Pacquiao vs. Cotto, a future Pacquiao vs. Mayweather showdown is also highly anticipated.
-Showtime has put together a six man tournament in the super middleweight division, “The Super Six“, pitting many of the best fighters in the division against one another.
-Young American fighters like Eddie Chambers, Juan Diaz and Robert Guerrero are continuing to stay busy, working their way up the ladders and providing some solid entertainment while other top boxing prospects are making their names as well.
Even with these highlights, boxing is still clearly in a bad place right now. A string of deaths, fight cancellations and scandals have left the sport in an even more precarious position than usual. Fight fans are downright starving for something positive and exciting. Hopefully the fall and winter can begin to satiate our cravings, mending the sport’s wounds before the next low blows are dealt.