AFTER watching the low action world heavyweight title fight between Wladimir Klitschko and Tyson Fury it occurred to me: Why is losing such a bad thing?
I used to listen to the old guys say, “It was a lot better in my day,” and I would think “Here we go again.” Well, now I am one of the old guys saying it! But I do think, like those before me, that it was better in the past. I believe the quality of the fights are deteriorating, and that fighters are no longer committed to fighting, and putting on a show for the paying customer, because too much emphasis is put on not losing. If there is no excitement in boxing, where will we be?
I was bought up with firstly Rocky Marciano, then Floyd Patterson, Sonny Liston and then the Muhammad Ali era. Unbeaten records were not important, the fights were important, it was about fighting not surviving.
Most sports are all going down the same route. I was a season ticket holder at Leeds United In the Don Revie era and watched soccer every week because it was exciting and physical, it had toughness, and an enormous amount of skill, with tackles crunching in plus the odd punch-up, and a guarantee of goals.
In cricket we had bouncers flying down, cricket balls thudding into your ribs: I remember the late Brian Close showing off of his body after a test match and it was covered in bruises; Mike Gatting with his nose plastered over the seam of the cricket ball, Freddie Trueman thundering down the wicket intent on removing all three stumps along with the batsman’s teeth as a bonus.
Most sports have suffered – from an entertainment point of view – from the input of health and safety with a limit on the number of bouncers in cricket, rugby has deemed it illegal to shoulder charge and a red card for a punch-up. All things that make the game more exciting. To put it into perspective I was talking to a visitor to my house, an avid Manchester City supporter who loved watching them, and then last week he watched a film on them in the 60s and 70s and couldn’t believe how much more enjoyable the game was then. All these sports and others have had their excitement levels reduced by governing bodies, whereas the sport of boxing is untouched by any outside influences, yet with all our knowledge on sports medicine, training regimes and equipment and fitness levels that are far better than our predecessors why are there so few fighters in the mould of Mickey Ward, Arturo Gatti, Shea Neary or Derry Mathews? We have close to 1,000 licensed professional fighters but markedly fewer who guarantee value for money.
So when this generation that reach my time of life and tell their young ones that their generation was better, how bad are those fighters going to be? Or will boxing by then just have died of unnatural causes and be replaced by UFC or some other contact sport?