THERE is no substitute for good fights. But that in itself might not always be enough. After all, boxing is an entertainment business. Chugging a beer and munching on pretzels while watching the sweet science might be a perfect night for some, but others need more. They want their night of boxing to be presented to them just right, which is plain, simple, and fun. Unfortunately the sport does not always deliver that and makes things more complicated than it should. The following are a dozen gentle suggestions boxing should take to make it more fan friendly.
1. ELIMINATE THE 10-POINT MUST SYSTEM
Totaling up the scores of a fight should be simple, but under the 10-point must system it creates problems. To new followers of the sport it’s a complicated system and even for us diehard fans it causes headaches. Frankly, the system currently used is ridiculous. Barring knockdowns, the judges are given very little latitude and are basically required to score nearly all rounds 10-9 or 10-8 when there’s a knockdown or if one fighter takes a pounding. Only extreme cases sees a round scored 10-7. It begs the question: If a fighter doesn’t land a punch, gets dropped twice, why do they get even seven points? As Robert Redford said in The Candidate, “there must be a better way.”
2. REINTRODUCE THE INTRODUCTIONS FROM THE RING
Champions, contenders, and crowd favorites both past and present should be seen, want to be seen, and used to be seen at all the major shows. There was something magical when they would enter the ring before a main event and stride over to both combatants to offer a word of encouragement. Somewhere along the way that was substituted by a brief cameo of them sitting in their seat where the crowd would see them and react. While that in itself is fine, it does not compare to how it used to be. Bring back those in the ring intros. They were fun to watch in the past and would be again.
3. END SHOWS EARLIER
Main events rarely start before 11pm, sometimes after midnight. While that might be fine for young people who might otherwise go clubbing after hours, for the rest of us it throws our body clock out of whack. Unless a game runs into overtime the other sports’ night games usually end approximately two hours before the end of the main event of a boxing show. Starting those main events a little earlier than we currently do would be welcome by most who want their own version of shuteye. Also worth noting that due to the late finish of fights, it can be as late as 3am when the post-fight press conference finishes. That is ludicrous.
4. KEEP YOUR DISTANCE
Stare-downs after the weigh-in and at press conferences have turned borderline dangerous from time to time. Emotions are running high enough without asking the boxers to get in one another’s face as a last ditch means of promoting the fight. The solution has been found with the social distancing six feet recommendations where the boxers are required to stand behind a line. The effect of the stare-down remains the same, but they are now too far away from the other to shove, push, or do anything else that will begin a physical altercation. They’re going to have a fight anyway; why incite trouble beforehand?
5. BOYCOTT PPV UNLESS THE QUALITY IMPROVES
The pay-per-view formula the promoters put forth is a simple one. Give us a quality main event that we can’t resist getting. Now that we are at their mercy, too often the promoter – particularly here in the US – has no desire to give us an undercard worthy of the dollars we are paying. For the amount that PPV events cost, the fan deserves a much better undercard but will never get one as long as they are willing to purchase subpar shows. Manufacturers would have no motivation to improve their products if sales remained high. So be it with the boxing promoter and what they gives us from top to bottom. Until fans are willing to resist purchasing PPV events the quality is unlikely to improve.
6. STOP THIS UNDISPUTED NONSENSE
Unification fights are exciting if the matchup is, but please stop all this nonsense about wanting an undisputed world champion. If someone does get into a position to win all four sanctioning body belts (WBC, WBA, WBO, and IBF), you can rest assured that they will be stripped of one of them in a matter of weeks. Common sense and lineal heritage should rule in trying to figure out who the real champion is for each division, not who holds which belt. The sanctioning bodies have little interest in working with each other, so let’s stop wasting our time pretending otherwise.
7. A LITTLE LESS OF THE RING CARD GIRLS
Between rounds the ring card girls perform a useful chore. The sign they are holding up informs us of what round is coming up next, though there is surely a better way of doing that in this day and age. Even if we justify that, anything beyond is blatant sexism to have them standing right behind the fighters – wearing little more than a peroxide smile – at weigh-ins and press conferences.
8. NO X-RATED MUSIC PLEASE
It’s now become entrenched in boxing tradition that the fighter taking his ring walk does so with the song of his choice blaring. That is a good thing, both uplifting and entertaining. It’s between fights where a lid on the music should be kept. Many times, the music is so loud you have to strain to hear what the person next to you is saying. But worse than that is the foul language in some of those songs that are forced upon people in the arena. Eliminating that would be a good thing.
9. ONE SMALL STEP FOR MAN
When boxers try to move up two weight divisions people tend to act like it is historical. In reality all they are doing is what all fighters regularly did when there were only eight weight classes. Because of the now 17 divisions, the weights are so closely bunched that the difference between one and the other is for the most part only a few pounds. With that being the case we shouldn’t discourage champions, within reason, from moving up a couple of divisions under the false assumption that they are facing an insurmountable weight handicap.
10. MAKE SUSPENSIONS MEANINGFUL
A winner never cheats, and a cheater never wins. Think again. Because in boxing the biggest drug cheats get away without nary a penalty, some getting inducted into the Hall of Fame as well. The fines given to boxers who are making exorbitant money amounts to no more than a slap on the wrist. As for the suspensions, at most they only result in the slight delay of when a boxer fights next. Drug cheats are basically invited back to prosper in the sport that insulted. Bottom line: All the drug testing and rules are meaningless unless they are seriously enforced.
11. GIVE DIVISIONS A NEW NAME
Certain titles are diminished slightly because of the one word attached before it, that being light, junior or super. It would be easy to improve this by giving all weight classes individual names. There should not be two lightweight, welterweight, middleweight divisions and so on. Each weight class should have a distinct and separate tag. Think of the cruiserweight division: In its infancy, the WBA called it junior-heavyweight, to much confusion.
12. PLAY THE NATIONAL ANTHEMS BETWEEN FIGHTS
When there is an international contest the respective national anthems stir the emotions. But to the boxers themselves it might be an inconvenience, and an understandable one given what they are about to do. While the anthems are playing it is not uncommon to see them ignore it and engage in shadow boxing trying to remain loose. That is like two ball players tossing the ball around while the anthem is played. The anthems should be played before the boxers enter the ring.