Is anyone still interested in professional boxing?

Is anyone still interested in professional boxing?
Derek Montague Aug, 15 2023

A Round-Up of Boxing’s Glorious Past

Look mates, as loyal followers of my blog, you all know that I harbour a deep veneration for the good old days of fisticuffs. I vividly remember the Sundays when my dad and I would gather around the television, popcorn in hand, eyes glued to the screen, as Gentleman Jim, Sugar Ray Leonard, or Marvelous Marvin Hagler danced their pugilistic ballet in the ring.

Boxing was a regular fixture in our household. It was as predictable as a barbie on Australia Day. And I wasn't the only one fascinated by it. A whole generation grew up being regaled by tales of Ali’s lightning jab or Tyson’s devastating uppercut, the spectacle of the sweet science that was boxing. The late-night, big fights that played out in Las Vegas or Madison Square Garden were news that travelled across continents, making boxing not just a sport but a global phenomenon.

But let’s face it, as a devoted boxing fan, I can’t help but lament the waning interest in this once-prestigious spectacle. You see, boxing was never just about the fight. It was a performance, a dance, a strategic mind game where the prize was not just the belt but also the respect and admiration of spectators worldwide. People could spend hours engaged in passionate debates and deriving analogies from a single bout. It's something that stuck with you, becoming a part of you.

It was a different time, the heroes of the ring were known not just for their record but for their character. Who could forget Muhammad Ali proclaiming, "I am the greatest" or Mike Tyson's infamous quote, "I want to eat his children". These were men with stories not statistics.

The Current Bout: Boxing vs Other Combat Sports

Fast forward to today, there is a noticeable shift in public attention from boxing to other combat sports. My kids, Harmony and River, are a testament to this. Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), especially the UFC, have become their sports entertainment of choice. The octagon has overtaken the squared circle in their fascination and I can't help but wonder - is anyone still interested in professional boxing?

The transition from boxing to other combat sports isn't entirely shocking. You see, we constantly crave novelty and diversity in our entertainment diet. So, when MMA started blending boxing, karate, ju-jitsu, and wrestling, it obviously attracted an audience seeking variety and multi-dimensionality. But here's the interesting part: even amidst its supposed eclipse, professional boxing still packs a punch.

There’s a reason fight fans still look forward to matches graced by boxers like Canelo Alvarez, Tyson Fury, or Manny Pacquiao. There's an allure that professional boxing still holds, a magnetism that boxing is uniquely capable of marshalling. Each punch in boxing, unlike other combat sports, is not just a physical hit but a psychological play, a mini-game that tells a story within the story.

The ebb and flow of two opponents in the ring, the dance of attack and defence, the pivotal moment when a boxer sees an opening and delivers that knockout punch, these moments still matter. They matter to those who appreciate the nuance of the sport and recognize the heart, grit, and determination of the fighters. They matter because professional boxing is about more than the fight; it’s about the story.

Boxing’s Evolution: Factors that Keep it Relevant

We cannot deny the fact that boxing has changed over the years. However, for true enthusiasts like me, these changes have allowed the sport to branch out and appeal to a broader demographic. Women's boxing for instance has taken tremendous strides, with names like Cecilia Braekhus and Claressa Shields not only establishing themselves in the sport but also challenging traditional gender norms.

Furthermore, professional boxing has learned to play the media game better. High-profile matches marketed as "mega-fights" generate significant buzz, and boxers are becoming increasingly media-savvy, using their platforms to create personal brands and compelling narratives. Now we have health-conscious, model good-looks 'GQ' boxers like Anthony Joshua who, like a certain famous kangaroo, packs an impressive punch!

In addition to professional boxers, a newer trend is celebrities entering the boxing ring. Like it or not, matches featuring personalities like the Paul brothers or KSI have rekindled interest in boxing among a younger generation. These exhibition matches, garnering millions of views, have unpredictably propped boxing back into the mainstream.

And let’s not forget technology. Smartphone apps and virtual reality have brought boxing training into our homes. Punch trackers capture punching speed and technique, making improvements and adjustments easier, fostering a newfound appreciation for the sport’s complexity.

Forever in the Corner: Boxing’s Legendary Status

So does anyone still care about professional boxing? The answer is, emphatically, yes. While it's true that the sport faces challenges in the form of competing forms of entertainment and evolving audience preferences, professional boxing still has a substantial base of fans who passionately follow the sport, just like I do.

I guess after all these years, it's less about the thrill of the fight than it is about continuity. The continuity of a ritual as familiar as watching the sun set while kicking back with a coldie. When I see a boxing match, I see a history of universal human instincts captured within the confines of a ring.

I remember a few years back, at a local boxing event in the heart of Newcastle, my mates and I got to witness raw human passion and a test of wills up close and personal. Sweat, blood, tears, the smell of leather and liniment, the roar of the crowd, the crackling tension - it was surreal, something one can't replicate virtually.

So yes, professional boxing may not beam as frequently from the television screens in our homes as it once did, it may not populate our social media feeds as much as MMA fights do, but it still makes its presence felt. And in my book, that's probably all it needs to do. Because professional boxing isn’t going anywhere; it’s permanent and persistent, forever in the corner of the sporting world.