Are we putting our fighters on the chopping block?
I am all for rivalry. If you ask me, a good rivalry will push you to your limits in the quest to come out on top. The sport of boxing as a whole is in the biggest rivalry it has encountered since its creation. That rival comes in the form of Mixed Martial Art's.
Let's face it, MMA and the UFC in particular have been not only giving the sport of boxing a run for it's money in the viewer department, but it has often been coming out ahead. It's not really hard to see why in all honesty, MMA puts out more shows with top level names headlining, it is fast paced, gives more then enough violence to satisfy even the most blood thirsty viewer and most importantly, their roster of talent is constantly fresh.
Yet for all the plus factors, MMA still has not withstood the test of time. Kickboxing at one point gained popularity in mainstream media but after the same old routine, faded out into obscurity, Muai Thai garnered the same attraction at one point in time, it has even started to make a comeback recently by having a version of "The Contender" geared around its style but for all its fanfare, Muai Thai remains only a mainstream sport in Thailand and surrounding countries.
While none of the two reached the peak of popularity MMA has, they also did not rely on two promoters to keep the sport alive either. If the UFC or WEC go under, the sport will more than likely go with it. Yet for some reason, MMA has put boxing into a panic!
Lately boxing has created it's own internal rumor mill surrounding fighters. Every time a fighter on the rise or an established veteran has a big win, the same questions seem to hit our media circuit almost immediately. The articles start being printed and fans start to wonder if they witnessed "Boxing's Savior".
It has come to the point of almost seeming desperate, as if the need for a mega star must be found sooner than later. The departure of Floyd Mayweather Jr and fact that Oscar De La Hoya is soon on his way out have onlookers running around like chickens without heads. Marketing strategies are being abandoned, fighters are being over hyped. We are setting ourselves up for disaster!
Throughout history, elite fighters were created over time; it took more than one or two big wins to become a superstar. You had to win convincingly again and again to gain respect, one or two wins over top rated opposition meant only one thing, that the fighter had potential for greatness if they could continue with longevity.
When fighters we put our hopes on over the last few years have shortcomings, we begin to put blame on them for deceiving us, as if they made a promise personally that they then failed to live up to. We begin to say things like "I told you so" and begin to make comparisons with past greats almost in a way that has these men sounding like discovered impostors.
Ray Robinson did not become "Sugar" after his first win over Jake LaMotta, Mike Tyson did not become the fearful wrecking machine we clamored to see after he defeated Sammy Shatt. It was not until Ray Leonard defeated Tommy Hearns did the public think more of him than a pretty boy and Oscar De La Hoya did not rule the PPV airwaves until he defeated Pernell Whitaker.
It took time before the sport allowed them to become our flagships and when they lost, we did not call them "over-hyped" we did not say they were "one shot wonders". Why? Because they had proven themselves time and again, they earned their way into being the face of boxing; we did not thrust it upon them.
I do believe that boxing needs a superstar who can carry the weight of the sport into the ring every fight. We need that one fighter that will attract fans by putting out astonishing or dominant performances time and again. We need another Mike Tyson and Oscar De La Hoya, in fact we need several but we need these fighters to come to us. We can not just thrust the weight upon them, because if we do, then their failure will be boxing's failure.
With the stakes so high, we do not need any more reasons to push fans away; let Baskin Robbins keep it's "flavor of the month" campaign.