By Matthew Hurley: When I sat down this past Friday night to watch a come-backing Samuel Peter take on rising contender Eddie Chambers
I didn’t know quite what to expect. After Peter’s terrible showing against Vitali Klitschko
in which he retired on his stool after eight pathetic rounds I was hoping the ‘Nigerian Nightmare’ would buckle down and try to regroup. But reports of a dismal training camp proved true and Peter weighed in at a career high 265 pounds. So much for trying to get back to where you once belonged. Peter’s lack of focus and, in my estimation, lack of respect for the sport and its fans has become academic in the heavyweight division. Even Chambers, in what should have been enough to get him completely on target – a headlining gig on ESPN against a name opponent – came in overweight. He won a majority decision but I found nothing of value in the performance and it left me wondering if following any of these heavyweights is worth my while.
There are so many wonderful fighters plying their trade in the lower weight divisions to enjoy and some of them are on the cusp of being all time great boxers. Actually some of them may already be there. Manny Pacquiao, Juan Manuel Marquez
and certainly the aging but seemingly ageless Bernard Hopkins
will walk into the hall of fame with no apologies. Other fighters such as Israel Vazquez
, Rafael Marquez
, Miguel Cotto
, Paul Williams
, Ricky Hatton
, Vic Darchinyan to the diminutive but supremely gifted Ivan Calderon
reflect a professionalism that has led them to the inner circle of fan favorites. And there’s more, Kelly Pavlik
, Arthur Abraham
, Andre Berto, Edwin Valero
and Tomaz Adamek provide endless thrills but somehow, for some reason, the heavyweight division and it’s lack of coherence continues to frustrate fans and media alike to the point of diminishing all that the aforementioned fighters have accomplished. The shadow of the heavyweight division still looms large over the sport in general no matter how inept it is. With no heavyweight figurehead, boxing has suffered and so many great fights and fighters in the lighter weight divisions have flown under the radar of many former boxing fans who believe that boxing is on its death bed. This current crop of heavyweights has a lot to answer for.
Perhaps a ban, or at least a boycott, of the heavyweight division would change that general perception and a fight like the thrilling Tomaz Adamek – Steve Cunningham cruiserweight championship would have received more notice. Or maybe not. Many hardcore boxing fans I’ve spoken to, to a person, say they don’t care about mainstream media coverage for their sport. The operative word being “their”. They’ve come to accept that boxing has lost much of it’s appeal to casual sports fans so they wave it all off and embrace the sport more tightly because they feel it belongs to a select but vocal and dedicated contingent now. It belongs to them. To hell with what anyone else thinks.
But it’s hard not to lament the glory days of the 1980s and early 90s when fighters like Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Marvin Hagler, Roberto Duran, Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield commanded newspaper and television coverage. Also, excessive pay-per-views in a withering economy has further alienated many people – although, as of late, that egregious money marketing scheme has been reduced to only true events such as the upcoming Manny Pacquiao – Ricky Hatton
junior welterweight tussle in May.
But mainstream media attention in your area newspapers really doesn’t mean all that much anymore anyway when one considers all of the papers that are folding. Print media is, sadly, becoming a dying industry. With the Internet providing daily updates many of the sports magazines, for example, are dated the second they hit the newsstand. Countless boxing magazines have folded because the news they provided was over a month old. Only The Ring Magazine has kept current by dedicating many sections to retrospectives, profiling up-and-comers, book reviews, wonderful photography and continuing to allow longtime respected columnists like Jeff Ryan and Ivan Goldman vent their spleens.
A few months ago I wrote a column about attending a Mixed Martial Arts pay-per-view event at a local bar. The question I had for the sell-out crowd was – do you follow boxing? The vast majority of people I spoke with all had a variation on the same theme: “I don’t know who the fighters or the champions are,” “Boxing died when Tyson fell apart,” “Who the hell is the heavyweight champion? Isn’t there like six of them?”
The most recent question someone asked me, and all I could do was sigh and nod, was, “Aren’t two of the heavyweight champions brothers? And they won’t fight each other!?! Give me a break!”