Can boxing make a comeback? More thoughts

February 19, 2012

Does boxing need pro wrestling hype to sell itself? Saturday night heavyweight fighter David Haye crashed a post-fight press conference and challenged heavyweight Dereck Chisora.

To bolster the spectacle, Chisora inevitably asked Haye to say something to his face and a fight ensued. While the video is not the best, punches were exchanged and Chisora threatened to shoot Haye after the melee subsided. For those not following the story, Chisora lost earlier in the night to heavyweight champion Vladimir Klitschko. Chisora had slapped Klitschko at the weigh-ins and then spat in the face of Klitschko prior to the fight. Unfortunately, for all of the antics, Chisora did nothing of note against Klitschko in the ring.

While the outside the ring hype garnered some press, it does little for the sport. Showtime actually had a good card on Saturday but a post-fight press conference brawl is more interesting to the casual sports fan.

Last week, we opined about the future of the boxing business and whether it would ever return to network television. Do antics like Chisora and Haye spark interest in seeing these two fight in the ring? In the UFC, we’ve seen out of Octagon confrontations to sell fights. Chael Sonnen is a prime example of this with his quasi-pro wrestling rants (e.g. UFC 136). There’s also Anderson Silva putting on a Jabbawockeez mask and getting into the face of Vitor Belfort last year at weigh-ins.

The problem is that most people are not aware of Chisora or Haye as they are British boxers that have fought exclusively in Europe. Thus, North American fans wouldn’t know these guys unless they are hardcore boxing fans and/or follow boxing in Europe. The fact is that there are few Heavyweight fighters from the United States that can challenge the Klitschkos.

But the issue with Saturday night’s brawl might not be that there was a brawl. It might be the fact that the Heavyweight champion of the world defended his belt in Germany and that the fight could only be seen online at Epix for those of us in North America. Or, if you were in Manhattan, the jumbo screen in Times Square. In fact, Alexander Povetkin and Vitali Klitschko, other claimants to a heavyweight title, also will fight overseas and on Epix.  The Klitschkos are as popular in Germany as Jeremy Lin is to New York (there, I’ve satisfied the Lin requirement). So, its hard to argue that they fight anywhere else.

If boxing is going to make a comeback, it needs to develop a heavyweight division that is visible to North America. Being on HBO or Showtime would help as well. It appears that the Klitschko brothers have disappeared from the boxing landscape due to the fact they aren’t on one of the two big networks for fights. There are successful regional promotions, like Fight Club OC, that have maintained a steady fan base while promoting good fights. NBC Sports Network’s quarterly fight program could help if its willing to develop its fighters and back stories.

Getting back to the brawl. Its a spectacle but it doesn’t seem like much traction can be made of it. This probably was not a coordinated stunt since threatening to shoot someone is probably frowned upon.

We promise to be back with more MMA talk this week as we ramp up to the UFC’s visit to Japan this Saturday.

12 Responses to “Can boxing make a comeback? More thoughts”

  1. jake on February 20th, 2012 4:21 AM

    I have no problem with combat sports payout..

    Boxing has needed a site like this for awhile..

    Now if only you guys started getting the ratings and purses for boxing too..

    ;)

  2. Sampson Simpson on February 20th, 2012 10:14 AM

    Why do you clowns keep asking if boxing needs to make a “comeback”?

    This Chisora-Haye video has already garnered over 3 million views in less than 48 hours. http://youtu.be/MWQs8nMsZNg

    How is that for “traction”?

    Boxing is doing fine, all you have to get outside this bubble of U.S. centric vision you have.

  3. BrainSmasher on February 20th, 2012 11:49 AM

    When they talk about boxing it is implied they are referring to the sport in North America. You think that would be clear since they are talking about network tv deal in the US. I guess u just don’t get it since you chomp at the bit to comPlain every topic.

  4. Diego on February 20th, 2012 11:58 AM

    The Klitschko-Chisora fight was solid. Obviously Chisora’s antics were geared toward getting a 2nd fight with the Klitschkos which is pretty much the same thing Haye was in Germany to do. As the money men in the division, that’s smart business. Rightly the Klitschkos didn’t take the bait from either Haye or Chisora, so those two settled for the next best thing – each other.

    Now that there is a backstory to Haye-Chisora, there may be some money in that fight. Without the backstory it would have been tougher to generate interest, since both are guys who have lost to the Klitschkos, and in Haye’s case it wasn’t even much of a fight. How many of those 3M viewers on YouTube will be willing to buy a PPV remains to be seen.

    Jason,

    Change “there are few Heavyweight fighters from the United States that can challenge the Klitschkos” to read “there are NO Heavyweight fighters from the United States that can challenge the Klitschkos” and you’re closer to the truth. Arreola looked good on Saturday against a small guy. There’s no one to challenge the big guys and their Jab of Death.

    Sampson,

    You’re ignoring the fact North America accounts for such a large share of revenues for fight sports. Even guys like Abraham, Kessler and Khan who have large local followings want to make a splash in the US. It’s where the big money gets made. It’s not bubble-vision, it’s economic reality.

  5. Assassin on February 20th, 2012 12:12 PM

    Boxing, at least in the USA, has 3 main problems, as I see it.

    1. The best athletes no longer go into boxing exclusively. Where do they go, football, basketball, MMA, it doesn’t really matter, the best athletes are no longer in boxing. Boxing used to be an inner city sport, but that has gone by the wayside as other sports now dominate the landscape for the young and impoverished.

    2. There is a defined lack of engaging personalities to grab the attention of the US audience. While the lack of a quality US Heavyweight is part of the problem, there has been a dearth of US Olympic strorylines that have failed to create the next IT guy. Yes, Mayweather has it, but he is only 1 personality.

    3. The audience for boxing has waned. Is it due to 1&2 above, partly. The masses or general public do not know who these guys are. There are few “young” followers of the sport, the only people I know who follow it closely are all over 60 years old. If they could revise the old model and have cards on weekend afternoons or the USA Fight night with quality up and comers (like Tyson was) then maybe it could come back. Part of this is due to the promoter model which differs from the UFC being the one giant will feeder leagues supplying the up and coming talent.

    Just my thoughts. I used to be a big boxing fan, but now I only follow Pacquio.

  6. Michael on February 20th, 2012 12:24 PM

    Violence after the fight and one guy threatening to shoot the other guy are just filth and should not be associated with sports.
    I think the fact that the ufc try to market fights with the fact that “these two dudes really hate each other” and/but “they get to *settle* their differences in the octagon” is already sick enough.

  7. Sampson Simpson on February 20th, 2012 1:40 PM

    @Diego

    I’m not ignoring anything.

    I’m just stating that boxing doesn’t need to make any “comeback”. Not here in the US or anywhere else for that matter. For those that aren’t aware boxing is showcased plenty here on HBO, Showtime, ESPN, Fox Sportsnet, Telefutura, NBC/Versus, Telemundo, PPV and rumored to be picked up by Spike in the near future.

    A “dead” or “dying” sport isn’t showcased regularly in a country on 7 or 8 different channels. It’s easy to parrot this regurgitated sentiment over and over without knowing and or stating these facts.

    Live MMA is showcased on how many channels in the states? Not 7 or 8 that’s for sure.

    This once again doesn’t take into account he massive distribution of boxing in countries such as Mexico, Philippines, Ireland, UK, Australia, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, etc etc etc. The revenue streams from these countries are catching up QUICKLY with the U.S. tv payouts and it just happens to be the business situation we’re in.

  8. Jack Frost on February 20th, 2012 2:35 PM

    It’ll never make a comeback, period. Stick to MMA from now on or I’ll stop coming to your site.

  9. Weezy on February 20th, 2012 7:08 PM

    Boxing will be fine. Europe is now its stronghold. Klitschko made $3.3 million U.S. for his fight this weekend and his opponent made $333,000 U.S. The highest levels guys are doing really well.

  10. Dark Star Rocket Ship on February 22nd, 2012 9:12 AM

    Boxing? What is this boxing you speak of? Isn’t that some form of ancient but very restricted play fighting? Boxers are cowards who can’t walk the talk. Step into the cage and redeem your sport or die gracefully. The former will result in the latter in any case AND YOU KNOW IT! Boxing is MMA with training wheels.

  11. the_dude on February 22nd, 2012 1:31 PM

    Boxing killed itself. Way too many divisions and titles. Too many jackasses involved with the sport. Don King…..nuff said.

  12. CodeMaster on February 22nd, 2012 6:06 PM

    Long ago I was a fan of boxing–but now I find it boring and artifical. So many reasons I stopped being a fan. When I was in a real fight, I realized that boxing was a limited form of fighting. Some of it was useful–as long as the other guy didn’t break the rules. But they always broke the rules.

    I could name 20 UFC fighters off the top of my head without trying–but only maybe five or six boxers. It might be more interesting if they got rid of those huge pillows they call gloves–and replaced them with 4 oz gloves. It would be safer too.

    Greed, lies and selfishness killed boxing. And boring, boring, boring fights.

    The first time I saw an MMA fight–it was intense! You never knew where the fight would go–and you could never be certain who was going to win. There are so many ways to win, and to lose.

    At first, I tended to be attracted to the brawling style of fighting–but after I became a seasoned fan, I appreciated BJJ and yes–wrestling and many other arts of fighting.

    MMA is unpredictable, and can have its tedious moments, like any sport, but these are made up for by the insane and intense moments that no other sport can match.

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