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.