This past weekend I received an email from a guy I've been corresponding with for well over a decade. We go all the way back to my days at Maxboxing.com -- yeah, that long. I don't know if 'Battleship' Pittman is the only boxing fan in Indiana, I believe he has to be the biggest one in 'the Hoosier State'.
And while I've never actually met this gentleman, I do consider him a cyber boxing friend, or a brother in arms, if you will. His latest email was a bit alarming in nature, but I wonder if he's speaking for a lot of veteran boxing fans.
At the same time, I wonder: is it really THAT bad?
Has boxing finally sunken 'the Battleship'?
Here's what he wrote to me (and then my response):
"Hi Steve I have not written you in a long time, but I've been following you and the sport as I have for so long. I’ve been a boxing fan for 53 years now and it’s been a passion for me during all that time. But now, I seem to have reached some kind of “crisis of confidence” in my faith and love for the Sweet Science. Living in the boxing hinterlands of northern Indiana, I’ve never had any good friends who shared my enthusiasm for the sport. It wasn’t until the advent of on-line boxing coverage and the new avenue of being able to reach out to boxing guys like you, that I had someone to “talk” to when I had something to say about the sport.
So that’s what’s brought me to this email. You have been a wonderful boxing buddy through a lot of years. You put things I wrote you in some of your old Maxboxing posts and bestowed the nickname “Battleship” on me because of our mutual love of Glen Johnson and my years in the Navy. As busy as you are, you’ve taken the time to respond to my emails in the past and I’ve always appreciated that. Even though we’ve never met, you’ve treated me like a friend.
At this point in time, I find I’m no longer excited about upcoming fights and boxing in general. For me, that’s a huge change. Maybe it’s just the fact that I’m an old guy now. But at the same time I still find a great deal of interest in other sports like the NFL. So I don’t think it’s just old age at work here. I think the root cause of my new feeling about boxing has to do with what the sport as evolved into and how that reality pales compared to how I once viewed the sport. As I see it, the problems are many. “League boxing”, where the best fights fall through the cracks. Fighters who seem to feel they are entitled to being compared to Henry Armstrong before they’ve really ever accomplished much.
Boxers who might have the ability to really make a difference in the sport, but who only fight occasionally, or don’t make weight or conduct themselves as professionals. Low level fights being pushed forward as PPV’s, when they would have been hard pressed to be on the undercard of Pryor/Arguello I. I know all things change in life, I’m just not sure I can swallow what boxing has become. It seems sad and foreign to me and it leaves me feeling lost. I never guessed I could ever come to this kind of view about the sport I have loved for so long.
Anyway, here I am going on and on about things. And you, you get to be on the receiving end of my lamenting! Sorry, but also thanks. I guess I just had to get all that off my chest and I appreciate your being there to listen. As always, I remain a fan of your writing skills and insight. I’ve been privileged to follow many fine boxing journalists through the years, none ever reached me the way that you have. Keep up your good work and don’t give up on boxing. It needs people like you.
OK, I certainly agree with a lot of what you stated, here. And I actually penned a column recently for Ring Magazine on the fractured nature of the sport, and how it's had a negative impact on boxing the past couple of decades.
With that said, even myself, who is becoming more and more of a cynic, can't deny that 2023 is off to a good start. Yeah, there is/was the bitter taste of the Errol Spence-Terence Crawford showdown going to 'Bolivian', but look at the fights we've witnessed thus far.
You had Liam Smith's eye-opening KO of Chris Eubank Jr. The back-and-forth battle between unified light heavyweight champion, Artur Beterbiev and Anthony Yarde, Amando Serrano and Alycia Baumgardner putting on a good show at the Theater at MSG to begin February.
Mauricio Lara's eye-opening stoppage of Leigh Wood in the UK to capture a piece of the featherweight title. And later that night I was in attendance at the Fox Theater in Pomona, California, to see the war waged by Luis Nery and Azat Hovinissyan. And then last weekend we got to see Subriel Matias on Showtime, as he staked his claim as an elite 140-pounder. Matias has become must-see TV for me.
Looking ahead to this weekend, I believe that the Showtime main event from Ontario, California, between Brandon Figueroa and Mark Magsayo has a chance to produce fireworks. Later this month, the super middleweight grudge match between Caleb Plant and David Benavidez takes place.
The much anticipated match-up between Gervonta 'Tank' Davis and Ryan Garcia is scheduled to take place on April 22. While there is a good chance that Devin Haney-Vasiliy Lomachenko and Tyson Fury-Oleksandr Usyk could end up on the spring schedule. The bout between unified junior featherweight titlist, Stephen Fulton, and former undisputed bantamweight king, Naoya Inoue, will be staged in Japan in May.
If all of these fights comes to fruition, it's actually hard to complain about the first half schedule of '23.
Now, with all that said, you have a point. There are still some troubling aspects to the business. The reality is that to witness all these bouts, you will have to shell out for pay-per-view costs that go beyond your regular cable bill. There was a time when a bout was on this platform, it meant that the biggest and brightest stars were facing one another in a highly anticipated clash. But that bar has been lowered, and more times than not, it's a way of mitigating budget issues for a network.
Golden Boy Promotions
Then you have the price increase of DAZN, which has raised the ire of many of it's now former subscribers. At one time it was a great deal, but now it's more expensive that many other streaming platforms at over $200 for a yearly subscription. The kicker is that they are now involved in the pay-per-view racket. So yeah, in this regard they have over-promised and under-delivered.
Also the lack of activity from the elite boxers across the board is alarming. There's no other sport that has it's stars perform so infrequently. Again, I don't think anyone is asking for anyone to box as often as Archie Moore in his prime, but todays marquee fighters are seemingly limited to no more than two appearances a year.
Ask yourself this, if boxing is now essentially a niche sport, can it really produce it's next cross-over star (post-Canelo) if they only fight bi-annually in their mid-20's? What's going on is boxing's version of 'load management'. Also, maybe it's one of the reasons why a Jake Paul can gain the traction he has because of is ability to market himself, and perform a bit more often than 'real' boxers. Since the beginning of 2020, he has participated in seven bouts.
Yeah, you could argue that this is a bit like comparing apples to oranges, but think about what it would do for the likes of a say, Jaron 'Boots' Ennis, if he would be this active in the same time frame?
But it is about the fights. As long as there are good ones taking place, we should remain interested. Which brings me to this, I don't believe fans should subject themselves to watching every card if it doesn't interest them. I know some fans feel bound by duty to do this, but do NFL fans watch every game that takes place -- or just the ones where they have a rooting interest, and the premiere match-ups of that week?
So this would be my advice to you, "Battleship', and everyone else: just view what you want. Make them earn your investment in time and money. Just order what you want off the menu, and enjoy that. Yes, less can be more.
You'll save yourself a lot of time, and aggravation.