Boxing’s Growing Decline

By Francis Walker
Updated: August 29, 2005

New York, NY –Last year was not a great year for boxing and 2004 has not gotten off to a promising beginning.

For starters, ESPN has decided to reduce the number of boxing shows on their network. ESPN will not televise any fights during October-December – the beginning of the more popular NBA and NHL seasons.

If a promoter wants to put on a show, they will not receive the typical $50,000 for site fee. ESPN has elected not to pay promoters any site fees, thus the promoters have to sell $240,000 worth of advertisements for the network in order to stage a card. Of the $240,000, the promoter is only guaranteed $40,000.

Also, fighters such as Roy Jones, Jr., Lennox Lewis, Oscar De La Hoya, Bernard Hopkins, Chris Byrd, Fernando Vargas, Zab Judah, and even Mike Tyson have no fights scheduled in the first quarter of 2004. It is rumored that Lewis could meet Vitali Klitschko in an April rematch from their fight last June before he retires.

Kostya Tszyu, the world junior welterweight champion, has not fought since Jan. 2003. Tszyu was scheduled to meet former champion Sharmba Mitchell in a rematch from their Feb. 2001 encounter, but Tszyu pulled out because of an injury.

By the time Tszyu returns it would have been 18 months since his last defense of the world 140-pound titles.

At least 2004 will present an opportunity for fighters like James Toney to continue their success story.

Toney has not had a significant fight since losing the world 160-pound championship to Roy Jones, Jr. nearly 10 years ago. But in 2003, Toney won the IBF 190-pound title before dismantling former four-time heavyweight champion, Evander Holyfield (TKO 9) in October.

Toney, who barely fights at 200 pounds, is scheduled to meet Jameel McCline, a 6’7,” 260-pound behemoth who once trained as Lewis’ sparring partner on Feb. 7.

Shane Mosley reclaimed his celebrity status in 2003 by becoming the first (and perhaps the only) to ever defeat Oscar De La Hoya twice. However, De La Hoya called the fight “fixed” and publicly announced he would launch an investigation into the controversial 12-round decision. Mosley’s victory over De La Hoya has been dampened since.

At least this year Mosley will have a chance to unify the WBA/WBC 154-pound titles he took from De La Hoya when he challenges IBF champ, Winky Wright in March.

Even the young upcoming generation is suffering. Every four years there is a new amateur boxing class that’s headed out of the Olympics. The 2004 Olympics are going to be in Athens this summer, as a new crop of talent will be introduced.

What happened to the latest crop of talent from the 2000 class? Speaking of the 2000 class, are any members of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics still around aside from Vargas and Judah?

David Reid, the last US Olympian to win a gold medal did win a world title, but like the 2000 class, Reid came and basically went.

The only Olympian from the 2000 class that has displayed any talent, not even potential is Jermain Taylor. At 25, Taylor is 19-0, 14 KOs, and already has six victories against opponents that have more than 20 career wins.

The increasingly difficult, but interesting path is to make Taylor an attractive opponent for world middleweight champion, 39-year-old Bernard Hopkins.

Boxing’s growing decline due to fighter inactivity and drawbacks on televised boxing programming, is causing fight fans to pay additional attention to even more extreme fighting sports such as K-1, Bushido, and UFC combat cage matches.

Even the World Wrestling Entertainment has become more popular than boxing.