Baseball’s midsummer All Star showcase last week was a reminder that the national pastime is once more moving to the fore. A youth movement, a multi-cultural wave of talent and an increasingly savvy front office are pushing on an ever growing demographic …which is exactly what boxing should be — and isn’t — doing.
Written by Kyle Magin
I had a (right field, standing-room only) front-row seat to the MLB All Star Game Tuesday, which is to say a front-row seat to what baseball does as well or better than any other sport: acquiring and developing its talent for big stages.
The marketing isn’t there, I’ll admit. I’m an avid fan and was still pretty hazy on who exactly the Astros’ Will Harris and the Phillies’ Odubel Herrera were, but nonetheless here they were, smack dab in the middle of some pretty big moments on one of the top 10 most-viewed nights on the sport’s calendar. Talent, in baseball, is turned over at a nearly hectic rate, among the All Stars no American League infielder was older than 26, and 33 of the 79 players in attendance were there for the very first time. Mix it together with the old stalwarts like Robbie Cano, Miguel Cabrera and David Ortiz and you’ve got a group sure to perk the ears of any fan who’s watched the game over the last two decades.
Contrast all of this with boxing and you’ll see why the latter sport is dying while the former can’t sign new hyper-rich, hyper-local TV deals quickly enough. Manny Pacquiao, age 37, announced another comeback for November of this year in a statement released earlier this week. Pacquiao last fought and beat Timothy Bradley, Jr., in April of this year, looking good against a lesser light he had 24 rounds to study and size up. Pacquiao will probably have his choice of opponents–word has it he’s already turned down overtures from sentient Battery Park knockoff Gucci watch/former world champion Adrien Broner–and we’ll probably get a 12 round decision that’ll make for great TV until the moment it begins.
In boxing, as opposed to baseball, the olds have a stranglehold on the actual contesting of the sport. It’s one thing to have your elders be the known quantities–Papi and Jeter earned the spoils of Madison Avenue–but quite another to have them consistently calling the shots in actual competition. The way TV executives kowtow to boxing’s established lights is choking the sport to death. With every reliable PPV buy Pacquiao turns in, he’s stealing the limelight from some younger, more exciting fighter who could bring more fans into the sport. As it is, only the rare phenom to come up in the right promotional outfit makes the big time as he’s on the comeup–Canelo Alvarez, basically.
At 34, there’s a very real chance Gennady Golovkin’s prime will pass us by without the middleweight Kazakh assassin getting a string of title shots and defenses. He’s serially ducked because the big boys can afford to pass him up–none of the sanctioning bodies make the power brokers take him on. This is specifically because boxing places insufficient emphasis on talent development and more on a steady paycheck. Instead of getting Golovkin lobbing bombs and figuring out what kind of fanbase he can build, you’ll get Pacquiao turning it on and off every other round and his million-plus buys.
Boxing is being left behind because it won’t push itself.