The Greatest’s 70th makes me want more…
By Jeff Dunlap, Media and Community Outreach Assistant
The sporting world celebrated the birthday of one of its most enduring and important athletes this past week when Mohammed Ali turned 70. With “The Greatest” celebrating his birthday on Tuesday, a rare spotlight was shone on one of the world’s most important pastimes, a pastime that seems to be slowly fading to the background.
Combined with Ali’s birthday was a reminder of what boxing once was, its lasting impact on many, and proof that athletes can transcend sports to truly create a better world. Few, if any, athletes can claim to have such an unadulterated legacy as Ali enjoys to this day, nevertheless every athlete and non-athlete alike should strive to have one just like it.
Which brings me to my point; boxing is fading with fewer and fewer stars and only heavyweight competition can save it.
While I cannot claim to be a boxing expert, I can claim being a sports fan, and like other sports fans I enjoy the most prestigious events featuring the best athletes. This means I enjoy the Super Bowl more than the regular season, the World Series over the Divisional Series, the gold medal game over the bronze, and so on. The lack of allure in heavyweight boxing has directly affected the sport’s popularity and its impact in today’s culture. If asked to name champion boxers in today’s sport many would have to refer to Pacquiao, Mayweather, Marquez, or Hopkins. These are all great fighters and some, Like Pacquiao, have committed to making this world a better place outside of the ring. I consider these fighters important figures within the sport, but not AS important as captivating heavyweights.
The only notable heavyweights today are the Klitschko brothers. Their monopoly on the heavyweight division doesn’t allow for the casual sport fan to become interested. What’s worse is these brothers have declared they will never fight each other. For many of us with siblings, being payed to start a fight with the other would be a dream come true, yet these Ukrainian brothers are content on never creating the only interesting heavyweight matchup available.
This is not meant to be a knock on the other weight classes within boxing. Like everybody else I have been pleading for a Mayweather vs. Pacquiao fight for years. I hope that today’s announcement of Mayweather contacting Pacquiao directly on the phone is the next step towards a fight. However, I want to see the biggest, fastest, strongest athletes in the ring. I want to see Louis, Frazier, Ali, Foreman, Tyson, or even Lenox Lewis. I want to spend my money on a pay-per-view event that involves heavyweights. The last interesting heavyweight ppv was in 2002 when Lenox Lewis knocked out Mike Tyson. For all you math whizzes out there that’s 10 years!
The great sport of boxing has taken a beating (pun intended) in the eyes of sports fans this past decade. The welterweights are doing their part to keep the sport relevant, but need some help from the big boys, quite literally.
Jeff has begun his first year with the Crawdads as a Media and Community Outreach Assistant. The Waukesha, WI native attended school at Northeastern University where he played varsity baseball for the Huskies while earning his degree in Communications. Jeff is an avid Wisconsin sports fan and enjoys staying active any way possible.