Tag Archives: boxing

Boxing: once fun to watch, now it’s unwatchable

There once was a time when I would glue myself to the TV set when professional boxing was on the air.

That was a long time ago. Quite obviously, I was much younger. I didn’t appreciate fully a brutal aspect of the sport I loved to watch: the men who fought inflicted terrible damage to the other guy’s brain; and they received equal amounts of terrible damage from the other guy’s fists.

That was then.

So many of the athletes I used to watch — some of whom I admired, truth be told — now are gone. They fell victim to pugilistic dementia, which is another way say they had their brains scrambled.

Fighters aren’t suffering such punishment more frequently these days. I am just older now, perhaps a bit wiser (which often is merely a benefit of growing old) and also I am less bloodthirsty than I was as a kid.

I’ll spare you the gripes I have about boxing’s governing bodies and how the sport has morphed into a sort of “participation trophy” of sports. That is, there are more “world champions” at every weight class than I can count. There once was a time when the heavyweight champion of the world was the baddest man on Earth; Muhammad Ali didn’t have to brag about being “bad” … he just was.

But I no longer can stomach the sight of two grown men beating other’s brains’ out.

I no longer watch videos of some of my favorite pro fighters from back in the day. I can barely watch fights of The Greatest — Muhammad Ali — knowing what became of him as he grew older. Yes, he died of Parkinson’s disease and reportedly did not lose any cognitive ability, but I do believe his fatal ailment was accelerated by the punishment he took at the end of his career.

Boxing once was a thrill to watch. These days, it gives me the creeps.

Boxing has come to this?

Once upon a time — a lifetime or two ago — I was a big boxing fan.

Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. would win the heavyweight boxing championship in 1964, change his name to Muhammad Ali and then dominate the sweet science for, oh, the next 15 or so years.

Yeah, he was stripped of his title for more than three years over his religious objection to the Vietnam War. Even then, he was The Man.

Boxing eventually took a turn away from the simplicity of the sport. It formed a lot of governing boxing authorities. Each of them recognized their version of “world champion.” They expanded the number of weight classes. There were so many “world champions,” no one could keep track of them. Some of these weight classes are topped by something called “interim champion,” whatever the hell that means!

Now the sport has come to a new level of carnival spectacle. It has scheduled a match between a retired “world champion” and a mixed martial arts goon. The boxing/MMA world is agog over the prospect of former champion boxer Floyd Mayweather fighting MMA champ Connor McGregor sometime this year.

Who’s going to win? I don’t know and I don’t care.

I do know that boxing has now resorted to creating circus acts to gin up attention for a sport in serious decline.

If only we could return to the era when the heavyweight boxing champion of the world was the baddest man on Earth.

Oh, do I miss Muhammad Ali.

Long live The Champ!


It well might be said in the next few days and weeks that Muhammad Ali was denied the greatest years of his boxing career because of his refusal in 1967 to be inducted into the U.S. Army.

There will be those who will bemoan the loss of those years because Ali had been stripped of his heavyweight boxing title because he chose to exercise his constitutional right to protest a government policy with which he disagreed.

My take on it, though, is that Ali’s refusal on religious grounds to take up arms against “them Viet Congs” and the punishment he endured by losing three-plus prime years of his boxing career only enhanced the legend that grew out of it all.

He would go on to become the “most recognized person in the world,” according to many surveys.

Muhammad Ali would stand for something far greater than just his blazing speed and power as, arguably, the greatest heavyweight boxer in history.

The Champ died Friday at age 74. Parkinson’s disease took him, finally. We knew this day would come, but oh man, this still hurts.

He was one of those sportsmen with whom I became enchanted as a youngster, dating back to the time before he won the heavyweight title — for the first of three times — in 1964. He boasted and bragged. He predicted the rounds his fights would end; the young man then known as Cassius Clay often would make good on his predictions.

Hey, the boxing world had never seen anything like him!

He beat the Big Old Bear, Sonny Liston. He then found Islam, changed his name eventually to Muhammad Ali. He kept fighting and winning.

Then came the day he was to be drafted into the Army. He couldn’t accept the order to report. It was a matter of religious belief. He made that statement that he didn’t “have anything against them Viet Congs.”

He was stripped of his title. Denied the right to make a living.

Ali didn’t go quietly. He became an iconic figure on college campuses, speaking out against the Vietnam War and against the racism that denied him his heavyweight title.

The U.S. Supreme Court would rule eventually in his favor, tossing out his banishment. Ali would return to the ring. He’d win some more. He lost The Fight of the Century to Joe Frazier, who then lost to George Foreman.

Then Ali showed the world how a “washed-up” fighter could regain the title. He knocked out Foreman in eight rounds a decade after winning the title the first time.

There would be more victories. Ali would lose his title once more, and then would regain it a third time.

Ali retired for good from boxing after getting thrashed by then-champ Larry Holmes and losing his final fight in 1981 to journeyman Trevor Berbick.

Then came the Parkinson’s diagnosis. Muhammad Ali would become a champion for another cause, becoming a spokesman for Parkinson’s awareness.

He kept fighting.

And who in this entire world could forget that electrifying moment at the 1996 Summer Olympics when The Champ stepped out of the shadows to light the torch in Atlanta? His hand was quivering, but he got the job done as the stadium crowd roared mightily. The swimmer, Janet Evans, who handed the torch to Ali said it was like “an earthquake.”

I will choose to remember Muhammad Ali as the vibrant young man who fought like hell with his fists, then fought even harder with his huge heart.

He wasn’t a perfect man. Ali merely was The Greatest.

Rest in peace, Champ. You earned it.