After having finished my friend Alexandre Choko’s book, The Future of Boxing, it gave me comfort in knowing that among the 55 boxing greats interviewed, the majority of them believe as I do; Boxing is NOT dead!. On the contrary, there is a resurgence and vitality right now, not seen since the 1980s. More on this later. I would like to share a few of the great and not-so-great suggestions, from boxers and former boxers, whom are featured in Mr. Choko’s book. So, please indulge me while I share some of these suggestions with you.
One boxer suggested that there be more entertainment, possibly in the form of rap. Now, while I do enjoy rap, especially the type I grew up with, the last thing boxing needs is for Jay Z to roar up the crowd. Fight fans are there to see fights – plain and simple. No offense to Jay Z. He is a very gifted rapper. Boxing just does not need him, or any other rapper, for its survival.
Another suggestion was to bring boxing back to the networks, so that it would be available to everyone via this public medium. It is a great suggestion, and it evokes a nostalgic sentimentality. After all, I grew up watching Ali on ABC’s Wide World of Sports, and its where I almost perfected my Howard Cosell impression. But would there be enough sponsors and viewership to ensure that networks could afford to feature these bouts in this century? Would promoters even take such a gamble? My money says no and no to these two very important questions. As opposed to the 1980s, we now live in a global society, therefore viewership is no longer limited to the United States. The demands are almost entirely universal.
While I find a bit of tongue-and-cheek humor in these next couple of statements, I believe that Sir Henry Cooper meant every single word, when he said, “…nobody wants to fight more than once or twice a year now, because they’re earning so much big money. I mean, Lennox Lewis got 10 million pounds (the equivalent of $15.8 million U.S. dollars in today’s economy) for fighting Mike Tyson,–10 million pounds for one fight. I would’ve fought Tyson every day of my life for that!” I suspect Sir Cooper was completely honest when he said this: Take note, “Money” Mayweather, and all you other once-a-year-boxers.
Now, at the sake of sounding biased, Alexis Arguello said it best. For those who have read my column previously, are well aware that the late Mr. Arguello was my absolute favorite boxer, bar none. In the interview with Mr. Choko, Mr. Arguello said, “We need a pension plan! Do the promoters making millions spend one penny on the sport? Or on pension plans? Let’s do it, for crying out loud. We need a boxing regulatory body! In order to save the sport, we have to involve the federal government, to make a commission to clean up the sport.” I was moved after reading Mr. Arguello’s comments, because of its relevance and candor. He loved and respected the sport.
Let us get to the resurgence I mentioned earlier. There are many present day boxers who have simply electrified the sport, not only with their craft, but also with their character. These are among the elite and soon-to-be the elites of the sweet science. They are: Saul Alvarez, Brandon Rios, Andre Ward, Danny Garcia, Leo Santa Cruz, Sergio Martinez, Gary Russell, Jr., Mikey Garcia, and my personal favorite, and new friend, Jayson “La Maravilla” Velez. I guess I am partial to Mr. Velez, because I witnessed his work up close and personal at the Garden, just last month. Mr. Velez was one of the many who were on the undercard of the Miguel Cotto/Austin Trout fight, from December 1st 2012.
This young man has the entire toolbox, and he brought it with him to New York City, on that cool, yet balmy night in December. The kid can box superbly from the outside, and can quickly devastate you on the inside. He is fundamentally sound, especially when he delivers his textbook right hand that he remembers to turn over, right at the end of impact (as seen from this photo).
If Puerto Rico is looking for their next great boxer, they need to look no further than Jayson Velez. By the way, I mean no offense when I call him a kid. As I approach 50, everyone below 30 is a kid to me now. No offense, Mr. Velez. All the boxers I mentioned have the potential of being pound-for-pound greats. I believe Sergio Martinez and Andre Ward have already proven worthy of this distinction.
In parting, I would like to tell all of boxing’s naysayers that it is not a dead sport. You just have not been paying close enough attention. It is robust with talent, and I have not mentioned the many more boxers that also make up this exciting talent pool. It is a great time for boxing fans. Sure, you can always relive the ‘80s through DVDs and youtube, but the fighters of today are in the here and now. They deserve your attention. It goes without saying that they already caught mine.
**Quotes are courtesy of Alexandre Choko’s book, The Future of Boxing / futureofboxing.com
Jayson Velez and Salvador Sanchez