The Lost Generation Of Heavyweight Boxing
By Stefan Radosavlević: For the next couple of weeks, maybe even months, Tyson Fury and Francis Ngannou will be the main topic in combat sports world. When it’s all said and done, it’s hard to say if this fight brought something good for the sport of boxing or damaged its reputation.
Events like this attract a lot of sports fans, even the people who don’t follow boxing or combat sports in general. So there is an opportunity to attract some new fans and generate a lot of money. On the other hand, real boxing fans must be disappointed. In an era full of so many talented heavyweights, the main topic is a crossover fight. Fury vs. Usyk is only one of many potential matchups. What about Joshua, Wilder, Ruiz, Hrgovic, Joyce, Zhang and others?
Many will blame Fury for being too greedy, setting up a fight like this, and ignoring other contenders. But this is just the peak of the iceberg. If we look at the past, exhibitions and shows were always a part of boxing. Ali fought Inoki (https://youtu.be/Wzm2qveUi54?si=fHW85tWG9Mggy0MM), Foreman fought five guys in one night (https://youtu.be/Oi-P7I6pZvQ?si=np1DBA4H_qIjO7bW ) and we still look at 70s as the greatest era in heavyweight boxing history.
Governing bodies are to blame for sure. We all know they play a big part in this mess, but they are not the only problem here. Boxing politics deserves a lot more space, maybe an article of its own. Right now, let’s focus on fighters and their teams.
To put it simply, the fighter’s mentality has changed a lot in the last decade or two. Boxers make huge money nowadays, and they are not willing to risk their health or their records. Even when they fight, it’s usually once a year or against a very weak opposition. Social media and the internet play a big role in this transformation, maybe the most important one. With a couple of good knockouts and a good PR team behind, a half-decent boxer can generate millions of views on YouTube. Next, we see a promoter talking about star power, ignoring record and rankings. Professional boxing, like many other businesses, had to adapt and use the most of this digital era that we are living in, but it just went too far.
As the end result, we have many great fights that will probably never happen. Even if they do, top heavyweights are in their mid or late-thirties now, way past their prime. Fury was out for more than three years, and Andy Ruiz gained weight and was never the same again. Anthony Joshua vs. Deontay Wilder is the best example. Just think what amount of attention and money this bout could have generated if it only happened five or six years ago. For example, just days ago, Eddie Hearn said that Joshua easily beats both Francis Ngannou and Fury. So he is already trying to capitalize and bring more attention to his fighter, with no actual fight on the horizon (https://www.msn.com/en-gb/sport/boxing/exclusive-eddie-hearn-says-he-felt-in-his-gut-that-tyson-fury-lost/ar-AA1j9UAe).
Fighters’ greed mixed with governing bodies and their politics produced a pretty boring era of heavyweight boxing. Champions and top contenders wasted their prime years playing games and trying to squeeze as much as they could fighting as little as they could. What could have been the great era of boxing, just like the 70s or 90s, turned out to be a great disappointment for every boxing fan.