When one starts to think about the most popular sports to watch in America, boxing is not usually one of them. Outside of Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, could you name another elite boxer? The popularity of the sport has been down for some time now and many factors come into play. One of the main reasons has to be the rise of both the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA).
Boxing Hall of Famer Sugar Ray Leonard gave his insight on why boxing has taken a hit on the 110SportsPodcast with Victor and Matt, “Back in the day, boxing was always on free television, even the Olympic coverage was shown on television. The fans were familiar and knew about these guys. They heard their stories. That’s one of the factors why boxing, I don’t want to say not as popular, but has not maintained its proper footing.”
While Leonard is correct that Americans really don’t know the stories of boxers outside of Pacquiao and Mayweather, the argument that boxing is not on free television these days really doesn’t carry much weight. Yes, if you want to watch an elite boxing match you have to pay for it. However, you would have to do the same with either UFC of MMA matches and in some cases with both being in demand you are probably paying more.
Obviously changes must be made to boxing if it ever wants to regain the fan base and popularity it once had. Leonard also told Victor and Matt what changes he would make if he was the boxing commissioner for the day, “I would simply simplify things. There are too many self-governing bodies. There are just too many organizations and it dilutes the championship. I would bring back the term “contender.” You really don’t hear that anymore, ‘No. 1 contender, No. 2 contender.’ That means a lot to boxers, especially to fans that this guy is qualified to take on a champion.”
Sports sometimes go into cycles when fans can’t get enough and then they are on to something else. Boxing will one day regain some of its popularity, but it will never be where it once was when the greats like Leonard, Ali and Frazier were dominating the sport.
– For the full interview with Sugar Ray Leonard listen to Episode 110 on 110SportsPodcast.com.
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