Boxing is a sport highly steeped in tradition and history. It’s not easy to present major changes to a sport that dates back to when our grandparents weren’t even born yet. However, changes in this sport are long overdue.
There was a time when boxing was the marquee sport in America, right next to football. Depending on who you asked, they might tell you boxing surpassed football, especially from the 1960s-1980s. The sport was littered with stars and icons like Ali, Frazier, Sugar Ray, Hearns, Hagler, Foreman, Tyson, Holmes, and Duran. Going into the 90s, the sport really seemed like it would keep thriving with young stars like De La Hoya and Roy Jones Jr.
The year was 1997 and I was at my uncle’s house getting ready to watch Tyson-Holyfield II. It was easily the most anticipated rematch at that time since Duran-Leonard II. So we’re watching the fight & you can see that Holyfield is starting to dominate Tyson. The phrase “desperate times call for desperate measures” never rang more true for Tyson as he did the unthinkable and….bit Holyfield’s ear. Twice. Once on one ear and once on the other ear, he took a chunk out. The scene was so surreal. I wasn’t too sure what I had seen. My uncle sure was and he was pissed, yelling and screaming things like, “What the fuck is this?!,” “This isn’t boxing! This is cannibalism! I’m never ordering another fight again!”
Fast forward fifteen years. I’m watching a fight between Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley, Jr. Not a hugely anticipated fight ,but it was an undefeated fighter against a dominant fighter who hadn’t lost in 5 years, so something had to give. I just knew Pacquiao would whoop him, but I’d seen Bradley fight twice before, so something told me this wouldn’t be a cake walk. I buy the fight (at a ridiculous price, by the way, but that’s another issue) and watch it unfold. For 10 rounds out of 12, I watch Pacquiao overwhelm Bradley with his speed, accuracy, and power. The fight goes to the scorecards and I listen to the judges’ scores. The first judge gives the fight to Pacquiao, rightfully so. The second judge scores the fight, 115-113 for Bradley, and I start to lose it. Before I can comprehend that, the third score is read and, via split decision, the fight is awarded to Bradley. I was pissed, perplexed and dumbfounded all at the same time and I wasn’t the only one. I immediately had a 1997 flashback and swore that I’d never order another fight and yeled about how crooked boxing was.
Within the past 10-15 years, the “boxing is fixed and crooked” murmurs have become louder and louder. For a sport that was once on top and STILL draws great attention and brings in money, changes MUST be made. The biggest one is that there should be a commissioner. An end all, be all figure that oversees what’s going on and someone that the boxers, training staff, AND judges have to answer to, so that they’ll be held accountable for their actions. The second change needs to be getting rid of all these different boxing organizations (WBA, WBO, IBF, IBO, WBC) and just have ONE belt per weight class. This would prevent different titleholders only being allowed to fight only in Europe, South America, and the U.S., respectively, and there just being one champion and being done with the unification stuff. The last change that should be made is that I think former boxers should be judges. Who knows what goes on inside the ring more than them? Oh, and one more change, there needs to be a clear cut definition on what it takes to win a round. Judges need to know, as well as fans. Maybe even have a point system. A certain number of points for a body shot, a head shot, a jab, etc. and not just that they’re being thrown, but that they actually land.
These may never happen because I know a lot of boxing purists and historians won’t let it, and also something bigger than a blown decision would have to happen for all my proposed changes to come to fruition. But if boxing wants to shed its “fixed” and “crooked” label, they’d at least consider making some of these changes.