November 30, 2007

For The Love of Sport: The Sweet Science: Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Ricky Hatton will attempt to knock a little bit of the tarnish off of boxing’s image on December 8, 2007 when they clash for the WBC welterweight title in Las Vegas. The latest in a weekly series by sportsfilter member kyrilmitch_76.

posted by justgary to boxing at 11:20 AM - 32 comments

Pay-per-view seldom works, especially with such a dying sport. You'd think the boxing big-wigs would put their heads together and figure this out. You're never going to improve a sports popularity by making people pay extra to watch it. I personally would like to see the fight, but would never think of shelling out more money to watch it.

posted by dyams at 11:37 AM on November 30, 2007

I'm with Dyams - I'll be watching it. The day after. On YouTube. For free.

posted by Mr Bismarck at 12:03 PM on November 30, 2007

It's easy (and probably in no small part correct) to lay the steep decline of boxing at the feet of Don King and his conspirators & imitators, but PPV isn't helping at this point. Now that UFC/MMA/etc have stepped in to fill the mano vs. mano void in sport that boxing long ago abdicated, it's going to take a lot more than two welterweights to kick the rock back up the hill. And that makes me very sad. I think boxing can be a wonderful and noble sport, and wish it would at least gain a legitimacy again, if not necessarily the popularity it had in the 1950's or even the 1970's. When Ricky Hatton beat Kostya Tszyu, Tszyu was no pushover. That was considered a genuine upset, even though the match was held in Manchester in front of a wildly pro-Hatton crowd. It was an excellent fight, too. Hatton was full value for the win; clearly, the guy can hit hard, and he can take a shot, and as relentless as Tszyu was, Hatton eventually just wore him down. Also, both fighters were gracious to each other from the moment the final bell rang. Both fighters were smart, tenacious, aware of their place in history, and respected the other as fighters. So I'll be pulling for Hatton to shut Mayweather's trap once and for all. I don't think it's going to happen that way, though.

posted by chicobangs at 12:10 PM on November 30, 2007

Kyrilmitch - if you've heard of Mayweather's opponents, I'll guess you've heard of Jose Luis Castillo? Castillo took Mayweather the distance twice, while Hatton dispatched of Castillo in four rounds. Of course, Hatton doesn't get much pop because he's European - the Castillo fight was fun to watch with American commentators, because you can watch them going from "Castillo is the best body puncher in the division" before the fight to "Castillo is washed up" after the fight to avoid giving Hatton any credit for roughly the best body-punch knockout I've seen. The fight with Tszyu was excellent - Tszyu was the class of the division and the first guy to unify the belts at Junior Welter in something like three decades, (so I'm surprised you haven't heard of him), and Hatton bullied him in a close, close fight until Tszyu quit on his stool after eleven. The scary thing is that Hatton loses his conditioning completely between training for fights - I can't imagine how good he'd be if he made some effort to stay in shape. Hatton reminds me of Australian Jeff Fenech in that he'd quite happily fight in a phone booth instead of a ring and if he can crowd Mayweather with the usual Hatton hook-hook-hold, it wouldn't surprise me to see Hatton take a late round decision. However, Mayweather has the technical skills to stay out of trouble and dictate the fight and if he can keep Hatton moving and turning, trying to catch up, then it'll be a long night for Ricky, (or a short one, if he gets caught...). Joe Rogan always says "styles make fights" and although I'm leaning toward a Mayweather win, Floyd will certainly have to earn it against an opponent that won't go backwards.

posted by Mr Bismarck at 01:04 PM on November 30, 2007

Can anyone explain why trying to punch someone in the face is referred to as "the sweet science"? I am a bit of a boxing fan, but have always laughed at that expression for something so primitive and violent. And if I watch this fight (unlikely) it'll be on torrent. A variety of reasons, but the biggest is that I can't get PPV without paying for FULL cable ($80) then a digital box ($100) THEN the PPV itself ($60 or so)... PPV is an absolute con IMO. I've ordered one PPV in my entire life (when I had satellite TV many years ago) and was never actually billed for it. Boxing is boned. All the time fights are on PPV , has a million different sanctioning bodies, and greedy bastards running it, the sport will stay in the gutter. You get the occasional blip, but largely it's going to stay down in the dirt.

posted by Drood at 02:47 PM on November 30, 2007

The short answer, Drood, is that it's not just punching someone in the face. There is a science to boxing. The long answer? If you watch enough boxing matches, you'll notice that the fight does not always go to the strong. That's what the Marquis of Queensberry was going on about when he drew up the rules for the sport in the first place. It's not a barroom brawl, or the 9th graders picking on the 7th graders. This isn't Nam. There are rules. The idea behind boxing is that it's simple and primal enough that anyone can do it, but it's not just rock'em sock'em shots to the head until one palooka falls down. It's not always about knockouts; sometimes it's about wearing your opponent down and exploiting a weakness before your own is discovered. A good, balanced match (or even a one-sided one, if the superior fighter is technically strong) becomes like a chess match, with the hands, the arms, the shoulders, the legs, the torso, the chin and the mind on each fighter a separate piece on the board. When done correctly, it's a science, alright. At its very best, like many sports, it attains the status of art. You're right about the corruption and the fragmentation, though. It's literally killing the sport. If Don King hadn't dragged boxing through the woodchipper over the last thirty years, there wouldn't even be a UFC. There'd be no need. The MMA stuff cropped up because it was what boxing used to be: two opponents trying to outwork, outsmart and outlast each other in a pure test of physical strength.

posted by chicobangs at 03:16 PM on November 30, 2007

Chico is right, when done masterfully, it is sweet. There is so much more technique, in good boxing, than meets the eye. As far as Floyd vs Hatton goes; I believe that Floyd will win by decision, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Hatton get knocked out.

posted by ggermanctl at 04:02 PM on November 30, 2007

Mr. Bismark maybe what I should have said is very casual boxing fan. One of the fun things about writing these articles is that I have learned a lot of things that I didn't know both from researching the articles and from the feedback I get. I didn't know for example that you could could find a lot of fights on Youtube, I may not buy the fight after all. Thanks for the comments.

posted by kyrilmitch_76 at 04:57 PM on November 30, 2007

I liked the article Kyril - my comments weren't meant as a criticism, (if you took them that way). The Hatton Tszyu fight is on YouTube in its entirety, split into about 9 parts. (I think the longest viable upload is 9 minutes, so you get lots of split boxing videos on there.) The fight against Tszyu is definitely worth watching, although it gets a lot more impressive if you know about Tszyu's bullying style from his previous fights. The fight against Castillo is on there too - watch the fourth round if you want to see an almost perfect body punch.

posted by Mr Bismarck at 05:11 PM on November 30, 2007

I will check it out thanks, definately no offense taken.

posted by kyrilmitch_76 at 05:22 PM on November 30, 2007

I will read about it in the paper...

posted by Marko2020 at 08:00 PM on November 30, 2007

Boxing is a science as I remember in my younger days (boxed as a kid) at Boys Club. I was into it pretty good, however my skills were marginal at best. It did teach discipline and respect for your opponent and that's what puzzels me with the fight game in the last 30 years- all the trash talk. Everything has to be a big promotion to generate interest in the contest. Years ago prior to Ali, I don't remember most of the altrications at weigh ins and interviews. Maybe it good for business, but I think it takes away from a truly great sport.

posted by smdragon at 08:29 PM on November 30, 2007

Chico: Not denying it can be a science... It's more the "sweet" bit I don't get.

posted by Drood at 10:41 PM on November 30, 2007

It's more the "sweet" bit I don't get. i thought "sweet science" was just a term that was a applied to boxing, as in "the sweet science of pugilism". meaning there are other sweet sciences out there. but over time the "of pugilism" part dropped and "the sweet science" became synonymous with the sport. i, of course, have no links to back this up. but that's my theory and i'm sticking to it until someone inevitably proves that i'm wrong.

posted by goddam at 09:45 AM on December 01, 2007

I hope Floyd can do better in the ring than he could on Dancing With The Stars. Maybe he can show off some of those new moves.

posted by indigoskye at 01:23 PM on December 01, 2007

I grew up in the era of great boxing. When I was a kid, the lower weight divisions had some excellent boxers, such as Willy Pep, Sandy Sadler, Sugar Ray Robinson, Kid Gavilan (he of the famous "bolo punch"), and Rocky Graziano. I well remember the wars between Boston's Tony DeMarco and Carmen Basilio from Syracuse. One would have thought that the cities were about to battle. Listening to the Friday Night Fights on the radio from Madison Square Garden with Bill Corum and Don Dunphy was a tradition in our house. Later, we always watched boxing on TV. About the only major fights that weren't televised in that era were the championships, and you could count on seeing the films in the movie theater within a week. I don't know what killed boxing. Perhaps it was the money and the greed of the promoters. In any event, we are poorer for it, and I would hope that there is a resurgence of interest in the sport.

posted by Howard_T at 01:45 PM on December 01, 2007

If Don King hadn't dragged boxing through the woodchipper over the last thirty years, there wouldn't even be a UFC. There'd be no need. The MMA stuff cropped up because it was what boxing used to be: two opponents trying to outwork, outsmart and outlast each other in a pure test of physical strength. Ok, boxing's decline made it easier for UFC to become more mainstream but there would still be MMA and there would still be UFC with or without boxing's decline. I think MMA is in the position it is today mostly because it's unique and an interesting sport. I guess I'd like to see a little credit where credit is due(though I haven't come to expect it from boxing fans). Actually, I see no reason why MMA wouldn't be just as big if boxing was extremely popular. For the record, MMA owes it's popularity more to John McCain, Bruce Lee, The TUF reality show, The Gracies, and Dana White than it does to boxing's decline. edit: I can't leave this giving so much credit to Dana, the guy is pulling some serious Don King shit right now. I think Dana is currently stunting MMA's growth.

posted by tron7 at 03:24 PM on December 01, 2007

Hello to all, Unfortunately, most of the previous responders' rationales re the demise of boxing are off the mark, and their responses re the "sweet science" are close, but not quite on target. Prior to various countries' (UK being first to mind) medical boards confirming results, via journals in the early 70's, of the various all encompassing and lengthy studies re the irreversible medical affects (studies which had given birth to the new medical term - pugilistica dementia) of combined long term participation in amateur and professional boxing. The studies unanimously confirmed the 40/40 affect on 20% of participants, i.e. the combinative impact of participation in 40 amateur and 40 professional bouts was sufficient to measure brain damage in 20% of the participants. This 20% generally represents those especially vulnerable to brain inflammation resultant from brain shock. They also confirmed that the initial signs of obvious dementia is usually deferred until this 20 percentile boxers group reach their mid 30s through mid 40s with no prior significant tell-tale signs of the impending tragic consequences. The immediate impact of these confirmations to the sport itself was the near universal withdrawal from varsity boxing programs and related athletic scholarships by Universities all over the United States. The second immediate impact in the US was a dramatic decline in the number of participants, rendering the source of participants almost entirely from the lowest socially deprived classes ... rendering the sport to be far less competitive with a related dramatic drop in the level of athletic talent and brainpower amongst its US participants. Notably, those very close to boxing prior to these medical confirmations, although suspicious re the noticeable incidences of a minority but significant percentage of "punch drunk" fighters ... were in constant self-denial of its existence ... much like long term heavy cigarette smokers were about their own smoking prior to medical studies' confirmations re imminent related cancers. I have direct experience re the anecdotal denial syndromes as I was very close to the sport as the last apprentice of Ray Arcel's, the late and probably greatest trainer of professional boxers in the sport's history. The medical confirmations confirmed my early suspicions and I, although nearly guaranteed a very profitable financial future in the sport, walked away from it entirely as I thought it was those only ethical thing to do as I couldn't be responsible for the conversion of 20% of my charges from human beings into veritable potted plants. Fortunately I was still young enough to go in a different career direction. (Unfortunately, I was so young then that I hadn't yet accumulated significant financial rewards derivative of my rare education) --- The term "sweet science" seems to have originated in the era of sports' greatest sportswriters/journalists, i.e. - the era of Grantland Rice, Ring Lardner, Jack London, Ambrose Pierce, Paul Gallico (whom coincidentally was the creator of the Golden Gloves tourneys) etc. Up until the early 70's, boxing in general and the Heavyweight Champ in particular occupied a comparative summit position in relation to all other sports amongst sports fans in general. The term 'sweet science' seemed very appropriate at the time due to the unique combination of technical expertise, dedication, smarts, athletic talent, innate rhythm and strength of character required of an individual to be successful at it. From a practical point of view, the vast majority of professional sports were (and to some extent still are) regarded as extended childrens' ball fantasy games compared to the hard core world of boxing then. Without going into details re the obvious reasons why , the Heavyweight Boxing Champion was universally accepted by fans and athletes alike as the "King" of all sports. (Jack Dempsey being Babe Ruth's hero is a great example) Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, the aforementioned boxing situation is no longer true in the US. The lot of US boxers since the early seventies have been that of a dopey, less athletic bunch, with a few exceptions (George Foreman, Sugar Ray L, Marvelous Marvin, Oscar De La Gucci amongst the few exceptions) comparative to the sports' previous generations. Boxing may be the only sport of all sports to have regressed, i.e. to have gone backwards since the early seventies through the present. The sport has not only regressed qualitatively amongst its participants ... it has completely regressed amongst its cadre of knowledgeably competent trainers/teachers/coaches. Due to declining or a universal lack of economic opportunity over the last few decades, boxing’s great trainers (who closely guarded significant portions of their knowledge ... not wishing to lose that essential edge against competitors' charges) whom have all died off long ago have not been replaced with any truly knowledgeable and competent professional trainers. The universal dirth of correct and effective technique amongst the current crop of boxers including the champions is very apparent to those intimate with the sport across its generations. "Nuff" said on those accounts. Re UFC and MMA in general: Generally speaking, these competitions are repetitions or a restoration of the pre-Gentleman Jim Corbett boxing era, when the Marquis of Queensbury rules were widely ignored, with the realities of competition then being that the only rules honored were: the no fish-hooking, no eye gauging, no testicular or head stomping rules. Essentially, we are returning to the 19th century boxing competitions with the UFC and MMA events. In of itself, i don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. From a practical point of view re self defense applicability’s ... it certainly confirms the great marketing hoaxes re Karate and related Asian self defense disciplines, while simultaneously confirming that derivations from a combination of the oldest fight sports, i.e. good boxing and wrestling techniques, along with the newer BJJ and Thai boxing techniques are the essential tickets to obtaining realistic self defense ability. Re the future of UFC and MMA participants in general: Its, in my opinion, complete mental self masturbation to believe that these competing athletes will not suffer at least the same percentage incidents of serious brain damage that long term boxers incur. It is in this connection that ... in my opinion ... boxing and MMA ... should be both abolished in every form. That, of course, will not happen in the near future ... and, I along with the vast majority of you folks will continue to be drawn to watching a good fight here and there. That's my two cents for now. Jack (those who already know me, will from this read, know my identity)

posted by Plaintruth at 05:13 PM on December 01, 2007

While everyone is entitled to an opinion and the vast majority of your comments seem to be dead on, I would be curious what scientific evidence you have to support the claim that people of lower social standing are a. unathletic and b. stupid. rendering the source of participants almost entirely from the lowest socially deprived classes ... rendering the sport to be far less competitive with a related [a] dramatic drop in the level of athletic talent and [b]brainpower amongst its US participants.

posted by kyrilmitch_76 at 05:51 PM on December 01, 2007

Its, in my opinion, complete mental self masturbation to believe that these competing athletes will not suffer at least the same percentage incidents of serious brain damage that long term boxers incur. MMA fights are shorter and there are different ways to end the fight meaning the number of blows to the head and knockouts are far reduced from boxing. I don't think it's out of the question to assume that it's safer on the brain. Also, mental masturbation sounds messy.

posted by tron7 at 06:47 PM on December 01, 2007

Great comments and article. I have been keenly observing fan's shifting from boxing to MMA and UFC. I was a huge boxing fan growing up, now I consider myself a huge UFC fan. I think there are several reasons for boxing's loss of popularity, many of which have been mentioned (no marquee names that the layperson knows such as Ali or Sugar Ray or Tyson, too many governing bodies, etc.) There are a couple more differences as well - one is there are too damn many weight classes. Imagine how much better and more frequent the matchups would be if you consolidated the divisions in boxing. The biggest difference comes down to money, or I should say the root cause of the differences. UFC fighters, even top ranked ones, are hungry. When you make less than $100,000 per fight (which everyone outside of a title fight does), and then have to kick funds to your agent, entourage, etc. you have to fight more than once a year. Promising fighters trying to get a title shot might fight three times in a year. UFC fights take place, at minimum, one night per month with anywhere from 5 to 10 fights on the card. One out of every three fight nights is on free basic cable. And the fights are set up in a way that is much less political and much more egalitarian. If you win, you fight the next guy above you. If you lose, you fight the next guy down. Right now, in the USA, the UFC is totally driving MMA, and whether you like Dana White or not, he is positioning the sport the right way. When UFC bought PRIDE, they immediately put all the top PRIDE fighters on a free card so as to introduce them to US fans.

posted by vito90 at 07:16 PM on December 01, 2007

Dear krilmitch_76, I had not claimed, nor would I ever support such a hateful/hurtful claim that people of lower("est"- correction to your misrepresentation) social standing are a. unathletic and b. stupid ("drop in brainpower" - correction to your other misrepresentation). The corrections to your overinterpretations are aptly necessary as they speak directly to relative candidate pool sizes. The "drop in athletic talent and brainpower amongst its US participants" statement was addressing the comparative numerical effect of drawing from a much smaller pool of candidates. A conclusion absolutely consistent with States' scholastic sports authorities' administering group delineated pairings of public high schools sports programs by similarly sized student populations. Statistically, the largest schools consistently field more athletically talented teams than the smallest ones, with rare exception. The same statistics apply, with exceptions of course, re the comparative volumes of smartest individuals. An important additional statistical factor is that a very smart kid with great athletic talent from the lowest economic strata, if made fully aware of boxing's medical consequences is 99.9% likely to opt for another sport over boxing. It's become pretty clear that only those US athletes having no other athletic career options opt for boxing, with some rare exceptions. This was generally not the case prior to the early 1970's.

posted by Plaintruth at 07:56 PM on December 01, 2007

"MMA fights are shorter and there are different ways to end the fight meaning the number of blows to the head and knockouts are far reduced from boxing. I don't think it's out of the question to assume that it's safer on the brain." Tron, If you are directly involved in MMA on a professional level in any way, the statement above is a gross example of self denial syndrome. A significant number of US MMA athletes, especially amongst those coming in with highly developed wrestling techniques are college graduates. Sadly, very sadly, many of them, despite good or even great educations, will be walking on their heels, suffering severe cognitive impairment beginning in what is supposed to be their early middle years. In effect, they will be incurring a version of accelerated Alzheimers disease with irreversably rapid brain shrinkage and pitting. In very short order they will be reduced to a near vegetative state with death hopefully occuring not too long afterwards. That's the plain and simple fact of the matter. Jack

posted by Plaintruth at 08:29 PM on December 01, 2007

Jack- There are two things that I am not a big fan of people who wrap their opinions in an expansive vocabulary and try and sell them as truth and people who can't spell my name. I am not going to argue with you or your dictionary. Kyril

posted by kyrilmitch_76 at 10:15 PM on December 01, 2007

Too funny. Sorry about mispelling your name. As far as the rest ... up your giggy. If I own a dictionary, I haven't a clue re its location, which probably accounts for my seemingly perpetual serial misspellings (independent of the inadvertent misspelling of your name).

posted by Plaintruth at 10:32 PM on December 01, 2007

kyrilmitch, The two motivators for my initial post here were to provide the most compelling and truthful reasons for boxing's diminishment over the last three and half decades, reasons too long ignored by the head in the sanders and to morally discourage your from writing additional sports articles that so naively promote boxing as does the subject article for this string. If you've not been exposed to this most tragic and ugly underbelly of boxing from your journalist desk in the (boxing) hinterlands of New Hampshire, I understand completely. As a journalist though, once aware of what's really under the carpet, you are not without moral obligation to "do the right thing" when writing to a largely naive public. If you need further convincing, perhaps its time for you to personally get under the carpet/ring apron before you write your next pro-boxing article. J

posted by Plaintruth at 10:42 AM on December 02, 2007

If you are directly involved in MMA on a professional level in any way, the statement above is a gross example of self denial syndrome. Less knockouts, like I said. I'm not saying there's no risk, just saying less risk. All contact sports carry risk, I would rather see the risk minimized as opposed to just banning the sport.

posted by tron7 at 01:51 PM on December 02, 2007

If you've not been exposed to this most tragic and ugly underbelly of boxing from your journalist desk in the (boxing) hinterlands of New Hampshire, I understand completely. As a journalist though, once aware of what's really under the carpet, you are not without moral obligation to "do the right thing" when writing to a largely naive public. Why should he grind your axe in his articles?

posted by tron7 at 01:54 PM on December 02, 2007

My axe? Tribute to Gerald McClellan Gerald McClellan – Where are they now? Interview with Gerald McClellan years after the Benn Fight Tribute to Jerry Quarry The best boxer to not become Heavyweight Champion? "The Jerry Quarry Foundation for Dementia Pugilistica". Mike Quarry dies of Pugilistica Dementia MMA Death in Korea ac=ListMessages&PID=1&TID=601799&FID=1&pc=109 MMA fighter dies in Texas 11/30/07 Sam Vasquez, 35, MMA Fighter Killed in MMA

posted by Plaintruth at 10:44 PM on December 02, 2007

Hi, Plaintruth! Welcome to SportsFilter! Couple of Three things. 1. There are lots of famous and successful people here, so you'll have to be more forthcoming if you want us to know who you are. Your expertise will only carry more weight if we know and understand your credentials in the field. (Flesh out your profile page. It's easier than repeating it every time. People read those things here.) 2. There's nothing wrong with having an axe to grind. I have a few myself. (Ask me about why I think Roger Clemens is the worst thing to happen to baseball in 90 years someday.) But just so you know, anyone can write a column. It sounds like you have one in you about this. 3. The Samuel Vasquez story is on the front page already. I may not agree with everything you've said, but anyone who's as passionate about the fight game as you are is a breath of fresh air in these parts, and personally, I wouldn't mind you sticking around here for longer than just this thread.

posted by chicobangs at 03:17 AM on December 03, 2007

Hello Chicobangs, Thank you for the kind welcome. 1. I prefer to remain relatively anonymous as I'll feel less obligated, if time is short, to respond in general and in particular to churlish posts such as Kyril's. Additionally, I'll probably post more actively if I am less compelled to respond harshly. 2. I do and will try to objectively separate myself from the axe. The topics, especially this one re an area of repetitive consequential human tragedies, are what I hope my readers will focus on and not I. And, thanks for the tip re writing "columns" here. Perhaps I will jump in from time to time. 3. Yes, I knew that already. I thought its usage as a response post was particulary appropriate.

posted by Plaintruth at 01:14 PM on December 03, 2007

A cracking read here as the Guardian hang out with Ricky Hatton. (If your workplace has a language filter, you might want to read this one at home.)

posted by Mr Bismarck at 06:34 AM on December 05, 2007

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