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Sports

Where is boxing going?

THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco - The Philippine Star

I am saddened by the direction boxing is taking. Greed and desperation have lowered it back into the mud it was lifted from. It has been set back by so many recent events, it is depressing.

Long ago, boxing was used by the Romans to turn slaves and conquered peoples against each other. They fought with cesti, leather or metal gloves with spikes, often laced with poison. You never survived, win or loss. Inevitably, boxing improved, but not by much. When it became organized over a century ago, there were no weight classes. You could fight someone 70 pounds heavier and much bigger. And there were no set times for rounds. A round only ended when one of the protagonists was knocked down. Some first rounds in the Jack Johnson era lasted over an hour.

When I was a kid, there were still only the seven original weight divisions, which really separated fighters into equally-sized groups. Rare were boxers like Dencio Cabanela, who held titles in three Orient weight classes simultaneously. Then weight classes started multiplying. One big meal, and you could move up one division.

When the likes of Muhammad Ali dominated the sport, the major boxing organizations were only three: the WBA, WBC and IBF. Now, there’s an alphabet soup of various organization, and the only thing they have in common is the word “boxing” in their names.

In 1982, Duk Koo Kim died after a savage beating at the hands of Ray Mancini. Its repercussions propelled the shortening of title bouts from 15 rounds to 12. Ten years ago, the “catchweight” fight became a trend. Miguel Cotto, Joshua Clottey and Antonio Margarito all went down in weight to get a megabuck payday against Manny Pacquiao. But more recently, the rules are being either bent beyond recognition, or dispatched altogether.

Floyd Mayweather fights a kickboxer who is not allowed to kick. The WBA is threatened with a ban unless they lessen the unreasonable number of champions they have. Oscar De La Hoya is hurriedly replaced by a 58-year-old Evander Holyfield, who is old enough to have fought 15-rounders. Worse, he was in a higher weight division. The fight was not allowed in California, and had to be moved to Florida. Worst of all, the last three fights of the event were advertised by promoter Triller as sanctioned, but lo and behold, they were actually exhibitions.

VADA finds Oscar Valdez positive for phentermine, a banned substance. The WBC allows him to fight, he loses,  but is proclaimed the winner. And it is a sad day when Jake Paul is offered $30 million in a fight we will hate, but millions will watch. Now, one major MMA organization is holding a “mixed rules” fight, to allow for fighters from different disciplines to fight one another. Will this spark a trend? Is boxing heading there, too?

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