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Boxing’s New “Normal”

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When Evander Holyfield agreed to fight MMA legend Vitor Belfort at age 58, many eyebrows were raised. Courtesy image: Triller

By Dr. Tomi Wahlström |

Boxing is evolving and changing in many ways. There was once a time when fights were decided by rankings more than by business deals made by promoters. There was a time when we knew who the champions were. Now, keeping up with so many governing organizations is challenging. While the International Boxing Association (AIBA) governs amateur boxing, there are several competing organizations for professional boxing. They include five major recognized boxing organizations: The WBA (World Boxing Association), WBC (World Boxing Council), IBF (International Boxing Federation), WBO (World Boxing Organization) and The Ring. Since there are 17 weight classes in professional boxing, this gives many belts to track. Among champions, there are linear champions, unified champions, and undisputed champions. To make things even more complicated, there are franchise champions, interim champions and inactive champions.

One of the trends in boxing these days is the endless list of exhibition fights. While these are not necessarily new, some of the newer ones are gaining a lot of attention. Old champions are getting in the ring to show that they are still able, including Mike Tyson vs. Roy Jones Jr. Sometimes retired boxers fight against MMA fighters like Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor. These are mostly acceptable but sometimes they create some controversy. When Evander Holyfield agreed to fight MMA legend Vitor Belfort at age 58, many eyebrows were raised. Evander accepted the fight with two weeks’ notice and ended up losing by TKO at 1:49 of the first round. This was a humiliating defeat and many questioned whether it was ethical to let Evander in the ring at that age. After all, boxing is a dangerous sport and nobody is as strong and fast at 58 than they were at their peak. This ordeal sort of brought memories from the past when Muhammad Ali fought Larry Holmes.

One of the most disturbing trends in boxing is when retired boxers fight unranked novices like with Floyd Mayweather vs. Logan Paul. We know Logan Paul as a YouTube celebrity and not a serious boxer. While the bout was somewhat entertaining, it could have gone wrong. Boxing is, again, dangerous and should not be attempted by inexperienced celebrities. Not only that but also these types of fights disgrace boxing as a legitimate and serious sport. If anyone can get in the ring and make millions of dollars, what is the point of rankings and governing organizations? If boxing becomes no better than price fighting without any structure and rules, how long are fans going to stay interested?

The pandemic has caused a lot of inactivity in boxing and it is somewhat understandable that the governing organizations and sanctioning bodies are trying to keep the sport alive. However, keeping it alive by turning it into pure entertainment without legitimate competition may not be the right thing to do. It does, however, seem to be the new normal. This is a bit sad for hardcore boxing fans but maybe things will turn around once again. Boxing has been around for a long time and will survive.

Dr. Tomi Wahlström is the Provost at the United States Sports Academy.

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