Whatever Happened to Showmanship in Boxing?
Editorial By Robert Brizel, Head Real Combat Media Boxing Correspondent
Historically speaking, pro boxing once had it all. Marvelous Marvin Hagler. Sugar Ray Leonard. ‘Hitman’ Thomas Hearns. Roberto ‘Hands of Stone’ Duran. Muhammad Ali, ‘The Greatest’. Smokin’ Joe Frazier. ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson. Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather Jr. Sugar Ray Robinson. Today, we have Tyson ‘The Gypsy King’ Fury to keep our interest going.
Professional boxing, like any other sports, thrives on an atmosphere akin to Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus. Take away the lions, tigers and elephants, and you are left with boring fighters in a boring sport. Riddick Bowe versus Andrew Golota set boxing on fire, though probably not their individual careers. As the recent Damar Hamlin incident caused football, boxing suffers occasional ongoing tragedies like Magomed Abdusalamov, Gerald ‘G-Man’ McClellan and Prichard Colon which, unlike Benny Paret, cannot go away.
Tyson Fury brought magic back to the boxing scene, at least in terms of generating interest like Battling Siki or Mike Tyson keeping pet lions at home, much like Elvis Presley’s monkey ‘Scatter’. Boxing always benefits from trash talking to sell a fight, or explosive weigh-ins. Adrien Broner and Zab Judah were experts at generating what this reporter calls ‘instant controversy’ to generate publicity and sell tickets. Floyd and Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez remain the biggest pay-per-view names which sell in the lower weight classes since Sugar Ray Robinson and Sugar Ray Leonard. Cubans like Robeisy Ramirez, David Morell, Yoelvis Gomez,Jorge Luis Gonzalez, Erislandy Lara, Guillermo Rigondeaux, Luis Ortiz and Frank Sanchez, however well intended, will never be household names like a Teofilo Stevenson was.
When this reporter looks back on Elvis Presley and Muhammad Ali and their rare brief encounters, what Elvis was representing by giving Muhammad Ali one of his robes was a transfer of showmanship glitter. Granted, Ali had already picked up the showmanship concept by selling himself with his bragging mouth, and his antics surrounding his training locations and inside the ring. Elvis had stage presence, and craziness outside the ring, which generated nonstop paparazzi public interest. Tyson Fury’s colorful personality has it today.
The COVID-19 Novel coronavirus put sports on audience hiatus. Without a live crowd, the sporting world became a deflated dirigible. Boxing cannot sell itself on a flamboyant world heavyweight champion alone. Ali sold the George Foreman fight and we bought it. Boxing needs more flash. Naseem Hamed and Uzzy Ahmed mastered the art of the boxing entrance.
Elvis and Ali showed the world personality publicity angles. Internet is more of a challenge. As Conor McGregor is to MMA, Boxing needs colorful characters in the limelight to keep its aura moving. Canelo notwithstanding, boxing needs more big draws to continue its fire.