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17th Sep 2021

Professional boxing is on its knees and it might be too late to save it

Lee Costello

Boxing is in a pitiful state.

In the past few weeks we have had to endure watching a 58-year-old Evander Holyfield get beat up in a single round against a UFC fighter, a 40-year-old David Haye limp past a nightclub owner, and see Oscar Valdez be given the green light to fight, despite being caught on performance enhancing drugs.

You can’t even call the sport a joke anymore, because there is simply nothing funny about it. The Holyfield situation is so upsetting to watch, in particular.

Here we have a legend of the game, a fighter who helped define an era of heavyweight boxing, the man who beat Mike Tyson not only once, but twice, and won world titles in the cruiserweight and heavyweight divisions, resorting to this.

Boxing is in such a sad state of affairs, that fans are actually interested in watching retired men, decades past their best, fight again, because of the lack of quality content that is on show.

The current heavyweights of this era have all the interest levels and abilities of their predecessors, but because the likes of Anthony Joshua is tied down with Eddie Hearn, and Tyson Fury has more contracts than Vodafone, they will never actually meet each other in the ring.

In 2017, boxing looked to be in a good place, as Joshua beat Wladimir Klitschko in a thriller, and a new dawn looked to be upon us as he grabbed the mic and called out Tyson Fury.

A 58-year-old has no business in the ring

Four years of online spats, interviews, name-calling, and “breakdown in negotiations,” and we are further away than ever from seeing the two actually face each other.

Imagine Jurgen Klopp doing interviews every week, saying his Liverpool side would destroy Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s Manchester United, and the Norwegian replying in jest, claiming his team would meet them “any time, any place.”

Only for four years to pass, and the two sides to have played anyone but one another, but had made sure to finish every match with an interview calling out their rival for the 100th time.

Boxing is the only sport in the world where the best actively don’t face the best. Tyson Fury is having a rematch with Deontay Wilder (that absolutely nobody wants to see) and although Joshua’s scheduled fight with Oleksandr Usyk is an exciting match-up, it’s still an example of fighters being held at ransom by the alphabet belts, making them fight mandatories.

Look at Canelo Alvarez for example, a true champion in the sense that he fights absolutely everyone, hunts all of the big names and talks the talk, but also walks the walk.

Of course then he’s caught taking performance enhancers, and now you can’t even enjoy watching him fight (and boy can he fight), because you know you’re effectively supporting a cheat.

In 2007, I was only 11 years old, but was absolutely enticed into the sport of boxing by the build up to Ricky Hatton v Floyd Mayweather, and the tag “UNDEFEATED” that was branded on every poster.

(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

It was hook, line and sinker for me, as I absorbed every bit of content I could in the build-up, and although I was disappointed in watching Hatton lose, I was straight away looking for the next big event.

What everyone wanted to see was Mayweather take on Manny Pacquiao, to settle once and for all, who the best fighter of the noughties really was.

That fight didn’t take place until 2015, when both boxers were past their prime, and it was just another hype show that fizzled out when it came to the actual fight itself.

There are some unbelievably talented boxers, there are still incredible match-ups and historic fights that can be made, and they could actually involve fighters who are in the best shapes of their lives right now.

There is a world, surely, where ex-boxers are looked after, and don’t have to jump back in the ring when they are clearly not fit to do so.

A world where if you’re caught cheating, you’re actually punished for it, and lastly, but not least, a world where the best two boxers in the division actually fight each other!

There needs to be a serious clean-up in this sport, otherwise even the die-hard fans like myself, are going to look elsewhere for our sporting entertainment.