Around the Bases

Tariq Engineer

According to ESPN’s recently unveiled boxing rankings, Vitali Klitschko is the number one heavyweight boxer in the world.
Vitali Klitschko!
The heavyweight division used to be boxing’s flagship. This is the division of Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, and George Foreman. Of Joe Louis and Rocky Marciano. And yes, even of a young Mike Tyson. No disrespect meant to Mr. Kiltschko – he isn’t a bad boxer, but he wouldn’t last the distance with any of them.
So just why is there a lack of marquee talent in the heavyweight division?
The answer is money. Thirty years ago the opportunity to make money in boxing far exceeded the opportunity in other sports. Not only that, but the cost of learning how to box was significantly cheaper as well. Anybody could walk into a gym on the corner and start training. Boxing gloves cost a whole lot less than golf clubs. It was also an effective way of keeping kids of the street, so parents were happy to see their kids in the gym rather than in a gang.
Today’s world is very different. Even a traditionally expensive sport like golf is easily accessible through programs like the First Tee, so boxing is no longer the most convenient way to occupy a child’s life through sport. The money in baseball, basketball, football, and golf has grown exponentially. Boxing no longer has the easy in.
At the same, the money in boxing has not grown at the same rate as the other sports. The risk-reward graph is no longer skewed in boxing’s favor.
This means today’s kids have more alternatives from which to choose. And they no longer seem to choosing boxing. After all, why would one choose a sport where one spends three months training for one fight, where beating physically beaten is part of the process, and, most especially, where there is a significant chance of a life-ending injury.
Boxing used to be romantic. It was mano-a-mano: the ultimate test of one’s body and mind. To some extent it still retains its romanticism. It’s just that the romanticism is no longer worth it.