….to save Boxing from itself

….to save Boxing from itself

The eyes of the sports world briefly returned to boxing this past weekend for the latest Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight.  Mayweather is the undisputed big draw in the sport which says a lot about how things are going in boxing.  It is hard for non-avid boxing fans to name the leading heavyweights or the top boxers at other weight classes beyond Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao.  Once considered a top sport, boxing’s slow demise has been the result of many factors such as disorganization, politics, safety, and corruption.

The rise of other sports has commanded attention away from boxing, but it is tough to argue that the nature of boxing has contributed to its fall.  Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) represents a violent sport that has become very popular through strong leadership, organization, and promotion.  Boxing can take many lessons from the rest of the sports world and take the opportunity to innovate now while it still remains moderately relevant.  Here are 5 Ways that boxing can save itself:

1. Create a dominant promotion and operations company –  Boxing is too fractured.  There are too many governing and sanctioning bodies, too many promoters, and no organized scheduling.  The first place for boxing to look is MMA.  Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) was able to take control of the nascent niche sport of MMA and transform it into a mainstream competition.  Professional leadership and organization has centralized the branding, marketing, and competitive aspects of the sport, pointing athletes and organizers to work toward the same goals.  There  is an opportunity for a patient, wealthy entrepreneur to build a company devoted to promoting and operating boxing competition.  Fighters will find their way to a trustworthy, reliable, and well-capitalized organization that develops long-term relationships with broadcasters, venues, and other fighters.  With such organization, regular schedules can be set up, a system for determining match-ups can be determined, and media can pay constant attention to the action.

2. Formalize one recognized boxing ladder – Each boxer should know who they have to face to reach the top.  A larger group of boxers can gain notoriety by having no choice but to fight athletes directly above and below them in a ladder system.  This creates a more predictable path for fighters and fans to follow, helping to develop continuous storylines for the sport.

3. Shrink the size of the ring – While some of the sweet science may be lost in shrinking the ring, fans of the sport are interested in fighters trading blows.  While faster-moving boxers may suffer, it will mean that it would be harder to hide in the ring.  More punches means more action.  It also could result in more knockdowns, knockouts, and shorter fights.

4. Shorten the rounds – Speaking of shorter fights and smaller rings, boxing might be able to avoid safety issues while increasing fight frequency by shortening the rounds.  This would promote less patience from boxers and encourage more punching.  From a safety standpoint, it could help prevent the late fight, end of round knockout that puts boxers at greater health risk.  Boxers could also fight more frequently (admittedly counter-intuitive to promoting health and safety) if their matches are shorter, allowing for greater exposure  and recognition.

5. Create an annual marquee event – The boxing calendar (or what exists of one) is missing a marquee event that everyone can anticipate in the same way as the Super Bowl, Champions League Final, the Masters, and Daytona 500.  Creating a marquee event for the sport would allow the marketing and media muscle of the sport to partner with the top fighters to develop a new tradition that fans could eagerly anticipate with regularity.  There is no regularity to the highest ranks of professional boxing, making it harder for business partners to commit and plan their resources, forcing fans to wait and wait for matches to be negotiated.  It is time for boxing to get behind a well-organized for-profit entity, motivated to create better fan experiences, promote great matches, and build the business of the sport for the long run.

 

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JB Hacking

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