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Four reasons to follow boxing

Laurence Gill explains the four reasons boxing is exhilarating and deserves to be valued more

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Image Credit: From the Dutch Archives Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Netherlands

A wealth of History on demand
A lot of different sports have a long and storied history, and a lot of different sports have a wealth of footage available, but few combine the two as well as boxing, with so much high-quality footage available from decades past that is just as good to watch after the fact. So much of the best boxing in history is available, just a YouTube search away, and with the new policy of promotions now uploading most of their biggest fights to their official Youtube channel at broadcast quality; this holds even more true for the big fights of recent history. Even outside of just the fights, no other sports fans seem to obsess over history as much as those of boxing, and so many of them have put that history out into the world in videos, books, articles and podcasts. The great fights of Muhammad Ali are just as great and widely celebrated today as they were at the time they took place; and just as exhilarating to sit back and watch today.

Caters For Every Level Of Fan
I believe boxing is probably the sport with the least animosity between its more casual fans and those who follow the sport more intensely. There’s a level of symbiosis between the two groups that is really respected in boxing which doesn’t seem to be the case in other sports. Where football fans often complain of tourists and ‘plastics’ in the stands; hardcore boxing fans welcome the attendance of a wider fan base at the big boxing events for the atmosphere and general feeling of importance they bring to the event. Boxing fans love a fight that feels like a cultural event, drawing in eyes that otherwise wouldn’t pay attention to the sport, welcoming them in rather than looking to shield their small, hardcore community. More relaxed fans appreciate that support and hype from the dedicated fans is what eventually creates the big, mainstream stars who they can then follow.

Moreover, those in the business side of boxing recognise the need for both stripes of fan. For every high profile, money-spinning Anthony Joshua fight that millions will tune into, there are six or seven smaller free-to-air shows that need the huge profits and general exposure of the bigger shows to continue, while the bigger shows need these smaller ones to build fighters through their career. Boxing may seem often brutish and blunt, but it’s called the sweet science for a reason and there’s a wealth of analysis of the complex inch-perfect fight styles of fighters today and in the past, with Ali’s famous rope-a-dope and Floyd Mayweather’s evasive shoulder roll showing the sport is far from simple for those willing to study it, but equally can simply be fun, Saturday-night entertainment if that’s what you want it to be also.

Nothing Beats The Big-Fight Feeling
The best boxers in the world fight only a few times a year at most, and not always against an equal calibre of opposition. The time lag that comes with the big fights being made, if at all, is clearly an issue in boxing, with top stars Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao finally fighting each other in mid-2015 when they first started fight negotiations in late-2009 is utterly laughable. But it does have one potential upside: that being, when the really big finally do get made, the excitement it brings is hard to articulate. The whole boxing world stops and holds its breath for fight week; and by the time the fighters actually enter the ring; the hype is virtually spellbinding. All the speculation and debate before the fight only fuelling excitement as you can’t help but remind yourself that absolutely anything can happen in that 20-foot by 20-foot ring, and often does.
When the best fights in boxing do actually happen, it feels impossible to draw your eyes away; and you become more subsumed with speculation as the date draws nearer. Boxing promoters know all this, and selfishly feed this excitement with press conferences and hype packages, while journalists milk every angle of story they can from the fight; but on this occasion the interest of promoters and journalists perfectly intersect with those of the fans, with every piece of media adding to the profile and mystique of the biggest fights.

Real Life Superheroes
Boxing is a sport where the very best very rarely lose. Right now, top Champions like: Tyson Fury, Oleksandr Usyk, Errol Spence, and Naoya Inoue are undefeated. Together those four fighters have a collective record of 94 wins and zero losses. The top fighters feel like unconquerable superheroes, or super-villain; and watching them collide carries the same spectacle and grandiosity, with the added spark of knowing it’s all real. There is no need for suspension of disbelief when the heroes of boxing do battle against each other. Anthony Joshua was the 6 foot 7’ muscle-bound superman when fought Andy Ruiz last June; having knocked out almost every opponent he’d ever faced. To see him knocked out that night, when no one expected him to lose, was unbelievable; seeing Joshua handle the loss with class, work hard, and regain his titles in a rematch six months later, was a redemption story straight from the silver screen.

Having a figure at the top of the sport who has never lost is a fascinating part of boxing. Arsenal’s 2004 undefeated Premier League run is still brought up by their supporters very often these days. Mayweather finished his career with 50 fights and 50 victories, competing in 26 World Title Fights between 1998 and 2015. Imagine if Arsenal under Arsene Wenger didn’t lose for 17 years; that is like how Floyd Mayweather Jr was viewed in boxing before his retirement.

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