The question of whether boxing is dying has been circulating for decades now. The current boxing system has proven that it isn’t capable of producing good fights consistently, and many boxing fans are worried about the sport’s future.
That being said, I think its very unlikely that boxing will die out. However, it has been on the decline for some time. This fundamentally comes down to its questionable structure and management. Greed often kills mega-fights; more often than not, this isn’t even the fault of the fighters. Managers and promoters will negotiate and argue for months on end to squeeze out as much money as possible for their fighters. However, this means that business negotiations are integral to making fights and because of the complex structure of boxing, these negotiations rarely pull through.
These days, big fights only seem to be made if the two fighters are willing to compromise to fight each other or if it is mandatory for them to fight each other.
Why Boxing Is Still Alive
While boxing certainly isn’t what it used to be, it is still very much alive. During the early 2000s and 2010s, two names dominated boxing and essentially carried the sport. They were Floyd Mayweather & Manny Pacquaio. Just look at the top five PPVs in boxing history:
|Fight||PPV buys||PPV price|
|Floyd Mayweather Jr vs Manny Pacquiao||4.6 million||$59.95USD|
|Floyd Mayweather Jr vs Conor McGregor||4.3 million||$89.95-99.95USD|
|Floyd Mayweather Jr vs Oscar De La Hoya||2.48 million||$55USD|
|Floyd Mayweather Jr Canelo Alvarez||2.2 million||$65-75USD|
|Mike Tyson vs Evander Holyfield 2||1.99 million||$49.95|
However, while investing heavily in these two fighters proved to be massively lucrative, it came at a cost. Without Floyd and Manny, boxing lacked a superstar. There are still big draws in boxing like Canelo Alvarez and Tyson Fury but neither of them has reached this level of interest.
Tyson Fury is one of the fighters that is keeping boxing interesting, he’s an interesting character and knows how to talk well. He’s also an incredible fighter and his trilogy with Deontay Wilder has solidified him as a great champion. While Canelo doesn’t have the same charisma as Fury, he has also managed to obtain a large audience simply because of his spectacular boxing.
But these fighters still don’t have global stardom. The last time we truly saw a megafight in boxing was when Mayweather faced McGregor back in 2017. The rise of MMA has produced megastars like Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagamedov that current boxers simply can’t compete with.
YouTube boxing as controversial as it may be has also massively helped bring back some interest in boxing. YouTuber Jake Paul recently faced Tommy Fury in an eight-round bout in Saudi Arabia. This fight drew a huge amount of attention and reportedly had 775,000 PPV buys.
When Did Boxing Start Declining
Boxing started to decline when the big fights weren’t getting made. Firstly, new organizations with new titles formed which meant that being a world champion lost some of its mystique. These belts and organizations created new rankings with various mandatories which complicated the boxing scene. After Floyd Mayweather’s dominant career, a lot of fighters also became more cautious about the fights they took because of how much they valued their undefeated status. Lastly, promoters and managers often allowed ego and greed to come in between fights which meant negotiations became incredibly difficult.
Money, reputations, and egos have stopped so many great fights from happening. However, there is something else that boxers have forgotten how to do these days. A lot of fighters have failed to understand that being good isn’t enough to become successful. Not many fighters have learned how to promote themselves. While talk is cheap it does sell. There are only a handful of fighters that know how to grab headlines and we’ve listed some of the most famous instances below:
- Tyson Fury vs Wladimir Klitschko: Fury attended the press conference dressed in a Batman costume
- Floyd Mayweather vs Oscar De La Hoya: Mayweather labels Oscar as the “Golden Girl” as he brings a chicken on stage to face-off with
- Aldo vs McGregor: McGregor’s mental destruction of Jose Aldo in press confrences
- Ali vs Foreman: Pre-fight direct address to critiques
- Mayweather vs McGregor: During the press tour both fighters spoke in a highly performative fashion for several hours in various countries creating “drama”
- Tyson Fury vs Deontay Wilder: Fury enters the ring after Wilder’s fight and challenges him WWE Style!
- Mike Tyson’s post-fight interview: Mike calls out Lennox Lewis with vicious intent
Why Is Boxing Declining
As we mentioned earlier, the fact that fights aren’t being made really hurts boxing. A great example of this is Errol Spence Jr vs Terence Crawford. Boxing fans have been wanting this fight for years but the fight hasn’t been made. Both teams and fighters will blame each other for this but the truth is it shouldn’t be this complicated to make a fight. While it is a big fight, there is simply too much pressure on both teams to ensure that their fighter has the upper hand.
Small, petty agreements used to be negligible in boxing. The fighters and promoters understood that if they wanted to make a fight happen they would have to compromise in some areas. However, today everyone is adamant about having it their own way.
For instance, Eddie Hearn was on a podcast recently and he was discussing the negotiations between Chris Eubank and Conor Benn. He said that they were disagreeing firmly about whose name comes first in the promotion and who walks to the ring first. These disagreements just create more hurdles for the fight and ultimately its the fans who suffer.
How To Fix Boxing
I think Dana White and the UFC have proved that their recipe works when it comes to making fights. While I don’t think they have as many superstars as boxing, the UFC’s system works very well and they have put on many more interesting and entertaining fights than boxing in recent years.
I think if boxing was to become successful again, they would have to adopt this kind of centralized system without so many various belts and rankings. If matchups were created by a larger entity and management had less control over splits and the promotional aspect was already taken care of, then fights would be made much more easily. Of course, this kind of system it isn’t realistic to apply this kind of system to boxing unless someone had enough money to obtain all the various boxing organizations and was willing to create a fighting league.
A more feasible solution to boxing is taking something away from these YouTuber boxers. While their skills may be abysmal, there is no denying they have created a successful system and are making people engage in boxing again. YouTubers like Jake Paul are even pushing themselves in the sport by facing genuine boxers like Tommy Fury. We live in an age of social media and in order to create interest, fighters need to take advantage of these tools.
Boxing certainly isn’t dead. While it has been on the decline for some time I think it is starting to make a comeback. There have been some good fights recently that show that there is still hope in the future of boxing and providing that new interesting talents keep emerging, boxing one day may be able to prosper.