Whether Lewis won or Tyson won, boxing will remain the same

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 9, 2002

Sports Editor

By the time you read this the Lennox Lewis-Mike Tyson fight will be over.

Who won?

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Who cares?

A Lewis win means chalk one more up for the Brits. A Tyson victory means ‘Iron Mike’ might just stay out of the pen long enough to get some more faces tattooed on his body. Maybe one of Don King this time.

Boxing has degenerated into an offshoot of Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation. Now, not knocking wrestlers (their capacity to absorb punishment astounds me), but does anyone really take that stuff seriously?

So goes it with boxing.

And it used to be a grand old sport to.

We had

Ali. We had Frazier. Sugar Ray. Julio Caesar Chavez. ‘Marvelous’ Marvin Haggler. Over the years, boxers seemed to take a wrestler’s approach to nicknames, yet gave us the legitimacy of a sport that Las Vegas kept odds on.

Myself, I always found boxing to be somewhat of a bore when I was growing up. Two men in a ring, hugging each other. The occasional punch. The occasional jab. The occasional sports commentator getting excited because it looked like one of the fighter’s was actually about to be KO’d. Maybe the sportscaster was getting that way because he was thinking, ‘Thank God, now I can go home.’

For me, boxing always had the feel of watching one of those meaningless, pre-New Year bowl games, where one team was beating the other 35-0 and it was still in the third quarter and by the time it was all over it didn’t mean a thing.

And it still feels that way.

I guess I like my action more ‘comic book’. Which may be why wrestling is so popular. Those guys actually look like they’re killing each other. On the other hand, after months of sizing up and analyzing their opponents, once they finally step in the ring, boxers still look like they don’t know what to do with the guys standing across from them. So they jab and wait. Duck and wait. And that waiting sometimes takes 12 rounds and by then most people want to take a shotgun into the ring and just end it once and for all. It’s sort of like watching a bad movie that goes on and on and on.

I think I was spoiled by Rocky. Man, those guys killed each other in Rocky. Sylvester Stallone took more of a beating in his first fight against Apollo Creed then most boxers do in 10 fights combined.

Did Don King ruin boxing?

No. Boxing just got too big for its britches. Boxing became a gold mine for thugs and undesirables. The pay per view market took off and millions of people ,thinking they were going to miss out on the hype, bought into it. It cost over 20 bucks to watch Tyson slap Spinks around for 91 seconds in 1988. What did all those people throwing fight parties do for the rest of the evening? Watch Miami Vice?

In fact, the quickest way to earn a cool million in the late 80s was to build yourself up to be this powerhouse of a pugilist, take about two minutes worth of licks from Tyson, then hit the deck, outwardly a loser, but inwardly, laughing all the way to the bank.

Now, Ali was class. Ali was a legend in his own mind and he made us believe that as well. Ali had his own Saturday morning cartoon back in the 70s. Politics aside, Ali made boxing enjoyable. Ali was old school. Rocky Marciano, Stanley Ketchel, Jack Dempsey, boxers like that I respect. Did you know that although Nazi Germany and the United States tried to bill the Max Schemling-Joe Louis fight as a battle between two ideologies, both men actually ended up being very good friends? Schmeling was no Nazi. He helped pay for Louis funeral in 1981.

Can you imagine Lennox Lewis paying for Mike Tyson’s funeral?