Boxing: The fierce jab of reality
Thursday 04 November 1993
Doubtless, this was a put-up affair, a stunt to create interest in a faltering promotion, and Bowe was right on cue, responding perfectly. 'Let me get at him,' the champion roared from a distance of around 10 yards, simultaneously reaching out to check that restraints were in place.
Bowe's devotion to the cause reminded you of a time when Muhammad Ali was boxing's master salesman. It reminded you too that boxing today is in a parlous state. According to one of the most powerful men in the sport, the Las Vegas promoter, Bob Arum, widespread indifference to Saturday's contest between Bowe and Evander Holyfield for two versions of the heavyweight championship is indicative of a trend.
Arum has not got to where he is by adhering strictly to the truth and ignoring opportunities to rubbish rivals in business but his anxiety is not without substance. 'I'm telling you,' he said, 'support for boxing is dying off, literally. Look around, how many young people do you see in the audience? If they're interested, they settle for watching fights on television.'
Recently, when Sports Illustrated conducted a survey on the popularity of sports, there was not even an opportunity to vote for boxing. It is not in the schedules of a second 24-hour sports channel put out by ESPN, the cable network. 'See what I mean,' said Arum, his office walls adorned by framed reminders that he gained a law degree at Harvard and was appointed to Robert Kennedy's staff as an assistant District Attorney.
Fears for the future of boxing have proved groundless in the past, so will the trend be reversed, just a passing phase, cyclical? 'I'm afraid it's permanent,' Arum insisted. 'We went with television and the casino owners. We took championship fights away from the people. Now the casinos are begining to wonder if the investment is worthwhile. Would a major stage act, at a fraction of the price, generate as much business?'
Bearing this in mind, Arum has decided to revive boxing at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles. 'There is still a great deal of support for boxing in the Hispanic community,' Arum added. 'They will turn out for it, but you can't hit them with fancy prices.'
Arum also believes that it is time to address the ludicrous proliferation of titles brought about by self-serving administrations. Coming from a man who further fragmented boxing by helping to launch a fourth group, the World Boxing Organisation, this is choice. However, a charge of meddling brought no denial. 'I'm a promoter,' Arum said. 'I don't claim to be a visionary.' His eyes glazed over in Tulsa last weekend when Michael Bentt knocked out Tommy Morrison in the first round to become the WBO heavyweight champion. Before the shock had subsided he was in a private jet, heading for his next promotion, in Phoenix. This weekend he will be at the ringside in Paris. 'If I stayed in Las Vegas somebody would trap me into saying bad things about the Bowe-Holyfield fight.' Famously, when accused of making a contradictory statement, Arum once said: 'Yesterday I was telling lies. Today I am telling the truth.'
In the light of history it is amusing to hear Arum go on about an obligation to boxing. But if there is a sales pitch in there, reality stalks. 'There is hardly a newspaper in the United States that has a guy covering boxing regularly,' Arum said.
Sports pages had been faxed to him from New York. The stories were not complimentary to Bowe versus Holyfield. It was being referred to as a mismatch. 'And this is the heavyweight championship of the world,' Arum said, shaking his head. Perhaps the future had finally been revealed.
Latest in Sport
Pornhub: Cheeky Liverpool fan uploads Philippe Coutinho wonder-goal video to adult website
Diego Costa keeps coin thrown at him during Capital One Cup final
Lukas Podolski corner: Has the Arsenal forward taken the worst corner of all time?
Ireland 19 England 9 player ratings: Jonathan Sexton? Devin Toner? Alex Goode? Who was the star man in Dublin?
Eden Hazard didn't like the champagne on offer in the Chelsea dressing room
- 1 Bill Clinton portrait features Monica Lewinsky reference, artist admits
- 2 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 3 Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
- 4 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
- 5 Average penis size revealed: Scientists attempt to find what is 'normal' to reassure concerned men
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...
£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...
£38000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This B2B content marketing agen...
£50000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: An outstanding new...