Ready to Rumble… or Just Giving Love Taps?


What has become of boxing? Oscar de la Hoya is content to promote fights like a giddy diabetic child who just got his hands on a bowl full of jelly beans. Bernard Hopkins bounces around for 32 minutes of a 36-minute fight, taking no "unneccessary risks," and is declared one of the greatest "fighters" of all time. And referees are calling the shots on how much is too much physical contact.


Gone are the days where fighters like Sugar Ray Leonard and Marvelous Marvin Hagler pummeled opponents until the latter could stand no more. Instead, we see referees making what sometimes seem like biased calls in a match. Simply put: In today's world of boxing, Rocky would have been called out by the ref.


Take the recent match between Jermain Taylor's third-round victory over Daniel Edouard, for example. Taylor was clearly dominating the fight even in the first round, but Edouard continued to fend off blows, was not severely injured, and, in the opinion of most spectators, lost the match too soon. It's doubtful that anyone would argue that Taylor would take the match, but has boxing become too PC?


The World Boxing Association sets forth a detailed outline of rules, regulations, and the responsibilities of boxers and referees. Yet the fact remains that in any sport where you rely on the opinions of an outside official, you run into hits and misses. A boxing referee has many key goals, but there are two that often leave fans and fighters angry about how the face of boxing has changed. A referee's goals in today's boxing matches is: (1) to stop a match "if he considers one boxer to be significantly more skilled or stronger than an opponent, and (2) to stop a match when a boxer is injured." Why not just ban boxing altogether? I bet just as many people would love to watch Bernard Hopkins and Howard Eastman having Sunday tea.


According to the American Medical Association Council on Medical Affairs, boxing deaths occur at a rate of .13 per thousand participants per year. Yet, if you look at other high-risk sports such as motorcycle racing, NASCAR, hang gliding or parachuting, you find considerably higher deaths and severe injuries. Thanks to the loss of legend Dale Earnhardt, the sport of racing is more cautious than ever when a driver gets behind the wheel. Yet, we don't have a referee interfering and calling a race because a couple of guys are playing bumper cars with each other, a technique that often ends with someone in a wall.


Danger exists in nearly every sport: in football, where players are coached to hit opponents as hard as they can; in ATV racing, where riders are taking curves and jumps at dangerously high speeds; and in boxing, where fighters put aside thoughts of what an injury or death might mean to their family and friends.


Perhaps it's better to leave the boxing legends like Ali, Lewis, and Hagler in their own private world of boxing heaven - a world where fighting meant you didn't leave without shedding some blood, where anything goes once you step in the ring, and the sound of a bell means you do your best to get one more punch in.