Boxing Is Not a Sport

Boxing Picture

Professional boxing is not a sport. It's not even close. It's an exhibition, having more in common with professional wrestling than legitimate sports. Don't agree? Well keep reading and you soon will.

Consider tennis, which if thought of in a certain way, is the sport most like boxing. Tennis and boxing are both one-on-one competitions, where the object is to maneuver the opponent into a weaker position thus making it possible to score. Both activities require lightning fast reflexes, intense concentration, and the ability to move around quickly.

Although there are similarities, there are differences. Tennis players hit balls, boxers hit each other, and of course there are many other differences between the two, but none so glaring as what happens outside the court and ring. That's where the real difference is, the difference that makes one a sport and the other something else.

The biggest contrast is in the way the participants are paid. In tennis the tournament's winner gets the most money, pure and simple, just as it should be. In boxing - win, lose, or draw - the participants are paid an amount based on an agreement that was negotiated before the event. As far as compensation is concerned, the outcome of the match doesn't matter. Remember, this is America, the land of corporations - the most important goal in any endeavor is to be paid the most. How can anyone take a "sport" seriously when its most important outcome is predetermined?

Yes, it is true that boxers are motivated to do well. Winning increases their market value, helping them to negotiate a bigger cut for their next fight. But I don't care. It's the match I'm watching tonight that matters to me, not an event that might happen in six months.

The fact that the outcome of a boxing event is irrelevant is reason enough to disqualify it as a sport, but there's more, another huge discrepancy between whatever boxing is and the real thing.

Boxing needs judges, which is fine, many genuine sports do. Olympic gymnastics, high diving, and skating all use judges to determine the winner. Tennis and baseball would each be a chaotic mess without the judgments rendered by their umpires, so the fact that boxing needs judges is not a problem. It's the way those judges operate that disqualifies boxing as a sport.

The judges of all legitimate sports reveal their opinion as soon as possible. The tennis umpire declares the ball out of bounds as soon as it hits the pavement. The baseball umpire yells "Strike One" the instant the ball smacks into the catcher's mitt. The gymnast always knows the score she received for the balance beam before proceeding to the parallel bars. Not so in boxing, where the judges don't say a word until the whole match is over. Round after round the boxing fans sit in ignorance while the judges do who knows what. No other judgment sport does that - None!

Imagine what baseball would become if it was a boxing judge who stood behind the plate. "Three and two, the big one due" would have no meaning. The boxing judge would withhold the count until the very end, either telling the batter "You're out" or "Take your base." If a player slid into second, the umpire would stand there silent, not revealing if the runner was safe or out until the game was over.

The following conversation would take place often.

"What do you think the score is?"

"It looks to me like the Red Sox are ahead 6 to 4, they seem to be doing better, but I've been wrong before. Fortunately it's the ninth inning so we'll know soon."

Ridiculous? Of course it is - yet that is exactly the way it works in boxing. And boxing fans tolerate it! They sit in passive ignorance for up to twelve rounds, often surprised when the official judgment is finally rendered and has nothing in common with the match they observed.

Baseball fans wouldn't stand for that, and boxing fans shouldn't either. They're being robbed. They never get to experience the exquisite, almost unbearable tension the baseball fan feels when it's a tie game in the ninth inning, with two outs, and men on first and third.

In the past, there was good reason to withhold the judgment until the end. Boxing was corrupt. If a fight was fixed, the judges would have more trouble hiding their complicity. They would have to endure the fans accusations after every round instead of only once at the end of the match. But unless boxing is still corrupt, there is no longer any reason why the participants and fans shouldn't know the score after every round. Doing so would make the match better for everyone in many ways.

First, the fans would become more involved. They would get to scream at the judges when they made bad calls. That happens in baseball all the time and doesn't cause problems. It happens in basketball and football. It's part of the game. It's fun, and would be in boxing too. The coaches could get in the judges faces and be ejected from the arena if they overdid it. That adds excitement to baseball. Why are boxing fans denied this?

Second, and more important, the boxers themselves would know where they stand. Knowing the score would affect their strategy. A boxer who was way ahead would become cautious, his opponent would do the opposite and throw caution to the wind and try his hardest for a knockout.

Withholding the boxing score makes the whole thing less exciting. There's absolutely no reason to conceal that information.

Finally, there is one more reason that boxing is not a sport, which is the way any particular boxing match comes about. There is no boxing season or any other kind of set procedure for a boxer to advance. Instead, two promoters get together and negotiate a deal for a match they think will make them the most money. That's the way it works, and there's no way around it. No matter how skilled any particular boxer is it's impossible for him to advance to the top without the promoter's approval.

Why do people watch boxing? That is a question I should be able to answer because I use to be very interested in what I once thought was a sport. I watched with great interest the epic battles between Ali and Frazier, Ali and Foreman, Hearns and Hagler, and Duran and Leonard. I watched Pryor upset Arguello, Douglas upset Tyson, and saw Tyson bite Holyfield's ear. I watched all those matches and many many more.

I never made a conscious decision to stop watching when I realized the truth about boxing. It just happened gradually without effort. In the past I would always put down the television remote whenever I landed on a boxing match. Later, I might have watched if the match was particularly interesting, but was more likely to keep flipping through the channels. I don't watch any boxing now. I can't even name the current heavyweight champ. I'm pretty sure it's no longer Holyfield. Twenty years ago I could have named the champ and the top five contenders in any of six divisions. But not now, I don't know and I don't care, because boxing is not a sport. - COB

There will be a new post every... Oh I don't know. Let's say every two weeks.