I still remember watching my first boxing match. I was 11 years old, it was March 16th, 1996 and my uncle was anxiously awaiting a boxing match to come on PPV – on the black box of course. As per usual on a Saturday night, I was at my grandparents condo where my whole family would always gather on the weekends. Everyone else was hanging around, doing their thing, but I suddenly became fixated on what was happening on the television screen. The crowd was roaring and the atmosphere on television was electric. I saw beautiful people, famous actors and actresses and Don King’s unmistakable fro. Then suddenly, when the title fight was about to start, you felt the mood on the television completely change. Mike Tyson at the time was feared by many. He had just returned to boxing after a 4 year stint in prison and had recently knocked out his last two opponents. You could see the fear in Frank Bruno’s eyes upon entering the ring. Despite the clear height, weight and reach advantage Bruno had over Tyson, it was clean knockout early in the fight. Tyson had regained his title as the Heavy Weight Champion of the world.
I then started following Tyson’s fights. This man was nearly undefeated, with only one loss to date. Most of his wins were by knockout and he was unstoppable. Until he faced Evander Holyfield. I recall at the beginning of the fight, having no doubt in my mind that it would be another notch on Tyson’s belt. To my utter shock, he was being dominated by his opponent. I kept thinking he was going to come back and finish it clean, only to be knocked out late in the fight.
In 1997, there was the highly anticipated rematch. Despite Tyson’s mean demeanor, not so ideal track record with the law and being far from a stand up citizen, I was fascinated by his strength, as if he was almost superhuman. I was rooting for Tyson to make his comeback, sure that the last fight was just an off night. For anyone who watched this fight live, it is the most iconic fight of our generation. As Tyson was again struggling early on in the fight, he became so desperate that he resorted to biting Holyfield’s ear off. So began the demise of the Heavy Weight Era…
Boxing is so much more than a sport – it’s a part of our history. The impact it had outside the ring was perhaps more monumental than the moments inside the ring. Joe Louis broke racial barriers in the 1930s at the height of black oppression in America. In 1967, Muhammad Ali served as a voice for all Americans opposed to the Vietnam war by refusing to fight in the army if he was drafted to do so. In his fight for moral justice, he lost 4 years of his career in his prime maintaining this stance. Thrilla in Manila, Ali vs. Frazier in 1975 was a way for the people of Phillipines to escape from the turmoil within their country by rejoicing in one of the biggest fights in boxing history. Messages advocating cooperation and understanding for one another were communicated during the peak of the Cold War, through box office hit, Rocky IV, taking the #1 spot in the box office and in our hearts.
This past Saturday – Pacquiao vs Mayweather was no different. Here you have Pacquiao fighting for the pride of his country, and Mayweather fighting for well – money – the pillar of America. This fight was almost a decade in the making, but probably 5 years too late. To me, boxing long lost its charm since the declining presence of big name heavy weights. Heavy weight bouts were all about that knockout punch and power, while the welterweight division is more about speed and agility. Both respectful in their own class, but not as memorable as the former. Yet, the whole world tuned into the fight last week Saturday. As I walked into the bar, the atmosphere was different. I’ve seen many playoff games, championship games, even UFC fights, but big boxing events are in a league of its own. Many hoped Pacquiao would win, but secretly knew it was going to be Mayweather’s fight. Is it because the people love the underdog as he’s more relateable? Or is it because, had Pacquiao won, there would be a chance that boxing would still survive?
What’s now left of boxing? Is the era of boxing over? Will we ever see the days of superfights such as Ali vs. Frazier and Tyson vs. Holyfield? Does that mean that the next generation will never get to experience monumental fights that are part of history?
Perhaps we are seeing more and more fighters moving away from boxing and engaging in a more rounded discipline such as MMA as it lends for excitement at varying degrees of weight divisions. Admittedly, a fan of MMA, but my heart truly belongs to boxing. As a little girl, I always dreamed of getting all dolled up, being ring side, amongst the glitz and glamour and high profile spectators – but perhaps that time is gone.
In the event boxing is to be no more, I thank you for the fond memories, the mark you made in history and the place you will always hold in my heart.