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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Dying in Unison?

I was reading about the Mayweather-Pacquiao disaster trying to get these two highly regarded boxers in the ring today. After examining the various articles, I concluded it sure is similar to the past summer when talk of trying to get Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra on the same track to decide who is this year's champion was leading racing's headlines. What I found while reading about the fight that may not come off, is that the sport of boxing has suffered the same way horse racing has over the recent past. In the first half of the 20th century, one could point to those two sports and baseball as the mainstream sports followed by the masses. Taking a quick look at boxing's problems (as derived from The Bleacher Report's Mark Hauser's top 10 issues with boxing), which shows some eerily similar issues to what racing is facing:

1) Too many weight classes. Boxing has 17 weight classes and four organizations (or a possible 68 current champions). Horse racing's Breeders' Cup expanded its' championship races by three in 2007, and many state that this is just too many.

2) Too many sanctioning bodies. Can you name the current heavyweight champion(s)? Me neither. Horse racing is mainly regulated by state racing commissions (somewhere north of 50 currently).

3) Gambling and corruption. Check and check.

4) Too much time between fights. Funny, we have a poll going on right now asking how much time is really necessary between races. A big complaint to some that it's just too boring to sit around 30 minutes between races. This is getting weird isn't it?

5) The fights that the public really want to see either never happen or we get them several years too late. Hmm....seem familiar? Last year it was Big Brown vs. Curlin, this year RA vs. Zen.

6) All the big fights have to be paid for on pay-per-view. Not as big an issue as racing, as the Triple Crown and BC are on national TV, although you need TVG or HRTV to watch a lot of the Derby preps or big handicap races in the summer and fall.

7) Current boxing champions lack charismatic personalities. Horses can't talk...so moot here.

8) The promoter rips off the boxer after the boxer has done most of the hard work and received the life-threatening physical punishment ("pimp/ho relationship").
Again, not sure we can assimilate this one, but the horse gets a peppermint and the owners/trainers/jockeys are paid handsomely....

9) The best athletes no longer go into boxing because of the physical toll it takes on them (with Ali's physical condition a constant sad reminder). As a result, today's boxers are not as exciting to watch. Can draw similar comparison to horses retiring early to go to stud and not continue on to long careers due to potential for injury, ruining the stud payday.

10) Modern society's objection to boxing's violence and occasional deaths. Can you say Eight Belles or Barbaro? PETA anyone?

The similarities are striking, and we're both dying (boxing actually is being replaced by UFC/MMA etc.). I think we are in better shape than boxing and the casual fan has at least heard of Rachel, Zen, Big Brown etc. wherein I could only name Klitschko as one of the three heavyweight champs (although I couldn't guess which one)...

Ironically, today is Boxing Day.....

11 Comments:

Anonymous said...

as for #8, maybe there is a similarity: out of take-out, after the States and the computer platforms etc have taken their share, tracks have to carry the cost of staging these expensive events. Example: Maryland racing, without that one race, would have closed down years ago. Do tracks have a legitimate beef about being shafted on their share of take-out?

Ernie said...

At least boxing's biggest stars don't retire before they peak, and usually hang around to win as much money as possible.

Now Holyfield, he could do both; Evander was siring all over the country while defending his title (top active pugilist progenitor, or progenitive pugilist), and the first thing I'd like to do, above all else, is thank -od and yes, I will fight again (fan club members get merchandise with Warrior motif).

Jelly Roll - no shit - was supposed to be named Evander (when I used to love Evander, circa Bowe, Dokes, etc), but way too little definition. My first basset was named Sugar Ray.

I wish we kept our stars around. That would solve almost all of MY biggest issues wit the sport. I know there's a bunch more but I'm darn-near apolitical. Just get them in the ring.

EquiSpace said...

Anon: Not a bad point there...another comparison between the two sports, for sure.

E: Evander was siring all over the country....LOL. Couldn't agree with you more about keeping our stars around.

I have been to a couple heavyweight fights, namely of unbeaten Buffalo born "Baby Joe" Mesi who packed HSBC Arena and is a local hero. Loved the hype and pre-fight entrance, nothing better in sports!

Anonymous said...

Lava Man looked like a washed-up tomato can at Santa Anita today!!

Steve Munday said...

Great comparison. Ernie's absolutely right, the biggest thing the sport can do is get its star horses racing longer. Rachel vs. Zenyatta on the track woulda been HUGE! And a cool thing about horses, they'll never let you down unlike many human sports stars.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post. Boxers face the risk of injury like horses do, but boxers at least have a decent shot at retirement.

Many Thoroughbreds - and especially Stadardbreds - would be so lucky to get a peppermint!
Unfortunately, many get a brutal trip to the slaughter house in Canada or Mexico instead.

Around 2 out of 3 TB race horses today are slaughtered, abandoned etc when they are no longer of use as a money making asset.

The public finds that revolting. The sport is losing fans - not like they have a lot to spare - every day because of it.

Yesterday's New York Times editorial hit the nail on the head:

NY Times Editorial

To attract and keep fans, racing needs to initiate a nationwide responsible retirement program with a % of the purse, or takeout to fund it. It just started at Calder and Gulfstream, and it's working.

To give a more even playing field to bettors - and less injuries for the horses - clean up the drugs for real. Without a national governing body, that's a long shot!

Thanks again for a great post from a fellow Buffalonian (relocated, but Buffalo at heart)

Anonymous said...

Great post, Gene! I know we've talked about it before, but there was something so enchanting to me about the time in sport when the names of the heavyweight champion and Kentucky Derby winner were household names.

Bob from www.teeshirtsoup.com

Tried to comment under my google acct, but forgot the password

The_Knight_Sky said...

I was especially fond of reason #4.
Co-inky dink perhaps.

But we can always opt for Butterbean dancing his dances every week on Tuesday Night Fights to keep the continuity. ;-)

But seriously, I think a major issue in both sports is that steriod usages had made athletes on both sides prematurely brittle. That must be reversed.

It shows in baseball with premature retirements/lengthy rehab periods from stars like Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, Canseco, et. al. No doubt there will be more fallen stars in the future.

Pulverized Concepts said...

There'll probably always be horse racing in the US at some level but not in its present configuration. There are too many tracks and not enough horses with nation-wide simulcasting. Hopefully, the least successful will fold up and eventually the bulk of resources will gather at the best meetings.

Expecting the income of other forms of gambling to subsidize horse racing is obscene. Why should the morons that shove coins into slot machines buy the oats for thoroughbreds? If horse bettors were paying for new slots, they'd go crazy. (Maybe they are.)

Let's face it, Americans are becoming more and more estranged from animal life that isn't a dog, cat or tropical fish. The average American under 50 has probably never touched a cow, pig, chicken or horse. The idea that their golden arches burger comes from what was once a half-ton bovine never crosses their mind. They don't want to associate bacon and eggs with noisy, living, often dirty creatures. They have only the most ephemeral relationship with horses. So they'd rather bet on football.

Which is another thing. Betting on horse racing, without which the sport can't really exist, requires a commitment in time, intelligence and money for success that fewer and fewer are willing to embrace. NFL football and its shills in the media, on the other hand, provide reams of handicapping information basically for free so the proles can make even money bets. I paid $7.50 for Saturday's DRF at a C-store and never made a bet. Can't afford to do that on a regular basis. Apparently, neither can anybody else, I was the only one that bought one.

Steve Munday said...

Pulverized,
Well said!

Ernie Munick said...

:)

 

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