October 4th, 2012 By Pedro Fernandez
San Francisco, CA- What has gone unnoticed, at least from a media point of view, is the lack of Black involvement in boxing. Before you say wait a second, African-Americans are supreme in five of 17 weight classes. It used to be more. Support for the game by African American fans since the end of the Mike Tyson era, has almost evaporated to non-existence except of when Floyd Mayweather “appears.”
CRACK COCAINE TOOK GENERATION(S) FROM BOXING
There are a few reasons, if not more that may begin to explain this phenomenon as to why Blacks have abandoned boxing. First of all, Crack Cocaine took away an entire generation, if not two groups of high-risk African-American youth. I watched it happen as towards the end of the 1980s.
BOTH NBA & NFL HAVE RECRUITMENT PLANS
There are so many other sports out there, but predominantly basketball and football, which are marketed with a future in mind. Boxing, rather the people that run it, are only concerned about how much profit they can make today. As was suggested here years ago, Mike Tyson might deserve some of the blame, as people
who got wired on boxing because of Tyson could only appreciate instant knockouts, and lost interest after his bubble burst and fights went more than two rounds.
DID THE BLACK BOXING FAN DIE OFF TOO?
When I talk to the old time promoters, they tell me that the percentage of Black ticket buyers fell by the wayside in the early 1980s, if not a few years prior. I wondered, did they just get old and die off? Economics surely plays a role as Blacks here in the U.S. on a whole, make far less than Whites, racial equality or not. But there were always African-Americans at the fights I attended as a kid.
BLACK FAN A NO-SHOW UNLESS…
…They have a black fighter on the bill that can sell tickets. Now when I go to a club show, the percentage of African American ticket buyers is a non-factor. When four blacks headlined a card at the Staples Center in February 2005, Bernard Hopkins-Howard Eastman & Jermain Taylor-Daniel Edouard, stunningly 12,000 people turned out. With the exception of Mexican boxing “die-hards,” it was an almost all White crowd.
REASONS KING DID GREAT IN ST. LOUIS WITH SPINKS!
Having discussed economics, I should tell you almost 18,000 African American fans turned out in St. Louis in 2005 to watch Cory Spinks get knocked out by Zab Judah. Those numbers had a lot to do with promoter Don King scaling the house down cheap, and support from the St. Louis city government and media. This is the exception to the rule. In the late 1970s, you could get a ticket to a fight at Caesars Palace maybe $50 for the cheap seats at fights like Larry Holmes-Muhammad Ali.
BOXERS ARE NOT HOUSEHOLD NAMES ANYMORE!
In the early 1980s while boxing was at its most recent zenith, fighters like Ray Leonard, Tommy Hearns, Marvin Hagler, and Larry Holmes were African Americans who were household names. What kept boxing in the public eye was the national TV exposure it received on ABC, and to a lesser extent, NBC followed CBS.
FINAL BIG AMERICAN TV STAR FIGHTERS NOT BLACK
The last two serious TV draws we had pre-Pay Per View were not black in Ohio’s Ray “Boom-Boom” Mancini and Mexican Jorge Paez, both drew incredibly well on Saturday or Sunday afternoons.
REAL BOXING FANS UNAWARE OF ANYTHING ELSE
During the NFL season, it wouldn’t be a shock at all to see one network counterpunch pro football with a live fight, or the NBA would be on one channel, with live (delayed on west coast) boxing on another.
DO BLACKS ONLY TURN OUT FOR FLOYD?
Up until this point, African-Americans were not only fighting professionally, their demographics were at least on the chart when it came to planning a boxing promotion. The lack of boxing on Network TV is surely to blame to a great extent.
LARRY MERCHANT RESPONDS LIKE ONLY HE CAN!
I think HBO’s Larry Merchant, the Godfather like figure that he is, said it best. “There are two things people talk to me about at the supermarket. One of them is, wheres the real superstar in the heavyweight division? I tell them, he’s playing linebacker somewhere.”
PART II ON MONDAY INCLUDES DON KING
Note: Mr. Fernandez is an award-winning writer, talk show host, and four-time Golden Gloves champion. He offers a different approach when it comes to covering professional boxing & MMA that is featured exclusively at www.RingTalk.com Comments related to this article can be left below.