America has become a gullible society. Easy to manipulate. Naïve. Susceptible to belief without credence… and in the universe of sports, it’s no different.
Boxing’s decline in popularity to the mainstream public can be attributed to many different aspects. Some blame it on promoter greed and matchmaking, while others look towards the fact that young kids and more importantly their parents don’t aspire for a career in combat. But neither of the aforementioned issues compare to boxing’s withdrawal from network television.
Rumors are running rampant that Al Haymon is in the process of bringing boxing back to network television. I’d be the first person to profess a lack of trust for anything regarding Al Haymon, but the thought of what boxing on network television could do for the sport is very intriguing.
Fans of the sport with a deep history understand the repercussions of such a move. Boxing on network TV would open the door to the millions of fans who only associate the sport with Floyd Mayweather Jr. or the popular notion that boxing is dead. It would also bridge-the-gap between older fight fans and the newer generation who are gravitating towards UFC.
One need only look to the past to get a full grasp on what boxing can become. In television’s early years, boxing was shown nearly every day on six different prime-time networks. Shows like “Gillette Cavalcade of Sports: Friday Night Boxing” ran for 14 years and featured the likes of Rocky Marciano, Sugar Ray Robinson, Archie Moore and others. ABC featured Wide World of Sports on Saturdays featuring boxing and was hosted by Howard Cossell. NBC and CBS had Saturday boxing. Boxing was a major contributor to the mainstream sporting world from the 50’s to the 80’s and a staple to American television. From ESPN Boxing to USA’s Tuesday Night Fights, boxing was in the mainstream public eye. Fighters were household names.
See people are no different today than they were in the past. We all need emotional investment before we offer monetary investment. Fighters of the past were exposed to the majority of America and even pop culture.
“I Love Lucy” was the premiere situational comedy in the 1950’s and one of the most popular episodes centers around Lucy and her friend Ethel being sick of their husbands watching boxing every Monday night and trying to divert their attention. Joe Frazier was featured on “The Jeffersons” in 1975. Marvin Hagler made an appearance on “Punky Brewster” in 1985 and Roberto Duran made a cameo on Fox’s “Living Single” in the mid-nineties. Muhammed Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, George Foreman and Mike Tyson were all a part of pop culture.
The rumor is that Al Haymon’s venture, tentatively titled “Haymon Boxing”, have a deal with NBC to showcase bouts on Saturday’s starting as early as 2015. Nothing’s official, but the idea sparks my imagination to a limitless potential.
While we may not get major bouts on network television in the near future, it offers the opportunity to build investment in the sport. Al Haymon’s stable of fighters houses some pristine talent and captivating personalities that have the ability to capture an audience. Fighters like Danny Garcia, Omar Figueroa, Keith Thurman and undefeated Heavyweight contender Deontay Wilder are incredible representations of the sport. Add in Shawn Porter, Leo Santa Cruz, Adrien Broner, Lucas Matthysse and the mainstream sports fan will be enticed to want more.
One of Al Haymon’s prized possessions is 2012 Olympian and future superstar in the welterweight division Errol Spence Jr. What better way to unleash his impeccable talents to world than on network television in the same manner as past Olympians Sugar Ray Leonard and Aaron Pryor?
Imagine your favorite your favorite shows having cameo appearances by Keith Thurman or Shawn Porter. Think of all the extra advertising and commercials leading up to each bout. The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon interviewing fighters not named Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao. Guest analysis on the set of Football Night in America. Limitless potential.
That’s how you build on the sport. If people see it enough, they’ll trust it. Once they trust it, they’re emotionally hooked. Once they’re hooked, they’re yours forever.
I’m not an Al Haymon fan… and those of you who’ve read my past pieces or listen to my podcast know this… but my disdain is only spawned from my love for boxing. One would be hard-pressed to convince me that Al Haymon’s been a positive influence to the growth of the sport from a fan perspective.
Regardless, the idea of bringing boxing back to network television is not only a step in the right direction for a sport that seems to constantly trip over its own feet, it has the opportunity to become something special… and if it does, I’ll be quick to thank Al Haymon.
Follow me on Twitter: @RLMalpica