To trace the full effects of a national pastime on a culture requires an inquiry into the origins of the particular pastime and its ascension to the status of a universally beloved pastime. When the matter is concerned with sports, this means that one must inquire into the original intentions of the sport, it’s place of birth, and how it managed to captivate the hearts of an entire nation.
The esteemed- often referred to as the best leader of the era- Mr. Winston Churchill once said “To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war.” From its very inception, this is what boxing has embodied. Boxing has provided an outlet for men to get physically violent, “jaw jaw”, without it resulting in immediate concrete consequences.
This venerable sport can be traced back to the primeval pastimes of the Egyptians and Ethiopians. By 626 BC, it had established itself as the pinnacle of Olympic sports in ancient Greece. Eventually, boxing traversed across the waters of the Atlantic, securing itself in America. In the United States, boxing thrived and flourished in the perfect atmosphere of competition and polite aggression. Already in 1892, America found itself to be the homeland of the world’s first heavyweight champion- James “Gentleman Jim” Corbett. By the 1920s, boxing had exalted itself to the title of an American national symbol of triumph and excellence, capturing the attention and fervor of champions from the east coast to the west. It’s appeal to the general population likely stemmed from its simplicity. Boxing, at its core was man stripped down to his true self. Man against man, with nothing but the truth of their own strength and physical limitations. It was an honest, raw, and noble sport which would hold it’s status as the reigning American national sport for half a century, with many champions and triumphs defending its integrity.
Unfortunately, the days of such definitive and overwhelming champions like Ali, Norton, Frasier, and Luis are over. For a while, it had seemed that the golden age of boxing would never end- it was a sport of true men, where man himself was reduced to his purest form. Generation after generation of champions secluded themselves in the ring to prove their strength to the audiences, the judges, or even each other, but to themselves. Every generation of giants left the battle ring, confident that new hopefuls would honor then traditions laid out before them.
Scandals and unprecedented athletic misconduct- both on the part of the governing institutions and the athletes themselves- have marred the very nature of the sport. With the rise of disgraceful parodies to the sport like “celebrity boxing matches”- which pit all-but fictional public personalities against each other in a staged and pitiful production- it is not surprising that the integrity of professional modern boxing can now be called into question. It is nearly impossible to ignore the outrageous impropriety of modern day “champions” like Tyson, who gained notoriety for biting on the ear of his opponent in a bout of frustration, and the implications they carry for the honor of the champions that came before them. Recent events like the Olympics controversy– when a beaten down, nearly faint Magomed Abdulhamidov was proclaimed winner over a fully conscious Satoshi Shimizu- which have proven themselves not to be outliers, but rather consistent inconsistencies of judging, foreshadow the downfall of the once truly noble sport.
This follows the overall downward trend of boxing- it no longer captivates the hearts of American people. Whether one preceded the other, the two- the diminishing standards of professionalism in the sport and the lowering of audience support- accommodate in such a manner that definitively signal to us that indeed the golden days of boxing are over.