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Boxing has a problem

Kevin Noonan | Sunday, September 15, 2013

I’m a big sports fan. I essentially have a three-t-shirt rotation, and all of them are either Kansas Jayhawks basketball or Kansas City Royals baseball related. I live and die with Notre Dame football like everybody else on this campus.
I’m not a fan of every sport, but I can usually find something interesting to get excited about if I’m forced to watch soccer, hockey or NASCAR. I don’t even hate those sports, but I get why those sports exist on the periphery of America’s sports landscape.
Not very many kids born south of Minneapolis, Minn. had the chance to play hockey as a kid, so there’s less connection to the sport for them as they grow up. NASCAR is boring. It just is. Soccer takes a lot of patience for fans used to high-scoring shootouts in basketball or football.
But until last night, I did not understand why America has lost its love of boxing. I could make a million jokes about how terrible soccer fans are, but I can’t do the same thing about boxing fans because I’ve never met any.
I enjoy a good boxing match just like any other high quality sporting competition, and last night’s fight between Floyd Mayweather and Canelo Álvarez was as exciting as any I’ve watched. Álvarez is clearly a skilled fighter, but Mayweather totally dominated the fight. There are boxing writers who call Mayweather the best technical fighter of all time, and even with my limited knowledge of the sport, everything I saw in the fight supported that argument.
So here’s my point: I know little to nothing about boxing, and even to my eye the fight wasn’t close. And yet, when the judges’ scores were read, one of the three judges called the fight a draw. Thankfully the camera cut to Mayweather in time to catch his colorful reaction, because it was more or less the same thing I was thinking.
And that’s why boxing isn’t making a comeback with American sports fans. We could get over the brutal violence – we watch football every week. We could get over the ridiculous personalities of the fighters. Heck, we’d probably embrace them.
But with a scoring system so plainly arbitrary and ridiculous that Mayweather wasn’t the unanimous decision of last night’s fight, I don’t think I can ever be a boxing diehard.
I need some sense of objectivity as a fan, some sense that the best man, woman or team will be rewarded fairly for their efforts. If boxing can’t offer that (beyond a clean knockout), I just can’t get invested.