In a recent article on boxing, Debbie Schlussel makes the argument that the current decline in boxing viewership and attendance is due to a bunch of foreigners being the main draw. She argues that just like hockey - and I would interject soccer myself - most American don't like it when the top stars are foreigners. She does acknowledge that baseball has foreign players and is popular, but really baseball is on the decline as well, so actually that supports her ideals.
Recently Manny "PacMan" Pacquiao devastated Ricky Hatton in a bout and the Pacman has been hyped as the new posterchild for boxing. This is what led Debbie to her post. I have always loved boxing and her article intrigued me.
Are Americans really adverse to boxing simply because it is currently dominated by foreigners? In my opinion recent years have seen a decline because there are simply no flashy boxers. The Oscar De La Hoya's, Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s, Muhammad Ali's and even the over the top Mike Tyson have fallen by the wayside. People like Lennox Lewis were too gentlemanly and not marketable enough. I'm sure the average American a few years ago would have said "Lennox who?"
Boxing in the mainstream has always been led by the heavyweights when it comes to public attention. Without a dominating charisma or character in the heavyweight division there is less of a following for the lighter weight classes. I personally like the smaller boxers because I like the speed, but people want to see the superhuman power of the heavies.
But what really killed boxing is that they went away from the days of yore. The days when they broadcasted the biggest fights on ABC's Worldwide of Sports and the like. Stars like Muhammad Ali and his greatest bouts were featured on network TV where millions upon millions watched. These days the average boxing match is on HBO and the big ones are on Pay Per View. Talk about limiting your market! Without broadcasters like Howard Cosell, great fighters like Muhammad Ali wouldn't have gotten the exposure in the mainstream that they needed to become big names.
A few years back it was looking good for boxing. The Klitschko brothers from the Ukraine looked to potentially pump up boxing with their big size - Vitali at 6 foot 8 Inches and Wladimir's at 6 foot 6 inches. Both brothers held doctorates from the University of Kiev and spoke 4 languages. Their size alone would capture the imagination, but their intelligence would as well as their story was told. However, they turned out to be a letdown when it came to their big bouts and boxing went back into it's slump of no potential heavyweights with draw.
For those not into boxing daily, they're not going to watch the latest ESPN boxing match. They also aren't going to shell out $50 bucks to watch a hyped match on Pay Per View where the two fighters are those they have not seen before. Boxing has killed itself by limiting it's market. Compare it to the business world where if someone can't get an entry level position they can't move up to greater positions. Without the network exposure of boxers there is no entry level name recognition or following to bring those to watch the bigger matches.
In my opinion it has nothing to do with foreign boxers and everything to do with boxing as a business. They have hamstrung themselves and have increasing competition from UFC, extreme fighting and mixed martical arts - all of which I find dull. Boxing has forced decline on itself and those boxers who would be larger stars have also had their shine diminished.