"Want to go out to a bar tomorrow night and watch the Jones-Hopkins fight?" he asked.
"Sure, we can catch the Duke game too", I said.
After a couple of emails, we had assembled two other long-time fight fans. If I go through my life of watching boxing, Leonard-Hearns (at Greenwood Raceway of all places), Foreman-Moorer, Holyfield-Foreman and on and on, these guys were the posse. We agreed to meet on the lakeshore near one of the foursome, at a bar which is pretty good for showing sports - which in Toronto is a bar where when a Leaf game is on, they will actually show something else on at least one television.
When we arrived, Nick asked the bartender for a pitcher of Keith's and the golden question:
"Are you showing the fight tonight?"
"The fight? Is UFC on tonight?" the barman replied.
"No, Jones-Hopkins." said Nick.
Giving us a look like we were from the planet Zoltar, he told us, "No we won't show that. We show UFC, no boxing."
UFC is the Ultimate Fighting Championship, where people with a lot of tattoo's beat each other silly, and it tends to be popular. Not exactly a sweet science, and about as appealing to me as getting a root canal while being nosed out of a $40k superfecta.
Not sure what to do we ordered another pitcher, watched a bit of the Duke game and decided to buy the bout on pay per view at one of the fella's places nearby. We thought if this bar does not have it, there is no use driving half way around the city looking for one.
When we turned on the feed we immediately wondered who kidnapped Jim Lampley. The coverage seemed amateurish, and so far away from Howard Cosell saying "and down goes Frazier!" as you can get. It seemed cheap, like we might be the only clowns on the continent watching.
Someone in the room finally said, "What the hell happened to boxing?"
Boxing was once a sport, one of the more unique and followed spectacles in the sports world. If there was a big fight, chances are there would be a bar to watch it at, or a radio to listen to. The stars of broadcasting would be presenting it, as only they could. It would be the thing to do. For an interesting (albeit novelty-like) fight like this, guns would be a-blazing for this match. Now no more. That's all gone.
There are numerous reasons for its demise, some of which we've looked at here before. But one thing struck me through the evening: The fans of it are as passionate as fans of racing. When a sport you enjoy, feel a part of, or have followed almost forever is discarded like an old shoe, it is not a pleasant. Fans almost take it personally. "Why are they doing this to me?"
Politics, no one minding the store, throwing your hands up in the air and saying the words "we can't" have plagued that great sport for some time, just like it has plagued racing. There are no easy fixes, if there were they would be done already. But I hope people in both sports realize that whatever they may be doing affects people. It really does, as corny as it sounds. In my opinion, fans of great sports like boxing and racing deserve better.
When I woke up to look at the racing news I found a link to Keeneland CEO Nick Nicholson speaking of his racetrack, racing overall, and the passion he has for it.
"It's about the pageantry and excitement of the sport, the intellectual challenge of handicapping, the thrill of betting on a winner and the pleasure of an afternoon with friends in a beautiful place that looks as if it has always been there." he says.
Well said. The problem is, fewer and fewer people realize it.
Go to a sports bar this May and ask if they are showing the Preakness. Let me know what they say.