SOME THINGS ARE REALLY WORSE THAN BEFORE
I do think that the boxing that goes on now, isn't the same as when I was growing up. It starts at the ground level. Boxing no longer attracts athletic talent. Not to say that boxers are multi-sport stars, but I think that being able to 'do something' means you have untapped skills that need to be focused.
For instance as a kid, I played hockey, golfed and basketball before I narrowed in on boxing. I did a lot of other 'kid things' that required a component of physical skill, climbing fences and trees, as well as all the pick up games in the neighborhood.
The allure of the major sports and the other fringe benefits that come with them, keeps attracting the talent necessary to feed them, to become self-sustaining apparatus. In my mind, you look at the paths to becoming a star in a major sport, it opens up so much more opportunity. You network, get a chance to further your education, all the other real things that provide motivation from participation in athletics.
With boxing, there doesn't seem to be a lot of 'incidental careers opportunities that comes with a boxing career. The networking and ability to branch off into another area of the industry isn't there.
Also, the technological age has introduce another malady that affects boxing as well. Social interaction. Kids would have to deal with each other face to face and figure things out. And like young cubs, their socializing would lead to horseplay and sometimes, a fight. Fighting would in turn make more people interested in learning how, and then you have more boxers. A larger pool of talent would mean more skilled fighters, as cream rises to the top.
One of the reason that I am bringing this up, is Manny Paciquao is a very good fighter. But when I compare him to some of the triple crown champions of my era, he as well as Oscar De La Hoya, fall short of greatness. At first I thought I was being a crudgemudgeon, but I saw an article that put Paciquao in the 80's. The list of fighters he would have had to beat or been encouraged to fight was a walk thru Boxing's Hall of Fame. Since he won the 147 lbs. title, he would have had to beat either Leonard, Hearns, and Duran. The three cats who were in the title mix prior to those three, Wilfred Benitez who was at 17 the youngest fighter to ever win a title, along with enduring and respected champions Pipino Cuevas and Carlos Palomino, would have been a formidable test for 'Pac Man'.
The title he won at 140 may have came easier. Antonio Cervantes was the only good fighter there, and Aaron Pryor would overwhelm him. I don't think that Pac Man would survive 'The Hawk', but there would have been other ways for him to get a belt at 140. He wouldn't have had to fight Aaron Pryor, who beat EVERYBODY as an amateur and never got his due as a professional fighter.
Lightweights ... at 135, the list of CONTENDERS is enough to say that Manny Paciquao would not have made it thru. Livingstone Bramble, Ray Mancini, Sean O'Grady, as well as champions like Alexis Arguello (himself along with Leonard and Duran,a triple crown champion) and Hilmer Kenty would have been tough nuts to crack.
I don't think that he stopped at 130, but he would have had an easier time, similar to the potential fights at 140. I could list all the cats, but they are more 'who are they' kind of fighters. Roger Mayweather is cat who fought well at that weight. It is also where Julio Ceasar Chavez got his start. There were other good fighters, but if Paciquao is a great fighter, he would have bested them.
There is no way I see him cracking through the featherweights, 126 lbs. easily as well. Salvador Sanchez who died tragically in a car accident, was a dominant a fighter as there could be. He had to beat a really good fighter himself, Danny 'Little Red' Lopez, to get a title. And again, there are too many other fighters for Paciquao to have had to face to get to a title shot, to imagine him being good enough to do it.
Now, it isn't that he couldn't have won ONE of these titles in an individual weight class. I mean, he could pull his best out for Sugar Ray. And fighters like Pryor, Duran, Chavez and Arguello could have been caught 'sleeping' as they went up and down multiple weight classes in search of their chances to fight for big money. But it is too unlikely.
He could have settled in a weight division and had a good career. But all of the hosanna's that are lavished upon him now ..? I don't think so.
IT STARTED WITH TYSON
The hype machine made him seem larger than life. Not saying that he wasn't a very good fighter, but he was beatable. I know because I saw him as an amateur and I always looked at his fights 'differently'
than the average viewer. The things that I saw in his style and how he attacked and should be fought had me believe that I could beat him. No, it would not have been easy. But I was from Dee-troit, Mo-town. I trained with some VERY tough nuts. I like to think that I was one of those tough nuts myself.
Anyway, he was a fighter who's story made him the fighter, rather than his skills. I think of the cat who is the template for this kind of build up in boxing, Sugar Ray. That cat FOUGHT. He didn't have a lot of match ups where people were cowed by fighting his name and his image. In fact, I distinctly remember cats who would openly say that they are going to give it to him, and actually tried.
But Ray was a special fighter and it showed. He fought a lot of good cats on his way to the title. It wasn't given to him. Mike did not do that. He scored some highlight film knockouts of decent cats, but no one that could really 'fight'. In fact, he was exposed fully in a fight with James 'Quick' Tillis. But by that time, the hype machine was in full frenzy and that hiccup was overlooked.
When I was in the service, and because of my knowledge of Tyson before his media sensation rise, I would tell people that I thought I could beat him. Of course it was laughed off, even as I beat up cats in smokers on different posts. Even those closest to me would roll their eyes at me and my claims. I would try to point out all the things that I would do and could be done. I would also talk about moments in fights where he was 'hung up' and if his foe had the heart and will to do what he knew to do, it would change the fight.
Like so much these days, I thought that Mike Tyson was more style than substance. Michael Vick is like that too. He isn't a good quarterback and at this stage, he never will be. In an 'apples to oranges' comparison, since Vick is 'Tyson-esque', we saw what the lay off did to someone who we thought was great but wasn't, did. Ali had a similar layoff in the prime of his career and because he really WAS great, did his thing. (apples to apples ... compare Vick to Roger Staubauch).
I really would walk around talking about being able to beat Mike Tyson. Once, I asked a trainer in my gym what he would think about me and Tyson ... he looked at me and said, "No". He then finished gloving me up and sent me in to box.
There has only been one person who ever thought that I could do what I say that I can do with a chance to box a prime Mike Tyson. Only one person who makes me wonder what could have been if they'd been around me, or I had been around them, still with the same goals and intentions in my life. Maybe people have their own 'what if' scenario's for people in their lives ... I didn't know I had this one until June.
As much as folks would smirk (because if you thought that Tyson could have knocked me out, you had better be wearing a smile!!), this person would stand up next to me and back me up. I don't even know if they knew the first THING about boxing, but they'd have my back.
And she comes in town in a couple of hours. My SFC.
Have a happy holiday weekend ..! See y'all on Tuesday!!