By Ted Sares
The question for the third quarterly survey of 2019 was “Where do you see the sport/business of boxing 10 years from now?”
Thirty-six noted boxing buffs shared their thoughts. The respondents are listed alphabetically.
RUSS ANBER -- trainer, elite cornerman, and owner of Rival Boxing Equipment: Around 1935, as Joe Louis was on his way to being a star, newspapers of the day and media in general, begged the question, “Can Louis save a dying sport?” Boxing is, and always has been cyclical. The success and popularity of boxing has ALWAYS depended on which fighter is carrying the sport. The success, popularity and visibility of the sport has always rested on the shoulders of its biggest stars. Seek out the greatest fighters of any era and you will find an era filled with promise and popularity. Robinson, Louis, Marciano, Ali, Leonard, Tyson are just a few examples. If 2029 blesses us with a fighter who captures the sport’s attention and imagination, we will experience another great time in boxing. If not, we will love it and wait till the next star comes along. Like we always do!
MATT ANDRZEJEWSKI -- TSS writer: Boxing will be thriving in 2029 but the landscape will be much different from today. For one, the sanctioning bodies we see today won't exist. They will finally have been pushed out of the sport after more outlandish acts and replaced by one central ratings system comprised of a panel of experts. And I think we see one dedicated boxing streaming network that broadcasts the sport 24/7, showing thousands of live events each year. The bigger fights will still find their way to traditional outlets (ESPN, etc) while the rest of the sport is covered through this one dedicated streaming outlet.
DAVID AVILA -- TSS West Coast Bureau Chief: It’s one of the most pivotal and mysterious moments in boxing history right now. The introduction of streaming and the departure of HBO's interest in the sport has opened the door to either a massive explosion of growth or an implosion that could send boxing spinning without a foundation.
BOB BENOIT -- former pro boxer and now professional referee: it will be going down the drain.
STEVE CANTON -- the face of boxing in South Florida: I see things about the same but becoming a little less relevant in the U.S. and more popular on a world-wide basis. As our state commissions continue to over-regulate our sport and make it more expensive and harder to promote events, we will have fewer and fewer shows. As new training techniques and procedures continue to cause boxers to become less proficient in the science of boxing, it might make for semi-exciting bouts with unskilled boxers wailing away on each other. The great teachers have or are dying off and the good athletes today are competing with athletic skills but not boxing skills.
ANTHONY CARDINALE, esq. -- longtime legal advisor to many boxers: Thriving, if all title holders were mandatory challengers for other organization's title holders in a playoff style tournament like the WSB format.
JILL DIAMOND -- WBC International Secretary and chairperson and global ambassador for “WBC Cares”: Boxing is a traditional sport. It has gotten safer (and thank the WBC for this), but little else has changed. What has changed are the delivery systems and the subsequent plus and minus issues that result. My hope is that we have unified champions, more validation for the women, and greater opportunities for the boxers, based on ability rather than deal making.
CHARLIE DWYER -- former fighter and professional referee: Boxing will continue for better or worse.
BERNARD FERNANDEZ -- TSS mainstay and lifetime Member of the BWAA: With the introduction of DAZN and ESPN+, you have to wonder how much further technology -- the means by which we see the fights -- can go. Will there be more such ways of bringing the action to viewers? Better, to my way of thinking, of getting the various streaming systems, more standard (as of now) television outlets and promotional concerns and to find a way to play nice and put on the very best fights instead of erecting more barriers to hinder such matchups. Also, the various alphabet organizations need to curb their insatiable appetite for creating more extraneous and unnecessary awards and titles, such as the WBCs new "franchise" championship for Canelo Alvarez. You'd think they were spending money faster than U.S. politicians, which would be a pretty neat trick. Actually, the alphabet groups are more about generating money, for themselves, than spending it. They want FANS to spend it.
LEE GROVES -- writer, author, and wizard of CompuBox: Streaming services will make up the vast majority of boxing telecasts, and, with the introduction of the WBC's "Franchise Champion" belt in addition to the subordinate titles created by the other sanctioning bodies, initiate unprecedented business for those companies charged with making those belts. Hopefully, the fighters and the fights will continue to serve as the solid foundation that has, to this point, kept the sport's chaotic administrative and political side from sinking it.
HENRY HASCUP -- historian; President of the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame: Hopefully I am wrong but I see the BIG getting BIGGER and the SMALL getting SMALLER or even worse in 10 years. Meaning the big promoters will run out the small guys and that is terrible because boxing needs the little guy to develop the fighters that don't have the Big backing of the Big guys!
CHUCK HASSON -- noted boxing historian and co-author of Philadelphia’s Boxing Heritage: I think 10 years from now things in boxing will be pretty much like now, going through peaks and valleys like it always has with good exciting fights plus lousy promoters who focus on building their fighters and don't worry about making good fights for the fans.
JACK HIRSCH -- former President and now life time member of the BWAA: Great question and one that is hard to predict. My feeling is that with the advanced technology boxing will continue to thrive, but of course it all depends on who the major players will be.
BRUCE KIELTY -- booking agent; boxing historian: Unless the television networks (and streaming services, promoters, boxers, etc.) realize that the sanctioning body system isn't working, boxing will continue to diminish about 1 or 2 % a year. Unlike sports run by professional executives/player representatives (MLB, NFL, NBA, etc.), boxing remains in the Stone Age.
STUART KIRSCHENBAUM -- Boxing Commissioner Emeritus, Michigan: For boxing to be significant as a sport and no less a business ten years from now there needs to be an influx of participants. Without a skilled work force ...that being boxers...the sport will fade away and be a footnote on a Google search. In Detroit...budget cuts closed the majority of these facilities such as Kronk. Aspiring trainers have tried to open up storefronts but the reality of paying rent and keeping the utilities turned on have become a challenge and a formula for closure in most cases. The young ethnic minority has always been the feeder to the success of boxing but too many quicker paths to financial success, whether legal or not, has changed things. I sadly predict the demise of boxing as we know it now. But then again, Floyd Mayweather Jr. will be making another comeback, so who knows?
JIM LAMPLEY -- linchpin of the HBO announcing team for 31 years; 2015 IBHOF inductee: Just as has been the case for the past 128 years, boxing will arrive at its 138th birthday as a perpetually troubled, under-organized, constantly under-achieving but unusually thrilling and surprising public attraction. Its unique adventure as the most entrepreneurial of all sports will not yield to intelligent unification. The overwhelming bulk of its highest quality performers will remain largely anonymous compared to their peers in more conventional sports. Its putative competitor, MMA, will by then have a demonstrably larger audience and greater day to day impact. But once or twice a year, as has always been the case, boxing will momentarily unify a global audience for a must-see event, and occasionally those events will produce incomparable and unforgettable drama. Unique drama, because at its best, Boxing is still the best.
Boxing Will Never Die Because of its Fraternity—Anonymous
ARNE LANG -- TSS editor-in-chief, author, historian: Two quick thoughts: (1) Boxing is resilient; if you had a quarter for every time that someone wrote that boxing was on the ropes, you would have a big mound of quarters. (2) By some measures, boxing is healthier today than it has been in quite some time. Having said that, I don't believe that boxing will ever have the pull that it once had among the English-speaking people of North America without more ethnic diversity....and that's something that you shouldn't wish for as it would likely mean that the economy had gone to pieces, enfeebling all economic groups.
JIMMY LANGE -- former fighter (appeared on the “Contender” series) and promoter: Nowadays fighters want to be spectacular, but with no substance. It doesn’t work like that. To be great goes WAY beyond the 36 minutes under the lights. It’s a lifestyle. I don’t see hunger these days. I see kids, men, contenders, taking a second to readjust their headphones while they are shadow boxing. The powers that be will continue with the newest way to market and the newest mediums to get eyes on the product. The product will be fine. Venues will fill, viewers will tune in, and it will be lucrative for all. However, the product will continue to be diminished. The public doesn’t care, because they don’t know the difference.
RON LIPTON -- NJ Boxing Hall of Fame, former fighter, retired police officer, pro referee: Boxing will flourish 10 years from now or a hundred years from now as it always has. There are ups and downs as in all sports but the inherent lure in our blood still resonates the electric excitement of a good fight. All you need to help it are great fights with top talent facing each other. If the rival promoters and the fighters are willing to make matches that the public wants, then boxing will always flourish. Dynamic buildups of the big punchers like Tyson, rugged solid fighters like Canelo, defensive brash talent like Mayweather, and the type of boxer who will fight anyone and bring in the fans like Ali did are all it takes. You have to have a guy who loves to fight, that is the main thing I know after all my years in professional boxing. We must preserve the fight teachers who can pass on what we know and then the ground remains fertile for more abounding talent to emerge.
ADEYINKA MAKINDE -- U.K. barrister, author and contributor to the Cambridge Companion to Boxing: I prefer to give an idealist’s vision rather than a pessimistic one. Therefore, I see boxing gravitating towards elimination competitions which put belts at stake with the objective being the unification of divisions: a best-case scenario assuming that the sanctioning bodies will not wither away. I also foresee rigorous Olympic-style testing for PEDs and same day weigh-ins. Time to begin a crusade for logos in boxing: a rejection of the persistent chaotic state of the sport and an insistence on sanity and a correct order of organizing the sport for the benefit of its participants and the fans.
SCOOP MALINOWSKI -- boxing writer, author, Mr. "Biofile”: In America I see it becoming WWF, certain designated manufactured stars who will be protected to maximize earnings. Mayweather, Canelo and next Wilder - the first three major protected counterfeit franchises. The other side of the matrix will be the real authentic unprotected champions - Loma, GGG, Usyk, Crawford, Pacquiao. Curious to see how the two matrix sides blend - or divide.
DAVID MARTINEZ -- historian, www.dmboxing.com: It will be like wrestling was back in the day before Vince McMahon brought in the WWE - promoters governing their own fighters, champions, territories!
LARRY MERCHANT – HBO boxing commentator emeritus; 2009 IBHOF inductee: I’m 88. Where do you think I’ll be in 10 years?
ROBERT MLANDINICH -- former NYPD detective, author and boxing writer: I think it will be fine if the broadcast entities make it easier for technophobes to watch the fights. Many fans have no idea how to access DAZN or ESPN+. Also, if Andy Ruiz Jr. can string together a few good wins, he will help create a new legion of fans that could last for 10 years. He is such a breath of fresh air and a guy that casual fans can relate to.
ERNEST MORALES -- former fighter: Honestly, being 'old school' I can't see it getting any better, in fact WORSE. The game is being held HOSTAGE, in the hands for the millionaires: promoters, streaming outfits, managers. Fighters pick and choose who they won't/will fight. Weight clauses, titles becoming worthless and actually thrown back in the faces of the ABC orgs because "champions" refuse to fight well deserved mandatory challengers. It isn't going to get any better in ten years, nor twenty, unless the fans take a stand, which it seems they won't.
CHARLIE NORKUS – President, Ring 8, Veteran Boxers Association: On the surface, boxing looks to be a vibrant sports entity today. The heavyweight division alone has produced some intriguing match-ups lately with boxing fans filling the various houses. The business side looks promising too as the newcomer on the block, DAZN, has signed some talent for their pool. But the lower tier of local boxing cards has taken a hit. New rules in New York governing insurance for fighters has caused somewhat of a drop in the local card shows, but thankfully they still exist. I would like to think that 10 years from now fight cards won’t be so cost-prohibitive as to prevent them from showcasing the young talent in this area. Boxing has always been said to be on the ropes for one reason or another over its many eras, and I am sure it would still remain the status quo. The real threat just might be the surging MMA cards taking control over the remaining boxing crowd.
RUSSELL PELTZ -- venerable Philadelphia boxing promoter and 2004 IBHOF inductee: There will be more fighters with belts than without belts.
If everyone wins a belt, then no one wins. – Anonymous
FRED ROMANO -- boxing historian, author and former HBO Boxing consultant: For generations they have been saying that boxing is a dying sport. However, boxing is the Rasputin of sports. I expect it to continue to thrill fans throughout the world regardless of deficiencies in governing bodies, the existence of fractured titles and an ever- changing demographic and technological landscape.
LEE SAMUELS -- Top Rank publicist emeritus; 2019 IBHOF inductee: Years ago we asked Bob Arum “will there always be fighters and great fights?” and he said, “absolutely: there will always be those who want to get into the ring and box and there will always be fans who want to see the big fights.”
TED SARES -- TSS writer: Absolutely the same as Lee Groves, to wit: “Streaming services will make up the vast majority of boxing telecasts, and, with the introduction of the WBC's "Franchise Champion" belt, in addition to the subordinate titles created by the other sanctioning bodies, initiate unprecedented business for those companies charged with making those belts.”
ICEMAN JOHN SCULLY -- manager, trainer, commentator, writer, historian, former boxer: In 10 years from now the sanctioning bodies will have decimated the World Championships to the extent that nobody will know who the Champions are and even people in the boxing game such as myself won't even care anymore.
MIKE SILVER -- author, writer, historian: Boxing is in a transition stage and it does not bode well for the future. The demented circus that is professional boxing today will only get worse. Technology combined with a completely unregulated sport will make for even more confusion. Boxing will actually become even more dumbed-down than it is today. In 2029 every boxer who wins his first pro bout will be awarded some kind of title belt. So figure about 500 new champions per year. What is so absurd and disheartening is that the media and the clueless fans will still accept the garbage being thrown at them, just as they do now. You can see the handwriting on the wall with the announcement that Canelo has just been named the new "Franchise" champion by the WBC, for the sole purpose that he can now fight whoever he wants and remain champion until he is ready for an assisted living facility. This kind of outlandish corruption and stupidity is breathtaking. Why are we still paying attention to this crap? But a fight is a fight, right? So what the hell. Bottom line: It can't get better.
MICHAEL STEWART -- former professional fighter and “Contender” series contestant: I think fewer young people will go into the amateurs as there will be more options for them. This will impact boxing ten years from now in a somewhat negative way.
ALAN SWYER -- filmmaker, writer, and producer of the acclaimed El Boxeo: My hope is that ten years from now boxing will be even more of a worldwide sport, with the heavyweight division strong again and the Olympics assuming the importance it had when it spawned the likes of Ali, Oscar, and Sugar Ray Leonard. My fear is that it will continue to accept its position as a niche sport not even covered by most major newspapers.
GARY “DIGITAL” WILLIAMS -- the voice of “Boxing on the Beltway”: Boxing ten years from now may be in a little bit of trouble. The issues that AIBA is having with the International Olympic Committee may end up having a ripple effect when it comes to harvesting new talent. Fortunately, there should be established pro talent that may lead the way.
PETER WOOD -- author, writer and former fighter: This is a good question. I hope this article will be dug up and read in the year 2029 -- and that I’m one of those reading it...Boxing will be revered more than ever in the future. Why? Because the more elevated and sophisticated society becomes, the more it’s need will be to counterbalance itself with its primal origin.
This time around, more ex-fighters responded and, like the others, there was a good dose of cynicism in their posts. A major complaint involved too many belts for too many titles with Canelo’s new WBC “Franchise Title” receiving particular scorn.
But there was a good deal of optimism as well. David Avila’s savvy response sounded a balanced warning, to wit: “The introduction of streaming and the departure of HBO's interest in the sport has opened the door to either a massive explosion of growth or an implosion that could send boxing spinning without a foundation.”
Now it’s your turn: Where do you see Boxing ten years from now?
Ted Sares is a member of Ring 8, a lifetime member of Ring 10, and a member of Ring 4 and its Boxing Hall of Fame. He also is an Auxiliary Member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA). He is an active power lifter and Strongman competitor in the Master Class.
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