Irish Joe O’Rourke

of The Boxing Amusement Park

Sugar Ray Robinson vs. Jake LaMotta




Many hardcore fans lament

the passing of boxing's 'Golden Era,'

but the obituary of the sport is premature


            Once this great canvas teemed with young men trading in the prime of their lives to participate in a tale of triumph and tragedy in a time now vanished.


            Now it is full of desperate young men and empty of the great names that inhabited its past, and a silence not without dread emanates from between its ropes. Once the domain of heroes, stars and icons, the field of forces surrounding this sport has given tilt to the step-child of a lesser caliber. Some now feel this sacred ring, soon to be rendered barren of its original significance, is the only tangible relic of a sport gone by the wayside.


            But true boxing fans hold sacred, like loyalties to the dead, a romantic sense of its past, and they know this so called dying sport has been witness to a thousand other funerals in its lifespan and can simply add its latest to more than a century-long collection of threats.


            It wasn't too long ago that the American media was once again writing yet another obituary for our beloved sport and would have you believe The Golden Age of Boxing had become some kind of nostalgic recess in the minds of an ever-diminishing fan base. Furthermore, the encroachment of mixed martial arts, lack of network television coverage, and too many alphabet soup titles, had some thinking boxing was in a coffin and awaiting its funeral: Don't bet on it! If the last few months have shown us anything, it is that boxing is not just alive and well, but resurging.


            Quoted by ESPN in regard to the recent popularity in boxing, Oscar De La Hoya stated, "We've had a really tremendous spike in ticket sales, Pay Per View sales and network ratings. It's actually incredible, in our last fight, we broke records with respect to HBO and ticket sales.'' In addition, some feel the celebration of the sport's demise a bit premature, with respect to some long awaited changes finally on their way.


            With respect to the alphabet soup dilemma: Every time a champion enters the ring, either wearing one belt, or perhaps too many, some say the belts themselves are as ugly in meaning as in appearance. Each of the titles represents a political entity that has only hurt the sport by segmenting it into a diluted and confusing mix of semi-champions and, in the process, devalues the real champs of the sport.


Sanctioning bodies have their own money to make and reputations to build and, as a result, the most important distinction in the sport has now become the coveted Ring Magazine title. Fortunately this well respected governing body has taken steps toward solving this problem in the form of anointing the true world champions in any given class. Most boxing insiders endorse this scheme of lineal world champions.


            In terms of the Pacquiaos and Mayweathers, the "not as good as the good old days" argument isn't a solid one. Our elders said the same thing about the Dempseys and Langfords of the twenties. It is essentially a cyclical and generational phenomena, with the old guard recounting how things were better in the golden age.


As far as any "golden era'' is concerned, take a look at today's super middleweights, on down to the bantam divisions.  Are not the Wards, Kesslers, Chavezes, Margaritos, Cottos, Pacquiaos, Mayweathers, Marquezes, Hattons, Lopezes, Gamboas, and Donaires the "golden era" for some future generation?  Moreover, isn't the idea in any sport to build on the legacies of the past in order to improve its future athletes?


Finally, boxing has lost much of its cultural importance to the octagon of ultimate fighting, with its clean organization and consistent televised presence, along with its fresh martial arts spin. By using the mistakes of boxing as a roadmap of what not to do, the UFC has been successful to the point of being more popular than boxing here in the United States. However, Joe Rogan once said, "Boxing is being eaten up by MMA. In five years your sport won't even exist.'' Let it be known that Joe Rogan's choice of metaphors could stand some revision.


Most now feel the rise of MMA will coincide with the revitalization of boxing because it will have no choice. By doing so, it will force boxing to reorganize itself out of necessity and boxing will learn from the better managed and more televised sport. Les Moonves, President and CEO of CBS Corporation, was recently quoted as saying to Bob Arum and Todd DeBouf, "I want you guys to figure out a way of bringing boxing back to network television.''  If Moove's plan succeeds, it could be the biggest shot in the arm to this sport in over two decades.


Just like those crazy birthday candles that keep coming back to life when seemingly blown out, boxing always seems to come back to life when legally pronounced dead.


CLICK HERE to contact Irish Joe O'Rourke

Other columns by "Irish" Joe O'Rourke
Ricky Hatton's quandary
Ambassadors of Hope: The Rock Boxing Gym
Cuban Libre: An effigy to the human spirit

An unwanted visitor

A eulogy for Vernon
 Moneyweather talks ... disinformation walks
Of Hurricanes & Aftermaths



Irish Joe O’Rourke

Born and raised on the Eastern
Seaboard, Irish Joe O'Rourke is a
lifelong boxing aficionado who
now writes about the sport from
his home on the picturesque
Central Coast of California.

CLICK HERE to contact him