Which fight would you rather watch?

“One is a flabby 37-year-old with four heavyweight fights to his name. The other’s a 33-year-old one-punch wonder who had the WBC belt handed to him. Tonight, James Toney and Hasim Rahman square off in Atlantic City, N.J., in a 12 round championship fight so ho-hum that HBO is showing it for free and more than 2,000 tickets remained unsold a day before.” – Palm Beach Post Wire Reports

Or:

Three-division champion and future Hall of Famer, James Toney squares off against two-time WBC heavyweight champion and Lennox Lewis conqueror, Hasim Rahman, in a 12 round championship fight broadcast on HBO. Fight fans without a subscription to the premium cable channel will be treated to the fight as part of HBO’s free preview weekend. Over 8,000 fans are expected to be on hand to see if the 37-year-old Toney can become the second oldest boxer to capture the heavyweight title.

The former is how the Palm Beach Post previewed Saturday night’s contest between Rahman and Toney. The latter is how someone interested in creating some excitement for his readers may have put it.

After reading the first description in my local paper, I was fuming. It’s bad enough that the mainstream sports media treats boxing like Carl from Slingblade – dumb, dangerous and mostly ignored except for when an object of scorn is needed. 

I tend not to be a conspiracy theorist, but the above paragraph proves to me that the sports media has an anti-boxing agenda. They’ll cite reasons such as corruption, a preponderance of champions and no exciting boxers as reasons for the lack of coverage. If they don’t want to cover it, fine. But don’t sabotage readers’ interest.

The first paragraph was obviously written by someone who knew nothing about the sport or its participants. You don’t have to like James Toney. You may think it’s a disgrace that he fights so out of shape. But if you have been following boxing even remotely over the past 10 years or so, you know that James Toney is has mastered the craft of boxing like no other on the planet. 

While no one will confuse Hasim Rahman with Joe Louis, he is a competent heavyweight that is often in exciting fights due to the power in his right hand and his questionable chin. Both fighters have earned the right to be fighting for the heavyweight championship. Additionally, any time you have a champion as the underdog with the very real possibility of a title changing hands, the excitement level is increased.

Perhaps my local paper knew it wouldn’t be publishing any stories on the fight Sunday morning, so they didn’t want their readers to feel like they’d be missing something. After all, there are 2 full pages of high school girl’s lacrosse to concentrate on.

After the Mosley – Vargas fight, I was also incensed at all of the radio talk show hosts who claim they love boxing but don’t talk about it much because there’s so much wrong with it. You know what? They don’t love boxing. They love big boxing events. If they loved boxing, they’d talk about how Floyd Mayweather may be the greatest boxer of the past 25 years (and possibly more). They’d talk about the excitement that Ricky Hatton is bringing to the 140 and 147 pound divisions. They’d rave about how the Castillo – Corrales rivalry is one of the best in the sport’s history. They’d discuss Manny Pacquiao, Winky Wright and Miguel Cotto.

Does boxing have its problems? Absolutely. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m no apologist for the sanctioning bodies. But the media shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that there are some truly exceptional talents in the sport right now and many more that are just simply very good and very exciting. 

It’s a great time to be a boxing fan. Maybe the mainstream media will notice too.

Jabs

• It seems that most people had Rahman winning by a round or two. I, for once, agreed with the judges and had it 6 rounds each. I suspect many fans didn’t give Toney credit for some of the well place body shots when Rahman was in a defensive shell.

• Keep an eye on heavyweight Kevin Johnson. He fights on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights on March 31st. You know how for years people have been saying, perhaps the next great heavyweight is some unknown kid in a gym somewhere? It’s a bit early, but Johnson has that potential, in my opinion. He’s got a jab that everyone says reminds them of Larry Holmes. You can read about him in the March issue of Boxing Digest.

• Ricky Hatton – Luis Collazo? Seems like Hatton is taking the easy way towards a belt. If he wanted a welterweight title, he should have paid Baldomir what he wanted and then been able to lay legitimate claim to the welterweight championship (assuming that he would have won).

• Listen on Thursday nights from 9 – 10 ET to my new nationally syndicated radio show, “Through the Ropes” on the Sports Byline USA Broadcast Network. The show airs on 75 stations around the country, Sirius Satellite Radio Channel 122, the American Forces Network and is online at www.sportsbyline.com. Our guests over the past few weeks have included Angelo Dundee, Bernard Hopkins, Emanuel Steward and Chris Byrd. Fans can call in to the show and talk with guests, making it not only the largest national boxing show, but also the most unique.

Until next time, obey my commands and protect yourself at all times.