MAINSTREET, USA(Overheard at various points cross-country) – Toward the roar of the crowd we go.
For the masses who enjoy watching pugilistic pursuits, there’s been a lot to savor throughout 2006, like last Saturday’s Marquez brothers showcase in Lake Tahoe from sea to shining sea to where Kassim Ouma, Sechew Powell, Vernon Forest and Ike Quartey headlined in NYC.
This year has seen almost eight months of worthy competition already, with some big face-offs still to come before the next calendar turns the page.
While further strides can always be taken back into the mainstream marketplace, it’s hard to deny that boxing in general has been on the upswing. The sport has managed to present a string of shows that unfolded with continued sudden elimination drama, like a mega-playoff spectacle.
Lately, many a night has been a fight fan’s dream.
To some it may seem like a fantasy to proclaim such glad tidings. So be it. Every good watering hole is part mirage. Some worlds are a stage. Some are squared with fantastic ring posts.
You can search for the truth down Boxing Boulevard to the opposite side of a dead end street. A tremulous tavern sits without contradiction beneath a second floor gym. Those with a speed bag time clock to tag make their entrance on a south side stairway to hammerhead heaven.
Look at the first floor; see a neon glove above a dark brick door. A rainbow of karma glows over the doorman’s derby. “Nice crowd tonight,” he murmurs in welcome, “Two live satellite shows, and the free food is fresh.”
Inside televisions feature some hoops and some hardball, but it’s mostly fights on the multi-screens and in discussion. A jazzy genre of sports before a happy, diverse swarm.
There used to be lines out front many nights a week, back when the doorman’s daddy worked the sidewalk. While it may no longer be the fight game’s heyday, action has been rising at a steady rate.
At one end of the bar sit smooth faced kids who all got their IDs checked, watching ESPN Classic with fights from the 50s. At the other end are the old guys, watching ShoBox: The New Generation. The groups take turns toasting and trading rounds of shots.
The faithful rub shoulders with the far out. Usual suspects meet new Bohemians. Neutral corners everywhere. Boxing Day, every day.
“There’s more fights on TV now than I can ever remember before,” says Mr. Middletown. “People predicted the end of televised boxing just a few years ago.”
“Some folks said the sport would be banned by the turn of the century,” adds the Advertising Man.
“Last month I saw people wearing retro fight shirts all the way from Burlington, Vermont to Shelter Island California,” says an old Golden Glover.
“I was at a beach bar on a Sunday afternoon in San Diego and a group of fans watched replays of The Contender and knew the participants,” cooed a Cutie.
“By my ongoing informal observations, the number of interested observers and consumers seems to be making modest but consistent gains,” mused the Bookkeeper.
“That’s because many known fighters like Mayweather, de la Hoya, and Hopkins distinguished themselves,” said the Channel Surfer, “And guys like Carlos Baldomir and Joe Calzaghe were pleasant surprises.”
“Besides,” said the Accountant, “there’s been relatively few big controversies besides Zab Judah’s outbursts or Jose Luis Castillo’s weight.”
“Castillo can redeem himself if the fight against Miguel Cotto comes off,” said the handicapper.
“They better plan it at 150 pounds, just in case,” says the Ice Man.
“There’s gonna be a lot of plans, at a lot of pounds,” whispered the Waitress. “I wonder if Floyd really will take a chance on Mosley before Oscar.”
“Considering how gung- ho most participants at every level were during this year to make the best fights, a sustained season of excellence isn’t out of the question,” concluded the Cook.
“Whatever that means,” said the Timekeeper. “Even the heavyweights are making some noise.”
“The big challenge for the business will be to avoid a letdown in ‘07,” said the Chef.
“It’s not hard to look into the future and see smooth sailing for the sport,” said the Cable Guy. “Even if the biggest bangs of the year have already gone down courtesy of Hopkins, Calzaghe or Pacquaio, somebody like the winners of Toney-Peter or Pacquaio-Morales III could eclipse that. We’re talking a lot of marketing momentum.”
“At this rate, more and more fans will love the fights,” hoped the Hostess.
“Let’s get ready to Romeo,” scribbled the Bard.
It may be hard to imagine, but there’s still a big boxing party going on somewhere right now. Start one up if you can’t find it.
Outside this cozy scenario, in the real world, all the caca still hits the fan. Here, it seems there’s more sadness and madness to navigate, at an ever-rising cost, than ever before.
In a bad year for the planet so far, at least the fight scene has provided a positive global spark of entertainment. Like most of us, that may be just a drop in the cosmic spit bucket, but it’s far better than a number of things.
Like most of us, it can still count for something. In reality, boxing has stayed pretty strong.