Boredom set in for North American sports fans over a fall weekend without any NBA contests. Retired boxing champions Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. returned to the ring on Saturday night for an eight-round pay-per-view exhibition bout that became a trending topic on social media. While the event was a success from an entertainment and commercial standpoint, the event highlighted why boxing has become a dying sport in North America.
Tyson and Jones’s matchup was the main event, but the true fight of the night was the co-main event between YouTube douchebag Jake Paul and former NBA player Nate Robinson. Paul scored a second-round KO of Robinson that left the three-time NBA Slam Dunk Contest champ lying face-down on the mat, spawning hours of social media memeing.
Snoop Dogg’s commentary during Nate Robinson vs Jake Paul 😂🤣 pic.twitter.com/zea40TK2oO
— 🇿🇦Linx'o Zulu🇿🇦 (@LinxoZulu) November 29, 2020
Tyson and Jones fought to a draw thanks to some very wild scoring by the judges at ringside, which did nothing to help boxing’s reputation as being rigged after fans shelled out US$50 for a PPV intended to launch Tyson’s new sports entertainment venture, the “Legends Only League.” The judges’ decision left many viewers with the impression that Tyson and Jones had agreed to have the event scored as a draw in order to hype up a rematch.
After the event, Tyson thanked Paul and his brother, fellow YouTube douchebag Logan Paul, for helping to revive fan interest in the sport, according to the MMA Fighting blog. “Boxing was pretty much a dying sport. UFC was kicking our butts, and now we got these YouTube boxers boxing with 25 million views. Boxing’s going back. Thanks to the YouTube boxers.”
Boxing has enjoyed a resurgence in North America in 2020 without the assistance of Youtube douchebros. While team sports were on hiatus at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, ESPN signed a deal with the Top Rank Boxing promotion to air weeknight fight cards to fill the void left in the sports broadcasting behemoth’s programming schedule. This brought in viewers who hadn’t watched a boxing event in years, including me!
However, boxing still suffers in comparison with mixed martial arts promotions like the UFC, the most popular MMA promotion. As noted by the MMA Fighting blog, the UFC “is a more consistent product” that airs weekly events, even during the pandemic. MMA also features more action and is more competitive. Boxing champions like Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr. would rather chase aging legends like Manny Pacquiao rather than take up the challenge of fighting one another in a title unification event and risk blemishing their perfect records. Meanwhile in the UFC, fighters have an expectation that if they are able to rise through the ranks, they will eventually headline a fight card and/or earn the chance to challenge a champion and win a belt.
Boxing continues to be tainted by poor judging, especially during the November 14 rematch between Andrew Moloney and Joshua Franco that ended with a no-decision ruling. The fight was ended in the second round due to an injury to Franco that referee Robert Byrd ruled as being caused by an accidental headbutt from Moloney. The Nevada State Athletic Commission judges at ringside spent over 25 minutes in replay review. The video footage showed no significant clashing between the fighters’ heads, but the judges upheld Byrd’s call, resulting in the no-decision that allowed Franco to keep the belt he had taken from Moloney back in June. After the fight, Moloney asserted that Franco’s eye injury was caused by landing “50 jabs.”
— ESPN Ringside (@ESPNRingside) November 15, 2020
According to Top Rank Boxing promoter Bob Arum, “They [the judges] kept with it to protect the referee who didn’t know what the hell he was doing.”
Fans who were aware of the Franco-Moloney controversy were not likely to be surprised by the draw between Tyson and Jones that had casual fans crying foul. Boxing judging will need a major overhaul if the sport wants to rebuild its reputation.
In the current environment of restrictions on social gatherings, promoters should also consider organizing regularly-occurring fight cards available on regular TV over marquee PPV matchups that are unaffordable to sports fans who would normally split the cost with friends coming over to see fight night.
While Tyson’s event got people talking, if your sport can only get attention from viewers with a celebrity known for being a humongous asshole and an old rapist as headliners, your sport is a joke.