PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Boxing is in a sorry state right now. More so than normal. Major media outlets are not covering the sport, which has fallen into a niche role on the sports food chain, deservedly so, and one rising presence that the sport doesn’t need, though will most probably get is Conor McGregor.
The UFC star was at the Theater at Madison Square Garden, supposedly there to support the pro debut of fellow Irishman Michael Conlan on Friday night.
Though there to back Conlan, McGregor was a vacuum, sucking up the spotlight from the controversial 2016 Olympian by pandering to the crowd while strutting back and forth at ringside, yelling instructions to Conlan that a six-year-old who first put on gloves would know. Fans were more compelled watching McGregor watch the fight, than watching the fight itself.
As Conlan was mixing it up with some hapless foe, McGregor proclaimed, “I’m the boxing guy! Watch me take over boxing. Trust me on that. No one in this boxing game knows what’s coming. Trust me on that! When I step in there, I’ll shock the whole (expletive) world. Trust me on that.
“Look me in the eyes; 28 years of age. Confident as a mother (expletive). Long, rangy, dangerous with every hand.
“Trust me, I’m going to stop Floyd (Mayweather). You’re all going to eat your words. The whole world is going to eat their words. We’re getting close don’t worry about it. You’ll hear about it. I am boxing!”
I laughed, as many others did on press row.
The next night, 19,939 showed up in the big room at Madison Square Garden to watch two great fights, first the surprising upset involving new WBC super flyweight champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (42-4-1, 38 KOs) dethroning pound-for-pound king Roman Gonzalez (46-1, 38 KOs) in a controversial 12-round decision, followed by Gennady “GGG” Golovkin (37-0, 33 KOs), the unified WBC/WBA/IBF middleweight champion, getting by Danny “Miracle Man” Jacobs (32-2, 29 KOs) in another debatable affair.
Both fights were trending on Twitter. Both fights attracted great buzz nationally, though not in Philly, where boxing is treated like roadkill.
This came two weeks after CBS was the No. 1 network in primetime on Saturday, March 4, according to Nielsen overnight ratings, with the live broadcast of Showtime Championship Boxing on CBS, featuring the welterweight world championship unification fight between undefeated champions Keith Thurman and Philly’s Danny Garcia.
The broadcast earned a 2.2 rating from 9 p.m. – 11:15 p.m. ET, up 22% over the previous June 25, 2016 Showtime Championship Boxing on CBS broadcast between Thurman and Shawn Porter (1.8 rating). The fight was held at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY, before a record-setting crowd of 16,533, the largest crowd for a boxing event in that arena.
So, apparently, there is still interest in the sport.
McGregor and Mayweather will probably fight in September. It will generate national mainstream sports media attention, and be an eight-ring circus. Both will make a ton of dough, and Mayweather will crush a guy who will be boxing professionally for the first time in his life. And there will be takes like “this is what boxing has come down to” rhetoric. But it’s not boxing. It will be a pro wrestling-esque playland full of actors who know how to sell.
The essence of the sport came earlier Friday night, when Teofimo Lopez Jr., a 19-year-old pro from nearby Brooklyn, showed he might have been the best fighter in the building—and beaten the hell of McGregor had the two fought that night in the boxing ring. The essence of the sport came the following night when Danny Jacobs, who beat cancer and could barely take a few steps on his own not that long ago, defied the world by staying with a thunderous puncher for 12 rounds and in the eyes of many won.
That’s boxing. Those are the compelling storylines the sport still holds.
So isn’t it strange that an MMA superstar has to go to boxing to achieve the greatest payday of his life?
Boxing doesn’t need McGregor. McGregor needs boxing.
April 4 Sands Casino Bethlehem, Pa.
Edner Cherry vs. Omar Douglas, 10 rounds, junior lightweight
Milton Santiago vs. Haskell Rhodes, 10 rounds, junior welterweight
April 8 Oxon Hill, Md.
Vasyl Lomachenko (WBO junior lightweight title) vs. Jason Sosa, 12 rounds
Oleksandr Usyk (WBO cruiserweight title) vs. Michael Hunter, 12 rounds
Oleksandr Gvozdyk vs. Yunieski Gonzalez, 10 rounds, light heavyweight
Jesse Hart vs. TBA, super middleweight
April 22 Claridge, Atlantic City, NJ
Keenan Smith vs. TBA, 8 rounds super lightweight
April 29 London
Anthony Joshua (IBF heavyweight title) vs. Wladimir Klitschko, 12 rounds and vacant WBA heavyweight title
May 6 Las Vegas
Canelo Alvarez vs. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., 12 rounds, super middleweights
Lucas Matthysse vs. Emmanuel Taylor, 10 rounds, welterweights
May 20 Newark, N.J.
Terence Crawford (WBO/WBC junior welterweight titles) vs. TBA, 12 rounds
Shakur Stevenson (2016 U.S. Olympian) vs. TBA,