By Aaron Reynolds
In late-2011 the network formerly known as Versus (now NBC Sports Network) made headlines after the channel announced plans for quarterly boxing matches Saturday nights, and in February 2012 Showtime sports head Stephen Espinoza confirmed his optimism for a return to cable TV for boxing.
However, we are now halfway through the year and the promise of a big time fight being broadcasted on a major network has fizzled, at least for the moment.
There is still hope both among the boxing community as well as TV executives, some of which believe a comeback to network TV would be huge for boxing regardless of critics who wrongfully assume that the sport is dying.
Here's the thing, the sport of boxing is not dead nor will it ever be. It's a minor, incredibly greedy and completely unnecessary part of the sport that is really hurting it. The suspect costs about $50-$60, lasts for a few hours, and leaves many of its customers gravely disappointed. Any guesses? It's Pay Per View, and boxing needs to dump it to the side of a road like the needy groupie that it is.
In the 1960s just about anyone could tell you who the heavyweight champion of the world is. It was partially related to the golden era of boxing, but even more to the fact that you could flip on the tube and watch the biggest fights completely free. Even if you weren't into boxing it was likely the entertainment option of the night and brought people together.
Reality TV is absolutely killing television. Live sports are extremely popular these days because it's not manufactured drama and it's not scripted. If TV executives can get people interested enough to watch a group of middle-aged men with dark sunglasses and no facial expression sit around a table and play cards then surely they can also get people excited about watching a big fight.
Boxing's move to Pay Per View was purely made out of greed, and after several $50 duds they are no longer fooling anyone. The average cable bill these days is astronomical when you consider that you have to get HBO and Showtime in addition to the outrageous basic cable costs in order to get most of the big fights. PPV warrants additional money because they broadcast the biggest of the biggest, which is just absurd given the level of entertainment from the past five PPV events.
Boxing is a sport that caters to the average-man, in many cases extraordinary poor athletes who have found solace in boxing, utilizing their natural talents, grit and ability to take it all out on a punching bag, and sometime another individual's skull. Why, then, is the sport more expensive to follow than a round of golf at the local country club?
Boxing needs to make a return to network TV now, not later. After two decades of legendary matchups, the sport abandoned cable and assumed it could rely on its past prestige, which it did for a little while. Now we can flip on the TV at any point in time and watch just about anything from stupid 'housewives' to poker games. Where is boxing? With all these options people do not have the desire to wait and if it's not boxing, they will find something else.
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