If you are a fan of boxing and/or been around the sport long enough, then no doubt you know what these letters stand for.
If not then allow me…
DKSAB = Don’t Know Shit About Boxing.
It’s an acronym thrown around by serious boxing fans with alarming regularity and usually used to deride the perceived lack of knowledge of the casual fan.
Even that word casual is loaded. It is a word used as a pejorative for essentially anyone who the serious fan of boxing believes only turns out for big fights with names they recognize or only values a fighter who is undefeated and/or has a high Kayo percentage etc.
In short, not one of them.
Essentially there is a growing divide between a group of people who watch boxing as they do any other spectator sport – a fan who flicks on ESPN sipping their morning coffee before heading out the door to work and the fan who believes that boxing is theirs and theirs alone. That to possess anything other than an encyclopaedic knowledge of boxing is an insult to the sterling reputation of The Sweet Science.
Well let's unpack that notion a bit.
Since its inception boxing hag been rife with corruption, racism, drugs, carnival barkers & charlatans of every sort.
I love boxing, yet she's been anything but a faithful mistress.
In my estimation, the planned bout now less than fortnight away between Floyd Mayweather & Conor McGregor has served to exacerbate this tension with boxing purists believing it’s a farce and insult to the sport they love and adding to their disgust is the apparent zeal with which the casual is eating up the hype.
Photo Credits: Esther Lin/Showtime
I would contend that it is this tribalism that has harmed boxing as much as anything. Yes, you are the ones who plunk down your hard-earned money for every PPV on the schedule (or if we’re being honest you’re streaming many of them too)! You are the fans who have HBO/Showtime/Sky subscriptions solely for the boxing (ditto on the streaming, let’s be honest now)! So maybe you have a right to complain.
However, Consider this. It is all fans of boxing that drive the economics of the sport and the casual fan is possibly most responsible for that. Bringing people to a boxing event either live or on PPV is the point!
Numbers Don't Lie
Keeping boxing as a niche sport has hurt the sport over time. I would argue that you need look no further than the heavyweight division over the last 20 or so years.
Recently retired former undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the world Wladimir Klitschko dominated the heavyweight ranks for more than a decade. His achievements include being the second longest reigning champion behind the great Joe Louis. However, many have criticized the quality of some of Klitschko’s wins. Without the benefit of hindsight, we cannot predict how boxing history will view the former champion.
Yet, he was a part of the biggest boxing event of 2017 and one of the biggest of this generation when he battled Anthony Joshua before 90,000 spectators at Wembley back in April. The BBC reported that around 1.5 Million people purchased this fight on PPV in the UK alone. In Germany where Wladimir is a bona fide superstar cable channel RTL reported 10.4 Million viewers!
The numbers don’t lie.
Mega fights like that happen because fans from all walks of life want to consume the action.
You’re kidding yourself if you believe that only diehard fans are paying for these fights and tuning in.
And Thank God! We should be overjoyed that it’s happening because we will see more and more fights like this one. No doubt new boxing fanatics will have been made by the event that night.
A whole new generation will learn about the lineal heavyweight champions of the past and Willie Pep, Benny Leonard, Jack Johnson, Jack Dempsey, Harry Greb, Roberto Duran, Sugar Ray (both), Pernell Whittaker and on it will go…
We should encourage new and less educated fans. Not belittle them.
In America, the waning interest in boxing by the public has had very real consequences.
USA Boxing, the nationwide amateur program that has been responsible for turning out the best and most popular boxers the world has ever seen from Sugar Ray Leonard to Tyson, Mayweather et al is on life support.
Drastic cuts at all levels to all federal tax funded programs has been a crippling body blow to boxing. Without financial support kids in youth programs, high schools & colleges are not entering the boxing ring, they are on the basketball court, the football field, the baseball diamond or gasp the MMA Octagon.
The best boxers America might ever see are playing other sports because popular high school and college programs insure local tax dollars are poured into state of the art facilities, brand recognition through merchandising may lead to statewide if not national fame. The lure of the NBA or NFL draft and million-dollar contracts are too good to pass up!
Why get punched in the face then for buttons?
America once had the greatest amateur program in the world.
USA Boxing brought home the most Olympic Gold Medals in the history of the games – 108!
48 Gold, 23 Silver & 37 Bronze.
Photo Credits: H, AP
In 2004 the US brought home four. In 2008 only two. In 2012 USA boxing failed to medal at all. At the 2016 Games in Rio last summer the US sent only six boxers, not even enough to filed the 10 weight classes.
The trend is unlikely to change. I would encourage any fan of boxing to watch the fantastic documentary Counterpunch (2017) which follows the ups and downs of several boxers one of which is the colorful Cam F. Awesome (yes that’s his real name) a stalwart of USA Boxing who oddly has no desire at present to enter the pro ranks, he wants to revive interest US amateur boxing and return it to its former glory.
At the moment, it seems like a fool’s errand.
In Great Britain, the home of Anthony Joshua who won gold in 2012 is proof the GB Squad is flourishing!
With robust support, relatively generous living stipends boxers who choose to dedicate their careers to boxing for Her Majesty shall not go unappreciated. In fact, the athlete may choose to never turn pro and make a career out of amateur boxing in Britain.
However, that success was not achieved overnight.
Comparing the UK & Ireland to America in the last four Olympic games we see that in 2004 each country sent only one boxer in the male category – Amir Khan & Andy Lee respectively. In 2008 the UK sent four boxers & Ireland five. By the 2012 games the investment began to pay off, two gold medals, a silver and a bronze for GB squad and Ireland won a silver and two bronzes. By the Rio Olympics GB & Ireland had every male weight category filled.
There are other reasons for the issues USA Boxing is having, chief among them are the changing AIBA rules (International Boxing Association) such as eliminating headgear and point system changes as well as issues with organizational infrastructure.
So, US boxers have less opportunity to participate in high level international tournaments to gain experience.
It’s a complex issue, however keeping boxing a niche sport where fans take on an elitist attitude won’t help. Support ought to extend at every level. The more eyeballs and interest the sport garners the more advertisers will be willing to part with their dollars to sponsor both pro and amateur events.
More money going into the sport means that kids with the natural athletic ability to succeed at any sport and an interest in the sweet science will go that route and possibly pursue greatness and glory or maybe just become a coach and mentor the next generation of Sugar Rays, or Tysons.
No doubt there is a kid lifting weights in some college gym somewhere that could box the ears off Anthony Joshua.
Unfortunately, we won’t see it.
So, to the new or casual fan I say WELCOME!
To the diehard fans I say thank you for your unwavering support. Those were some dark times.
However, the last few years have been stellar and the sport only seems to be growing!
You may hate that May – Mac is getting so much attention but wake up! Everybody is telling about it. Everyone and their dog is talking about boxing – talking about combat sports!
Who cares if it's a farce!
Who cares if it's a mismatch!
It's a one off a kind event! I'm going to enjoy it!
There’s space for all kinds of fans and we’re in this together. No one group owns the sport.
Boxing is too big and too great.