(I worked as a Sports Editor from late 2004 until the summer of 2006. This is one of the many columns I was able to save that were originally published in The Sun-Times of Heber Springs, Arkansas.)
Don King, of all people, questioned the integrity of boxing after a brawl broke out in the middle of Floyd Mayweather’s beating of Zab Judah during their welterweight match Saturday night in Las Vegas.
Mayweather was having his way with Judah, when in the tenth round Zab jabbed Floyd below the belt. The low blow sparked Mayweather’s uncle, father and cornerman to storm the ring and start throwing punches of their own.
An all-out melee ensued until order was restored and the boxers were able to finish their 12 rounds, which Mayweather won in a unanimous decision.
Of course, King was promoting Judah, and let the world know that Mayweather should have been disqualified when his corner entered the ring.
Later, at a post-fight press conference, King questioned the sport of boxing’s integrity. Which, when you think about it, is like President Bush questioning big business politics.
Whatever was left of boxing’s integrity, King swept under the rug decades ago. This is a man who has done time for murder, robbed boxers blind, and has been on trial for tax evasion.
King is the sole reason boxing has become more of a circus than a real sport.
When I was a kid, I remember thinking Muhammad Ali was larger than life. The only thing that could get me more amped than R2-D2 and C-3P0 on the ‘Donnie and Marie Show’ was the prospect of watching Ali compete in a life-or-death struggle with brutes like Ken Norton, George Foreman and Larry Holmes.
I was equally terrified and fascinated by ‘Marvelous’ Marvin Hagler, and the tenacity of Roberto Duran. Sugar Ray Leonard was also fun to watch, especially his epic battles with Tommy ‘the Hit Man’ Hearns and Duran.
As a teenager I discovered the NBA and college basketball. Along with football, boxing fell by the wayside. Especially after Ray ‘Boom Boom’ Mancini’s killing of Duk Koo Kim shocked me into the realization of how brutal the sport could be.
But then I discovered Mike Tyson on ABC’s ‘The Wide World of Sports’ one boring Saturday afternoon. Tyson’s savagery and efficiency enthralled me (and the nation) in the same way that Ali, Hagler and Leonard once did.
Of course, we all know what happened with Tyson. His longtime trainer and mentor Cus D’Amato died, and Don King swooped in like a bird of prey.
It’s no coincidence that not long after hooking up with King, Tyson was dropped by ‘King Tomato Can’ Buster Douglas.
Not long after he was searching for his mouthpiece in that ring in Japan, Tyson was searching for what was left of his money and desire, after King pillaged him for all he was worth.
Boxing has never been the same since those early days in the ‘90s. There has been no captivating heavyweight to root for, or cheer against. Lennox Lewis is probably the most skilled and dominating boxer of the last decade, but is as exciting as a cup of tea, or pie and chips.
Evander Holyfield couldn’t talk, much less be what America pictures its heavyweight champion to be, and the Klitschko brothers seem like they just walked out of a Rocky movie.
Speaking of Rocky, he’s making a comeback this year. Stallone is lacing up the gloves one more time because he feels like there’s another round or two left in Balboa.
And I guarantee it will do well at the box office. Because Rocky is more captivating than anyone else in boxing right now.
There are a lot of talented middleweights, lightweights, cruiserweights, and welterweights, but America likes everything bigger.
Without a real heavyweight, boxing is due for more shenanigans and soap operas like occurred last Saturday night.
King was right in questioning boxing’s integrity; he just doesn’t realize it’s his countenance that is overshadowing the entire sport.
Boxing needs to cut King off like a cancerous tumor, so the sweet science can return to its rightful place in the sporting world.