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Does boxing have a nostalgia problem?

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Does boxing have a nostalgia problem? Empty Does boxing have a nostalgia problem?

Post by Union Cane Mon 22 Jul 2013, 2:24 pm

Interesting read...

http://www.queensberry-rules.com/2013-articles/may/does-boxing-have-a-nostalgia-problem.html

"Boxing has a nostalgia problem. Any discussion about the fight game is really a discussion about the past and all arguments are really just variations on the barbershop scene in Coming to America."

With that big claim attached to a sexy Eddie Murphy reference, Jay Kaspian Kang has got me to thinking about something I’ve suspected for a long time. In the conclusion to his great profile of Adrien Broner, Kang briefly argues that the constant talk of boxing being “saved” stems from boxing fans’ obsession with the past. “When the past looms so large, I suppose, it looms so large,” he writes.

If you hang around with boxing people, in real life or on Twitter, then it’s pretty clear that many boxing fans have at least one eye on the rear-view mirror. Fans and journalists are forever working on their lists of all-time greats, sharing archived fights and discussing the significance of various eras.

Kang even points to fighters’ choice of nicknames: “Every fighter named Ray will, at some point, go by "'Sugar.'” I guess it’s lucky then that the name Ray is at a low ebb, popularity wise. But at middleweight alone you’ll find a “Kid Chocolate,” a “Real Deal” and a “Marvellous” (well, Maravilla).

One just needs to look at the media’s reaction to Floyd “Money” Mayweather (formerly “Pretty Boy,” after heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson) defeating Robert Guerrero this weekend to see the deference to history. There was universal recognition of Mayweather’s sublime skills, but almost as much discussion of his place in boxing’s pantheon of greats (though Mayweather draws that on himself more than most). Even the New York Times waded in -- as did TQBR, of course.

The most obvious manifestation of boxing’s obsession with the past is the old barbershop/bar/gym chestnut – would X beat X? Would Mayweather beat Sugar Ray Leonard? Would Wlad Klitschko beat Muhammad Ali?

Tennis fans don’t go on about whether John McEnroe could have beaten Roger Federer (possibly because the answer is obvious). Tennis has changed; Federer is an entirely different animal.

Other sports have statistics. Baseball fans can fall back on facts – it’s hard to argue against Nolan Ryan’s fastest pitch in history or Babe Ruth’s 714 home runs from 8399 at bats.

Boxing, on the other hand, is subjective and it hasn’t changed. Not much, anyway. Gloves have got a bit thicker and athletes train a little differently, but two guys punching each other in the head are still two guys punching each other in the head.

In a lot of ways, it’s easier to imagine Federer and McEnroe duking it out in the ring than it is to imagine them on the court together. The same goes for Ruth and Ryan. It’s a lot more fun too – hence the appeal.

Then there’s the problem of boxing’s irregular timetable. Weeks, even months, often go by without a major fight. Fans have to find something to do -- and imagining Manny Pacquiao fighting Roberto Duran fits the bill.

Boxing fans like to take a trip down memory lane, that much is clear. The question is whether that’s a problem. Kang opines that “the popularity of mixed martial arts can be explained by the fact that it's a new sport, unburdened with the cranky invectives of old men who won't let you enjoy a fight without telling you exactly how little you know about the history of the sport.”

Unfortunately, that kind of thing is hard to prove. I can say from personal experience, though, that the emphasis on history is intimidating. After following the sport for five years, I can recite the list of lineal heavyweight champions from memory and I have a working knowledge the upper divisions in the post-war period but things get fuzzy below the welterweight or lightweight.

And some fans won’t hesitate to call you out on that. Boxing’s shrunken fan base is getting older and, perhaps thanks to social media, more impassioned. The typical fan today is more enthusiastic, more of a boxing nerd, than the typical fan 30 years ago. That’s great, but it can also make the sport less approachable.

I don’t use the word nerd in a pejorative sense. I’m a nerd. But some fans take pleasure in flaunting their knowledge of fighters from the past, suggesting that those who aren’t as interested aren’t “real fans.” I mean, if you don’t have Bob Fitzsimmons – a fighter who died in 1917 and of whom scant footage exists – in your top 10 greatest fighters ever, then you don’t really know anything about boxing.

Luckily, that type of fan is rare. The majority of those who are passionate about boxing just want to share what’s great about the sweet science. Does boxing have a nostalgia problem? Certainly it’s a sport that finds itself looking back to bygone eras, perhaps understandably. It doesn’t need to be done in a way that turns people off, though.

Boxing’s lack of change means that fights from the past are timeless and re-watchable in a sense that a game of football isn’t.

If you are interested in the history of boxing, check out @boxinghistory, run by TQBR’s very own Patrick Connor, on Twitter. He posts great fights from the archives every day and I promise he won’t call you a noob.
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Post by TRUSSMAN66 Mon 22 Jul 2013, 2:38 pm

People ponder in golf all the time whether Nicklaus would beat Woods.........People in America all the time used to ponder whether the 85 cubs would beat the 72 dolphins in an NFL game.....

Nostalgia means a sport has a heritage and heritage is a good thing.........If we only talked about the dearth of talent around these days then 606 would have less members than it does..........

I love thinking of old vs new and the debate around who's better.....

I like Floyd Mayweather..............I embrace the present and the past in equal measure....

The guy who wrote the piece has more of a problem than nostalgic fans in my opinion..

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Post by manos de piedra Mon 22 Jul 2013, 2:47 pm

I dont think it is unique to boxing particularly. I think the author points out that in boxing more so than many other sports it more difficult to tell who would win in a head to head but in all sports you will find debates over who was the "greatest" between past and present.

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Post by Rowley Mon 22 Jul 2013, 2:51 pm

I don’t think there is a nostalgia problem to be honest. As truss said the sport has a proud history and I for one am grateful for that and eternally thankful there are enough historians and authors willing to bring it to life for those of us interested.

Do tend to agree with his point that those who would dismiss those who cannot give you chapter and verse on the career of the first Jack Dempsey are insufferable bores but on the flip side hate the view that anyone who has Fitzsimmons in their top ten is showing off, absolute arse gravy as far as I am concerned. There are countless websites and books devoted to the history of the sport so is really not that hard to learn enough about these guys to have an informed opinion as to their merits should you be willing to devote the time and effort to gain one.

Do think where it can get frustrating though is when you get people who seem to think acknowledging the abilities of modern fighters is in some way betraying a lack of knowledge of the sport because for me it is quite clear the likes of Jones and Floyd are special fighters that would hold their own wherever you choose to dump them in history.

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Post by AlexHuckerby Mon 22 Jul 2013, 4:41 pm

I wouldn't realistically say there's a nostalgia "problem" however I do tend to find that the majority of older fighters are rated higher and held in more esteem at times.

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Post by Mr Bounce Mon 22 Jul 2013, 6:14 pm

It's the same old thing; those good ol' rose tinted glasses.

People talk of the 70s because it was all about cool music, fun cars and great things going. they conveniently forget that there were strikes galore, no money, lots of unemployment and a shedload of bad feeling towards successive governments.

Lots of people think of older fighters being better than their modern counterparts for exactly the same reasons - they remember the good bits. Sadly without a time machine we can never pit one old-time great against a modern-day one. All we have to work with are opinions. Some good, some not so good. And many skewed by favouritism.

I think Larry Holmes was great. As good as Lewis? Would be an interesting fight. But Larry's bitter hence he doesn't like him. And Lennox likes himself a lot. So the fighters' opinions doesn't count for much. What's left is us. And we quite often get it wrong....

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Post by John Bloody Wayne Mon 22 Jul 2013, 7:52 pm

I'd go along with not thinking it's a problem, as one of my favourite things about boxing is the history of it. Longer history, more stories, more characters...more wars too.

Sometimes bias fans will rate an old fighter higher because they're old, and vice versa. Quite often if you're matching the best of today against the best of yesterday it's hard to look past the best of yesterday winning, not because yesterday is better but because yesterday is vast. The pool you're picking from is far deeper and the peak of a pyramid can only be high if there are enough bricks at the bottom.

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Post by manos de piedra Mon 22 Jul 2013, 10:17 pm

In some cases I think earlier era fighters are over-rated due to having less weight of competition or history to contend with. There are cases where early era fighters became greats by virtue of just being the best of their era. They didnt have decades of past greats that they were being compared to constantly or had to displace. Nowadays in alot of cases simply being the best of your era may not be enough as you have over 100 years of boxing history to contend with on top.

It seems like every heavyweight era post Dempsey has been maligned at some stage for being weak barring the late 1960s and 1970s but I struggle to see why the Dempsey, Johnson or Jeffries eras were considered so great under an objective microscope. Id have to think if any of those era's followed on from the 1970s they would have been seen as pretty weak overall.

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Post by milkyboy Mon 22 Jul 2013, 10:21 pm

TRUSSMAN66 wrote:......People in America all the time used to ponder whether the 85 cubs would beat the 72 dolphins in an Nfl game..

I reckon the dolphins would roll the cubs like a drunk. Though the 85 bears might give them a run for their money.


Agree with the sentiment, nostalgia exists in all sports.





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Post by huw Tue 23 Jul 2013, 9:41 am

Nostalgia's just not what it used to be *sign*

They use tennis as an argument and state people wouldn't compare the skills of past players, yet they do complain it doesn't have the characters it used to have.

Motor racing is the same and they miss the characters, the likes of Senna and James Hunt.

In football they long for the days when the players were more in line with the common man and complain of how things are worse now they get paid so much money / defenders can't legally break the legs of a fancy Dan player.

Not really sure about baseball or American football as I wouldn't even look out of the window if they were playing in my back garden.

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Post by John Bloody Wayne Tue 23 Jul 2013, 12:21 pm

huw wrote: defenders can't legally break the legs of a fancy Dan player.


Is somebody going to tell Ramos this?

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Post by dummy_half Wed 24 Jul 2013, 3:59 pm

huw wrote:Nostalgia's just not what it used to be *sign*

They use tennis as an argument and state people wouldn't compare the skills of past players, yet they do complain it doesn't have the characters it used to have. - Several reasons: use of technology has removed most of the line calling controversy, and the top players are generally much more PR savvy than the likes of Connors and Mac. There are still a few characters around, but definitely not as many.

Motor racing is the same and they miss the characters, the likes of Senna and James Hunt. The good thing is that the great drivers of today are going to live a long and happy life spending their winnings. Too many previously didn't (although Hunt had a fairly short and VERY happy life if half the stories about him are true). Again though, PR and being the face of your corporate sponsors plays a big part

In football they long for the days when the players were more in line with the common man and complain of how things are worse now they get paid so much money / defenders can't legally break the legs of a fancy Dan player. Not sure it was ever legal to break an opponent's leg (although Roy Keane certainly tried). There was though definitely a better link between players, clubs and community in the past, which crazy wages and players moving clubs every 18 months has largely put an end to.

Not really sure about baseball or American football as I wouldn't even look out of the window if they were playing in my back garden.

Am only a casual boxing fan, but I think it has suffered more than any other from a disconnect with what the fans want to see. It now seems that boxing is more about the politics between promoters than it is about what happens for the 36 minutes in the ring. I think the growth of MMA show that there are still fans there for combat sports, but that top level pro boxing as it currently stands fails to fulfil their needs and so they go looking for the thrills elsewhere.

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Post by Guest Wed 24 Jul 2013, 8:12 pm

Ok I missed this great contribution (amidst all the dross). Ties in nicely with

https://www.606v2.com/t46701-the-hypothetical-speculative-super-thread

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