Franchise Thoughts: We Love You Joe Calzaghe, But Please STFU!

I've really enjoyed watching Joe Calzaghe fight over the past few years. I actually think he's slightly underrated as a boxer, and his victories over Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Jr. were impressive despite his opponents' ages. Unlike the HBO announcing crew, I even thought it was amusing when he gave Jones a taste of his own medicine by dancing during their fight.

That's why it was so distressing to see JoeCal bite the hand that fed him yesterday, telling reporters in London that boxing was dying. Considering that he's supposedly on his way out of the game, you have to question his motivation for taking a shot at the sport that's been so good to him.

One quote stood out as especially bitter:

“There is too much politics in boxing, too many belts and too many champions, which dilutes real champions like myself,” he said.

He's not completely off base, as boxing definitely has its share of problems. But if he's upset about not becoming a bigger star during his career, he needs to look in the mirror first. Calzaghe chose not to fight in the United States for most of his career, so it's hardly surprising that even matched up against Hopkins and Jones, he wasn't a huge draw.

Meanwhile, Oscar De La Hoya and Manny Pacquiao just did over a million buys despite the fact that:
  • Many mainstream media outlets derided the fight as a joke because of De La Hoya's size advantage.
  • None of the belts Calzaghe whines about were on the line.
  • The U.S. is a year into a pretty serious recession.
Sorry Joe, but that doesn't sound like a dying sport to me.

It's also pretty sad to see Calzaghe drag the (extremely) tired "MMA is killing boxing" theory back into the light again. Yes, MMA is more popular among young American fans. Yes, there's a lot that boxing could learn (undercards anyone?) from the way Dana White and company do business.

But there's little evidence that MMA is having much of an impact on boxing. It's becoming clear that there isn't as much of a crossover audience between the two sports as people once assumed - ask Golden Boy and Affliction about the backlash when they considered combining them on one card - and no reason to think MMA fans would magically become boxing fans if MMA were to whither away. The troubles that boxing does have are of its own making.

So yes, this isn't the golden age of the sport. Boxing is likely to experience some pain over the next few years as the global economy tries to pick itself up off the canvas. Unless Pacquiao's stock continues to climb, no one looks ready to step into De La Hoya's role as the top dog among casual fans.

The negatives can't be ignored, but there are positives too. There is a great crop of young talent on its way up. There are plenty of boxing fans in Europe, Asia and Australia, even if things are soft in the U.S.

And in any case, Calzaghe isn't doing anything to help with his comments, nor is he really offering any solutions. He's earned the right to speak his mind, and that's fine.

Now please Joe, just shut up and retire gracefully.


uatu said...

Sounded like very bitter whining from Joe and I agree with everything you said for once.

ICUH8N said...

I agree. I have enjoyed watching Joe fight. I see him and Mayweather the same (not boxing skills), I'm a fan of their boxing but think they sound like jackasses when they talk.