Archive for February, 2015

Whither the Heavyweights?

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

Joe Posnanski has a great post up on the subject of Mike Tyson and Tiger Woods. His argument, as far as Tyson goes, is that Tyson was over-rated as a fighter. Tyson could beat the hell out of lesser opponents and make it look absurdly easy. But against better opponents, he was frequently not only beaten but beaten badly. I’ll let you read Joe instead of excerpting because it’s one of those “you should read the whole thing” deals.

Here’s the thing though. Maybe I’m out of touch, but it seems to me that Tyson was the last heavyweight champion that really captured the public imagination. Oh, there have been popular heavyweights since — Holyfield, Lewis, Jones. But they weren’t Iron Mike. They weren’t household names. They weren’t the subject of landmark video games. And I doubt they’ll be making cameo appearances in movies 20 years from now.

For a while, Tyson was beloved. He had a great story and a winning smile and just destroyed people in the ring. I think Will Smith put it best: people didn’t just want Tyson to win at boxing; they wanted him to win at life. And when he got into trouble — when he created trouble for himself — it was heart-breaking.

But Tyson was the last in a string of boxing champions that had captured the public’s imagination, from Sullivan to Braddock to Marciano to Ali (especially Ali) to Frasier to Forman. These men defined the sport. The current champion — whom I had to look up — isn’t in that class. I don’t think anyone really has been since Tyson.

Maybe we’re an interim, waiting for the next fighter who will grab the American people’s attention. But I actually think that boxing’s day has simply passed. It’s a bit too violent, a bit too sensational, a bit too shaky for modern America. Team sports have taken over. It still makes money and has some cache. But I don’t see it ever returning to its glory days.