It’s been conventional wisdom for at least the past forty years that the sport of boxing is in decline, and today’s champions lack the stature of the great fighters of the sport’s golden era. Maybe so. But, while it is probably true that fewer great American athletes become boxers than in the early decades of the last century, that decline is more than balanced–in all weight classes below light heavyweight–by the abundance of good Latin, Asian, and–for some reason–British fighters. It seems to me that the sport’s main problem is not the quality of its athletes, but the profusion of titles and lack of competent management.
Last week I read a newspaper column about tonight’s middleweight title bout between Felix Trinidad and Winky Wright. The columnist went through the ritual wailing about the sad state of boxing today and the current champions’ lack of charisma, and concluded that he wasn’t going to pay $40 to watch someone named Winky fight. Too bad: that sportswriter missed one of the best ring performances I’ve ever seen. Winky Wright, a left-hander with impenetrable defense and a mongoose-quick right hand, utterly dominated the long-feared Trinidad. He landed his jab almost at will, and frustrated Trinidad defensively to the point where almost the only punches Trinidad could land were low. I can’t remember when I last saw such a masterful display of boxing tactics and skill. So let’s not give up on boxing yet. And no “Tinky Winky” jokes, please. Especially not in Wright’s hearing. The photo below shows Wright connecting with his right in the sixth round, as he did all night long.
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