By Jamie Glover
It is very Homoerotic
Boxing is widely regarded as the toughest sport in the world. A sport where only the most macho of men can succeed. It is quite surprising then to see Top Gun levels of homo-eroticism. We are talking here about a sport in which two men strip to the waist and fight against each other in a haze of sweat and adrenaline. A sport were two men strip to their underwear and flex off against each other as they get weighed. Usually this is done in front of a crowd of men that cheer their appreciation at the physical prowess of the two fighters. Who stare not so lovingly into the eyes of their opponent in a tension fueled stare-down.
Furthermore some of the sparkly, lacy and leather boxing attire is enough to make Elton John blush. It is also worth noting that some fighters now wear skirts to fight in.
Getting paid to lose
Boxing has a rich history of fixed fights, historically the mafia had a strong hold on the world of boxing. In days gone by fighters would be paid handsomely and sometimes forced to take a dive in order to fix fights. And although this still happens
Mickey Rourke vs. Elliot Seymour
I am not talking about that kind of fight fixing. I am talking here about the world of the journeymen. At the beginning of every prospects career they will come up against a journeyman. Usually these fighters are vastly more experienced than their hotly tipped counterparts. So why risk the gulf of experience for your up and coming fighter? The difference is that a journeyman is expected to lose, fighting as often as physically possible they can quickly accumulate upwards of 100 fights. Of these 100 fights they will maybe win five. The point being that the prospect will build confidence, learn and pad their records with easy wins. Many journeymen will just try and cover up and defend for the entire fight often taking a beating from their superior well-conditioned opponent. It is one of the darker sides of boxing in how these fighters are treat with such contempt. Paid very little, over-matched, often outweighed and given very little notice a journeyman will fight for a living. Without them fighters would struggle to build their experience and confidence to be able to challenge more evenly matched fighters.
Amateur boxing is harder than pro boxing
This is a very controversial viewpoint that many will disagree with but allow me to elaborate. For starters there are no journeymen. Even at the lowest level of amateur boxing fighters are matched against others with similar ability and experience. It is extremely rare for an amateur to have an undefeated record due to the competitive (on paper) nature of every fight. Now let’s talk about winning a world title fight. Only counting the four main governing bodies in boxing a professional has a chance at winning one of four world titles. Now if you count interim and regular world title’s the chance becomes even higher. To even be in with a chance at winning an amateur boxing world title you first have to be selected to represent your country, meaning you have to be your countries best fighter in that weight division. Then you have to fight your way into qualifying for the event itself by performing well in international tournaments. So the time comes to fight for the Amateur boxing world title, which you can only fight for once every two years by the way. In order to win you will have to fight numerous times a week, often having to deal with injuries and fatigue against the world’s best boxers. The process of winning an Olympic gold medal is much the same except it comes along every four years.
But there is no Amateur boxing
Contrary to my previous point, technically there is no such thing as amateur boxing anymore. The new classification of amateur boxing is Olympic style boxing, but the changes are much more than just a name. Following the 2012 Olympic Games the Amateur International Boxing Association (AIBA) took steps to make amateur boxing more like the professional game. Olympic boxers now fight without head guards just like the pro’s and box three minute rounds just like the pro’s. The scoring system has also changed to be more like the professional game. The old objective computer based scoring system is gone, and the subjective based judging system now applies. Perhaps the biggest change to the characterization of amateur boxing is the emergence of the World Series of boxing. This is an international championship that lets fighters retain their amateur status while fighting professional style fights while earning money. The bouts last for five rounds and boxers do not wear a vest, a small but significant leap toward the professional game. Recently in a bizarre turn of events which has angered many in the boxing community, AIBA will allow professionals to compete at the 2016 Olympics. In theory fighter’s like Manny Pacquiao an eight division professional world champion could compete at the Olympics.
The gulf in wealth
Boxing can be the epitome of making something from nothing. It has long been known as the poor man’s game. Virtually every club is situated in the heart of a rundown town, ran mainly by volunteer coaches trying to get kids into something positive. Though every now and then a star emerges and the cream rises to the top. Boxing has produced some of the world’s highest grossing events and sports men including Mike Tyson and Oscar De La Hoya. However one fighter tops them all and he is Floyd Money Mayweather, this decade’s highest earning athlete. In 2015 Mayweather beat Many Pacquiao in the richest fight of all time. Money lived up to his name taking away upwards of $200 million and has an estimated net worth close to a billion. But far from the glitz and glamour of Vegas, most beginner professionals will fight for as little as $600 in a sport where you risk your life every time you step through the ropes. Gym fees are low and funding even lower meaning boxing clubs are largely struggling in derelict conditions. The gulf in wealth is extreme and the highs and lows are even more so, leading to my next point.
Depression is rife
The high of winning a boxing match is like no other, it is such a primitive endorphin feeling. You have just nourished your ego by proving you are a tougher, better man than your opponent in-front of an adoring, cheering crowd. However, what comes up must come down and nothing takes you down quite like losing a fight. No other sport judges a loss so harshly as boxing. There is a win at all costs mentality and a loss can set you back in more ways than one. Many sports such as football (soccer) will allow a losing team to put their losses behind them by playing the same team perhaps four times a year and starting a new league each year. As a fighter that is not the case. Rematches are rare and even if a fighter wins one, the loss stays on their record to be judged on potential future fights and in history. A loss on a boxer’s record can drastically reduce their earning potential and their chances of securing a world title shot. Floyd Mayweather never took a loss as a professional and his dominance allowed him to earn hundreds of millions of dollars and multiple world titles. Furthermore in defeat a fighter has nowhere to hide, no one to blame for defeat but themselves, no team mates to take some of the blame. All alone in defeat, a daunting and dark situation to be in.
As mentioned previously there is also a macho aspect to boxing which means there is an elevated stigma attached to mental health. A fighter is seen as weak for seeking out psychological help. This view is perpetuated by Robert Smith of the British Boxing Board of Control “They [anti-depressants] are on the banned list, a fit young person shouldn’t need anything like that.” It is also beyond belief that a potentially lifesaving medication such as anti-depressants can be banned for their presumed performance enhancing abilities. It is no surprise that the physical side of the sport can cause neurological changes to its participants. Head trauma and concussion have been also linked to symptoms of depression. Add all this to a largely deprived, poverty stricken background and there is a mental health epidemic. However positive strides are being taken. Carl Froch recently employed a sports psychologist to help deal with the pressure of a rematch of a fight he won in controversial circumstances:
He was met with equal praise and scorn by the public but no one can argue with the result: