Question: Does a sport as violent as boxing still have a
place in our society?
Bert Sugar: Well, in today’s
society... you know, I quoted a Budd Schulberg line about boxing is
chess played with human bodies. We’re in a violent world. You’ve got
mixed martial arts, which is Grand Theft Auto played with human bodies.
I don’t know whether the cages are there to keep the participants in or
the spectators out. I haven’t heard "ban boxing" for 20 years, as the
society gets more violent. Yes, there was a call for it, the AMA. I
used to argue with them back in the ‘80’s. They’d say "There’s brain
damage." And I said, “Yep, if you get hit in the head too many times,
but so is there in football.” “No, there’s none in football.” And
they’ll go on, “They’re wearing helmets.” Tell that to the guys who are
now like John Mackey walking into walls. All of a sudden, they found
it in football. Troy Aikman retired after eight concussions.
boxing if you get a knockout... if you’re knocked out, you’re suspended
for 30 days. In football, if you’re lying on the ground with a
concussion, they’ll take you out and put you back in, in 30 seconds.
And the announcers trivialize it, “He got a dinger.” He’s going to the
wrong sideline looking out the earhole, he’s got a "dinger." So,
boxing, I think is really—there was a study done where, I think it was
the ninth- or tenth-most-dangerous sport. And those above it, including
luge and bungee jumping and now football are accepted. And so is
Boxing has other problems though; it’s lost its place
in terms of favoritism amongst the sports fan, and part of that reason
is simply stated that when it was at the top of the fan preference list
back in the first 50 years of the last century, through 1950s, there
were only three sports of major import. There was boxing, baseball, and
horseracing. Pro football didn’t come to the popular frame of
reference and into great popularity until '58, until the New York Giants
played the Baltimore Colts in the greatest game every played, et
cetera. You couldn’t give away pro basketball—it was played in the
afternoon. They call came of age, and boxing kept going down the list
of the preferred sports.
We now have so many sports—I mean, do
you know Texas Hold’em is a sport? I see it on ESPN all the time. I’m
waiting for competitive pole dancing. I mean it’s gotten silly out
there. But everything’s a sport. X-games, Y-games, Z-games, who cares
games. "Y" is right. Why games? But boxing continues to lose its
position and that’s a problem.
The heavyweight champions today
are so, almost anonymous, you could put them all in a police lineup in
gloves, robes, and trunks holding their belts aloft, and not only would
no one know who they are they wouldn’t know what these guys do for a
living. But the heavyweight champion was the great... we haven’t had a
heavyweight champion in so long that we could identify with, whose name
isn't Klitschko. And I think there’s only one or two of them keep
walking out of a room and changing their name, I think there’s one guy,
that it suffers. The sport suffers because it’s not that identify... at
least in the United States.
Question: What's wrong with professional boxing today?
Bert Sugar: I’ll tell you want the problem is. Lennox
Lewis, very good fighter showed us that fighters 250 pounds or more
could move, could punch, could be entertaining, and could box. Now,
Rocky Marciano was 189. Joe Lewis was 204. This was at their
heaviest. Mohammad Ali was 224 at his heaviest. We’ve not got
heavyweights up to 300 pounds. Nicolai Valuev. And then a kid, a
talented kid, an American, let’s just stay there, who is talented in
athleticism and in an athletic way and over 250 pounds would go into
football. The best American heavyweights are named Ray Lewis and Brian
Urlacher because they’re over 250, and they can make more money. That’s
what happened to the heavyweight division in America.
Recorded May 4, 2010
Interviewed by Austin Allen