Friday, July 5, 2013

Boxing will always be the #1 combat sport, at least to me

Besides running, there is no simpler yet complex sport than boxing. Since ancient times, people would pay to watch two gladiators step into the ring. It was a test of skill, endurance and will power. At one point, boxing was the top draw in terms of sports in America. Guys like Frazier, Ali, and Foreman were household names. However, over the last 20 years the sport has declined in popularity. There are still a ton of great fighters and fights almost monthly, but the public seems content to let the sport continue as more of a novelty. That can change, but its going to take some give and take from both fans and the boxing community.

The biggest obstacle facing boxing is the lack of any real heavyweight competition. The Klitschko brothers, Wladimir and Vitali, currently share all the major belts. The problem with that is they both promised their mother a long time ago that they would never fight each other. This is a promise that will not be broken, and it is killing the sport. The heavyweight division always has offered the most marketable stars. Their size and power make them natural attractions, but without valid competition, there are no quality fights to be had. The Klitschko's have been unstoppable and appear to remain that way until they decide to retire. While both are future Hall of Fame inductees, their style of fighting does not draw in new viewers. Boxing purists love their almost robotic style, throwing jabs and lead rights; fans think it is boring. So, until the heavyweight division becomes competitive again, boxing as a whole will still wait for another cultural boom in America.

Another big problem plaguing American boxing, is the lack of homegrown superstars. The two biggest American stars currently are probably Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Andre Ward. Mayweather is currently the best pound for pound fighter in boxing and is an established force in boxing. He is a great self promoter, and his PPV fights continue to break records. For better or worse, he plays the cocky character perfectly. Half the fans pay because they likely are witnessing one of the greatest fighters of all time. The other half pay because they finally want to see someone shut him up. Andre Ward is a former Olympic gold medalist. He is already a star, and with his undefeated record, is quickly ascending to super stardom. Outside of these two, American fans do not have a ton of legitimate talent to root for. Also, there is no real American talent in the heavyweight division. This is a problem because rooting interests would suggest people would most likely root for a fighter from the same country as them. However, most Americans with heavyweight size are usually committed to playing football or basketball.

There is also some work that needs to be done from the sanctioning bodies and promoters in boxing. There are so many different sanctioning bodies, that it can get confusing for people to follow. The WBC, WBO, WBA and IBF are just a few of the sanctioning bodies. It leads to too many champions and titles often being forfeited.  Also, there are too many weight classes; there is almost a different weight class every few pounds. They need to limit the amount of weight classes, thereby adding more quality fighters to each smaller division. Finally, promoters need to stop hoarding fighters and not allowing their fighters to fight guys from other promotions. Currently, Bob Arum and Golden Boy are the two biggest promoters in boxing. They often squabble about fights and fighters, and the fans end up on the losing end. Mandatory fights should be made regardless of the promoter, the purse or the venue.

With the rise of MMA in America, boxing needs to make some drastic changes fast. The sweet science is a beautiful sport, but it is in danger of falling by the wayside. Fans have still proven to pay big bucks to see mega fights, so the potential is there. If the big wigs in boxing in the USA were smart, they would start cultivating interest in the youth of America. It is rare to find a boxing gym nowadays, with parents often concerned with physical contact and injury. However, boxing can provide children with many valuable lessons. Hard work, overcoming obstacles, and sticking to a regimen are all things that will benefit children in their adult lives. The possibility of injury is there, but is very limited as long as professionals are around to supervise. I love boxing, and hope it continues on the upswing. I used to and still love watching boxing with my dad, and it is something I hope to watch with my son in the future.

Monday, July 1, 2013

This Year will be Brady's Biggest Test

Tom Brady is one of the greatest stories in the history of the NFL. He was overlooked coming out of the University of Michigan; he had to hear 6 other quarterbacks names get called before his. Players such as Giovanni Carmazzi and Tee Martin were drafted ahead of him. He was the fourth quarterback of New England's roster. Finally, after an injury to Drew Bledsoe in 2001, Brady got his shot. The rest is well documented history. Three Super Bowl wins, a single season touchdown passes mark, and a sure fire fist ballot Hall of Fame career. However, this upcoming season may be his most difficult. With the loss of Aaron Hernandez to a murder charge, Wes Welker to free agency and Rob Gronkowski sidelined with back surgery, Brady will have to implement a new system in order to keep the dominance going.

As astounding as it seems, the New England Patriots currently have one wide receiver that caught a pass from Tom Brady last year. His name is Julian Edelman, and he is not even assured a roster sport through training camp. The loss of Welker may be felt the most, as he was Brady's favorite target. He was New England's all time leader in catches, but the team felt they could still maintain a championship team by letting him walk. The team signed Danny Amendola, who plays the slot just like Welker. The potential problem is that Amendola has a history of injury. The team also signed Donald Jones and Michael Jenkins. Jones could never become a consistent force in Buffalo, while Jenkins has earned the nickname Molasses Mike for his inability to separate from coverage. While Brady has done wonders with groups of no name receivers before, this group is going to test the skill of the 35 year old. But luckily for him, he won't have to do all the heavy lifting.

The Patriots usually go as far as Brady's arm will take them. But last year, the Patriots found they had a pretty good compliment of running backs. Led by Stevan Ridley, this group is going to be asked to shoulder a heavy offensive load. Ridley rushed for over 1,200 yards and a dozen touchdowns last year. The team will expect nothing less and it will likely have to lean on the running game. In addition, the team also has Shane Vereen, Brandon Bolden, and the newly acquired LeGarrette Blount. Vereen has been used as a pass catcher, while Bolden and Blount run with more power. This group will have a lot to prove, and with defenses keying on Brady first, they could be a nice surprise.

All in all, I think it will be another division title in New England. They are lucky they play in one of the worst divisions in football. While the Dolphins spent a lot of money this off season, there is no proof that will translate to the field. The Jets and Bill are both in a rebuilding phase. This should give Brady at least another season to get into the playoffs. From there, anything can happen. Brady has gone to 5 Super Bowls, and won 3. If he can get just one playoff win, I think this season will be a success. Just don't tell any Patriots fans that. They expect to hoist the Lombardi trophy every year, no matter what.